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George S. Ledyard
01-10-2011, 12:50 PM
Ok, so I am attending a seminar with a teacher who decides to do a sword class. I am excited because this teacher's sword work is extraordinary and I love sword. The teacher started out with a basic flow exercise, which as it happens, is in the first chapter of his sword video which has been around since VHS days. He demonstrated then set folks to work. Folks were pretty much mangling the exercise so he stopped them and showed it again, this time a bit slower. The same thing happened. In fact it happened four times. By the end Sensei was furious. And, I have to say, I was furious.

Of course there were a few people in the room who were not folks from our organization. These folks did little or no sword at their home dojos so one could understand why they had issues. But the majority of these folks were regulars that I see every year at these events. Sensei pointed out that, in his uchi deshi days, O-Sensei would only show them something (no explanation at all) once or at most twice and they were expected to get it. He had just showed it four times, with explanation and folks were still pretty much exploring just about every way possible not to do what he had just shown.

My own partner was a person I had seen every year at this event. He never looked any different from year to year. Even with the added explanation I gave him as I walked him through it, he still never got it. All I could think was what a huge waste of everyone's time it was. The exercise in question was a basic drill. Sensei clearly intended for it to be the warm-up so he could build on it. Instead he spent half the class on it. He couldn't get to the good stuff because many (not all) folks couldn't do the most basic exercise.

I found myself asking what has happened to Aikido? It seems to have become the dumping ground for all the folks who, if they weren't doing Aikido, wouldn't be doing martial arts at all. They treat their training as if it is an afterthought done when everything else in their lives allows. It makes me crazy... Does anyone actually think that O-Sensei created this art as a hobby for middle class Americans to do in their spare time?

If this had been an isolated event, a bad day for whatever reason, then that would be one thing. But this happens all the time. Especially when we are talking about weapons work, which happens to be central to this teacher's Aikido. Sensei yells at everyone, they all look chagrined, then they go home and show up next time no better than they were the last time. What is the point? Year after year of not getting it, year after year of baby beginner exercises with no ability to move beyond in to something with some real content... What is the point?

I mentioned this to another friend and we agreed that, if we had been in a position of screwing up that badly with Sensei, one thing would absolutely happen. The next he time he saw us, we would be total and complete masters of that damned exercise. Sensei would never again have to say a word about our inability to do that particular set of movements.

Yet, what I see is not that kind of seriousness. If I had thought Sensei had meant me when he was criticizing the inability of the group to get what he was doing, I would have felt like going out in the parking lot and slitting my belly from embarrassment. Sensei was treating these folks like children because they were acting like children.

Why do people do this art who don't care enough about the art, their teacher, their fellow students, or their own training to fix things when they are broken? There are several teachers in our group who are perfectly capable of teaching these things and do so when asked. Way have I never seen any of these folks at my dojo asking for help on things like this? Why haven't any of us been asked to come to their dojos to do a workshop specifically on these elements which our teacher thinks are important enough to try to teach but the students are so weak in their fundamentals that Sensei can't even get them to do a simple beginner level exercise?

A few years ago I tried to help folks address their weak weapons work. I set up an event in which I invited two other 6th Dan level teachers from our organization to co teach a weapons seminar along with me. This was the A-Team of weapons teachers in our group and I was hoping to make it a yearly event with Sensei coming every fourth or` fifth year himself. Well, the event tanked. These very same folks who get yelled at by Sensei each year for their incompetence couldn't be bothered to come train with a bunch of American teachers, who could actually explain what Sensei is doing, and perhaps take folks up a level or two. No, folks continue to feel that it is more important to show up to train with Sensei with sub standard skills and waste his time and everyone else's than to actually go out of their way to train with a bunch of Americans who might have actually helped them to be better.

I find this attitude incomprehensible. If someone isn't trying to be good at this art, why do it. Quit and find something else one can be serious about. This is Budo. It is a serious pursuit. Many people take it very seriously. I think most of us are quite patient with beginners as they slowly figure stuff out... they are not the issue. I am talking about folks who have done Aikido for years and years, even decades, and still haven't bothered to put froth the effort to master the basics so that they can move on. Perhaps they tell themselves that it's their own practice and it's their business how much effort they put into it. But it's a group endeavor, not a solo practice. If it were iaido and you sucked, no one else would care. You could suck for decades and it wouldn't really effect anyone else's practice. But everything we do is paired. So when you get paired with someone who wants to train and you can't even hold your sword properly, you are wasting your partner's time. When the teacher has to address the group on issues that are simple beginner issues, it means that the teacher cannot take the class forward and do the things he or she might be capable of teaching.

Time after time I have seen Sensei start to do something really interesting and then have to change what he was intending and dumb it down for folks who never get any better, year after year. I pay the same amount to attend these events. I take the same time out of my life as these folks. Yet I can't get what I need from the training because these folks won't do the work.

Perhaps Sensei shouldn't even be teaching folks like this. In music someone at his level would never be teaching anyone but advanced student via "master classes". Less advanced student actually pay to watch these master classes. But Sensei has not chosen to do that. He still is trying to connect with the larger student population. I think that is admirable but I do not see that this same population understands that it is a privilege to train directly with someone like Sensei and that whenever you choose to get on the mat with him, you have a responsibility to work hard, take what he shows away with you, and come back better next time. That is the absolute minimum expectation. If you encounter something at a seminar that baffled you, you should make yourself crazy trying to get it. It should be gnawing at you constantly that you didn't get it.

This whole "we have all the time in the world" attitude makes me crazy. It's ok that I didn't get it this time just leads to a whole series of I didn't get it this times. Eventually, you have simply gotten into the habit of not getting it. You decide that you didn't get it, not because you have been too lazy to tear it apart and chew on it until you have figured it out, but that Sensei is "special", someone far beyond us mere mortals and it's ok that we don't get what he is doing.

