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Amassus
01-02-2011, 12:10 PM
Lately, I have been wondering about the purpose of my own training. With all the threads about how aikido could be improved with internal strength, or real attacks or 'hard' aikido or 'traditional' aikido. I started to get a little confused. Frankly a lot of what was said didn't sit well with me.

Why am I studying aikido?

I have a book called Kodo: Ancient Ways by Kensho Furuya.
It is a book based on old martial wisdoms. I read and reread passages from it all the time. This morning I read a passage titled "The essence of training".

This part stood out for me.
"To be a great martial artist, you must work hard, study hard, raise a good family, be a good citizen, do good deeds, and think good thoughts."

Then,
"What really matters is that you lead a good healthy, wholesome life. And that is what a martial arts master is."

Now, I have a demanding job and young children. So I can't get to training as often as I like but when I'm there I believe I value that time and train mindfully. I take what I have learned home and do what solo exercise I can. I will not be training with any of the IS guys mentioned on the forums anytime in the near future, I live in New Zealand and don't expect my family to have to sacrifice money to get me over to Japan or the States. I read the articles and advice given here and elsewhere and do what I can. Am I doing it right? Who knows? I try and keep my training honest and look for disrupting the structure of uke first and foremost. Technique comes second these days. I'm doing what I can in the confines of my life. But the passages above suggest that life is training. Isn't that what training in budo is all about? Not learning how to fight but learning how to better oneself through martial training.

Anyway, those passages resonated with me and now I think I'm not as far off track as I thought I might have been.

Thanks for reading.

Dean.

guest1234567
01-02-2011, 12:22 PM
Thank you Dean for sharing your thoughts, I think the main point is
Not learning how to fight but learning how to better oneself through martial training
Train as much as you can, but of course first is your family and your job. You have plenty of time for everything, try to enjoy every minute. Seeing my children grown up, I realize that the first and main thing is to enjoy every minute with them. I also enjoy my job and relax with Aikido from the stress of the job, we train hard but always laugh at the end of each class. Laughing is also a good thing to keep a good health.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
01-02-2011, 12:35 PM
Hi Dean,
I sympathise with your first paragraph. Craig Hocker wrote recently in another thread:

As popular as aikiweb is, the number of participants is a small minority of those practicing aikido world wide (...). What you are reading is a self-selective sampling. It's only natural those who have questions or concerns would be the ones that would make the effort to find and post on this forum. Those that don't or feel they are getting sufficient answers in their training probably won't be found on here posting about such topics except maybe in response. It's very common for online forums to have the same questions asked over and over in many different threads.

So there is a real argument to make that we are weirdos with issues :D :crazy:

Then again, to some extent, that is how many of the masters started out.... and I am not joking. I am convinced they still do. However, we other weirdos are real weirdos, and you may not want to listen to us :)

So who is who, which is which, why on earth do I follow this, it often confuses me as well. But then, I have met real people (in person) and learned real things (techniques) through the mediation of aikiweb, and I am very grateful for that.

As for the rest of your post, I do wonder why it is martial arts I have chosen to supposedly improve myself and live a good life, not something else, and that is where the questions start and sometimes take over.

Best for your life and training in 2011

graham christian
01-02-2011, 05:17 PM
Lately, I have been wondering about the purpose of my own training. With all the threads about how aikido could be improved with internal strength, or real attacks or 'hard' aikido or 'traditional' aikido. I started to get a little confused. Frankly a lot of what was said didn't sit well with me.

Why am I studying aikido?

I have a book called Kodo: Ancient Ways by Kensho Furuya.
It is a book based on old martial wisdoms. I read and reread passages from it all the time. This morning I read a passage titled "The essence of training".

This part stood out for me.
"To be a great martial artist, you must work hard, study hard, raise a good family, be a good citizen, do good deeds, and think good thoughts."

Then,
"What really matters is that you lead a good healthy, wholesome life. And that is what a martial arts master is."

Now, I have a demanding job and young children. So I can't get to training as often as I like but when I'm there I believe I value that time and train mindfully. I take what I have learned home and do what solo exercise I can. I will not be training with any of the IS guys mentioned on the forums anytime in the near future, I live in New Zealand and don't expect my family to have to sacrifice money to get me over to Japan or the States. I read the articles and advice given here and elsewhere and do what I can. Am I doing it right? Who knows? I try and keep my training honest and look for disrupting the structure of uke first and foremost. Technique comes second these days. I'm doing what I can in the confines of my life. But the passages above suggest that life is training. Isn't that what training in budo is all about? Not learning how to fight but learning how to better oneself through martial training.

Anyway, those passages resonated with me and now I think I'm not as far off track as I thought I might have been.

Thanks for reading.

Dean.

Hi Dean.
Well done in recognising that. So now you can look at what it was that attracted you to Aikido for I would assume that something about it resonated with you and now you want to understand it.

Don't be troubled by what others say what should or shouldn't be in Aikido but rather look at the various principles you learn and see how they apply to your life, your work etc.

For instance, you may be practicing keeping centered and practicing disrupting the opponents center. Well, apply this to something you do at work even if it's moving a table from a to b. Where is the tables center? Do you align your center with it before moving it? Do you disrupt it's center or do you respect it and move it? Test the principles in life and learn yourself as well as listening out for those who say something you can relate to rather than be confused by those who confuse you.

Finally, have faith.
Good luck. G.

jonreading
01-02-2011, 07:09 PM
As I understand the English definition, "martial" was derived from Greek and in its origin was a reference to that of military design. "Martial arts" was a term used to categorize those arts used in military organizations and the education process by which soldiers learned those arts. I believe these arts [at one point in time] included board games, literacy, several husbandries, geography, history, horsemanship as well as more commonly known weapons and empty-handed combat skills. Somewhere along the line we condensed our definition to just refer to combat skills and more specifically Eastern combat skills; I do not know why.

All this for me to say that we forget at one point in time for most of our cultures it was easier to kill someone than to find food for a family. "To be a great martial artist, you must work hard, study hard, raise a good family, be a good citizen, do good deeds, and think good thoughts." I have seem some variation of this wisdom in other readings. This would have been a harder task for many than "Find a meek community and take what they have."

Martial arts are more than just skills, they are skills disseminated using an educational process designed for mass consumption. Sometime we forget that our martial art is about learning to better ourselves using the military educational system and not just about how to fight.

Live. Train when you can.

Amassus
01-02-2011, 09:36 PM
Thanks for the replies so far guys.

The general feeling I'm getting here is that we are all out there living life and the forums is perhaps a place to vent or discuss issues at a minuscule level. If I forget that, it looks like everyone here is deeply entrenched in aikido, training many hours a week and not doing much else. I'm sure this is not the case and I need to step back a bit from time to time and soak up reality.

I have learned a great deal here at aikiweb, even if it is nothing more than getting a feel for the mindset of a mostly American group of aikidoists (generalization). ;)

Train as much as you can, but of course first is your family and your job.

Thanks. Great to hear from another parent.

I believe these arts [at one point in time] included board games, literacy, several husbandries, geography, history, horsemanship as well as more commonly known weapons and empty-handed combat skills. Somewhere along the line we condensed our definition to just refer to combat skills and more specifically Eastern combat skills; I do not know why.

Good point, thanks for reminding me. It puts things in perspective.

Yours in training,
Dean.

Mark Uttech
01-16-2011, 05:29 AM
Onegaishimasu, training once a week will keep you busy Dean, especially if you manage "once a week no matter what". The book, "Kodo" is an excellent book to keep your mind on the whys and wherefores of training. Raising a family is a noble undertaking, sharing your training with your family helps create fine harmony.
Gambatte friend!

In gassho,

Mark

Shadowfax
01-16-2011, 08:53 AM
The general feeling I'm getting here is that we are all out there living life and the forums is perhaps a place to vent or discuss issues at a minuscule level. If I forget that, it looks like everyone here is deeply entrenched in aikido, training many hours a week and not doing much else. I'm sure this is not the case and I need to step back a bit from time to time and soak up reality.


For some this is the case, for others it is not. Each must follow their own path. But seeing these other perspectives helps us to define what path we ourselves are on and whether or not we need to alter our course.

I made the mistake once of taking certain posts here too personally, and getting upset. Fortunately some long talks with my teachers helped me to put things back into their proper perspective.

Do what is right for you and don't worry about what others feel is right for them.:)

Carsten Möllering
01-16-2011, 10:31 AM
Train as much as you can, but of course first is your family and your job.Thanks. Great to hear from another parent.
Another parent asking.

I always wonder:
Why is this a matter of course???

Why is it a matter of course that proffessionel career comes first and aikido practice is second?
Why isnt't it a matter of course to organize ones job in a way that allows intense practice in the first place?

And why is it a matter of course that a familiy can't be organized in a way that allows such intense practice?

I deeply respect if someone doesn't see aikido practice as the first and most important purpose of his or her life. There are different lifes to live by different people.

But why should this be a matter of course???

When I look around me there are a lot of the higher graded students who practice very, very intense and who besides that "work hard, study hard, raise a good family," are "a good citizen, do good deeds, and think good thoughts" and who "lead a good healthy, wholesome life".

There are different ways to integrate practice into ones life.
Why should just one of them be a matter of course???

Carsten

guest1234567
01-16-2011, 10:41 AM
Another parent asking.

I always wonder:
Why is this a matter of course???

Why is it a matter of course that proffessionel career comes first and aikido practice is second?
Why isnt't it a matter of course to organize ones job in a way that allows intense practice in the first place?

And why is it a matter of course that a familiy can't be organized in a way that allows such intense practice?

I deeply respect if someone doesn't see aikido practice as the first and most important purpose of his or her life. There are different lifes to live by different people.

But why should this be a matter of course???

When I look around me there are a lot of the higher graded students who practice very, very intense and who besides that "work hard, study hard, raise a good family," are "a good citizen, do good deeds, and think good thoughts" and who "lead a good healthy, wholesome life".

There are different ways to integrate practice into ones life.
Why should just one of them be a matter of course???

Carsten

It is easy, my family won't eat, my children wouldn't go to the university and so on, if first comes aikido. If you have small children or like me teenager you must be there and take care of them,control their friends and so on in the world we are living now, we cannot leave them to take care of themselves., ,
You must choice your priorities in life. Once I'll retire maybe first will come aikido, but until then it is like that..

Carsten Möllering
01-16-2011, 02:03 PM
It is easy, my family won't eat, my children wouldn't go to the university and so on, if first comes aikido. ...
You must choice your priorities in life.
That's what I mean. This is true for your life.
And please, this is important to me: I deeply respect your choices, the way you live your life and the place your aikido practice has in it!

But:
It doesn't has to be true for everybodys life.
It's not that easy.
There are a lot different ways to live.

guest1234567
01-16-2011, 02:07 PM
Of course Carsten, another fact is, that I must drive 15 minutes to the dojo, and there are only 2 times a week 90 minutes of Aikido, it is in an Taekwondo dojo, the owner teaches this the other days and the rest of the time. So even if I had the time, there is no possibility.

Mark Freeman
01-16-2011, 03:29 PM
A phrase that my teacher uttered many years ago and has stayed with me ever since was - "Don't live to practice Aikido, practice Aikido to live!"

There were many times that I would have loved to have trained more and to have devoted myself to learning the art that I had found and wanted to get good at. However, three small kids and a shakey income, had first priority. It never stopped me practicing regularly, but certainly put paid to any thoughts of a full time life of practice.

Now I realise it is how I translate the principles of Aikido into my every day life, that makes the difference to me. Practicing an art just to perfect techniques or to become a bigger badass than the next man, seems like an empty endeavour to me.

There are some who bang on about the martial effectiveness of aikido (and in some few cases they may have a point), but they don't seem to understand the essence of what lies inside the art. The development of the mind, body and spirit.

We all come to the art with our own adgendas and we all take from it what we can. Aikido does have a different take than many of the other 'fighting' arts, for me really good aikido cannot be done with a 'fighting mind'. Which is not to say that it is martially ineffective, only that to make aikido work well, the mindset has to be different.

It's what you do with what you learn, that people notice.

If Aikido, helps to improve who you are, what you do and how you interact with others, then keep going for as long as you can. If it doesn't, then find another pursuit that does, there are plenty out there.

regards,

Mark

mickeygelum
01-16-2011, 05:59 PM
Not learning how to fight but learning how to better oneself through martial training
Train as much as you can, but of course first is your family and your job. You have plenty of time for everything, try to enjoy every minute. Seeing my children grown up, I realize that the first and main thing is to enjoy every minute with them. I also enjoy my job and relax with Aikido from the stress of the job, we train hard but always laugh at the end of each class. Laughing is also a good thing to keep a good health.


If you can not defend yourself...how are you going to defend anyone else? :mad:

Demetrio Cereijo
01-16-2011, 06:06 PM
If you can not defend yourself...how are you going to defend anyone else? :mad:
Calling 112 (european equivalent for 911) and praying?

guest1234567
01-17-2011, 01:27 AM
Calling 112 (european equivalent for 911) and praying?

112 is my internal number at the office, so they can always call me:)

Tony Wagstaffe
01-17-2011, 03:07 AM
I call 999 (UK) after I have sorted the buggers out.....:D

Hellis
01-17-2011, 03:45 AM
If you can not defend yourself...how are you going to defend anyone else? :mad:

Good point Michael...perhaps one could have a good laugh with their aggressor ?

Try this technique.
"" Before you hit me. have you heard this one ??:D

Henry Ellis
http://aikidoarticles.blogspot.com/

Tony Wagstaffe
01-17-2011, 08:51 AM
Good point Michael...perhaps one could have a good laugh with their aggressor ?

Try this technique.
"" Before you hit me. have you heard this one ??:D

Henry Ellis
http://aikidoarticles.blogspot.com/

Or in a posh voice "Hang on a minute chum, could you hold my jacket while I hit you old boy?"
:D

guest1234567
01-17-2011, 09:09 AM
Good point Michael...perhaps one could have a good laugh with their aggressor ?

Try this technique.
"" Before you hit me. have you heard this one ??:D

Henry Ellis
http://aikidoarticles.blogspot.com/
that is what I usually do when I see an agressor:)

Hellis
01-17-2011, 09:53 AM
that is what I usually do when I see an agressor:)

I truly believe you Carina :)

Try the laugh first, followed by a couple of good one liners ( remember its the way yer tell em ) ..If that fails try a stern look and a bit of conversation.
Good luck

Henry Ellis
http://aikidoarticles.blogspot.com/

Amassus
01-17-2011, 11:10 AM
If you can not defend yourself...how are you going to defend anyone else? :mad:

Here's the deal...maybe in your part of the world you really feel the need to be able to deal with a physical confrontation and that is what matters to you.

However, in my world, for self-defence reasons, I'm better off taking a Defensive Driving Course as more people die from car accidents here than from that elusive 'bad guy' in the street.

The interesting thing is some people in my club come from some tough backgrounds, a guy that came through the grades with me did eight years of muay thai kick boxing and has some amazing stories to tell from his 'past life'. Including misunderstandings out in the street. He can obviously handle himself in a fight, so why is he now enjoying aikido so much?

He is also a family man now and his priorities have changed too. Perhaps you consider us wussies, or perhaps we are people simply getting on with our lives and aikido is only one part of that life.

Keep training.
Dean.

Tony Wagstaffe
01-17-2011, 11:53 AM
Here's the deal...maybe in your part of the world you really feel the need to be able to deal with a physical confrontation and that is what matters to you.

However, in my world, for self-defence reasons, I'm better off taking a Defensive Driving Course as more people die from car accidents here than from that elusive 'bad guy' in the street.

The interesting thing is some people in my club come from some tough backgrounds, a guy that came through the grades with me did eight years of muay thai kick boxing and has some amazing stories to tell from his 'past life'. Including misunderstandings out in the street. He can obviously handle himself in a fight, so why is he now enjoying aikido so much?

He is also a family man now and his priorities have changed too. Perhaps you consider us wussies, or perhaps we are people simply getting on with our lives and aikido is only one part of that life.

Keep training.
Dean.

Those that train as wussies are wussies....... Fine, so long as you train to be a wussie and take a wussie approach which is pointless if you train to defend and not play..... wussies.....:D

mathewjgano
01-17-2011, 06:16 PM
Perhaps you consider us wussies, or perhaps we are people simply getting on with our lives and aikido is only one part of that life.