This art of Aikido is amazing. It has the potential to take someone out into the unknown, to be trans-formative, to really change ones perspective on everything. perhaps change the world. But with folks treating it like a casual hobby placing it pretty much in a tertiary place of importance in their lives, or beyond, that not only won't happen, these folks end up impeding the efforts of the folks who do want to do the work. If folks don't want to train, they should get out of the way of those that do. I am not talking about the fact that people will make differing levels of commitment to their training. Some are striving for real mastery and other simply wish to attain a solid competency. I am talking about that group of folks who stay incompetent year after year because they will not work at it. Sure their are varying degrees of natural ability. Some folks pick some things up quicker than others. But, if you are one of the folks for whom things are difficult, you have to work harder. You don't just accept that you aren't any good and won't be. You strive harder. That's Budo.

This art requires serious people training seriously. The rest is a waste of time in my opinion.

(Original blog post may be found here (http://aikieast.blogspot.com/2011/01/what-is-your-responsibility-in-training.html).)

Janet Rosen
01-10-2011, 01:46 PM
To answer your topic question... IMO my responsibilities as a student are to pay attention, hew as closely as I can to my best understanding of what is being demonstrated, be fully receptive to and respectful of correction, and take away what I can as stuff to work on during the coming months. Anything less would be a waste of my time and of the instructor's time.
I would hope that within an organization, each attending dojocho or instructor would return home prepared to change curriculum based on problems identified at a seminar.

George S. Ledyard
01-10-2011, 02:50 PM
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I would hope that within an organization, each attending dojocho or instructor would return home prepared to change curriculum based on problems identified at a seminar.

Yes! Janet you have once again hit the nail on the head. When students look the way I described in a collective sense, that isn't an "ability" issue or even an example of individual lack of motivation. It is a widespread failure of the teachers to do their jobs.

Once on a way to a test, Saotome Sensei said to me "Student not do well on test, not student's fault, teacher's fault." So we are looking at an issue that has multiple problems. We have teachers who fail to take any serious responsibility for their students. If the students look good great, if they don't look good, well, I am sure they are trying , it's ok. Some of the folks Sensei was yelling at ARE teachers. They teach at their dojos, in fact some run dojos.

How many went home after that training and did two or three weeks of intensive sword classes? How many went back to their dojos and immediately invited a senior instructor to come in and work with the folks at the dojo on this material? Why should it take our teacher yelling at everyone to even get folks attention? Anyone looking around the room would know that folks drastically needed work. But when Sensei actually gets to the point at which he blows up over an issue, what kind of teacher would not immediately work to ensure that his own skills were adequate and then additionally make sure that none of his students ever went in front of Sensei looking like that again.

Pride is often looked at as a negative emotion. But it has a positive aspect. Pride in oneself is what causes one to have personal standards. As a teacher, I "pride" myself that my student never appear incompetent in front of my teacher. I would never encourage a student who I thought was substandard to travel for a seminar. It would reflect on me and the rest of the dojo. Why do these teachers seem not to have that same pride?

It's not that training doesn't reveal that a given student or teacher has problems to overcome. That's the point of training. But if one is really training, it should never be the same issues over and over. When it's the same stuff each year, then clearly the training is a joke. And that is the fault of the teacher, period.

Tony Wagstaffe
01-10-2011, 02:53 PM
To be sensible......

:D

George S. Ledyard
01-10-2011, 03:02 PM
To be sensible......

:D

Hi Tony, sure, ok. But you are one of the hard asses here. Usually more blunt than I am. What do you think about a student's "responsibility" to try to actually master the material presented or a teacher's responsibility for seeing that they do so? From your writings I have a hard time imagining you being very tolerant of folks just messing about and wasting everyone's time.

Ernesto Lemke
01-10-2011, 03:21 PM
Hello George.

There’s hardly ever a post from your hands I don’t find worth reading. They are always so well considered and thought provoking.

That said, I do wonder whether you have any hope that this column will help those people you are describing any further (maybe more towards your own standpoint) or that it’s mostly an expression of frustration and infuriation.
For me, once upon a time not too long ago, it surely was…

There was so much in this post I recognized that it was almost as if I was reading my own experience. It’s what made me leave my former organization and leave the seminar circuit. I think I haven’t been to an aikido seminar in almost ten years.
That is, with the exception of my own teacher who I get to see and train with once a year.

The thing I love about my own teacher (though my ego hates it) is that he doesn’t cut me any slack when it comes to getting the demands of the curriculum down. (Whilst at the same time being totally technically explicit about those same demands.) Which is quite the opposite of my former experience.

Back then, I used to get mad, raving mad for people’s lack of investment, their lack of commitment. At the same time these weren’t ‘bad’ people. Some I still see each year when they come visit my teacher. They are still within the organization I left and are seemingly content with it.
Back then I was trying to be “thought provoking” too (though I went about it in an arrogant/naïve sort of way) but it didn’t change a thing. And as I said, they still seem to be ‘happy.’ More or less.
But they have only sparsely technically ‘developed’ any further from the point where I left them ten years ago.

I’m so thankful to not be part of any organization nowadays (unless you count our three dojo, 18 members an ‘organization’). For the rest, I admit I still feel a similar ‘fire’ when it comes to how I would like things to be. At the same time though, I’m too immersed in my own training to even bother…
Hey! That kinda sounds like the approach of a certain MA Founder… :)

Tongue in cheek folks, tongue in cheek....

grondahl
01-10-2011, 03:45 PM
As a senior instructor in your organisation, I guess it´s just a matter of time before the organisation makes changes in the membership requirements?

Russ Q
01-10-2011, 03:46 PM
Hello Sensei,

I won't answer to your original question except to say Janet pretty much said it all. I will say that the "master class" seminar with Saotome sensei in early 2010 was much needed. The best part was it was restricted to intermediate and high ranks (no one below nidan) and thus begat a certain expectation in ability. If one was invited then you'd better represent well re: paying attention and, ultimately, doing what was shown. If one wasn't ready or interested in absolutely taking advantage of that training opportunity then they were a fool. For me, I felt it one of the most worthwhile seminars I've attended. I think everyone there realized the import of the situation.

I believe shihan who are worried about transmission should retool their seminars to include only students of rank (choose your minimum rank....) and conduct workshops annually. These attendees can then take home the knowledge. These same shihan should also be promoting their higher ranked students as well so it is clear there will be something of substance to be got from attending a seminar with you or whoever.....creating seminars where one can attend and not take responsibility for, at least, trying to get what is being taught is happening alot lately.... I've noticed. Folks are allowed to play dumb (it's easier than being frustrated for some) and not take responsibility for learning something deeper about the movement or art as a whole because an instructor who demands more is rare and usually NOT sought after....

That said, I truly appreciate your efforts along this way.

Gassho,

Russ

George S. Ledyard
01-10-2011, 03:49 PM
That said, I do wonder whether you have any hope that this column will help those people you are describing any further (maybe more towards your own standpoint) or that it's mostly an expression of frustration and infuriation.
For me, once upon a time not too long ago, it surely was…


No, Ernesto, I don't actually think it will change.... I am just venting. Since this comes off my Blog, I get to do that. I am however doing some thing on my own that address the issue. I have started doing seminars that are "highly engineered" in that I only publicize them to a group of students I know and teachers that I have a relationship with. I have started restricting the number of students who can attend and necessarily charging more.The result has been some really wonderful seminars in which the students were responsive and the teacher was motivated and inspired.

Frankly, I think the top guys should just devote themselves to instructor training. There is no reason at all they should be spending time teaching beginners. But aside from the events that I organize, I have no control over these things. I can choose to go (and usually I am teaching so it's not really an option not to) or I stay away. But I still get sick of people essentially devaluing this amazing art with their sloppy attitudes and lack of responsibility for their own training.

Ernesto Lemke
01-10-2011, 04:30 PM
I still get sick of people essentially devaluing this amazing art with their sloppy attitudes and lack of responsibility for their own training.

I'm not sure whether to insert a :D beacuse I agree or a :( because that's the way things are...

Well, I applaud statements like these, especially when being expressed by people from a certain caliber like yourself, and I do think these are exciting times. I think with what's happening now via the possibilities of the internet, aikido will move forward.
Then again, it will surely always be dependend on the investment of commited people.
Looking forward to future columns (and posts). Thank you for your time.
Best regards.

RED
01-10-2011, 04:32 PM
Great post. A pin-point on some of my frustrations out and about the Aikido community.
The hobbyist mentality is frustrating. Those who don't value, nor can recognize high level Aikido when they see it. I've met individuals at seminars who are convinced their 1st kyu instructor at the local college aikido-club had a better shihonage than the guest instructor at the Seminar...and that guest instructor was Shibata Sensei. It's like bizarre-world. High level Aikido is viewed as a fable and non-accessible to some folks I've run into. I have the earnest belief that if the Saito's and Shibata's and Yamada's and any number of other high ranked Shihan can do it.... it must be do-able. There is just something wrong with my Aikido if I don't look like that.

Janet Rosen
01-10-2011, 04:57 PM
It's not that training doesn't reveal that a given student or teacher has problems to overcome. That's the point of training. But if one is really training, it should never be the same issues over and over.

Funny timing.... spent this afternoon in staff meeting/chart audit reviews and the basic consensus out of the latter was.... errors or deficiencies in charting are at least different than they were three months ago. :)

Peter Goldsbury
01-10-2011, 05:44 PM
Hello George,

Well, I believe that Morihei Ueshiba had a point, which I believe is to an extent cultural. You show people and even explain--and you have an obligation to make sure that what you show and what you explain is right, but if they do not understand, then it is their responsibility. They need to practise until they do.

The only person of note I have discussed this with is Hiroshi Tada Shihan. He gives seminars at which he always does the same thing, without fail: long and complex ki training exercises, long and intricate footwork exercises, which develop into seemingly random tai sabaki, followed by waza, usually with two ukes at once. He commented that only committed students, with the time to give to individual training, make any progress. Those who come at weekends only, or do not have the time to do the individual training, do not. However, he saw no obligation to change this situation: you get out of training what you put in, and the ratio of individual training you do to dojo training should be 5 to 1.

As for the seminar circuit, I have experience of giving seminars and I know very well that only about 10% of the attendees actually make an effort to do what I am doing. This happens even if I go round and show people individually. With the Netherlands, I suspect that there is a sense of robust individualism and democracy somewhere in the mix, a sort of assumed contract between seminar givers and attendees: you show us something and if we like it, we will do it, but in the way we think fit. I even receive explanations why they are not actually doing what I am showing: 'He attacked me in this way, so I thought it was better to do this (= another, different) technique.'

Best wishes,

PAG

ninjaqutie
01-10-2011, 05:53 PM
Great blog!!! Thanks so much for your imput. I am sad to say that I would have probably been one of the lost students not getting it as I haven't been doing aikido very long. HOWEVER, with that said, I like to think that I am constantly getting better and I make an effort every time I step on the mat. I never get people who seem to think aikido class is a vacation. Sure, I guess one could argue its a vacation from your life, but it isn't a vacation where you just lounge around, relax and not pay attention!!! Put the damn mixed drink down with the pineapple sticking out of it and put some effort into what you are doing!

cguzik
01-10-2011, 07:48 PM
This post should be a wake up call.

Even folks who consider themselves to be disciplined and diligent in their training should pause for a moment to consider:

- When you go to a seminar, do you bring back a list of things to work on?

- For a given seminar, what are your primary motivations for attending? I really don't understand how people can attend a seminar and not try to practice what the teacher is showing.

- Those who live in areas where there is an abundance of dojo and seminars have a lot to sift through, which can lead to a lack of focused effort. If you are attending a seminar every couple of weeks, how do you decide what to really incorporate into your own training (and what you teach, if you do). Don't get caught trading depth for breadth.

- If you don't have an abundance of dojo and high level teachers in your area, when you attend a seminar, do you make a personal commitment to bring what you experience back to raise the level of your whole dojo?

- It is worth considering hosting your own seminars, if you don't. Consider that traveling by plane to an out of town seminar can easily cost $1000 by the time you pay for airfare, hotel, rental car, and seminar fees. Five dojo mates can pay half that each and cover the cost of bringing in a guest instructor for a weekend of focused training in your own dojo on the topics that your group most needs to work on.

danj
01-10-2011, 07:55 PM
Nice post sensei and incredibly open, thankyou. Also enjoying the followup posts too.

In some ways gratifying other ways disappointing that what was suspected to be just our experience here in the antipodes seems to be the norm.