Keep training.
Dean.

Well said. Different people have different priorities. It would be stupid to assume we all trained for the same reasons. Hell, I know a number of people who haven't even taken a martial art and somehow manage to not get thrashed at all in their whole lives. Some even kicked ass without a day on the mat. Go figure.
Point is, while I agree that people who want to learn serious body skills with regard to attack/defense should train very very (very) seriously, people who are content with something less should probably do less.
Wasn't there a famous karateka who lamented about how much good in the world he could have accomplished if he had taken his discipline and focus and applied it to something else?
And some of the toughest people I've known were marked as wussies. Life aint so simple. Yeah, pay attention and be sharp, but for gods' sake "enjoy yo'se'f."
Yours in wussiness,
Matt

Those that train as wussies are wussies
Not necessarily, because you bring your character with you where ever you go. Bad mo-fos can do yoga, sip fruity drinks, wear spandex and take synchronized swimming classes: they're still bad mo-fos.

gates
01-18-2011, 06:39 AM
Dean,

The wonderful thing about Aikido is that it can be what you want it to be.

It seems to me what really matters, and obviously you have already come a similar conclusion is that you enjoy your training. Most importantly it seems it is a time when you need not worry about your kids, work or whatever.

This in itself is a wonderful thing and will help you to become a better father, husband, colleague and human bean. Just as you quoted from your book.

To quote (roughly) from an Alan Watts book (Become what you are), Life is like you are running on a wheel, sometimes you feel like life (the turning of the wheel) is getting too fast and you are going to fall off the back. Sometimes you feel like you are rushing around and going to fall forwards.

The reality is that the wheel has no "right" way up and turns in harmony with you it is your life. It is, therefore, impossible to ever fall off.

That is to say in a very convoluted manner, you are always on the right path and never off track.

"There are many paths to the top of Mount Fujiyama but only one summit"

good luck

Carsten Möllering
01-18-2011, 07:30 AM
... Aikido ... can be what you want it to be. I think this way of thinking, misses what aikido can really give.
If you think aikido to be what you want it to be, you will always just get out, what you yourself can give.
This way of thinking won't help to break through your limits or personal "frontiers".

... what really matters, ... is that you enjoy your training. What means "to enjoy"?
aikido is or at least can be very hard work.
It questions the pracitioner existentially.
It hurts, aches body and soul.
It changes practicing the person.
Practicing aikido is a very demanding, hard way to find life. So what means "to enjoy" then?

Most importantly it seems it is a time when you need not worry about ... or whatever.
This sounds as if aikido is just a way to calm down from the job or relax from family responsibilities or other obligations?
I think this doesnt't meat what aikido really has to give.

I wonder if practicing a budo really can be described in such a way? This to me sounds more like a hobby.

guest1234567
01-18-2011, 07:38 AM
I agree with Keith. Maybe the difference is between teaching aikido or just training. I know it is hard work. But I made the experience that the more I train (for example in a seminar) and tired my body is, more relaxed is my mind and more positive are my thoughts, for me after hard training it is like coming back from holidays... :)

Demetrio Cereijo
01-18-2011, 08:11 AM
"There are many paths to the top of Mount Fujiyama but only one summit"

But not all paths lead to the top of mount Fujiyama.

Carsten Möllering
01-18-2011, 09:54 AM
Maybe the difference is between teaching aikido or just training.No, don't think so.
There are just different ways of how practice. Different images of aikido, different aims. Different priorities in life.
Be it as teacher be it as student.

guest1234567
01-18-2011, 10:19 AM
No, don't think so.
There are just different ways of how practice. Different images of aikido, different aims. Different priorities in life.
Be it as teacher be it as student.

Maybe Carsten, but think that life is so short, you must try to enjoy aikido as well as your work and taking care of your family. So even if you train very hard aikido, you should enjoy it.

Tony Wagstaffe
01-18-2011, 10:19 AM
Well said. Different people have different priorities. It would be stupid to assume we all trained for the same reasons. Hell, I know a number of people who haven't even taken a martial art and somehow manage to not get thrashed at all in their whole lives. Some even kicked ass without a day on the mat. Go figure.
Point is, while I agree that people who want to learn serious body skills with regard to attack/defense should train very very (very) seriously, people who are content with something less should probably do less.
Wasn't there a famous karateka who lamented about how much good in the world he could have accomplished if he had taken his discipline and focus and applied it to something else?
And some of the toughest people I've known were marked as wussies. Life aint so simple. Yeah, pay attention and be sharp, but for gods' sake "enjoy yo'se'f."
Yours in wussiness,
Matt

Not necessarily, because you bring your character with you where ever you go. Bad mo-fos can do yoga, sip fruity drinks, wear spandex and take synchronized swimming classes: they're still bad mo-fos.

I quite like honest wussies....... I was a wussie once....... Only trouble was my wussiness kept getting me beat up and.... well you know the rest......;) :D

Carsten Möllering
01-18-2011, 10:53 AM
Maybe Carsten, but think that life is so short, ...I think the whole life lies in every given second. So life isn't short but it is now. It is in every moment.
And I don't think I have to or want to enjoy life but I have to and want to fill it, to live it.

... you must try to enjoy aikido as well as your work ...I'm doing neither my job nor aikido to enjoy them. But I chose both because I think it is the "right" way for me, to fill my live, to give it a sense, to not waist my time on earth ... to live my live.

... and taking care of your family.This is very interesting to me:
My "patchwork" family (does this term exist in english?) is like a network that holds me, gives me power, enrichens me. I always experienced "familiy" as people who take care of me and not the other way round. And because we all take care of another, there are a whole lot of possibilities for everyone of us.

So even if you train very hard aikido, you should enjoy it.Wel, hard training indeed is very enjoyable.
But when you live aikido for some time, a lot of conflicts emerge, there moments to cry because this or that happens, there are times when you have to make hard decissions, to leave someone or something behind.
I seldom see my now teacher, I have to take care for myself. There are questions among us higher graded students. and so on.
At the moment we try to get a dojo for ourselves, for our aikido-club.
My former teacher tried to make this dream come true in 1998 and the club split. Some years ago I left this teacher.
Now it is me to try to give our club a own dojo ...

All that said:
Yes, you are right!
I enjoy very much living live this way. ;)

guest1234567
01-18-2011, 11:27 AM
Of course Carsten, if our dojo would split or our teacher would leave us, it would be very bad for us.
About the shortness of life: in 2009 died a collegue almost 52 y. with whom I had worked for 26 years seeing him every day 8 hours in 3 month, last year my aunt and she knew her disease a year before and enjoyed her last year traveling, these experiences makes you think a lot and so who cares about small things in life you don't like?? As you said we must live the moment..

mathewjgano
01-18-2011, 12:03 PM
I quite like honest wussies....... I was a wussie once......

Know thy self. I suppose one could say the essence of training has to do with that kind of honesty. Sincerity and recognizing the fact that "tough" is situational. I grew up with folks who looked at tough as the ability to dish out the pain, but I always viewed it as the ability to endure. I've known a number of tough guys who couldn't cope the moment they were shown their own weakness. In my experience, the wusses usually knew their shortcomings better than the toughies and as such always seemed to be better prepared when the "truth" of their world-view suddenly "bloody hurt" like hell.

Tony Wagstaffe
01-18-2011, 02:18 PM
Know thy self. I suppose one could say the essence of training has to do with that kind of honesty. Sincerity and recognizing the fact that "tough" is situational. I grew up with folks who looked at tough as the ability to dish out the pain, but I always viewed it as the ability to endure. I've known a number of tough guys who couldn't cope the moment they were shown their own weakness. In my experience, the wusses usually knew their shortcomings better than the toughies and as such always seemed to be better prepared when the "truth" of their world-view suddenly "bloody hurt" like hell.

;)

dps
01-18-2011, 04:14 PM
I quite like honest wussies....... I was a wussie once....... Only trouble was my wussiness kept getting me beat up and.... well you know the rest......;) :D

Isn't a wussie the same as bunny?

David

Russ Q
01-18-2011, 04:39 PM
Yet another interesting thread degenerating to a bunny/hardass dichotomy. Bored and outta here!

Best in training to you all!

Russ

Tony Wagstaffe
01-18-2011, 05:17 PM
Isn't a wussie the same as bunny?

David

Not sure David.......:confused:

Ask a bunny.....

mathewjgano
01-18-2011, 05:40 PM
Yet another interesting thread degenerating to a bunny/hardass dichotomy. Bored and outta here!

Best in training to you all!

Russ

It's somewhat inevitable. Why not post something more along the lines of what you're hoping to see then? Rather than posting on how bored you are with it, why not redirect the conversation in a way you see as more positive?
What were the parts of the conversation you found most interesting?

lbb
01-18-2011, 06:46 PM
It's somewhat inevitable.

Well, no, it isn't. People choose to go there. Don't make excuses for them.

Peter Goldsbury
01-18-2011, 07:15 PM
Hello Mr Suter,

Do you have an aikido teacher, or do you run your dojo by yourself? If so, have you had any conversations about the 'essence of training'?

One of the problems with forums such as Aikiweb is that aikido teachers seem to post comparatively rarely. For example, absolutely none of my own teachers ever posts here (but some of them have their own websites and even have accounts on Facebook).

Many of my teachers were/are quite approachable and I was able to discuss such an issue as this. (I use the present and past tense because some of them have passed away.) All of them had/have families, but not all are professional aikido teachers. So balancing training and family is also an issue for them--and they coped with it in different ways and, I might add, with varying degrees of success.

One way of seeing whether training has an essence is to look at other activities that need it, such as painting, calligraphy, or playing a musical instrument. There are several Japanese words for training, but the central term is shugyo (修業 / 修行) and the term has a very long history. Renshu 練習 is also used. Both denote many, many repetitions of prescribed activities. The end ot goal, of course, depends on the activity.

Best wishes,

Amassus
01-18-2011, 11:34 PM
Hello Mr Suter,

Do you have an aikido teacher, or do you run your dojo by yourself? If so, have you had any conversations about the 'essence of training'?

One of the problems with forums such as Aikiweb is that aikido teachers seem to post comparatively rarely. For example, absolutely none of my own teachers ever posts here (but some of them have their own websites and even have accounts on Facebook).

Many of my teachers were/are quite approachable and I was able to discuss such an issue as this. (I use the present and past tense because some of them have passed away.) All of them had/have families, but not all are professional aikido teachers. So balancing training and family is also an issue for them--and they coped with it in different ways and, I might add, with varying degrees of success.

One way of seeing whether training has an essence is to look at other activities that need it, such as painting, calligraphy, or playing a musical instrument. There are several Japanese words for training, but the central term is shugyo (修業 / 修行) and the term has a very long history. Renshu 練習 is also used. Both denote many, many repetitions of prescribed activities. The end ot goal, of course, depends on the activity.

Best wishes,

Thanks for the reply Mr Goldsbury.

I have a teacher who I routinely train with. He stepped away from aikido to bring up his two boys. In fact, I started aikido under one of his senior students and only began training with him when his boys were older, and family life was less demanding for him. So I guess I'm attempting to remain training through the 'early days' of my two girls' upbringing. This means that my time on the mat is very important to me.

Also, I have started a small off-shoot class at the High School I work at, so I am, in a way, a teacher of my own 'club'. This has lead me to really question my training and seek the truth of what I am doing. In doing so I hope to maintain my integrity as a teacher of this art.
This has lead me to be more active on this forum because I stumble upon some very useful pieces of information amongst the other...material...written here.

Anyway, I will bring this issue up with my teacher, as I have never talked about it candidly.

Thank you.

Dean.

mathewjgano
01-18-2011, 11:57 PM
Well, no, it isn't. People choose to go there. Don't make excuses for them.

No, it isn't exactly inevitable. I intended the "somewhat" to show I understand it's a choice. My point was that over time we're somewhat bound to come across it...particularly online.
Given that, it just seems like a shame for a conversation that's being enjoyed to stall because something someone else said that happened to be disagreeable. If someone finds the topic interesting and it is inspiring thought, I really want to hear about it.
Take care,
Matt

Peter Goldsbury
01-19-2011, 05:46 AM
Anyway, I will bring this issue up with my teacher, as I have never talked about it candidly.

Thank you.

Dean.

Hello Mr Suter,

You should do so. I had the benefit of long sessions with some of my own teachers and these discussions are something I will treasure just as much as the training.

The impression I have from some posts in this forum is that very few Aikiweb members have heart-to-heart sessions about their training with their Sensei. 'Sensei' is often put on a pedestal, because of superior technical ability, and this superior ability is sometimes extended to everything else in human experience. So 'Sensei' becomes a life guru. I saw this very clearly when I trained in the New England Aikikai in the early 1970s. At the time, I had great sympathy for the late Kanai Mitsunari Shihan, because he was sometimes put into a position he could not possibly fulfill--and this had to do with the reasons why some of his students trained. They wanted to grasp the essence of aikido, if possible by the first practice--and this understanding had to deepen with each successive practice, or else something was seriously amiss.

I am very happy that in my own dojos here in Hiroshima, my students (all Japanese, with ages varying from about 8 to 70) do not come to practice aikido because they want to understand the essence of training or to become better people: as far as I can see, they are very good already. They come for repeated practice of exercises and waza and are very happy when they can do these to my satisfaction. And that is it: they do not have--or they never talk about--their ulterior motives for doing this: and I would never ask them.

Best wishes,

Carsten Möllering
01-19-2011, 05:47 AM
There are several Japanese words for training, but the central term is shugyo (修業 / 修行) and the term has a very long history. Renshu 練習 is also used. Could you please describe how keiko けい古 relates to shugyo and renshu?

Peter Goldsbury
01-19-2011, 05:58 AM
[QUOTE=Peter A Goldsbury;273624]There are several Japanese words for training, but the central term is shugyo (修業 / 修行) and the term has a very long history. Renshu 練習 is also used. /QUOTE]Could you please describe how keiko けい古 relates to shugyo and renshu?

Please give me a few days, for I am struggling to finish TIE 19 (which deals with a very difficult and controversial subject) within Jun's deadline and your request will involve much research into Japanese usage. If Josh Reyer sees your post, he might give you a sound answer.

PAG

Carsten Möllering
01-19-2011, 06:04 AM
Thank you!
No need to hurry! :)

Carsten Möllering
01-20-2011, 02:41 AM
... in my own dojos here in Hiroshima, my students ... do not come to practice aikido because they want to understand the essence of training or to become better people... .
They come for repeated practice ... .
This is also true for the way of practicing aikido as I learned it from my teacher and try to do it myself.
Just practice ... .

Christian Tissier once said, being asked why he holds on to praticing aikido, that he feels it is "simply the right thing to do for him". (cited from heart)
My teacher after practice just asks with a smile : "Did you move yourself?" (Don't know how this sounds in english. There are some connotations in German I can't transfer.)
That's our "purpose" of training.
Just do, just repeat, just get what the teacher tries to show, try to do it. And do it again ... .
Or I think of Endo sensei: "Practice means kneading body and mind."
(I think this way of practice just works when having a teacher who has to give something.)

For me it's like breathing: You just have to do it. That's all. I know how it works, but usually I just do it. All the time.

So we do aikido today, tomorrow, day after tomorrow, next week, month, on and on.
This I think is the essence of training as I or my teacher and a lot of the students I know understand it. And this I think will give everything, aikido can give and will form the practioner. (When really having a teacher.)

But this way needs to train and train and train. Overandoveragain.

So I tried to give training a very high priority in my daily life because I think aikido only reveals itself when practiced most often. It's just that.

George S. Ledyard
01-20-2011, 11:36 AM
I think it is worth considering what Aikido was when it started and what it has become...

When the Founder taught, Budo was a serious pursuit. To train directly with the Founder, you had to apply and be accepted. Someone he knew and respected had to vouch for you. You had to be serious, not just for yourself, but also because not to be serious would embarrass the person who had been your sponsor.

Aikido was not taught publicly. O-Sensei would occasionally do demonstrations and these were considered historic events in terms of Aikido history. They were not commonplace.