Simplistically I suspect smaller seminars might reduce this as a problem and great to hear of its success within your own network (and seem to be on the rise over here), costs associated with running seminars and the requirements to generate income and grow /develop organisations seem to preclude this at least in our neck of the woods.

In our school it seems there is a 'give up on learning', stagnation point or ceiling for many seniors. It reached subconsciously and is sadly the dominant culture I think. Its most often once we start teaching and it seems no new idea can permeate and only witnessed in the wild at seminars.

Seminars seem then to be less about transmission and more about other important issues of ones aikido career, such as being seen, catching up, going through the motions to maintain a position in the dan grade queue/ hierarchy, seeing who's the biggest dog, bringing the most students or sharing their own latest thing they want to show everybody take priority of continuing transmission.
I recall a visiting senior at one of our seminars (who seemed more interested in showing what he knew) put too much water in his tea such that it spilt over being asked quietly "cup too full sensei" - honestly why both coming?

kane hollins
01-10-2011, 10:10 PM
I'm not sure this is the proper place to inquire but I have similar questions. Five years ago my wife gifted me a three month intro to the local dojo and I went. I really enjoy it. Maybe informally I "picked up" much about aikido. I tested to 3rd kyu and since some injuries have cleared up, I continue. I need to figure out how to plan my training as I feel I'm being urged to "move up" with my practice. I'm 52 and I need to know if my body will be able to support my advancement. Especially Ukemi. I feel the responsibility to provide others with comparable ukemi to allow them to practice effectively. I have the highest respect for my sensei and the other dan students and feel I would like to talk about this plan aside from the 10 minutes between classes. So how do I aproach this situation so that I don't feel like some suburban slob with nothing better to do evenings?
Kane,

Janet Rosen
01-10-2011, 11:35 PM
Kane, that is a great question/topic (as a somewhat disabled person a few yrs older than you I definitely have ideas...). I am going to go ahead and copy and paste your above post into a NEW thread so as to avoid thread drift here.

George S. Ledyard
01-11-2011, 02:40 AM
I've met individuals at seminars who are convinced their 1st kyu instructor at the local college aikido-club had a better shihonage than the guest instructor at the Seminar...and that guest instructor was Shibata Sensei.

Hi Maggie,
You'll appreciate this... Back in the seventies Saotome Sensei would periodically go out to California to teach seminars for a couple weeks at a time. One time, he took Ikeda Sensei and he sued Ikeda Sensei for ukemi. It was all atemi waza and Ikeda Sensei basically tried to kill him and he did his thing.

After the demo, a shodan level hippie lady who had a dojo somewhere in CA came up to him and informed him that he hadn't understood O-Sensei's message of peace and love. This to a person who had spent fifteen years as an uchi deshi from a person who had never even met the Founder. You can imagine Sensei's reaction...

George S. Ledyard
01-11-2011, 02:47 AM
I'm not sure this is the proper place to inquire but I have similar questions. Five years ago my wife gifted me a three month intro to the local dojo and I went. I really enjoy it. Maybe informally I "picked up" much about aikido. I tested to 3rd kyu and since some injuries have cleared up, I continue. I need to figure out how to plan my training as I feel I'm being urged to "move up" with my practice. I'm 52 and I need to know if my body will be able to support my advancement. Especially Ukemi. I feel the responsibility to provide others with comparable ukemi to allow them to practice effectively. I have the highest respect for my sensei and the other dan students and feel I would like to talk about this plan aside from the 10 minutes between classes. So how do I aproach this situation so that I don't feel like some suburban slob with nothing better to do evenings?
Kane,

Kane, you are actually fairly typical. This is something Aikido is going to have to deal with. There aren't many twenty somethings starting these days. Everywhere I go the average age is rising. I don't know what style of Aikido you practice, but many styles emphasize large projection techniques and lots of break falls.Your body isn't going to put up with that in your fifties and beyond.

I would check out the soft ukemi folks, Frank Ostoff and Jan Nevelius. If Aikido were to meet Systema in terms of ukemi, I think it would look like "soft ukemi". If you can take the impact out of your ukemi, you'll be able to train quite a lot longer without getting trashed.

Check out the Systema as well, if there's anyone near you who is good... Getting the tension out of your body is the key to not being injured and they do a batter job of that than anyone.

Eva Antonia
01-11-2011, 03:31 AM
Dear all,

as a 3rd kyu with no special abilities and a slow learning rhythm I read through this and come to the conviction that I would certainly be one of the persons whose attendance at high level seminars would not really be desirable. I have all the defaults George Sensei observed. The last seminar to which I participated was with Osawa Sensei, and I am not so dumb that I don't see that I was in most of the cases NOT able to replicate what he showed us but was stuck in repeating what I knew from my dojo. The seminar was about the basics, just doing the basic movements and showing us some new approaches that could change them slightly to make them much more efficient.

At the seminar there were LOTS of people like myself, and he did NOT get angry with us. He came around and tried to correct individually each of us...quite patiently and sometimes successfully (not with myself...I didn't get that particular technique:( notwithstanding special teacher care). Maybe he knows that we were just trying our best, but this "best" is limited for many people.

Here in Belgium, if there is a seminar with a great shihan (not only Japanese! If Tissier comes, it's the same, and certainly a high level American would be equally appreciated), you have easily 200 - 300 people on the mat. Many of our local teachers, among whom we also have a good number of 6th and 7th dan, assist, but obviously the largest number are lower dan and all sorts of kyu grades. But there are also some master classes (like "only for dojo cho" or "only for yudansha") in Belgium, but these are something like 2 - 3 per year.

I never had the impression we, the lower grades, were not welcome, or that our low proficiency level was considered as an insult to the teacher. As a relative beginner, I think even people at my level can learn lots of things at the seminars, although we cannot pick up everything the teacher shows and are often stuck with our own ways. And it gives us an idea of the greatness of aikido, the difference of styles, approaches, possibilities etc. We get out of our dojos' routines, and we can see where we might get one day if we practice hard and well. But how could we practice more and better in order to get a technique we are doing wrong if no one shows or explains us? We would just repeat our errors.