After the war, things changed. Kisshomaru Ueshiba became the Nidai Doshu and the senior members of the Tokyo Aikikai like Osawa and Arikawa Senseis helped him create an art that would be taught to the public. O-Sensei continued to teach wherever he was at the time. He traveled between Tokyo and Iwama, stayed in Osaka for extended periods, etc. His focus was still on training his personal deshi although now his classes were mostly open to all levels and included the general membership of whatever doho he was visiting at the time.

So how did he view this art? I can see nothing that would indicate that he ever dreamed that this art would become a part time hobby for a bunch of middle class folks in Europe and the US. Yes, he felt that Aikido had the potential to transform the world. But that is the operative concept... Aikido would transform, the world! not the world would transform Aikido.

If this were a koryu, there wouldn't be these discussions. There would be a set curriculum that had to be mastered. You might progress or not depending on the effort you put in. But you wouldn't even be having the discussion of whether this amount of effort or that amount of effort was fine. No one would say that your koryu was whatever you chose to make it. The art is what it is. You adapt yourself to the requirements of doing that art; the art isn't going to change for you.

Aikido on the other hand is changing constantly. It has gone from an extremely exclusive activity requiring total commitment to a part time hobby done by people for whom it is, at best, a third priority after family and career. What does this mean for the art? Does what a nice middle class professional with a family training a couple times a week have anything in common with the art that the Founder created as a transformational practice?

There is a vast difference, I think, between an art that the practitioner must figure out how to adapt his life to pursue and an art that is adapted to fit the circumstances of the majority of the practitioners. In my Blog I recently expressed my issues with folks who show up to train with my teacher year after year and never get any better, wasting his time and the time of the serious students who should be soaking Sensei for everything he's worth while he is still around. Why do they keep showing up not having progressed? because they simply do not put the effort into doing so.

In the old days the choice was to train or not. No one forced anyone to train... but if you decided to train you were serious. The discussion here is largely about what Aikido is for the practitioner, what does training mean to the practitioner. I think that the question might be rephrased as what to do you think Aikido really is and are you willing and able to step up and make the commitment to do it? Each of us has some relationship with an organization or a teacher(s) who define the parameters of the art for us. Why not look at those parameters and decide if one is willing to do what is necessary to master those elements?

I think that one needs to ask the question whether Aikido as the third priority, spare time activity that folks seem to want is really Aikido, the Budo founded by Morihei Ueshiba. Is it Budo at all? If one trains without any expectation of eventual mastery of the principles, conceding that only the small group of teachers at the top of the Aikido pyramid, what is the point?

Of course, I am a professional instructor. I make my living doing this. So, having a large group of folks out there supporting me is great. But I didn't get into this so that I could support myself (thank God, because it is a wretched way to make money). I became a teacher so I could spend more time on my own training and to be an integral part of the transmission from the Founder, to may own teacher, Saotome Sensei, and through me to as many students as possible.

So, despite the fact that I really appreciate the support I get ever time a student shows up at one of my seminars, or joins my dojo, or even purchases some of my dvds, the fact remains that I cannot do what I have worked so hard to be able to do without students who will make enough commitment that I am able to pass on what I have been taught.

A teacher cannot teach without students. He or she cannot teach what it took them thousands and thousands of hours to master to folks who only want to give it hundreds of hours of effort. It's that simple. When folks decide to train but drastically reduce the time and effort they are willing to put into the training from what had been done before, they make the transmission impossible and actually effect the art itself. Time and time again, I ask, is there something fundamentally valuable about doing mediocre Aikido?

I know that some folks are quite conscious of this. They see themselves as "patrons of the art". They know they won't train enough to be good at it. But they see supporting the teacher and the dojo as a "good" in itself. They don't see themselves so much as "doing" Aikido but more as "supporting" Aikido. Frankly, I couldn't get by without folks like this, so I am not demeaning this attitude at all. But I think these folks are clear about what they are doing.

But, if the vast majority of folks in an art are not really intending to master the fundamentals of the art, could you say they are really training? And can any art that is largely composed of practitioners who have no expectation of mastery, who will not make the commitment to allow the transmission to take place, survive over time still possessing any depth and breadth? Or will it necessarily shrink to a size which allows "success" for the majority of folks training. Will it inevitably be deemed unnecessary to master everything ones teacher understood but rather will be sufficient merely to attain a level of skill attainable by the effort and commitment folks are willing to make?

Of course, in any activity there will always be someone at the top of the pyramid. Someone will always be more talented, more committed. But is there not a floor below which one could say that it really isn't Aikido any more? Do we keep expecting less of our students because they are unwilling to give more?

My own dojo is at a fifteen year low in membership... I have already made accommodation to the fact that that almost all my students are career folks with families. There are large blocks of instruction I was given by my teacher which I have never taught to my students because that would simply take away from what I consider more central to their development. I trained every day and a serious student at my dojo trains three times a week plus occasional weekend events. I made my "container" large enough to hold what my teacher offered. Now I find that I cannot put what is in my "container" into the smaller "containers" of the typical current day practitioners. I feel ok about what I am able to give my students. I think it has depth and some breadth. I do not feel as if I have been faced with having to dumb down what I am passing on below that minimum level that in my mind still represents my own baseline which keeps it still being Aikido as I have known it.

So, I guess what I am saying is, perhaps what is needed is a "discussion" with oneself of what Aikido really is? Is it a transformational practice? What kind of effort is required to make it so? Is it a functional martial art? How much work will it take to make it so? Or is the art just a hobby with no real depth or efficacy? Then clearly whatever commitment one is willing to make will be enough... Is there an art called Aikido that has some defined dimensions? Or is Aikido defined by each individual based on whatever he or she feels like doing? Most importantly, I think one has to ask if taking the time, money, and effort to do Aikido at less than minimal level is worth doing? Is there something important happening or is the art for you merely something you find "fun"? An activity you "enjoy".

I guess I would submit that folks pursuing the art with less than the minimum amount of commitment required to at least make it the transformation practice the Founder intended or to work hard enough to have some level of actual functionality in a martial sense, are hurting the art. They are bringing this amazing pursuit down to the mundane level of a cross between video games and going to the gym. Video games are fun and going to the gym is healthy. Is that all Aikido really is? I think it is far more than that. I think we need to stop telling everyone that what they want to give the art is all fine and start talking about what it really takes to do Aikido. Folks need to decide whether they are willing to do Aikido or the commitment to do so is too much. That's the way it used to be and I think it needs to be again or Aikido will keep degenerating to the point at which no one even remembers when it was something more. I just don't see the point in doing something less.

Demetrio Cereijo
01-20-2011, 11:56 AM
Great post.

lbb
01-20-2011, 12:54 PM
I think it is worth considering what Aikido was when it started and what it has become...

When the Founder taught, Budo was a serious pursuit. To train directly with the Founder, you had to apply and be accepted. Someone he knew and respected had to vouch for you. You had to be serious, not just for yourself, but also because not to be serious would embarrass the person who had been your sponsor.

All true, but I think it's worth pointing out that the "seriousness" you're talking about was a luxury that few could afford. Those who pursued budo, or koryu before them, were not what you could reasonably term productive members of society: they and the arts they practiced were luxury items, each of which required a certain number of productive members (rice farmers, fishermen, craftsmen) to support him. In economic terms, the budoka you describe is a member of the leisure class, and in societies that lacked the resources, knowledge and level of social organization to create the surpluses necessary to support these luxuries, a leisure class simply didn't exist. As for "seriousness", again, that's historically been a privilege of the leisure class: the resources necessary to commit significant time to non-productive pursuits. Modern-day prosperity, and particularly that of the western world in the post-World War II era, has had something of a democratizing effect on this, by creating some access to leisure for those who must still live by their own efforts and who are not privileged to live by the efforts of others. This window of leisure, taken on weekends and at the end of a working day, can't support "seriousness" of the same type that the life of leisure of the privileged class can. Being "serious" as you describe it is not merely a matter of attitude; it is not even a matter of doing your very best with the resources you have. Such "seriousness" is not possible except for a privileged few.

George S. Ledyard
01-20-2011, 02:43 PM
Being "serious" as you describe it is not merely a matter of attitude; it is not even a matter of doing your very best with the resources you have. Such "seriousness" is not possible except for a privileged few.

This is simply not true... Saito Sensei, for instance, worked for the railroads. He traveled hours every day back and forth to the dojo so that he could train with the Founder.

Most of the deshi had jobs that supported their training. I am sure that they had pressures which could have taken them away from training, they simply chose to train every day.

Until I went professional back in 1986, I had a career with Eddie Bauer. Unless I was traveling, I trained almost every day. My ex and I had eight kids between us. I managed to be at the dojo almost every day. Like many serious practitioners, my vacations were doing Aikido camps.

In Seattle, there are 20 or more Aikido dojos. Hardly anyone lives more than twenty minutes from a dojo. Most of these dojos have full schedules of classes, not just a couple days a week. Getting to training requires a fraction of the effort it used to for most folks. When I trained in Seattle with Mary Heiny, it took me over an hour to get to the dojo at rush hour and half an hour home. I did that every day. Now people live within minutes of a dojo but they can't seem to make it.

I know that some places money is an issue. But where my dojo is located, it is an affluent area. Folks have money. They just don't feel they have the time. But for most folks, the time is there, they just have to decide to use it differently. Some folks manage to do so and others do not.

I have friends in DC who are raising two children. They are both forth or fifth dan. Both have demanding careers. They alternate who takes care of the kids so they can get to the dojo. The husband is one of he management team at the dojo so he has admin work as well. They manage to be "serious". Do they wish they could train more? Sure. But they get there regularly. Training is integral to their family life, just like daycare, sports, music lessons, etc for the kids. They found a way to do it because they really wanted to. They work harder for each minute of training than anyone I know. But they are a perfect example of the fact that it is simply a matter of how badly you want it, not the difficulty of doing it.

And because they have to work so hard to get their mat time, they don't screw around. Training is a gift for them and they take it seriously. What time they get they treat seriously and they make the most of it. You don't see them staying the same year after year. You don't see them wasting their partner's time. In fact they are the ones looking at you like you are wasting their time if you aren't serious or are training like a bozo. I figure, if these folks can accomplish what they do with their situation, it's possible for most folks. It's just that most folks don't want it that badly.

Peter Goldsbury
01-20-2011, 04:07 PM
I think you need to very clear about which period of Morihei Ueshiba's life you have in mind here. The situation in Iwama in 1942 and after was quite different from the situation in the Kobukan in 1931 and after, and this also changed as the war developed. The situation was also different from that obtaining in the revived Aikikai Hombu from 1955 onwards.

PAG

lbb
01-20-2011, 04:21 PM
This is simply not true... Saito Sensei, for instance, worked for the railroads. He traveled hours every day back and forth to the dojo so that he could train with the Founder.

Most of the deshi had jobs that supported their training. I am sure that they had pressures which could have taken them away from training, they simply chose to train every day.

Right, but let's be clear: this wasn't the all-day-every-day training that would have been more typical of the koryu, is it? It's still a matter of using one's leisure time to train, isn't it?

Demetrio Cereijo
01-20-2011, 04:32 PM
This is simply not true... Saito Sensei, for instance, worked for the railroads. He traveled hours every day back and forth to the dojo so that he could train with the Founder.

Are you sure?

There were a lot of sempai but they all grew up and left. They all returned to their own homes, entered companies, returned to their families, or got jobs. If their family had a dojo they inherited that, etc. In the end, only a small number of sempai from around here and myself were left. But all the sempai from this area ended up not being able to come to the dojo after getting married because they had to work hard at their occupations...
So everybody ended up unable to come to the dojo in order to maintain their own families. I could continue because I was free during the daytime though I went to work every other evening. I could live without receiving any money from O-Sensei because I was paid by the JNR. O-Sensei had money but students around here didn’t. If they came to Sensei they would have had no income and not have been able to raise rice for their families and would have died by coming to the dojo. All of them gradually stopped coming. I could continue because I had money enough to live. I was lucky enough to have a job, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to continue
Interview with Morihiro Saito - Part 1 (1979) (http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=139)

I believe he worked as a switchman for JNR in Iwama.

Amassus
01-20-2011, 10:19 PM
I guess I would submit that folks pursuing the art with less than the minimum amount of commitment required to at least make it the transformation practice the Founder intended or to work hard enough to have some level of actual functionality in a martial sense, are hurting the art. They are bringing this amazing pursuit down to the mundane level of a cross between video games and going to the gym. Video games are fun and going to the gym is healthy. Is that all Aikido really is? I think it is far more than that. I think we need to stop telling everyone that what they want to give the art is all fine and start talking about what it really takes to do Aikido. Folks need to decide whether they are willing to do Aikido or the commitment to do so is too much. That's the way it used to be and I think it needs to be again or Aikido will keep degenerating to the point at which no one even remembers when it was something more. I just don't see the point in doing something less.

This is a big statement, George.
Ultimately IMO, this is too selfish a stance to take. I take my training seriously, I value my time of the mat but to say to my partner and children that they had to fit their lives around my training is down-right selfish.
I continue to train, and will continue to train as long as I possibly can but I will not train up to four times a week when the only times available fall in the evenings when we are trying to get the kids fed and in bed. To leave my partner with that is just rude IMO.

I agree with your thoughts on committed training and before coming a family man, I most certainly trained as much as I could, even traveling one and a half hours to train at another dojo after work to get more mat time. However, things change, priorities change.

At the end of the day would I rather see my aikido worsen, or my relationship with my partner and children worsen? All these things take effort to keep up.

Thanks for your input.

Dean.

Carsten Möllering
01-21-2011, 02:04 AM
I think you need to very clear about which period of Morihei Ueshiba's life you have in mind here. ...
Yes. But wasn't the issue "having to make a living in which way ever - practicing as intense as possible" always the same? And obviously is until today?
Different biographies and social contexts - different solutions.

Right, but let's be clear: this wasn't the all-day-every-day training that would have been more typical of the koryu, is it? It's still a matter of using one's leisure time to train, isn't it?
Same issue exists at the koryu I think. And here also: Different biographies - different solutions.

Also in the koryu there are teachers and students who had to and have to make their living and try do this in a way that will allow them to train.
At least here in Germany I know practioners of the koryu also choose their jobs and the city to life in a way the can study or teach.

... but to say to my partner and children that they had to fit their lives around my training is down-right selfish.[That's exactly what my former wife said and left me.
With my "new" familiy it worksb better than ever.
As I said: There is now a network of my children, my wife, my divorced husband and her partner ...

I think this is not a question of selfish or not selfish. It's a question how you live your life, with whom you share your life. How different lifes of persons "fit together".
I had times, when leaving for practice was like war (with my former wife).
I had and have a time now where leaving for practice gives me power, strengthens the connection between my (now) wife and me.

This also not a question of aikido but of how you get along with a partner who "has a lot to do" in his or her life. (My wife also has in hers. My daughter has. My former wife now has ...)
How to get all this, all those different lives together?

... before coming a family man, ...
However, things change, priorities change.
At the end of the day would I rather see my aikido worsen, or my relationship with my partner and children worsen?

I decided to continue training. Become divorced. My life changed a lot.
My best friend quit aikido for some years because of his two children.
Different lifes, different persons, different decisions.

Hard times inbetween for both of us because of different reasons. Just like it is. But now we are both very very happy with our lifes and how it all went.
I am his teacher in aikido now and he trains once a week.

Different lifes, very different ways, different solutions.
It was just the "of course" in the OP that disturbed me.
I "of course" continued practice when becoming a family man. ;)

Peter Goldsbury
01-21-2011, 04:41 AM
Yes. But wasn't the issue "having to make a living in which way ever - practicing as intense as possible" always the same?

No. I do not think it was, at least in the way you have put it. It might well have been the case that all the close students of Morihei Ueshiba had to train very hard and also build their family responsibilities around their training. I do not know if they all did this successfully.

The point I made was a very precise one in response to the beginning of George Ledyard's lengthy post and in support of the post of Mary Malmros. I do not believe the thesis that Kisshomaru changed everything is quite so cut and dried.

I agree with nearly everything that George stated, but even Morihei Ueshiba had to adopt different standards for accepting students at different times of his life. Much is made of the requirement to have two recommendations from important sponsors, but this was true in the early period in Tokyo and the Kobukan period, but it was inevitably relaxed as the war continued and clearly would not have applied in the military institutions where Ueshiba taught.

In the very early days in Tokyo, Ueshiba clearly had aristocratic pretensions and his early deshi also had to have the means to support themselves while training in the dojo and also to pay for their training. Training had a distinctly elitist tinge, but his ceased to be the case as the 1930s wore on and the supply of potential deshi dwindled.

There was a huge general 'paradigm shift' with Japan's defeat and the changes consequent on this cannot entirely be laid at the feet of Kisshomaru. When the dojos reopened, training could no longer be seen to be elitist, but had to be seen to be beneficial to the community at large. Clearly, training was still very hard, but the economic situation had changed to the extent that some postwar deshi actually ceased to be deshi (temporarily) because of the dire economic conditions.

The degree to which Morihei Ueshiba accepted this paradigm shift is a major question--and a moot question. His discourses published by the Aikikai are not really any help here, since it is known that they were heavily edited. It is interesting that none of Ueshiba's prewar/wartime discourses, made when he was the head of the Omoto paramilitary organization, have ever been republished by the Aikikai.

When the Tokyo dojo finally resumed regular training, a training schedule evolved that still continues now. The first class everyday was taught by Doshu. After that classes were taught by senior instructors like Tohei, Osawa and Okumura (who taught the beginners) with others, Tada, Yamaguchi, Arikawa. The weekdays were rounded off with a final Friday class by Doshu and a class on Saturday mornings. The deshi (Chiba, Yamada, Sugano) took all the classes, but were also available to teach elsewhere--and also to go abroad and teach, because they were professional. But the vast numbers of people who, for example, took Doshu's classes very day, week by week, year by year, decade by decade, were what mattered to organizations like the Education Ministry. A company employee, or boss, or CEO, or cabinet minister, could take Doshu's class in the morning and then go off to work, refreshed and ready, after an hour of hard training. And some of these regulars became very good: Kato Hiroshi is a good example.

In Iwama Saito Morihiro was a switcher in a JNR marshalling yard. He worked shifts: either 12 hours on, twelve hours off; or 24 hours on, 24 hours off. Clearly enthusiastic, he organized his entire working life around the railway and his entire leisure time around training at what for him was a local dojo. There were not many people there, and Kisshomaru also lived in the Ueshiba house in Iwama and taught at the local dojo until the Tokyo dojo opened again. I suspect there was a similar training schedule as in Tokyo, but with O Sensei as the constant variable.

The episode about Kisshomaru's 'secret' job in Tokyo--and his father's wrath when he found out--is of some relevance here. When Kisshomaru Ueshiba's autobiography is published in English, I think it will be time for another rethink about these issues.

Basia Halliop
01-21-2011, 09:21 AM
There were a lot of sempai but they all grew up and left. They all returned to their own homes, entered companies, returned to their families, or got jobs. If their family had a dojo they inherited that, etc. In the end, only a small number of sempai from around here and myself were left. But all the sempai from this area ended up not being able to come to the dojo after getting married because they had to work hard at their occupations...

I think it's often relevent when we talk about history (most kinds of history, not just Aikido) to think of the fact that the examples we now know about are almost by definition the ones who succeeded or survived....

Similarly one might get the impression that the majority of literature written before the 19th century was brilliant. Because the brilliant is what mainly survives and continues to be printed to be known centuries later.

From that interview, it sounds like retention of students and getting people to train many hours and keep up training when they had other responsibilities was a big issue back then too... but who do we know now and thus hear the personal stories of? The few who excelled...

RonRagusa
01-21-2011, 09:42 AM
I guess I would submit that folks pursuing the art with less than the minimum amount of commitment required to at least make it the transformation practice the Founder intended or to work hard enough to have some level of actual functionality in a martial sense, are hurting the art. They are bringing this amazing pursuit down to the mundane level of a cross between video games and going to the gym. Video games are fun and going to the gym is healthy. Is that all Aikido really is? I think it is far more than that. I think we need to stop telling everyone that what they want to give the art is all fine and start talking about what it really takes to do Aikido. Folks need to decide whether they are willing to do Aikido or the commitment to do so is too much. That's the way it used to be and I think it needs to be again or Aikido will keep degenerating to the point at which no one even remembers when it was something more. I just don't see the point in doing something less.

Hi George -

Well, I can sympathize with your sentiment but WADR I disagree with your conclusions. Where you see the diversification of Aikido as a process of degeneration, I see it as the realization of the Founder's gift to the world. Aikido in all its forms and permutations can still be traced back to the Founder. And while the martial aspects of his art have been diluted in many of the varied ways in which it is practiced, as long as there are people such as yourself, the Iwama, Tomiki, Yoshinkan folks and probably many others, the facets of the art that you see as disappearing will continue to live on.

Regarding your point on the waining commitment of students present; I think consistency is more important than quantity when it comes to practice and I'd rather see a student once a week for life than a student who comes to class four times a week for a few months and then leaves. Students are responsible for deciding their level of commitment to practice and it's not up to me to judge them. My job is to show up for every class and teach whoever attends. Were I to filter my students based on commitment then I would not have met and got to know some of the people who have become dear friends over the years they have been training.

Best,

Ron

mathewjgano
01-21-2011, 11:13 AM
I've been trying to think about Ledyard Sensei's post a bit because it fully applies to me. I've been a terrible student these last several years...and each time I step back on the mat I feel like I'm getting in the way of proper training. I agree with the idea that the overall quality of training is a product of those who are training, and that when someone like me steps onto the mat, the overall quality drops. I really notice it when I arrive late on the weekday class I more or less resumed, and my sempai who gets to train with sensei is suddenly stuck with me...I always feel a bit guilty for that, recognizing that I just got the better end of that stick.
That said, I also believe this is a somewhat unavoidable aspect of training, particularly given Mary's remarks about luxury activities and the modern society...which I agree with comepletely. Also, I believe the affected quality is only part of the training. One can (I think) still develop their ability, particularly the internal aiki, while training with inconsistent people like me. It's not ideal in many aspects, but my view is that "true" budo essentially says, "come what may, I'll deal with that too."
...also...
If a person wants to avoid the situation students like myself create, I believe it is entirely up to that person to make that happen. I think it's a very important message to suggest people look very seriously at what they're doing and what they want to get from their training...and to look hard at what Aikido means to those who make it a major center of their life. However, while students like myself need to recognize our effect on those we train with, where it's unwanted there needs to be a time set aside for serious students to train with other serious students...which is why so many schools have general classes, beginner classes, and advanced classes, right? The sensei sets the tone in this regard and the student needs to find a place that fits with his or her goals.
My view on the efficacy/quality issue always seems to come down to this: where people suggest Aikido is being degraded, I always have to ask, "is your Aikido suffering?" That's where the quality is found, in the individual, and it is up to the individual to make their training whatever they want it to be.

mathewjgano
01-21-2011, 01:45 PM
...if we start out with 10 people and let's say 5 "get it," while the remaining 5 only get most, or some of it. Then, "it" becomes super popular (through the teaching by those 10) and we have 50,000 people doing some form of it. If we only have 20 who get it compared to the 49,980 who get some "lesser" version, this is still an improvement in my mind and cannot be described as a degradation.
...nevermind all the subtle ways an activity like Aikido can be of use. When I first began training, Aikido itself wasn't very useful to me. Going to the dojo and being with people; focusing on relaxation after mild forms of road-rage emerged; things like that were useful to me...as well as those around me, adding to the benefit from Aikido to that portion of the world at large.
I wonder if the essential point to Ledyard Sensei's post has to do with the idea of give and take. Anytime we benefit from something, I think it's important to consider how we can give back to the system(s) which propogate(d) that benefit.

graham christian
01-21-2011, 01:54 PM
I've been trying to think about Ledyard Sensei's post a bit because it fully applies to me. I've been a terrible student these last several years...and each time I step back on the mat I feel like I'm getting in the way of proper training. I agree with the idea that the overall quality of training is a product of those who are training, and that when someone like me steps onto the mat, the overall quality drops. I really notice it when I arrive late on the weekday class I more or less resumed, and my sempai who gets to train with sensei is suddenly stuck with me...I always feel a bit guilty for that, recognizing that I just got the better end of that stick.
That said, I also believe this is a somewhat unavoidable aspect of training, particularly given Mary's remarks about luxury activities and the modern society...which I agree with comepletely. Also, I believe the affected quality is only part of the training. One can (I think) still develop their ability, particularly the internal aiki, while training with inconsistent people like me. It's not ideal in many aspects, but my view is that "true" budo essentially says, "come what may, I'll deal with that too."
...also...
If a person wants to avoid the situation students like myself create, I believe it is entirely up to that person to make that happen. I think it's a very important message to suggest people look very seriously at what they're doing and what they want to get from their training...and to look hard at what Aikido means to those who make it a major center of their life. However, while students like myself need to recognize our effect on those we train with, where it's unwanted there needs to be a time set aside for serious students to train with other serious students...which is why so many schools have general classes, beginner classes, and advanced classes, right? The sensei sets the tone in this regard and the student needs to find a place that fits with his or her goals.
My view on the efficacy/quality issue always seems to come down to this: where people suggest Aikido is being degraded, I always have to ask, "is your Aikido suffering?" That's where the quality is found, in the individual, and it is up to the individual to make their training whatever they want it to be.

Hi Mathew.
Well put. I find what you said here honest, refreshing
and thoughtful.

George S. Ledyard
01-21-2011, 05:55 PM
Are you sure?

There were a lot of sempai but they all grew up and left. They all returned to their own homes, entered companies, returned to their families, or got jobs. If their family had a dojo they inherited that, etc. In the end, only a small number of sempai from around here and myself were left. But all the sempai from this area ended up not being able to come to the dojo after getting married because they had to work hard at their occupations...
So everybody ended up unable to come to the dojo in order to maintain their own families. I could continue because I was free during the daytime though I went to work every other evening. I could live without receiving any money from O-Sensei because I was paid by the JNR. O-Sensei had money but students around here didn’t. If they came to Sensei they would have had no income and not have been able to raise rice for their families and would have died by coming to the dojo. All of them gradually stopped coming. I could continue because I had money enough to live. I was lucky enough to have a job, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to continue
Interview with Morihiro Saito - Part 1 (1979) (http://www.aikidojournal.com/article?articleID=139)

I believe he worked as a switchman for JNR in Iwama.

You could certainly be right... I read somewhere he had a serious commute but I could be misremembering some other teacher's story. Certainly the idea about the job was true. Later the uchi deshi were supported, at least at Hombu, but in those days there was simply no money for that. Anyway, the point was that the folks who trained had to balance a lot of different competing concerns to do so.

George S. Ledyard
01-21-2011, 07:30 PM
Hi George -

Well, I can sympathize with your sentiment but WADR I disagree with your conclusions. Where you see the diversification of Aikido as a process of degeneration, I see it as the realization of the Founder's gift to the world. Aikido in all its forms and permutations can still be traced back to the Founder. And while the martial aspects of his art have been diluted in many of the varied ways in which it is practiced, as long as there are people such as yourself, the Iwama, Tomiki, Yoshinkan folks and probably many others, the facets of the art that you see as disappearing will continue to live on.

Regarding your point on the waining commitment of students present; I think consistency is more important than quantity when it comes to practice and I'd rather see a student once a week for life than a student who comes to class four times a week for a few months and then leaves. Students are responsible for deciding their level of commitment to practice and it's not up to me to judge them. My job is to show up for every class and teach whoever attends. Were I to filter my students based on commitment then I would not have met and got to know some of the people who have become dear friends over the years they have been training.

Best,

Ron

Hi Ron,
Actually, I don't filter my students either. Whoever shows up on any given night gets my best efforts. I can't be attached to the results... that's a good way to burn out. I do it because I love to do it.

At the same time I do have a sense of responsibility towards the art and the people in it. Although my latest series of posts have largely been focused on the student commitment side of things, my harshest criticism is often for those with the responsibility to pass on the art.

As a teacher of this art and one who has received the greatest of gifts from an array of teachers, I feel that it is my job to "teach". Of course this requires students who are hungry and we've been discussing that. I can fulfill my job of making sure what I have been taught doesn't disappear just within my own dojo. I have several students whom I believe will be better than I am if they keep training as they are decades ahead of where I was at the same experience level.

If this were a koryu, that would be enough. Just pass it on to enough people that ensure the art's survival. But tens of thousands of people have been encouraged to take up this art. Teachers were sent world wide to spread Aikido. Organizations have trained second and third generation instructors and opened dojos all over... big cities, little towns, colleges and universities...

This endeavor supports a small group of professional teachers who exist at the very top of the Aikido pyramid. Yet, I do not see an investment on the part of the folks at the top in the success of the general mass of students at the bottom. It's as if they exist to pay the bills but no one really expects them to be good at the art and little upset exists over the fact that the aren't. The students actually end up absorbing that attitude and get in the "habit of not getting it" but aren't terribly concerned that they do not. Even instructors get complacent and really don't believe that they will ever do the kind of Aikido the Shihan are doing.

I had a teacher tell me that it is my job to go up "up the mountain as high as I can, and show my students." There was absolutely no sense that I should worry about whether anyone can actually follow me up the mountain behind me or that I should look back to see if folks have trouble negotiating the obstacles I had overcome. It's all about I show them, they get it or not get it, that's not my problem...

I believe that this whole thing is a two way street. Sure as a professional, I require the support of the mass of students out there to survive. But in return for that support, they deserve my best efforts. It's not just about showing folks that I can do marvelous things all weekend and going home with folks saying how good I am... it's about going home on Sunday night knowing that every single person who attended that seminar was at least a bit better. I know it's a very un-Japanese attitude but I actually care whether folks get better.

The fact of the matter is that doing good Aikido that actually involves some "aiki" does not take any more effort than doing bad Aikido. A certain minimum amount of practice is required for either. We've already had that discussion... I believe that for most adults that is three times a week - minimum. Others disagree and nothing I will say will change that opinion.

But I really believe that if we rework Aikido from the bottom up, and that means changing many common notions of ukemi, really teaching proper relaxation, teaching beginners right from day one what center to center connection really is, and much more, virtually everyone in the Aikido pyramid would be better. But the Aikido establishment, the dojo heads who have the responsibility of teaching have to want to change. The heads of the organizations have to support the efforts to change. And I think that is a difficult thing to accomplish.

Inertia is a huge force. The 30+ year teacher who wants to retool his Aikido is rare. Most dojo heads don't see the need to change much. They worked long and hard to be the "big dude". They are now officially important, at least on a local level, and there's not much incentive to make sweeping changes, they are happy as things are. It's the same with the really high up folks. They are happy, they are high up. Everyone thinks they are great, everyone treats them with great respect (and the occasional person who doesn't leaves and joins some other group). So what is the incentive to change anything?

The "old boy" model, of which senior Americans can be just as guilty as any Japanese teacher is to show everyone the great stuff and then sit around with the other "old boys" and bemoan that students these days aren't what they once were. And of course they are right... it's really hard to find folks who want to train like we did in the sixties and seventies. this is a trap like any other and I can feel myself falling in to it periodically. But the reality is that circumstances have changed. This is a very different world now. What is required is that teachers step up to the plate and do their jobs well. Students don't train often because the teacher simply hasn't inspired them to do so.

The teacher is responsible for modeling the proper attitude for the student. Is the teacher someone who hasn't changed a thing for twenty years or is he like Ikeda Sensei who retooled his Aikido from top to bottom at 7th Dan? You know how many teachers I run into who have never done any other martial arts training, have never read many, if any, if the articles on Aikido Journal, who readily admit to being less than competent at material they are responsible for teaching to their students? I genuinely don't get it. They teach an art but they have nothing more than the rudiments of knowledge if its history. They are almost completely unaware of the great teachers who have gone before, they are uninterested in their wider peer group of teachers from outside their immediate group, in fact they are intimidated by them, they are often less aware of influences coming from outside the art such as the internal training folks, or the Aikido folks doing Systema than many of their own students are.

There are twenty dojos here in he Seattle area. When the Aiki Expos took place, I believe that two of us attended. Many teachers were so disconnected that they simply were unaware that these seminal events were taking place. Now my wife is a lawyer... it is required of her that she do yearly classes called CLE's, she even teaches some. You want to stay certified you have to take these classes which keep you up to date on new laws, new interpretations, the latest judgments, etc As a professional you are required to stay up to date. You can lose certification if you don't and be open to malpractice suits.