So, maybe from the point of high level aikidoka it is not so nice to have a lot of beginners swirling around during a good seminar, but still for us it is a necessary experience we are getting something out, be it limited, and I think we should be encouraged to go to those seminars.

Best regards,

Eva

Ernesto Lemke
01-11-2011, 04:35 AM
Hello Peter,

Aahh totally forgot you where the one exception whose seminar I did attend. Apologies. ☺
Since you bring up the Netherlands as an example, allow me to use one of Chris' questions as a way to address a couple of points based on my humble experience. Oh and btw, these are in no way referring to your seminars.

- For a given seminar, what are your primary motivations for attending? I really don't understand how people can attend a seminar and not try to practice what the teacher is showing.

Well, it seems to me that A) as a student, especially early on in your aikido career (and by saying that I by no means am implying I have passed that point, far from it) your major point of reference are the reflections, point of view and social interactions you receive/perceive within your own dojo, from your teacher (and seniors), thus, this is what partially explains the attitude one brings to a seminar (initially), and B) to me this also very much depends on how ‘good' of a job the teacher is doing. I've been to seminars where there was hardly any explaining and techniques where just shown, in fact, most of the aikido seminars I attended (though not that much I admit) followed this pattern. I think that only now with a little more experience would I be able to ‘see' past the omote and pick up any possible ura.
Still, in my experience, I have seen little evidence of teachers being succesfull in conveying material that could be functional or applicable to those attending that are not part of the same organization.

Let me turn this around. What could the primary reasons be for teachers to teach ‘outsiders?' One of the reasons I stopped going to seminars was my growing disinterest in picking up yet another way of, for example, doing a shiho-nage (most times taught with the implicit message that this was actually a better way to execute it then versions a, b, c, d, etc. sometimes made even very explicit when these where said to be the way teacher a, b, c, d etc. executed them). My perception is that there was (is?) a lot of talk of ‘principles', ‘ethics', ‘spirituality' even, but these where (are?) hardly made explicit. Sometimes it was the hierarchic distance between teacher and student that refrained people from questioning the statements from the teacher, sometimes it was disinterest or ignorance. Sometimes this in itself was a no go area…
But I have often wondered, sometimes openly, whether this was merely a way to ‘cloud' the fact that the teacher wasn't able to make these things explicit or applicable. Not always, but more often then not.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not implying teachers need to feed the lazy and or serve the consumer type attitude. There is a very important investment required on the part of the student (which has been described in detail in George's post and some peoples responses). I'm talking about what aikido is lacking (which has also been the topic of various posts) from a teaching point of view. The current interest in IT seems, to me, partially the result of people's desire of do wanting to know these things but not having had the teaching methodology (made) available and or the vocabulary to make these things explicit. I'm not implying things where deliberately made obscure, but considering to what is currently happening as a result of people making IT a part of their aikido, things where obscure. Speaking for myself, my interest and investment in IT has drastically changed my aikido (for the better) and these are things that can be taught explicitly and are applicable also to ‘outsiders.'

One of the reasons I respect and admire my own teacher is that to me, being a teacher by profession myself, I can clearly see his experience pedagogically and didactically, him also being a teacher by profession. That plus I regard him as a wonderful human being (which in my book, comes first).

I understand these are not sentiments to be addressed during a seminar. That is one of the reasons why the internet can be such a powerful and wonderful medium. Still, even that requires an investment. In the end it does all seem to come down to that.
When I observe the quality of the interactions on the Dutch Aikikai forum, the topics that are raised, and the communication ‘styles' people use, I feel absolutely no interest whatsoever to contribute anything. At all. I become tired even scrolling through what is posted. Thus far, it has done nothing to make me reconsider attending aikido seminars in Holland again with the exception of one or two people. But my current curiosity in those few people has been made due to Aikiweb…

Best regards,

Ernesto

Mary Eastland
01-11-2011, 08:41 AM
At my first summer camp Maruyama Sensei noticed I could only do back rolls on one side..he followed me down the whole length of the mat yelling (i didn't understand it at the time) "other side, "other side".
After people explained he was saying "other side"...i cringed because I had been avoiding my left side because it was so difficult for me.....and spent the next 6 months practicing the "other side" so that would never happen again.
Maybe you could ask for advanced seminars?
Interesting read. Thanks.
Mary

Amir Krause
01-11-2011, 08:51 AM
George

I would like to suggest a simple solution: have 2 groups- "basics" and "advanced". Only those who can should be allowed to the second group, regardless of rank, and even visitors should be screened in order to only have very few who have similar experience.
Any who does not qualify may only watch it.

Acting this way, people would have to acknowledge the consequences of their own actions, and decide on their own way.

Personally, I was in the group that worked twice as hard for a long time. But, currently, I am in "conservation only mode", until my kids grow up. I am aware of the consequences of the change in mode, in my own progress (from considerable to slow degradation). It is a choice I made. I would not have expected others to pay for it.

Amir

RED
01-11-2011, 12:32 PM
Hi Maggie,
You'll appreciate this... Back in the seventies Saotome Sensei would periodically go out to California to teach seminars for a couple weeks at a time. One time, he took Ikeda Sensei and he sued Ikeda Sensei for ukemi. It was all atemi waza and Ikeda Sensei basically tried to kill him and he did his thing.

After the demo, a shodan level hippie lady who had a dojo somewhere in CA came up to him and informed him that he hadn't understood O-Sensei's message of peace and love. This to a person who had spent fifteen years as an uchi deshi from a person who had never even met the Founder. You can imagine Sensei's reaction...