Why is Aikido such a sloppy mess? There is a certain level on which EVERY person running a dojo is a professional. Perhaps not as I am, making my living this way, but certainly as paid professionals. Virtually every dojo has dues. And even if they do not, the students pay in the currency that is far more valuable and that is their time. Every minute a student gives to a teacher is a minute that can never be gotten back. Our time is a non-renewable resource. A student chooses to give that time to you, you absolutely owe him your best effort and the competency to teach what needs to be taught and teach it well.

The unwillingness of many teachers to do this borders on fraud in some cases. This isn't a stylistic thing. Every style has a different emphasis and a different set of requirements. But anyone setting himself or herself up as a teacher should feel a commitment to deliver the goods or they shouldn't be teaching.

And it's not just plain competency that's needed... it's the ability to inspire, to touch people's hearts, and a real commitment to teaching. Sensei once said "Student not do well on test, not student's fault, teacher's fault." Everyone teaching Aikido has to accept some responsibility for the current state of the art and the higher up your are, the greater that responsibility. All these folks who have set themselves up as teachers but who are no longer even trying to be the best that they could be are failing themselves and their students. The organizations that allow this state of affairs to exist are failing their members.

So when I talk about more commitment from the students, that they should be "hungry" all the time, pushing their teachers for more and more all the time, it goes doubly and triply for the teachers. If they do not model what is right, their students will never see the need to change.

Peter Goldsbury
01-21-2011, 09:01 PM
Could you please describe how keiko けい古 relates to shugyo and renshu?

Hello Carsten,

(Be prepared for a long post, full of Chinese characters.)

There are two ways of studying how one Japanese term relates to another: (I) by looking at what the words mean and how they are actually used in the present-day Japanese language, and (II) by looking at the relationship between the Chinese characters that make up the compound word and comparing this with that of other words. (By ‘compound word' I mean a Japanese word that is written with two more Chinese characters.) We will look at each term under these headings. The relationship between the meaning (I) and the composition (II) is sometimes clear, sometimes not. Native Japanese have learned the Chinese characters, but sometimes have false ideas, or no idea at all, of whether or how the composition affects the meaning.

KEIKO 稽古
(I) Meaning
(a) The activity of studying ancient texts and referring to / commenting on ancient matters, thus making clear the rationale behind such matters; (b) the learning [narau: 習う] of activities such as martial arts and music instruments; (c) the exercise or practice [練習: renshuu] of what has been studied; (d) the possessing (the possibility of some level of visibility or display is implied) of a high level of learning.

(II) Composition
稽: KEI: no Japanese kun reading: consider; reflect; bow low
No compounds were given apart from KEIKO.
古: KO: furui: old
There are many compounds, none relevant specifically to KEIKO.
NOTE: (1) Clearly, there is a plausible connection in the construction of the compound between reflection and old , but this is not evident at all in one compound, 会稽 kaikei, as in kaikei no haji wo sosogu: to avenge an unendurable shame. (会稽山: Kaikeizan is the Japanese name of a mountain in China.)
(2) The question is when the first meaning was transferred to the martial arts.
(3) The meaning of KEIKO and RENSHUU are clearly similar, as in (c) above.

RENSHUU 練習
(I) Meaning
Learning something (in education, science, scholarship, arts, crafts) by repetition, with the aim of becoming proficient.

(II) Composition
練: REN; ne(ru): knead, train, polish; ne(reru): become mellowed / mature
Compounds with REN have either the sense of kneading, as in dough, or of drilling, as in parades or marching. This is especially true when REN is the second character in the compound. Examples:
洗練: SENREN: refine, polish; 修練: SHUUREN: training, drill; 教練: KYOUREN: military drill; 訓練: KUNREN: training; 習練: practice training (NB. This is RENSHUU, with the order of characters reversed); 精練: SEIREN: refining, smelting; 錬磨: RENMA: training.

習: SHUU; nara(u): learn
The compounds of SHUU do not have the central sense of learning by drilling, though this is what might actually happen. Examples:
Examples: 習性: SHUUSEI: habit; 習俗: SHUUZOKU: manners and customs: usage; 習得: SHUUTOKU: 習熟: learn, master; 習癖: SHUUHEKI: habit, peculiarity.
学習: GAKISHUU: study; 自習: JISHUU: self-study; 実習: JISSHUU: practice (as in for a driving test); 教育実習: KYOUIKU JISSHUU: teaching practice (in a school); 食習慣: SHOKUSHUUKAN: eating habits; 演習: ENSHUU: seminar (as opposed to a lecture).

SHUGYOU 修行
(I) Meaning
(a) Carrying out the teaching of the Buddha in order to achieve enlightenment;
(b) 精神を鍛え、学問・技芸などを修め磨くこと。また、そのために、諸国を経巡ること。Seishin wo kitae, gakumon, gigei nado wo osame migakukoto. Mata sono tame ni, shokoku wo hemegurukoto. Forging the mind / spirit (by) studying and training in scholarship or skills. Traveling round the country for this reason (= Musha shugyou).
(NOTE: The metaphors all relate to forging and polishing. 鍛え kitaeru means to forge a sword, but also means mental training / spiritual cultivation, as in RENMA 錬磨. Migaku 磨く means to polish e.g. a mirror.
Similarly, osame-migaku 修め磨くhas the sense of cultivating oneself by training the body and the mind. In other words, more strictly ascetic training is the central focus.)

(II) Composition
修: SHUU; SHU; osa(maru): govern oneself; conduct oneself well; osa(meru): order one's life; study; cultivate; master. Examples:
修正: SHUUSEI; amendment, revision; 修道院: SHUUDOUIN: monastery; 修理: SHUURI: repair; 修辞: SHUUJI: figure of speech, rhetoric; 修築: SHUUCHIKU: repair a house.

行 GYOU: row, line of text, walk, do, carry out; KOU: go, do, carry out, bank; AN: go, travel. I(ku), yu(ku): go; okona(u): do, carry out, conduct. Examples:
There are hundreds of compounds, so explaining the composition of a word by means of compounds is pointless here, especially as the original composition of the compound in many cases has little to do with its present meaning.
(NOTE: For shugyou, Morihei Ueshiba used 修行 and 修業 interchangeably. So the use of 業 is not considered here.)

SUMMARY:
Considered simply as an activity, keiko has a wide range, but there are some activities, such as learning to drive a car, that would never be considered as keiko.
Considered as an activity done in a certain way, renshuu has a sharper focus than keiko, but the range of applications is still very wide.
Considered as an activity done in a certain way and with a certain purpose, shugyou has a much sharper focus than keiko or renshuu.

PAG

RonRagusa
01-21-2011, 09:56 PM
If this were a koryu, that would be enough. Just pass it on to enough people that ensure the art's survival. But tens of thousands of people have been encouraged to take up this art. Teachers were sent world wide to spread Aikido. Organizations have trained second and third generation instructors and opened dojos all over... big cities, little towns, colleges and universities...

This endeavor supports a small group of professional teachers who exist at the very top of the Aikido pyramid.

Here you have raised two very important points George. The first is the decision that Aikido should be made available to not only a select group of dedicated individuals but to masses of people throughout the world. This decision virtually guarantees that as the number of Aikido students grows world wide, the majority of students practicing Aikido will display, shall we say, a mediocre commitment to their practice. I suspect that if we could quantify commitment and plot the results we would see that they form a classic Bell Curve where the outliers represent both ends of the commitment spectrum. This seems more a natural consequence of large numbers of people engaged in a common task reverting to the mean with respect to their level of commitment than the result of general disinterest of the small number of people who "get it".

Secondly, the fact that the Aikido hierarchy and most of the organizations within Aikido are structured in the shape of a pyramid breeds the type of elitist behavior that can be observed in any organization with that particular structure. Students at the lower levels are all too often willing to cede their power to individuals above them simply because of their relative positions within the hierarchy. And, sadly, instructors and other high ranked individuals are only too happy to accept it. Higher ups are afforded a special place and are able to bask in the admiration of those below them. The seductive power of adulation becomes something to defend and before you know it the organization grows into a sort of caste system.

As instructors I do not believe that we can effect any change in the macro level of commitment displayed by Aikido students worldwide. At the dojo level, so long as the student enrollment remains below some critical threshold, I think we can model correct behavior for our students and give them our encouragement so they feel free to let their commitment grow to whatever level they are comfortable with. Beyond that critical enrollment level we necessarily begin to lose the intimate personal touch that's possible with a smaller group.

Regarding the second point, we must avoid the temptation to let students put us on pedestals and so willingly give their power to us. We can do this by consciously fostering an attitude in our dojos that treats all students, regardless of rank or ability, with the same respect and dignity. A more helpful organizational structure in this regard would be a circle where all members are equally distant from the center which represents our common goal of learning and practicing Aikido.

Best,

Ron

Josh Reyer
01-22-2011, 07:12 AM
If I may, I'd like to attempt to put Professor Goldsbury's post in more layman's terms, and hopefully address some of Hanna B.'s questions in the other thread.

If I were to rank "keiko", "renshuu" and "shugyou" in order of weight, I'd put it, "renshuu", "keiko" and "shugyou". The sense of "renshuu" is doing something over and over, constantly improving what one has learned. Hence, "polishing (ren) what one has learned (shuu)". It is thus used most widely for a variety of things both mundane and extraordinary.

"Keiko" is often glossed in Japanese texts as "古を稽える" "Inishie wo kangaeru", or "Think on the past." In antiquity, it was a word to describe scholarly learning (which in medieval China and Japan, heck, Europe for that matter, meant studying the classics). In modern day, it's associated with arts (performing and martial) because it has a sense of not just polishing one's skills, but of learning new ones, expanding one's understanding, reaching back (through physical practice, not intellectual study) to the lessons of one's teacher, and one's teacher's teacher.

One interesting use of the word "keiko" is for "rehearsal" in the context of theater. I believe this is an artifact of the term being used in traditional arts such as Noh and Kabuki. Another interesting idiomatic distinction is that "renshuu" is in someways an individual activity (though it can be done with others). Keiko, OTOH, has the phrase "keiko wo tsukeru". A direct translation would be messy and confusing, but it's used to describe a teacher training with a student. One might say, "Sensei ga keiko wo tsukete kudasatta." -- Sensei trained with me. So, within "keiko" you have a sense of transference from a teacher to a student. "Renshuu", OTOH, has no "transitive" property from one person to another. One does "renshuu", and hones one's own skills.

"Shugyou", as Professor Goldsbury's post implies, has a "monastic" sense to it. It is used to describe long-term, concentrated training. It can have a focused meaning -- an aspiring chef sojourning in France for a number of years to bring his cooking skills to a top level. It can also have a fuzzier meaning, referring to one's lifelong practice, in which case, it never ends.

In a sense, the meanings are nested in a martial arts context. In the course of "keiko", one will do "renshuu", among other things. The pursuit of "keiko", concentrated over a lengthy time and dispersed over one's whole life, is "shugyou".

Demetrio Cereijo
01-22-2011, 07:28 AM
Thanks Josh, I've been grappling with that words lately (reading the works of Yuasa Y) and I find your explanations useful.

Demetrio Cereijo
01-22-2011, 08:32 AM
Thanks Josh, I've been grappling with that words lately (reading the works of Yuasa Y) and I find your explanations useful.

Ed. Thanks to Peter too.

George S. Ledyard
01-22-2011, 02:43 PM
Here you have raised two very important points George. The first is the decision that Aikido should be made available to not only a select group of dedicated individuals but to masses of people throughout the world. This decision virtually guarantees that as the number of Aikido students grows world wide, the majority of students practicing Aikido will display, shall we say, a mediocre commitment to their practice. I suspect that if we could quantify commitment and plot the results we would see that they form a classic Bell Curve where the outliers represent both ends of the commitment spectrum. This seems more a natural consequence of large numbers of people engaged in a common task reverting to the mean with respect to their level of commitment than the result of general disinterest of the small number of people who "get it".

Yes, this would be definitely true if everyone were left to his own devices. It can be altered however by the setting of minimum standards of commitment. For instance, the stipulation at my own dojo that anyone wishing to test for anything above 4h Kyu must be training at least three times a week on the average, That tends to reduce the number of folks at the lower end of the bell curve.

As instructors I do not believe that we can effect any change in the macro level of commitment displayed by Aikido students worldwide. At the dojo level, so long as the student enrollment remains below some critical threshold, I think we can model correct behavior for our students and give them our encouragement so they feel free to let their commitment grow to whatever level they are comfortable with. Beyond that critical enrollment level we necessarily begin to lose the intimate personal touch that's possible with a smaller group.

Actually, I do disagree that we can't effect change on the macro level, although it is more difficult and requires more effort. There are folks on the forums here, for instance, that are not top ranked in the Aikido world and are therefore mostly under the radar. Yet, they are out there trying things out, doing Daito Ryu, working on internal skills, playing with the Systema folks, training in BJJ, whatever. They contribute their experience to these discussions and thousands of people are exposed to another set of ideas.

As instructors we should feel compelled to get out and train "outside our box". A good leader is able to effect everyone he or she meets, simply by being who they are and modeling the correct things. I don't mean specifics of any given way of doing something, or acting a certain way. I mean modeling how to be completely oneself without being fearful, which is vastly powerful and is one of the great attractive forces in the human universe. I mean training with everyone, regardless of level with the goal that you leave every training interaction with your partner feeling enhanced by the interaction. You let everyone see your passion for the art and share it with anyone who is willing.

Over time, if each individual looked at his interactions this way, the whole would get better. The enthusiastic, passionate student can get a burned out teacher excited again. The teacher who had lost touch with why he was training could become motivated once again simply by finding someone who could help him be better than he ever thought he'd be. Anyone who moves through his life committed to excellence will effect everyone he or she encounters, especially if he or she shows a willingness to help other folks be excellent as well, without a lot of judgment, without any sense that they are cared for less if they don't achieve something in particular.

Regarding the second point, we must avoid the temptation to let students put us on pedestals and so willingly give their power to us. We can do this by consciously fostering an attitude in our dojos that treats all students, regardless of rank or ability, with the same respect and dignity. A more helpful organizational structure in this regard would be a circle where all members are equally distant from the center which represents our common goal of learning and practicing Aikido.

Once again, I will respectfully disagree. I think endeavors of the kind we are pursuing lend themselves to a hierarchical structure. I have never seen a non-hierarchical training model produce excellence in terms of skill. The few dojos I have seen where the model was by committee, the result was the "least common denominator" phenomenon. It was virtually impossible for anyone to be excellent because they were held back by the folks who didn't want to be. The result wasn't even mediocre, it was actually poor.

I think the pyramid is the most reflective of the inevitable difference in commitment, talent, athletic ability, social circumstance between the members of any training community. There will always be someone who trains harder, longer, has the money to attend more seminars, is single rather than married, who has a nothing job to support his training rather than a demanding career, etc.

So there needs to be a set of distinctions that everyone understands clearly right up front when they train. First, skill in the art has nothing to do with whether you are a good person or even socially functional. The discipline required for training gives a certain advantage to the fanatic, the one who is willing to drop everything else and do nothing but train. So attainment of skill is just that, it means you are good at the skills, nothing more.

Second, skills other than technical skill are crucial to our endeavor and need to be respected and recognized. I have white belts who are central to the running of the dojo. They take responsibility for all sorts of things and, because they are naturally inclined towards leadership, they draw others into stepping up and contributing too. Leading by example, once again. Because folks still tend to overly invest in the senior hierarchy, when I get someone like this, I create a title for them. For instance, I have a 3rd kyu who is called the Dojo Manager of Operations. As a 3rd kyu, there is a natural tendency for the 3rd, 4th and 5th Dans to minimize her, not to mention that she's a woman. But the title seems to take care of that. Everyone knows that I have conferred the title and given her the responsibility that goes with it. So now the 3rd kyu sits at the table with the 5th Dan. And the 5th Dan is actually happy about it because he didn't really want to be responsible for that stuff and isn't "losing face" because he's taking direction from a 3rd kyu. So I will actually create titles for people with talent so that they have the authority to act as peers with the high Dan ranks when it comes to off the mat issues. Of course, when it comes to the training everyone knows who is senior.

Harder to accomplish but equally important on an organization level is recognizing the importance of mastery in other realms and the fact that it a) relates to our own pursuit of our art and b) is every bit deserving of acknowledgment and respect as technical skill and Dan Rank. For instance our organization has a number of people in it who are highly educated, millionaire entrepreneurs. These people are masters of business and management. Yet, the only people who really have any influence, and even that is small, over the ways things are done are the Rokudans, as if our skill on the mat somehow qualified us to understand management, marketing, etc.

We have a couple of people who travel all over the world doing leadership training, team building etc for huge multi national corporations. Wouldn't it make sense to take advantage of that for our organization? But there's this assumption that because you have made it to Rokudan you have these skills, which is quite clearly not true. And certainly you are not generally going to see the old boys asking a woman to give them leadership classes or look at a shodan as having much worth while to contribute, regardless of that persons accomplishments outside the dojo.

Too often what you have at the top are a group of poorly integrated people whose great claim to fame was that they had found a way to tolerate all the BS for 30 or 40 years and not quit. As we have commented on numerous occasions, we have a ranking system that does not necessarily reflect excellence, even technically much less anything else, coupled with a hierarchical structure in which the only thing that counts is rank.

I think most folks are instinctively hierarchical by nature, which is why virtually every social structure man has ever devised that survived was hierarchical not egalitarian. So, I think that we should retain what we have but decouple the Dan system from Teaching Certification and we should find organizational ways to recognize the contributions that people with mastery from outside the art and take advantage of what they can offer.

I would do what the Systema folks do. You get teacher certification that has to be continuously renewed. If a teacher knew that his certification would be withdrawn if he was working at developing himself, then the importance of some high Dan ranking would be minimized. Dan ranking would be recognized as the achievement it was, no matter how long ago it was, but in terms of status within the group at a given instant, it would really about having and maintaining current certification. Loss of certification would mean no promotions accreted from that teacher, removal of the dojo from the website list of "approved" affiliated schools, etc.

I would do a mission statement for the organization that clearly defined the purpose of the organization as the transmission of the art to the highest level possible to the largest number of people possible. I would have the Shihan doing almost exclusively training for the senior Dan ranks, perhaps 4th Dan and up. I would have the Rokudans and second tier instructors out there doing seminars in which they would see their jobs as mentoring the instructors teaching in the various dojos. There shouldn't be a single black belt teaching class in any dojo within the organization who isn't personally known by name by at least one or more of these Rokudans. I'd have only a couple events per year which were "open level" events in which the expressed purpose would be for the most junior folks to bond with and be inspired by the Shihan and the senior teachers. And those same senior teachers would be told that their job at these events would be to mentor the juniors, not just train with each other; that the event existed to benefit the most junior folks.

I would require every dojo in the organization to host at least two seminars a year with one of the second tier instructors. The Shihan wouldn't even be doing ordinary weekend open level seminars at local dojos, If a dojo were too small to even host a seminar independently, then they would need to combine forces with another dojo(s) to make it happen.

I would have different grades of teaching certification. One that simply state that you were approved for running a dojo. I would have another that would certify you for teaching seminars around the country or internationally. That certification would be posted on a list that would be consulted by the various dojos who needed to fulfill their obligations of hosting two seminars with second tier instructors. I would actually try to find a way of rating these instructors... not sure about the mechanism, and re-certification to be on that list would be based on that rating. I'd probably include continuous training in the rating and also find a way to formalize a rating system so that the host dojos could give feedback to the organization about how they felt about the teachers being sent out to help them. Finally, I would integrate an experience quotient that would weight more experience teaching seminars more heavily. That would reflect the fact that the folks who get invited to teach more than the ones who don't are pretty much "delivering the goods" and are therefore invited back more often. If someone ends up teaching less than a certain number of seminars, then he or she is taken off the list. So, the instructors would have to do on-going training and would have to actively be teaching to be on the list. That would place performance above ranking while still letting the organization steer folks to the instructors they felt would do the best job moving the various dojos in the proper direction.

I think that we need to totally reverse the thinking about hierarchy. It's not about what you deserve because you made it to the ranking stratosphere. It's about how much responsibility you have to help everyone else below you. I also think that we need to understand hierarchy not as something to do with power but rather from a mentoring standpoint. I do want to tell anyone what they do and don;t have to do. The organization leadership or even the Shihan himself can set up the performance requirements for the membership. After that, it is all about helping folks achieve success at each of these levels.

The training we got in order to reach the point at which we can teach was a gift. The only real way we can repay our teachers for that gift is to pass it on. We are mentors. We should not be merely showing people and leaving them to their own devices. If that system worked we'd be seeing a lot of great Aikido. We don't see that. We see a small number of folks doing great Aikido while the majority serves to support their training.

Some of what I am talking about can be achieved simply by a number of individuals deciding to think about what they do this way. Other parts would require a change in the way our organizations, or at least many of them, are run. So we either decide to start our own organizations, which some teachers have actually done, or we wait until the current management changes and we are no longer second or third tier but first tier. I think there is enough desire for a more effective transmission that this change will occur inevitably. If not things won't simply stay the same they will get worse and eventually fall apart.

Peter Goldsbury
01-22-2011, 06:57 PM
Thanks Josh, I've been grappling with that words lately (reading the works of Yuasa Y) and I find your explanations useful.

Take care with Yuasa. There are major differences between the Japanese originals and the English translations. I bought the translations initially and then the Japanese--and was somewhat surprised.

Demetrio Cereijo
01-23-2011, 03:57 PM
Wilco

RED
01-23-2011, 08:02 PM
I don't mean specifics of any given way of doing something, or acting a certain way. I mean modeling how to be completely oneself without being fearful, which is vastly powerful and is one of the great attractive forces in the human universe. I mean training with everyone, regardless of level with the goal that you leave every training interaction with your partner feeling enhanced by the interaction. You let everyone see your passion for the art and share it with anyone who is willing.

Over time, if each individual looked at his interactions this way, the whole would get better. The enthusiastic, passionate student can get a burned out teacher excited again. The teacher who had lost touch with why he was training could become motivated once again simply by finding someone who could help him be better than he ever thought he'd be. Anyone who moves through his life committed to excellence will effect everyone he or she encounters, especially if he or she shows a willingness to help other folks be excellent as well, without a lot of judgment, without any sense that they are cared for less if they don't achieve something in particular.

Too often what you have at the top are a group of poorly integrated people whose great claim to fame was that they had found a way to tolerate all the BS for 30 or 40 years and not quit. As we have commented on numerous occasions, we have a ranking system that does not necessarily reflect excellence, even technically much less anything else, coupled with a hierarchical structure in which the only thing that counts is rank.

I would do a mission statement for the organization that clearly defined the purpose of the organization as the transmission of the art to the highest level possible to the largest number of people possible. I would have the Shihan doing almost exclusively training for the senior Dan ranks, perhaps 4th Dan and up. I would have the Rokudans and second tier instructors out there doing seminars in which they would see their jobs as mentoring the instructors teaching in the various dojos. There shouldn't be a single black belt teaching class in any dojo within the organization who isn't personally known by name by at least one or more of these Rokudans. I'd have only a couple events per year which were "open level" events in which the expressed purpose would be for the most junior folks to bond with and be inspired by the Shihan and the senior teachers. And those same senior teachers would be told that their job at these events would be to mentor the juniors, not just train with each other; that the event existed to benefit the most junior folks.



I think your statement brings up an important issue. Sometimes it seems like people can not separate the division between spreading Aikido and spreading quality Aikido.
I've seen a lot of schools with this zealous attitude to spread Aikido to everyone, yet they go to seminars to see the Shihan with the same attitude as though they were viewing a circus side show. As though they had money to blow to be entertained by Shihan instead of trying to absorb what they can while they are there. They want to spread Aikido to the world, but don't seem to buy the idea that what Shihan do is achievable by anyone who's willing to put the hours in on the mat. I find it a tragedy for the art as a whole.
And frankly I've heard every excuse in the book for why that level of Aikido and commitment to the art is not possible. To that I think people sell themselves short, and the art short for what it should be in some one's life. Not a fan of the kyu-with-the-excuse, the hobbyist, the 5th kyu Shihan, the NO-dan, or the hobbyist in denial. Not trying to be offensive to anyone, just a fan of intellectual honesty when it comes to what Aikido is in our lives. Anything less than a commitment that is equal to your very best-minus the excuses, is a disrespect to the art. IMHO.
I don't like the idea of Aikido being promoted with the hobbyist attitude that shihans are freaks with something us mere mortals can never do. My opinion: either teach the Aikido the Shihan promotes, or don't practice at all. Sometimes it feels like people believe there is shihan Aikido, then there is the Aikido the rest of us slobs can do. Aikido should never be dumbed down. IMHO.

lbb
01-23-2011, 08:50 PM
Anything less than a commitment that is equal to your very best-minus the excuses, is a disrespect to the art. IMHO.

So what, in real-world specific terms, is "a commitment that is equal to your very best"? Training every day? Training three hours a day? Six hours? Nine hours? Becoming an uchideshi?

No matter what anyone does, you can make the argument that that's not their "very best" because there is something they didn't do and that they could have done (at least theoretically). But how does that help people to know what they should do?

I don't like the idea of Aikido being promoted with the hobbyist attitude that shihans are freaks with something us mere mortals can never do.

If you don't like that idea, then it's up to you to show how "mere mortals" can achieve your level of commitment, isn't it? Railing against the "hobbyist" attitude is only helpful if you also show the alternative.

Ellis Amdur
01-23-2011, 10:22 PM
"To be a great martial artist, you must work hard, study hard, raise a good family, be a good citizen, do good deeds, and think good thoughts."

I've come to this thread late, but although I agree with most of the posters - in one way or another - I think that they are not discussing the validity of the original quote. Mr. Furuya set out of define a "great martial artist." Seems to me, his definition is of a good (or great, if you like) human being. My mother and father did all of the things in the quote, but neither of them were martial artists.

As far as I'm concerned, a great martial artist must be a great martial practitioner. Beyond that, one can quibble if it makes tactical sense to be a decent human being, because you'll have less enemies, or follow certain behavioral rules, so you will gain allies, and the like. But the bottom line must be a superlative level of skill which can only be acquired by sacrificing other things, even the needs of one's family.

Most great martial artists whom I have met have been, in some respects, selfish. (I would not put myself in the category of great martial artists - for I would have had to have been willing to sacrifice a lot more than I did - but as a somewhat-better-than-adequate martial artist, I certainly was selfish in my pursuit of skil). Perhaps instructive at this juncture would be Dave Lowry's essay, Get a New Wife (http://www.koryu.com/library/dlowry7.html).

Ellis Amdur

Carsten Möllering
01-24-2011, 05:17 AM
... (Be prepared for a long post, full of Chinese characters.) ...
:)
Thank you very much!

And also to Josh: Thank you!

Your posts have been very helpful!

tlk52
01-24-2011, 08:43 AM
Thank you for the Dave Lowry piece.

I'm always amazed by how common it is that people come to martial arts with the expectation that it's quick, simple, and easy. if only one knew the trick one could just do it.

most people wouldn't expect to reach even an advanced amateur status (ie: acquiring enough skill to publicly perform in high end local unpaid groups or leagues etc...) by putting in 1 hour, 2X a week, on the violin or basketball or painting, or tap dancing, even after decades, I think that most people understand that it simply takes more work than that.

but, we see this expectation frequently in martial arts.

RED
01-24-2011, 12:05 PM
So what, in real-world specific terms, is "a commitment that is equal to your very best"? Training every day? Training three hours a day? Six hours? Nine hours? Becoming an uchideshi?

No matter what anyone does, you can make the argument that that's not their "very best" because there is something they didn't do and that they could have done (at least theoretically). But how does that help people to know what they should do?

If you don't like that idea, then it's up to you to show how "mere mortals" can achieve your level of commitment, isn't it? Railing against the "hobbyist" attitude is only helpful if you also show the alternative.

In my opinion, there are so many Aikidoka out there that live the alternative everyday that we are either blind, or living isolated, if we claim to have never seen them. The alternative is anyone who goes out to train with the highest level Aikidoka they can whenever they can, even make sacrifices to do so.
For me personally, I decide what hours are negotiable and non-negotiable. My hours for training are simply non-negotiable, everything else may bend around it. Barring my husband gets into a car accident or I get hit by a bus, those hours are non-negotiable. I will get a minimal amount of hours done by the end of each week.
Whether the time a person considers non-negotiable for their devotion to their Budo is 16 hours a week, or 3 hours a week; I believe the dividing line in commitment is the choice to declare that your training time is non-negotiable. No matter what is on TV, no matter if your work wants you to stay late, no matter if you have to get up at 5am, no matter if your friend wanted to try this new Italian place, no matter if your husband managed to score tickets to the ball game...those hours are non-negotiable; whether they be 16 hours or 3 hours a week. You make everything else that is important in your life for the rest of the hours. There are 168 hours in a week. Plenty of time to work, go to school, have friends and children, drive in the commute, try that new Italian place and train a non-negotiable amount of hours in our Aikido. This to me is the alternative to the hobbyist. IMO of course.

In the end the person that is respecting the art the most, IMO, is the person that never feels enough is enough. They never feel like they trained long enough, or hard enough. You are never good enough. It is the "I think I'm doing enough", or "I think I'll figure that technique out later, maybe someday" attitude that is causing the issues in Aikido I expressed frustration in. There is no summit to this sort of thing. Even the people who have a non-negotiable amount of training time will still feel like they need to do more, I do at least.

With this aside, I understand physical limitations. And obviously if some one needs to take a hiatus do to injury, illness, your child is sick, or for mourning, it is only healthy to do so. I mean, I went to my own wedding instead of training that day, and I've taken time out to heel a back injury. I'm talking about an over all attitude of devotion, not being an obsessive psycho who ignores family and health.

I think a balanced life can encompass a devotion to Aikido on a serious level. I've been a musician in classical instruments. I know I would of never been accepted to study with any good teacher if I had only studied once every few weeks, or once a week, etc. Why do we treat our Budo differently? A balanced life can encompass devotion to family, friends, collegues and Budo. If it can't encompass it, something is unbalanced some where in my opinion.

jonreading
01-24-2011, 12:17 PM
Most of us do not commit the appropriate length of time, intensity of study, or committment to train that is required to become a professional aikido ka. If I reasoned the same argument for my non-professional status as a football player, accountant, or musician most of us would acknowledge that argument as valid.

This is purple pen stuff. Sometimes there are things you do in life that don't earn credit for trying real hard; they aren't fair; and sometimes you are not very good at doing them. I used to work with athletics and I got to see the work ethics of college-grade athletes. They blew me away. Professional athletes do things daily that would make me cry. We train 1 or 3 times a week in aikido and fall over patting ourselves on the back for our "hard" training. We don't even rate professional scales... Look at what MMA does... that's a training schedule.

I am committed to keeping aikido part of my life. I have a family and career, both that precede aikido in priority. However, Aikido is highly prioritized and positioned in my life. I understand the sacrifice my prioritization requires. Some day I hope to change my priorites as my life allows; until then I keep aikido in as much of my life as I can.

However, my aikido is still prioritized highly enough that my instructors and those people with whom I associate should notice progress in my training. I rely on them to push me and keep me advancing my aikido education; I appreciate their criticism even when it is harsh. This is why I believe in testing and social interaction with peers in aikido.

The kind of committment necessary to be a professional is significant. I do not think we should begrudge that fact because we want to call ourselves martial artists and wear a black belt. Much of what we do in aikido is about artificially building ourselves up within a structured environment. Much of Ledyard's Sensei's post deflates that impression. It's not untrue, but it's the ugly lights at the end of the night that keep up from going home with a mistake.

kewms
01-24-2011, 12:33 PM
This morning, I had a long talk with a colleague about a possible new business venture. I explained that my goal was for my compensation to match the amount of effort I put in. If that's the case, I don't particularly care how much compensation other people get.

Similarly, in aikido, I realize that what I get out of the art will depend on what I put in. And over the years, I've been pretty consistent. There are people who started out training much harder than I do, then burned out and quit. There are people who trained much less than I do, got frustrated with their lack of progress, and quit. I'm still here. I've established a commitment that I can maintain pretty much no matter what else is going on in my life, and I keep chipping away at it.

Will that make me a shihan? Probably not. But year after year, I keep getting better. I'm happy, my teachers seem happy.