Hehe.
I've ran into this attitude like I've said. I'm not sure where people get the gusto to make these sort of statements(especially to a Shihan's face!), or what exactly is going on in their heads that would even lead to this sort of thinking.
Which is sort of my annoyance. I'm NO shihan myself; but at what point do people stop recognizing high level Aikido, even as they are seeing it?
I think everyone has their own idea about what Aikido should be. Some people think it should be a Budo, others consider it interchangeably with macrame...a hobby for their spare hours. Makes them feel more cultured maybe. I don't know.

dave9nine
01-11-2011, 03:47 PM
hi George,
definitely appreciate your post.
in my view, at least one factor in this phenomena seems to be the way in which rank is obtained in many MA organizations (making it more general here so as to point to a larger phenomena). setting the 'newbies' aside as a separate group that deserves some slack based on their time training, i wonder what the ranks were/are of many of those who attended the seminar(s) and never seem to 'get it.'?
i have always had some reservations about ranking systems where people are tested simply based on the number of classes they've attended and not based on ability. I saw this to an extreme as a teenager when i trained in TKD: folks who consider themselves "paying customers" of an MA studio instead of members of a 'place of a way' usually expect to be promoted based purely on the math of their attendance, and engage in American-style consumer-rights rhetoric when they want to advance, arguing that they pay every month and attend X number of classes, etc.

unfortunately i have seen some of this in Aikido as well.
i suspect that this issue is certainly at play in the scenario you describe.

thus, (and i guess this goes back to the other point about teachers and dojocho during their job) i think that at least one solution is for organizations to make rank promotion more based on ability and less on simply attendance. with this in place, perhaps people who attend over and over and never get promoted will finally one day 'get' what they are supposed to get to move on, or decide finally that the art is not for them and move on.

how to implement this, though, when comraderie and friendships are on the line--not sure.

does anyone train in an organization that promotes based on ability only?

George S. Ledyard
01-11-2011, 05:07 PM
Personally, I was in the group that worked twice as hard for a long time. But, currently, I am in "conservation only mode", until my kids grow up. I am aware of the consequences of the change in mode, in my own progress (from considerable to slow degradation). It is a choice I made. I would not have expected others to pay for it.

Amir

Hi Amir,
My ex and I had 8 kids between us... It is natural that your training go through phases when there is more or less commitment. But if you trained hard to start, you have a foundation you never lose. I am also sure that, when you do train you are a good student. Your technique might get rusty but the ability to learn once you have it won't disappear.

Aiki1
01-11-2011, 05:19 PM
"When the teacher has to address the group on issues that are simple beginner issues, it means that the teacher cannot take the class forward and do the things he or she might be capable of teaching."

I certainly understand this, and have surely had my own frustrating teaching experiences in the past. At a practical level, my "solution" was to pre-screen individuals if I was going to be specifically teaching advanced material.

But lately, to some degree my perspective has changed and I've been thinking that perhaps Buddhist teachings have it right when they address the notion that attachment itself causes "suffering."

(I'm also reminded of the saying: "An interesting thing about life is, for every truth that is real for one person, somewhere in the Universe the exact opposite is likely to be just as true for someone else. And that somewhere may be very close at hand.")

Perhaps you have actually pointed to, in a round-about way, a deeper issue - instructors' attachments, not students' performance.

Maybe it really is better to be in the moment with what is, than to be attached to one's hopes, desires, and needs, and thereby miss the incredible opportunities present in what is actually happening, at whatever "level."

I have found that in the most simple teachings, the deepest, most profound truths really are revealed. I personally find this to be the case in literal, real-time training the most.

Skill in Aikido doesn't ultimately come through technical complexity, but from simple, basic, repeatable experiences that bring understanding and accessible knowledge that can be applied throughout the art. I see this developing more and more rapidly in beginners all the time now that I am beginning to understand it better.

Nor is it achieved solely through external training, as some are beginning to see. It is reached, first, internally, then with learning the seasoned skill of being able to externalize it properly.

I'm really not saying that "advanced training" is meaningless nor am I dismissing it, at all - simply that it isn't the essence of the art, nor ultimately the most important thing instrumental it's effective application, both martial and otherwise.

Perhaps the deepest truths can be taught, and learned, in the simplest form and most practical manner, and, along with a recognition and acceptance of where a student is at in that moment (a general notion fundamental to Aikido in the first place) this should, or could, be the most important priority, at any level. In that, I think the insight, understanding, attitude, and humility of the instructor are of paramount importance.

In light of this, in response to Eva Roben:

"….as a 3rd kyu with no special abilities and a slow learning rhythm I read through this and come to the conviction that I would certainly be one of the persons whose attendance at high level seminars would not really be desirable."

I find this conclusion sad. However:

"At the seminar there were LOTS of people like myself, and he did NOT get angry with us."

Glad to hear this.

"So, maybe from the point of high level aikidoka it is not so nice to have a lot of beginners swirling around during a good seminar, but still for us it is a necessary experience we are getting something out, be it limited, and I think we should be encouraged to go to those seminars."

Yes.

SeiserL
01-11-2011, 06:45 PM
Isn't advanced just refinement of what I should have learned as basics?

Everyday and ultimately, I am totally responsible and accountable for my life (and training). While I certainly do not create everything, I do create my response to it.

As they say, everyone has experience. Some have one year of experience for many years of training and others simple have many years of experience for many years of training.

Peter Goldsbury
01-11-2011, 08:22 PM
Hello Ernesto,

Thank you for your post. I have a fairly low expectation of the possibility of any progress, given the current structure of large, open seminars. There is a certain mentality evident here, however, such that the same people can usually be found on the front row at such seminars, as close to the instructor as possible. Thus, the onus is on the student to make the experience as valuable as possible, given his or her own level of skill and knowledge. Such large open seminars are a feature of Doshu's visits anywhere. However, I suspect that here, there is also a view that merely being present at the seminar is of value, like attending a rally or a live-house concert,

Of course, the fact that the seminars are attended by many participants does not remove the responsibility involved in teaching, but it does influence how the teaching mission is conceived. When I first started coming to the Netherlands 'officially', I often sought advice from my own teacher here, now 8th dan. His answer was invariably something like, "They do not know you because they do not train with you every day. Do not teach techniques explicitly. Show a technique a number of times and then pass on to another technique. Leave them to figure it out for themselves."

- For a given seminar, what are your primary motivations for attending? I really don't understand how people can attend a seminar and not try to practice what the teacher is showing.

So I would turn the question round and ask from the instructor's point of view: For a given seminar, what are your primary motivations for attending ( = teaching at the seminar)? Why do teachers can keep giving seminars when the people attending do not try to practice what the teacher is showing? I gave you Tada Shihan's answer in a previous post. He has a very clear idea of what he has to do, which is to show people important segments of the aikido he does, since this is what he thinks people need to learn. I think Doshu's view is similar.