Katherine

Peter Goldsbury
01-25-2011, 05:48 AM
Hello George,

I have read all your posts in this thread--your last post (#71) especially, and I have a serious question. Have you discussed these issues with Saotome Shihan, or with Hiroshi Ikeda? In some sense, your discussing these issues here with us is like preaching to the choir.

Actually, an uncomfortably large number of Japanese shihans who live outside Japan, and who were deshi in the Hombu when the Founder was alive, have expressed deep anxiety that the general level of training has somehow declined, the unstated assumption being that the root of the decline lies with the Aikikai in Japan. However, Aikikai Hombu shihans are still regularly invited by these very same shihans to give Aikikai training seminars in the USA and so the Aikikai in Japan may be forgiven for thinking that the present situation is just fine.

Some of these shihans complained to me about the decline, but did not like my answer: "You have to tell Doshu yourself. His father has given you 8th dan and he obviously thinks you are a very good teacher/model of aikido. If you think he is not doing his job as head of the art, in what he teaches and expects his shihans to teach, you have to tell him."

So my question is really biblical. Are you a prophet, crying in the wilderness of US Aikikai aikido, or are you leading a grassroots movement from below? In addition, is there any communication between the ASU and the other groups in the US recognized by the Aikikai? I am thinking of the situation in Holland, where an umbrella group of all Aikikai organizations has been created. This has caused a major rethinking--for the better--of established attitudes. The US seems much freer than the EU, in terms of regulation of the martial arts, but it also seems something of a wilderness, in terms of communication among groups within the same Aikikai umbrella.

I ask these questions as an interested outsider, who trained in the US many years ago, looking in.

Best wishes,

PAG

David Orange
01-25-2011, 08:03 AM
All true, but I think it's worth pointing out that the "seriousness" you're talking about was a luxury that few could afford. Those who pursued budo, or koryu before them, were not what you could reasonably term productive members of society: they and the arts they practiced were luxury items, each of which required a certain number of productive members (rice farmers, fishermen, craftsmen) to support him. In economic terms, the budoka you describe is a member of the leisure class, and in societies that lacked the resources, knowledge and level of social organization to create the surpluses necessary to support these luxuries, a leisure class simply didn't exist.

The old bushi were not of a "leisure class" because they didn't train primarily for interest or self-satisfaction: it was their duty, and when duty called, it was their life on the line.

Moreover, the ability of society to obtain the resources, knowledge and level of social organization to create surpluses depended on someone to prevent others from stealing those things. You had to have warriors with skill to fend off brigands and gangs of thieves, a la The Seven Samurai. Of course, The Seven Samurai was a rather late-Samurai-era story. In the beginning, the fighters were farmers and fishermen gathering to protect their homes and villages. But as the thieves and brigands (the true leisure class) grew stronger and more skilled, civilized people found it necessary to form a warrior class, whose sole job was to become strong and skilled to allow the farming and fishing specialists to work and live in peace.

Moreover, while the farmers and fishers could relax and have fun at the end of the day, warriors were bound to step carefully everywhere they went and at all times, lest some casual remark spark the anger of a stronger man, or some close friend stab you in the back because he was paid off by an enemy.

Still, the bushi had their own families and beloved people and their first motivation was to protect them and their society above themselves or their own pleasure and interests. And their waking hours involved hard training and self-sacrifice. It was far from leisure pursuit. And they were far from non-productive since all organization would have been destroyed by thieves without them.

Best wishes.

David

George S. Ledyard
01-25-2011, 12:36 PM
Hello George,

I have read all your posts in this thread--your last post (#71) especially, and I have a serious question. Have you discussed these issues with Saotome Shihan, or with Hiroshi Ikeda? In some sense, your discussing these issues here with us is like preaching to the choir.

Yes, I realize that. Much of what I put down here is for the newer folks who come to Aikiweb. It may help them think about things they wonder about or here seniors discussing but don't understand. Also, there is an unfortunate tendency for senior folks to complain amongst themselves about things but what they say never reaches the larger arena for general consideration.

As far as discussions from points low to the firmament, yes, I have initiated some. I have found that there is general agreement with my assessment of the issues in terms of the end product not being what it once was. But attempts to actually create substantive, tangible solutions to these issues is entirely another thing. At one point I decided to try to initiate a discussion of possible solutions at my peer level. If we acted collectively I think there are a number of things that might get done that would not constitute getting uppity. But I was unable to get virtually any interest in even having a dialogue started. It was as if I was acting way above my pay grade to even suggest we talk about it.

I think we have witnessed a failure on a massive scale of the top down, hierarchical model in my opinion. The stated goal was to train leaders and the result was actually to create a generation of seniors whose greatest aspiration is to escape notice. Initiative in the Japanese model is a very touchy area. Usually it's easier for folks not to take any.

Actually, an uncomfortably large number of Japanese shihans who live outside Japan, and who were deshi in the Hombu when the Founder was alive, have expressed deep anxiety that the general level of training has somehow declined, the unstated assumption being that the root of the decline lies with the Aikikai in Japan. However, Aikikai Hombu shihans are still regularly invited by these very same shihans to give Aikikai training seminars in the USA and so the Aikikai in Japan may be forgiven for thinking that the present situation is just fine.

One has on only to travel around the US to understand that we can't blame Hombu for anything. Great teachers came here 40 years ago or so. They've all created a core of 6th and 7th Dans. If the state of Aikido in America isn't what folks think it should be, it is not the fault of Hombu dojo.

Sure, I'd like to see a different Aikido being put forth by the Aikikai and the Doshu. But it really is of little import what they choose to do. Aikikai folks show up a couple times a year to teach. Every day we teach. It's our problem and our solution.

Some of these shihans complained to me about the decline, but did not like my answer: "You have to tell Doshu yourself. His father has given you 8th dan and he obviously thinks you are a very good teacher/model of aikido. If you think he is not doing his job as head of the art, in what he teaches and expects his shihans to teach, you have to tell him."

As you know the ASU relationship with Hombu is different and I think there is little back and forth.

So my question is really biblical. Are you a prophet, crying in the wilderness of US Aikikai aikido, or are you leading a grassroots movement from below?

Well, if I were leading anything and said so publicly, I'd probably be seen as not knowing my place by both my seniors and my peers. So, no, I am not leading anything. I dialogue with anyone who wishes to discuss these things, I mentor anyone who is open to my help. I have absolutely no authority, except within my own dojo and a couple of satellite dojos I have been asked to watch over. Anything that happens does so because someone was persuaded by my example. I have created blocks of instruction designed to address some of our issues. I have been setting up instructor level training seminars which folks come to or they don't. I am doing quite a bit within my purview but it would take more people interested i doing the same kinds of things to really get a major shift going. With no "charter " from the King backing efforts of this type, it's difficult to make anything happen. The folks most interested are the mid-level folks, not the seniors,interestingly enough.

In addition, is there any communication between the ASU and the other groups in the US recognized by the Aikikai? I am thinking of the situation in Holland, where an umbrella group of all Aikikai organizations has been created. This has caused a major rethinking--for the better--of established attitudes. The US seems much freer than the EU, in terms of regulation of the martial arts, but it also seems something of a wilderness, in terms of communication among groups within the same Aikikai umbrella. I ask these questions as an interested outsider, who trained in the US many years ago, looking in.


Now here, I can honestly say that I am proud to be in the ASU. We are absolutely unique amongst the larger organizations in the way we interact with the outside. Ikeda Sensei in particular has developed the concept of the Bridge Seminar in which people from multiple styles or organizations will all teach and the students all train together. I will be teaching at Dennis Hooker's Dojo at a Bridge Seminar along with Bruce Bookman, Greg O'Conner, Kayla Feder, Rich Wagener, Todd Jones, and Dennis.

For many years it has been a tradition for the Rocky Mountain Summer Camp to frequently have a guest teacher from outside the ASU. Sometimes it wasn't even an Aikido teacher but usually it has been. Our seniors were present at the Aiki Expos in force and trained with virtually everyone teaching classes.

Ikeda Sensei has been taking the initiative to create Bridge Seminars in Amsterdam and even in Japan. The potential for creating a network of folks who actively communicate with each other when previously there was virtually no contact is huge. I have committed myself to participate in these events as much as my budget allows. I just got back from San Diego where I trained with Ikeda, Doran, and Tessier and got to spend significant time with Francis, Greg O'Conner, Wikco from Ansterdam and other folks whom I had never met before.

As someone from the IAF, I think this type of thing would be seen as a positive development. From the standpoint of the guys who run the Aikkai Headquarters I think it could prove to be a thorn in their side if everyone overseas starts talking to each other. Just my thought...

lbb
01-25-2011, 01:18 PM
The old bushi were not of a "leisure class" because they didn't train primarily for interest or self-satisfaction: it was their duty, and when duty called, it was their life on the line.

I said nothing about "interest or self-satisfaction"; I never thought they were in it for the fun of it. The point was that they didn't produce any essential necessities. In economic terms, they were overhead. If you don't like the phrase "leisure class", choose another.

Moreover, the ability of society to obtain the resources, knowledge and level of social organization to create surpluses depended on someone to prevent others from stealing those things.

Well, not exactly. Say rather that in many circumstances, that was a necessary but not sufficient condition to prevent depredation of the work that was done by others. You still have the problem of where the surpluses come from, and they come from numbers.

Let's return to the subject under discussion, about the essence of training and so on. If you're talking about the origins of the koryu, you're talking about martial arts that were developed by a professional military class made up of men (primarily) who had the leisure to train all day, every day. Again, if the word "leisure" offends you, by all means choose another one (but it in no way suggests that they weren't working hard, so ya know...don't project). How many farmers had to work all day in the fields to support one bushi? That's the point. Skip feudal Japan if you prefer and look at feudal Europe: how many peasants did it take to support one knight? The point is that dedicated training of that sort has never been an option for any but a few. Why would we today expect things to be different?

David Orange
01-25-2011, 01:47 PM
I said nothing about "interest or self-satisfaction"; I never thought they were in it for the fun of it. The point was that they didn't produce any essential necessities. In economic terms, they were overhead. If you don't like the phrase "leisure class", choose another.

What about "life-on-the line" class? They had a grueling life, standing always ready to plunge toward death or even to plunge a knife into their own stomachs....

Well, not exactly. Say rather that in many circumstances, that was a necessary but not sufficient condition to prevent depredation of the work that was done by others. You still have the problem of where the surpluses come from, and they come from numbers.

Hardly matters, really. Farmers produce food, samurai produce a safe environment in which to do that. They're not non-productive. Just "differently-productive".

Let's return to the subject under discussion, about the essence of training and so on. If you're talking about the origins of the koryu, you're talking about martial arts that were developed by a professional military class made up of men (primarily) who had the leisure to train all day, every day. Again, if the word "leisure" offends you, by all means choose another one (but it in no way suggests that they weren't working hard, so ya know...don't project).

So why use the term leisure? It certainlydoesn't apply. What they did was work like animals, just like everyone else in Japan with the added burden of constant vigilance even in their "down" time.

How many farmers had to work all day in the fields to support one bushi?

What does it matter? The farmers couldn't have lived without them.

That's the point. Skip feudal Japan if you prefer and look at feudal Europe: how many peasants did it take to support one knight? The point is that dedicated training of that sort has never been an option for any but a few. Why would we today expect things to be different?

It's true that a wealthy man can travel and spend a ton of time training. But what in life is different? The wealthy have more opportunity for everything.

But I have found that people prioritize for what they really want. Be it gambling, boat-building, marathon-running or dressing in furry costumes and going to conventions.

I once had a wealthy teacher who could travel freely around the world and never needed to sweat about his mortgage or his children's provision or anything else. He insisted to us that "Budo must be your first priority."

I don't really believe that. Even if it could be my first priority (because I had unlimited resources and didn't need to work), I don't think it would be. I don't believe it should be the first priority for anyone except as it serves and supports his or her family's good. It happens that it does that to a great degree, but in this teacher's case, he was a rich fellow who enjoyed doing judo, aikido, karate and sword, so he made it his first priority. But I doubt it would remain so if his finances were seriously shaken. He would change priorities pretty quickly. A professional soldier does not have such leisure.

Best to you.

Davod

Basia Halliop
01-25-2011, 01:55 PM
I don't think people who train in MA would be the 21st century equivalent of the samurai or knights... that would be closer to soldiers or police or something like that... And those DO work full time and get supported economically by others in the population.

Most of us in north america and europe are supported by others, for that matter, in our 'real jobs'. Farming and fishing occupy quite small portions of the total workforce.

The key is you have to convince others that what you're doing is useful enough to THEM that they should support you economically for doing it.... Personal development won't cut it there.

Amassus
01-25-2011, 02:11 PM
Hello all.

As the OP I have been very excited about the responses my post originated. Initially my post was put out there because I, personally, was struggling with why and how I am training, now I am seeing, for some of you, this is a bigger thing.

I'm going to try and touch on some of the comments. All have been great BTW.

As far as I'm concerned, a great martial artist must be a great martial practitioner. Beyond that, one can quibble if it makes tactical sense to be a decent human being, because you'll have less enemies, or follow certain behavioral rules, so you will gain allies, and the like. But the bottom line must be a superlative level of skill which can only be acquired by sacrificing other things, even the needs of one's family.

Most great martial artists whom I have met have been, in some respects, selfish. (I would not put myself in the category of great martial artists - for I would have had to have been willing to sacrifice a lot more than I did - but as a somewhat-better-than-adequate martial artist, I certainly was selfish in my pursuit of skil). Perhaps instructive at this juncture would be Dave Lowry's essay, Get a New Wife.

Thanks, Ellis, I always enjoy your honesty. I have read that essay before and I know I would not wish to prioritize my training over my family like that. That is a decision I made when I decided to have kids. At times I wish I could train more, however, I accept that I will not be a martial artist of the highest caliber due to that decision.

In the end the person that is respecting the art the most, IMO, is the person that never feels enough is enough. They never feel like they trained long enough, or hard enough. You are never good enough. It is the "I think I'm doing enough", or "I think I'll figure that technique out later, maybe someday" attitude that is causing the issues in Aikido I expressed frustration in. There is no summit to this sort of thing. Even the people who have a non-negotiable amount of training time will still feel like they need to do more, I do at least.

I agree, Maggie. It sounds like you just got in my head ;) I remember talking to a guy after training one night and discovered he comes to aikido because it was 'a bit of exercise'. That was the first time I realized that not everybody treats training as seriously as I do.

I am committed to keeping aikido part of my life. I have a family and career, both that precede aikido in priority. However, Aikido is highly prioritized and positioned in my life. I understand the sacrifice my prioritization requires. Some day I hope to change my priorites as my life allows; until then I keep aikido in as much of my life as I can.

However, my aikido is still prioritized highly enough that my instructors and those people with whom I associate should notice progress in my training. I rely on them to push me and keep me advancing my aikido education; I appreciate their criticism even when it is harsh. This is why I believe in testing and social interaction with peers in aikido.

This is exactly where I am at, you wrote it much better than I.

I think we have witnessed a failure on a massive scale of the top down, hierarchical model in my opinion. The stated goal was to train leaders and the result was actually to create a generation of seniors whose greatest aspiration is to escape notice. Initiative in the Japanese model is a very touchy area. Usually it's easier for folks not to take any.


This whole line of posts has been very interesting...and exciting. My club's lineage is through Robert Nideau sensei so we have links with the States. New Zealand now has a real mix of aikido styles and associations, its pretty messy really, but at least the training opportunities are diverse. Consistency can be an issue.
It's great to hear people with experience thinking critically about aikido training.

Overall there seems to be two sides to this discussion. What aikido training means for the individual and what it means for aikido as a martial art. The two are obviously connected and one can affect the other.

Great reading, thanks!

Dean.

George S. Ledyard
01-25-2011, 03:51 PM
but in this teacher's case, he was a rich fellow who enjoyed doing judo, aikido, karate and sword, so he made it his first priority.

O-Sensei's family was loaded and his Uncle subsidized him when it became apparent how little aptitude he had to go into business, He also had a JAPANESE WIFE meaning he could train his brains out and she took care of everything else; and she didn't divorce him. That's pretty much not going to happen in America.

lbb
01-25-2011, 07:17 PM
What about "life-on-the line" class? They had a grueling life, standing always ready to plunge toward death or even to plunge a knife into their own stomachs....