Of course, a smaller, workshop-type, seminar is quite different and is closer to the type of training in the early Kobukan or the Tokyo Hombu directly after the war, when numbers were far fewer than they are now.

Best wishes,

PAG

SeiserL
01-12-2011, 07:27 AM
So I would turn the question round and ask from the instructor's point of view: For a given seminar, what are your primary motivations for attending ( = teaching at the seminar)? Why do teachers can keep giving seminars when the people attending do not try to practice what the teacher is showing?
I believe it was the Buddha who after gaining enlightenment did not teach. He believed that if you already have it there was nothing he could say and if you didn't have it there was nothing he could say. His cousin asked about those few people in between. He taught for over 40 years.

I appreciate those teachers who have the courage to share what they know even if very few are trying to get it and fewer yet will actually get it. And when you get a small piece of it, they show you there is still more to learn.

IMHO, because teaching and learning are two different ends of the same process that a teacher is responsible to teach and the student is responsible to learn.

When I am tori I am responsible to learn from that position and try to do what the teacher is showing/sharing. When I am uke I am responsible to learn from that position.

I am response-able.

kewms
01-12-2011, 03:37 PM
I never had the impression we, the lower grades, were not welcome, or that our low proficiency level was considered as an insult to the teacher. As a relative beginner, I think even people at my level can learn lots of things at the seminars, although we cannot pick up everything the teacher shows and are often stuck with our own ways.

The problem is not beginners. As a beginner, you're not supposed to know everything yet. The problem is black belts, including people who run dojos, who not only have obvious gaps but *still* have those same gaps year after year after year... and seem to think it's okay.

All of which should matter to you as a beginner, by the way, because if your teacher isn't learning, they've set a ceiling on what they can teach you.

Katherine

lbb
01-12-2011, 07:22 PM
I'm thinking of my different teachers through the years, and their very different styles. When I was training karate, my sensei's teaching was extremely laconic, the name of a technique or "Eeeeeh, kata". Training there was very repetitive, the same thing in the same rhythm with very little variation from class to class. If you were doing something wrong, Sensei would show you once. If you didn't make the correction, he would not show you again, or say anything (although he would say something if he could see you were trying but needed some help). He would just go on and correct someone who hadn't gotten the lesson yet. He seemed to feel that if you'd been given the lesson and you weren't doing what he said, why bother to belabor the point? And although he was the most mild-mannered person imaginable, there were no congratulations at his dojo. The only thing was that sometimes he would stop to watch a student -- and if that student was doing the technique correctly, he would simply nod once. And the student, if they were doing the technique correctly, would never see it. You might see it if he nodded at someone nearby, but never if he gave you his single silent sign of approval.

I had a jo sensei who would say, "No. Again. No. Again. No. Again. No. Again," over and over. How I must have tried that man's patience! But I was trying, and he had patience with that -- and after another three hours of, "No. Again," the next week (or the next month) it might be another kata about which he said, "No. Again." I never, ever got past "No. Again," with him, not once, not for one day.

Now, in aikido, I train with a sensei who busts my chops continually, loudly and verbally. I don't know what it all means, if I've become a better student or a worse student.

George S. Ledyard
01-12-2011, 07:41 PM
So I would turn the question round and ask from the instructor's point of view: For a given seminar, what are your primary motivations for attending ( = teaching at the seminar)?

First of all, it's what I do for a living. Years ago I had a family, a demanding job, and my Aikido. I realized that I could only really do a good job at two of those. So I combined my work and practice and started to teach. I opened my dojo in 1989.

Now, the real reason was that I ALWAYS knew I would teach. Sensei told us when we were white belts that he was training professional instructors. In his mid that was the American equivalent of the Honbu Shihan.

Sensei always emphasized the "transmission" from O-Sensei to himself and on to us. Our own students are part of that.

Why do teachers can keep giving seminars when the people attending do not try to practice what the teacher is showing?

I'm sure that for some, it's partly financial, as it is for me. But I also think that the vast majority of teachers I have trained with genuinely love Aikido, as they understand it, and want to pass it along.

For me, it's a love of teaching. I was born to do this. It's the best thing I have ever done in my life. I am at my very best when I am out on the mat with a group of folks who are "hungry".

Also, I feel that I was given this huge gift. I feel a bit like Gurdjieff with his "Meetings with Remarkable Men". I have never trained with a single teacher who was even mediocre. They have all been incredibly generous with what they have given me, and continue to do so whenever I see them. Most folks don't have the luxury of doing what I have done. So I feel a certain responsibility to pass on what has been given to me, perhaps predigest it for folks without the same background.. This stuff is what I call "old knowledge". It's developed over thousands of years. Now, I think that much of this is endangered. There are fewer and fewer folks who seem to want to train seriously enough to master these things. So anyone who has any inkling, should be passing on whatever he or she knows to as many people as possible.

Finally, because of the quality of the training I have had, I have a concern for the art in that I feel it is in danger of becoming just a nice hobby for middle class Americans (or whatever country you want to plug in). Aikido as a study with both technical and spiritual depth and breadth is vanishing. I am just egotistical enough to feel like I can effect the whole. If I can develop myself as a recognized instructor, I can get "access" to a far broader spectrum of the Aikido public than just the half dozen or so folks I can take to the top level at my own dojo. I see my role as a bridge to my teachers for the folks out there who haven't had the foundation to understand what they are doing.

Teachers like Saotome Sensei are passing away. They will all be gone shortly. We should be taking advantage of every second on the mat we can get with them. I don't care about the folks that aren't trying. But I care deeply about the folks that are showing up at these camps and seminars, spending their vacations training, really making the effort but getting little in return.

No one ever taught them how to train in a way that would result in higher level skills. No one ever gave them a principle based understanding of what is happening and why the whole thing works. So they go year after year to these events and they just don't get it. I have literally sat with a friend in tears after another class with a particular teacher in which he once again dazzled us with his ability and utterly failed to get folks to do it. She was so frustrated that she was saying she was going to stop even attending his classes because she got nothing out of them except seeing him do cool stuff and no one else could do it. This is a serious practitioner with a 4th Dan, not some newbie.