As I said, choose whatever term makes you feel good. It doesn't have anything to do with the subject under discussion, which is how (or whether) a society can afford to support a professional military class. Not every society could, you know. Just because something is valuable doesn't mean you can automatically afford it.


Hardly matters, really. Farmers produce food, samurai produce a safe environment in which to do that. They're not non-productive. Just "differently-productive".

Again, call it whatever you want, it does not matter.


What does it matter? The farmers couldn't have lived without them.
In the discussion of whether or how a society can support a professional military class, it is the only thing that matters.

But I have found that people prioritize for what they really want. Be it gambling, boat-building, marathon-running or dressing in furry costumes and going to conventions.

So if you really cared about your martial arts, if it was really a priority, you'd do it all day every day. So why aren't you?

David Orange
01-25-2011, 08:26 PM
As I said, choose whatever term makes you feel good. It doesn't have anything to do with the subject under discussion, which is how (or whether) a society can afford to support a professional military class. Not every society could, you know. Just because something is valuable doesn't mean you can automatically afford it.

But maybe they can't afford it because they didn't establish a military class to protect their interests.

Again, call it whatever you want, it does not matter.

Hey, you were the one who made the claim. If you don't want to stand by it, own up to it.

In the discussion of whether or how a society can support a professional military class, it is the only thing that matters.

Well...exactly. The fact is that a society that can't guard its wealth will lose all the fruits of its labor. A society can't afford not to have a military unless it has the benefits of mountains or oceans to protect it. Minus those things, you have to have the army.

So if you really cared about your martial arts, if it was really a priority, you'd do it all day every day. So why aren't you?

Actually, I do. It's just not in the "form" you recognize. I have over 39 years of experience in aikido, judo, karate, kenjutsu, jujutsu, baguazhang, taji quan, xing yi quan and others. I'm constantly working on refining the inner principles of all those arts. I just don't have to wear a uniform to do that.

Even so, it's not my first priority in life. That would be my family. And to keep my family financially secure, I must maintain a job with much more concern than I have for martial training. After that, I need to work to be independent of "a job" in which I work for others, so my third priority is writing novels and screenplays. And martial arts comes in about #4 in my priorities.

Best wishes.

David

David Orange
01-25-2011, 08:57 PM
I have a book called Kodo: Ancient Ways by Kensho Furuya.
It is a book based on old martial wisdoms. I read and reread passages from it all the time. This morning I read a passage titled "The essence of training".

This part stood out for me.
"To be a great martial artist, you must work hard, study hard, raise a good family, be a good citizen, do good deeds, and think good thoughts."

Then,
"What really matters is that you lead a good healthy, wholesome life. And that is what a martial arts master is."

I don't know...at what age did Kensho Furuya die?

I remember him when he was called Dan Furuya.

What was the cause of his death at such a young age?

The kinds of things he said sound good, but I'm not sure that he followed his own advice.

Now, I have a demanding job and young children. So I can't get to training as often as I like but when I'm there I believe I value that time and train mindfully. I take what I have learned home and do what solo exercise I can. I will not be training with any of the IS guys mentioned on the forums anytime in the near future, I live in New Zealand and don't expect my family to have to sacrifice money to get me over to Japan or the States. I read the articles and advice given here and elsewhere and do what I can. Am I doing it right? Who knows? I try and keep my training honest and look for disrupting the structure of uke first and foremost. Technique comes second these days. I'm doing what I can in the confines of my life. But the passages above suggest that life is training. Isn't that what training in budo is all about? Not learning how to fight but learning how to better oneself through martial training.

I think you're on the right track, Dean. You have to care for your family first and, frankly, most aikido training, no matter how hard or faithfully you hit it is not really going to do you that much good that you should neglect your family over it.

I think the best thing I could tell you is, if you're in New Zealand, get with David Lynch. That's probably as good as any aikido you'll be able to find and most likely a better way to get it than going to Japan, in your case.

Gambatte.

David

lbb
01-26-2011, 06:59 AM
But maybe they can't afford it because they didn't establish a military class to protect their interests.

Maybe, but it's irrelevant to the point under discussion.

Hey, you were the one who made the claim. If you don't want to stand by it, own up to it.

Sheesh, do you have to be so cantankerous, David? It's not clear what "claim" you're talking about, but I don't think I made it. The word "leisure" seems to be a hot button for you. All that I have said is that it's just a label to designate a certain social class or type of activity, and does not derogate the activity or imply that it's frivolous, worthless or an idle pleasure. If you insist on manufacturing a derogatory attitude, sorry, but for the last time, I'm not going to play.

Well...exactly. The fact is that a society that can't guard its wealth will lose all the fruits of its labor.

With context intact, you can see that my "it" does not refer to military power. So no, it is not exactly what you are saying at all.

Actually, I do. It's just not in the "form" you recognize.

I do recognize it, David. Can you really not be understanding the point that I'm trying to make?

Even so, it's not my first priority in life. That would be my family. And to keep my family financially secure, I must maintain a job with much more concern than I have for martial training. After that, I need to work to be independent of "a job" in which I work for others, so my third priority is writing novels and screenplays. And martial arts comes in about #4 in my priorities.

And I have no problem with that at all. That was my whole point: that except for a very fortunate few, we in the modern world do not have the resources that would allow us to pursue something like martial arts training -- no matter our dedication -- as a full-time occupation. This was also true in feudal Japan. The differences between then and now (different class structure, more efficient means of production, plus all the history in budo development since then, etc.) means that now we have this (perhaps historically anomalous) middle class of people who have enough means to not have to work from dawn to dusk in the fields seven days a week (so we have some time), plus some surplus money, plus access to training that once would have been off-limits to us for reasons of social class, gender, or other reasons. We can train, but very few of us can train full-time and support ourselves. Even a relatively short period of time doing so, say a few months as an uchideshi, is beyond the reach of most, at least most of those who have family obligations. So if we are to understand what it means to be dedicated to training, we need to get past this martial arts movie ideal of living in the dojo and come to terms with what it can mean in the real world today. There's been so much sneering talk of "hobbyists"...okay, how do we know who's a "hobbyist" when we're all evening-and-weekend types anyway?

Carsten Möllering
01-26-2011, 09:38 AM
The word "leisure" seems to be a hot button for you.
I somehow don't understand this point:
As not being a native speaker I have to look up words in my dictionaries. And what they give for "leisure" (time off; free time; spare time; recreation; time out [Am.]; relig. retreat) just doesn't fit to the role the bujutsu training had in the life of the bushi.
And it doesn't fit describing the sociol role of the bushi or their tasks in building society.
Not to mention that lot of or most of the bushi had work to do besides their training.
So I don't understand the meaning you give to "leisure" in this context?

... is beyond the reach of most, at least most of those who have family obligations. ... I think we experience different surroundings: Who is "most"?
In my context there are many many practioners who live aikido in a way which you don't think to be possible for "most of us".

... we need to get past this martial arts movie ideal of living in the dojo ...This has never been the ideal of any teacher or sempai, I know. And as far as I know this has not been the ideal of "the old". Living as an uchi deshi is one possibility, but there are also other ways. Are now - and have been in former times.
And also being an uchi deshi is not a model for ones whole life but just a part of the education for.some time.

And I often hear it to be important not to make a living out of aikido but to have a good job instead, and to do it good. Not only to be a committed member of the dojo, but also to be a good "member of the society".

... when we're all evening-and-weekend types anyway?Are we? I think there are a lot of different types of living aikido.
And:
Don't you think it already makes a difference being a one-evening-per-week type or being an every-evening type?
Or being an one-weekend-per-year type or an two-weekends-a-month type?
Or being a building-the-job-around-aikido type or a training-when-the-job-allows-type?

Basia Halliop
01-26-2011, 10:09 AM
Leisure's probably not the best word to use, but I think I see what Mary's getting at, more or less...

If everyone in the country is a substistance level farmer, if because of soil or climate or whatever it literally takes a single person 14 hours of labour a day to provide enough food to not die of starvation, then that is what every single person in the country will basically have to do, all day, otherwise starve.

If the land is richer (better soil, lots of fish, whatever) then maybe some people might farm but for the sake of argument now they will have a few hours of time left at the end of the day to do something other than farm. And maybe a few people will start to do other things other than farming or fishing and there will still be enough food for them to not starve to death.

What economic model is used to distribute the food might vary -- they might be given food because they do something useful for the farmers (trades, etc), or they might manage to take it from the farmers (or by neighbouring farmers) by force, or by buying or accumulating enough land that they can act as landlords and take a share of farmers' food.

Either way, these people are not directly involved in producing food and if I understand right, Mary is using the term 'leisure class' to refer to them or perhaps she just means some subsets of them. I would argue though that there are really at least two groups of non-food producing people --

a) those that do some other trade all day and get payed for it, and

b) the group of people that has got hold of land or power or capital of some kind and can in some way get people to give them food without taking all their waking hours working to provide some service they can trade directly for food. (this is the group that could most accurately be called a leisure class, if you want to use that term at all)

And you could argue there are those
c) that are somewhere in between, perhaps taking half their day to do whatever it is they do to get food...

So where do martial artists fit in? They're not producing food, but are they 'tradespeople', using their martial art directly to provide a service that others pay them for by feeding them? Or are they more like groups b or c, getting fed for some other reason and doing the martial art with their left-over time?

I think for those studying traditional martial arts in modern western civilization, the answer is clearly b or c (mostly c). No one is paying us for our training.

A professional military would fall more under group 'a'...

So I guess if you want to talk about history we can argue about which japanese martial artists in which part of history fell more under group a, which under b, and which under c...

It's the 'c' group that seems to best describe most of us today...

Ellis Amdur
01-26-2011, 10:12 AM
One small point . . .a lot of the most significant koryu practitioners in the sengoku and Edo period were farmers (nomin) or yeoman (goshi), who did their training after a full day in the fields. For just one example, Maniwa Nen-ryu was almost completely farmers. And there were masters among them. In the Meiji revolution, the bulk of the really formidable fighters were rural samurai, who were farmers, except for their caste designation.

Best
Ellis Amdur

Diana Frese
01-26-2011, 11:40 AM
Hi Ellis, nice to see you on Aiki Web and to read around in the threads learning how you have continued your studies and work for the benefit of Aikido and various communitites in general for the common good .... I have read of several of your publications and works among the general public (not sure the right words for this but I'm sure most people can look up your work on Aiki Web and elsewhere)

I'm very interested in this thread about the interface between training and the obligations and choices present in daily life.

Yesterday, I was grateful to Francis for acknowledging and furthering my mention of Kanai Sensei after the column Legacy and the Founder. Of course I found his question difficult to answer as all the teachers I mentioned were kind and helpful in different ways. Then I remembered the beginning at NYAikikai after a brief introduction to Aikido at college.

What perhaps fits this thread was the composition of the dojo in the late sixties. Some of us were there for our health we had either heard of it or actually had opportunity to try it at school, etc. but others were actually there for reasons of livelihood as well as the fact they liked it. I am thinking of the actors and dancers who were among the first to join in the sixties, they are included in the many sempais to whom I am very grateful. And the artists. But in Yamada Sensei's dojo training was very serious and kinda hard to some of us, but because we enjoyed it and it was good for our health we kept at it. Just look at the USAF list of dojos, so many of the students from back then are still active. Sid Spencer just turned 80 I read, and still teaches.

Let's get some of these people to write (Francis, I am just one of so many you should ask)

David Orange
01-26-2011, 12:42 PM
He also had a JAPANESE WIFE meaning he could train his brains out and she took care of everything else; and she didn't divorce him. That's pretty much not going to happen in America.

Even with a Japanese wife!!!

Best to you.

David

Amassus
01-26-2011, 12:57 PM
I think the best thing I could tell you is, if you're in New Zealand, get with David Lynch. That's probably as good as any aikido you'll be able to find and most likely a better way to get it than going to Japan, in your case.


Thanks for the reply, David. I have trained with Lynch's dojo once and found them to be a real mix of styles and studying aikido is the focus, not grades. Very enjoyable. He doesn't teach at the dojo himself so much now, check this out if you are interested in what he is doing these days.
http://www.aikido.co.nz/
Look at the koru dojo...a real aikido gem in NZ.

Dean.

David Orange
01-26-2011, 02:33 PM
Thanks for the reply, David. I have trained with Lynch's dojo once and found them to be a real mix of styles and studying aikido is the focus, not grades. Very enjoyable. He doesn't teach at the dojo himself so much now, check this out if you are interested in what he is doing these days.
http://www.aikido.co.nz/
Look at the koru dojo...a real aikido gem in NZ.

Dean.

That's probably the nicest geodesic dome I'll ever see.

Thanks.

David

gates
01-27-2011, 05:51 AM
Not sure if this thread is dead.
Anyway I thought I'd share the thoughts of a 2nd kyu Aikidoka. Feel free to shoot me down, my verbal ukemi is somewhat better than my actual ukemi.

As I understand it the original question wasn't a quantative question of what is required to become a phenomenal martial artist (master), or a question to define master. Moreover it seemed to be a qualitative statement of what it means to exhibit martial spirit in the totality of ones life (acting as a martial arts master). (I haven't read the particular book so putting it into context is a little tricky, so I am taking a punt)

To deal with the quantitative question first, attaining mastery.
It is clear that there are number of factors each of which has no end point and exist on a spectrum.

Natural talent verses effort
Amount and quality of training
Issues of personal sacrafices (time sacrificed verses available free time (leisure time), personality traits, etc etc..

If in the quantitative equation things add up then martial arts training imbues us with Budo spirit as a master of our art.

We all know the original meaning of Samurai. So if after all this time and effort training to face the life and death battle for the good of ourselves, and literal protection of others, yet we forget our own family then who is it we are training to protect? Our next door neighbors family?

It reminds me of the Zen koan "Where do you proceed from the top of a 100 foot pole" Being at the top, not in a Zen sense, but as a martial artist. Well you have to come down don't you. Back to reality you really have nowhere else to go. So you come back down to do that stuff all the training was for, to guide, serve and protect.

In the context of an Aikido specific master I would go on...

"The uniqueness of Aikido as a way of personal development lies in the departure from the self-limiting formalization and win-lose conceptualization found in the traditional Japanese budo (1), toward the original, fundamental, and permanent place of existence (2). I find the reason for the Founder's calling Aikido the real budo in this fact"
TK Chiba

1: I think you can see this in MMA and other sporting martial arts, which is why the founder took particular objection, they increase a dualistic perspective, of winner-loser self-other, subject-object, and detract from the true purpose of O'Sensei's Aikido, (not shy of a contest himself mind and maybe these things are useful to help gain mastery)
2: Beginning in Naka-Ima. A search for truth, the original face of human nature. As Alan Watts liked to call it "you are the which than which there is no whicher"

It seems that taking that spirit and applying it to the job at hand is what is meant when one says they practice marital arts during the day at work etc. Unless they mean karate kid style cleaning.

Just because we can't all be masters doesn't mean we cant take a piece of the pie into our daily lives. Thats why I practice. Just my thoughts.

gates
01-27-2011, 06:15 AM
As I understand it the original question wasn't a quantative question of what is required to become a phenomenal martial artist (master), or a question to define master. Moreover it seemed to be a qualitative statement of what it means to exhibit martial spirit in the totality of ones life (acting as a martial arts master)

I realize that first part of the original quote does say "to be a great martial artist...." so clarify I am placing emphasis on it from the perspective the end of the second statement."And that is what a martial arts master is". Which is what i think the author is getting at. That is to say, if you stay up the pole and dont come back down to help, serve and protect then you haven't obtained true mastery. (Whether you agree with this or not is up to you, but I think that is his point.

Amassus
01-27-2011, 12:57 PM
Keith, thank you for your thoughtful response.

I like what you are saying...sure go out and train as hard as you can in the martial arts, BUT, true mastery lies in how you integrate that training into everyday life.

About right?

Dean.

gates
01-27-2011, 07:11 PM
Dean,
I'd say that is about it in a nutshell.
The author IMO was never trying to say, do these things and you will be/are a great martial artist, they were suggesting that without doing these things that you are not. Ultimately it is a matter of personal opinion but Morihei clearly had high ideals for Aikido so in this sense maybe it is even more important than in other MA. Personally I agree with the author..
Kind regards,
Keith