Anyway, I have been able to work with people like this, in seminars I teach or by training with them in seminars taught by other teachers, and I have been able to give them enough of a framework that they've started to be able to learn again from these teachers. It's very gratifying.

So for me it's searching for those folks who are "hungry", finding the ones who want help, and mentoring them. I feel that's the only real way I can repay my own teachers for what they have given me.

I gave you Tada Shihan's answer in a previous post. He has a very clear idea of what he has to do, which is to show people important segments of the aikido he does, since this is what he thinks people need to learn. I think Doshu's view is similar.

Of course, a smaller, workshop-type, seminar is quite different and is closer to the type of training in the early Kobukan or the Tokyo Hombu directly after the war, when numbers were far fewer than they are now.

Best wishes,

PAG

My only objection to what has happened with the spread of the art far and wide is that the teacher student relationship has been entirely screwed up. Most folks have no idea that, for most of these teachers, what they teach when they are doing their international travel, teaching their soto deshi can be quite different from what they are teaching their own seniors at their own dojos.

Someone like Tada Sensei or the Dojo decides could reasonably be expected of a bunch of folks all over the world, maybe even the non-uchi deshi in Japan. They created a simplified art and developed a training program to create instructors who teach that curriculum. At a certain point, folks start thinking that this simplified thing now called Aikido, is the art and not the "Cliff Notes" of something that these same teachers are doing with their personal students. Very few people will admit to wanting to do Aikido-lite, yet that is what they are being offered, often without knowing it.

Of course it's not much better when the teachers have not gone this route and have genuinely tried to show folks the "full meal deal" and then failed to organize a method of transmission geared to helping people succeed in getting there.

So, for me, I believe that I personally can do both... within the limits of my skill and understanding. If I understand it, I can teach it. I am now at the point at which I understand most of what my teachers are doing and I can pass it on. If I do so to a wide enough audience, then a generation of students still have time to benefit from thee amazing teachers before they are gone forever.

That's why I get so upset with the folks that simply aren't trying... There are folks who are really trying. They need help. But the folks who don't want to make the effort are wasting everyone's time. I have started holding seminars to which I only invite the people whom I know to be serious and students recommended by other teachers of my personal acquaintance. I have no interest in holding big schmooze fests so that un-serious people can feel good by hanging with people who are serious. Anyway, that's my take on it and I'm sticking with it. There are plenty of other alternatives for folks who think I am too snooty about this. Only twenty dojos in the immediate Seattle area to choose from.

dps
01-13-2011, 02:09 AM
They are making their own Aikido as per O'Sensei.

Who says they have a responsibility to learn?

Most people don't want to change themselves let alone the world.

Your worry too much about what other people are doing.

Your expectations of other people are too high.



David

Peter Goldsbury
01-13-2011, 06:00 AM
Someone like Tada Sensei or the Dojo decides could reasonably be expected of a bunch of folks all over the world, maybe even the non-uchi deshi in Japan. They created a simplified art and developed a training program to create instructors who teach that curriculum. At a certain point, folks start thinking that this simplified thing now called Aikido, is the art and not the "Cliff Notes" of something that these same teachers are doing with their personal students. Very few people will admit to wanting to do Aikido-lite, yet that is what they are being offered, often without knowing it.

Hello George,

If I understand you correctly, I have to disagree here, for I do not think, by any stretch of the imagination, that what Tada Shihan shows at seminars could be interpreted as Aikido-lite.

In the first line quoted above you wrote the Dojo, but it seems that the Doshu would make more sense. However, if this is the case, the buck stops further back, with Morihei Ueshiba himself. As you know, Budo (1938) is a training manual with 50 different waza, compiled at the request of the Japanese military, to be taught to Japanese soldiers. I do not think these wartime 'Cliff Notes' could be called aikido-lite. In addition, one of the more interesting discussions that Ellis Amdur conducts in Hidden in Plain Sight is that Ueshiba himself reduced the number of Aiki(budo) waza from the plethora of Daito-ryu waza, in order to allow aiki(budo) to remove the kasu sediment from the body more effectively, which he also called misogi. I had always thought that Kisshomaru Ueshiba did this, but, after reading HIPS, I am not so sure.

Certainly, Kisshomaru did away with the arcane Omoto-kyo terminology and those I have talked to suggest that this was a collective decision, supported by Tomiki, Tohei, Okumura, and Osawa, who were all involved in resurrecting the old Tokyo dojo. But I am less sure that he reduced the waza. At some point in my Aikiweb columns I will make a detailed comparison between the two technical manuals published under the name of Morihei Ueshiba and the early manuals published by Kisshomaru

I chose Tada Shihan as example because I know that you teach aikido for a living. One of the severest criticisms made against the present Aikikai Hombu by some shihans who were taught by O Sensei is that the Aikikai have lost, or abandoned, the idea that aikido training--and teaching, is a calling, a vocation, something that you know you have to do, regardless of the consequences. The consequence is that the Hombu becomes a business, geared to the market, one result of which is that students come to be regarded as customers and their satisfaction--established by means of the latest market research--becomes paramount. Training has to cater for all these customers, or essential market share will be lost. I do not know whether Doshu compares notes with Yoshinkan, just down the road, but I do know that the Aikikai is very anxious about the dwindling number of Japanese students who enter university aikido clubs.

Tada Sensei has never made this criticism of the Aikikai, but he certainly believes that he had a calling to be a deshi of O Sensei. He also twists the knife somewhat, and states that the number of deshi taught by O Sensei who actually believe(d) this is in fact very few. If it is a calling, however, then other considerations do not enter into it. Here, the teacher-as-model is an appropriate metaphor. Tada answered the calling very early on--and went to Nakamura Tempu as part of the answer, along with his training at the Aikikai. I do not know whether he was supported financially by his family. He once told us that he was descended from pirates in the Seto Inland Sea, who used to control merchant shipping between Japan and Korea. (Think of Somalia, Japan-style.)

What Tada Shihan does in his two-day seminars in Hiroshima is a distilled version of what he does in the week-long Summer Schools he conducts in Italy, which I have attended on several occasions. I mentioned him earlier because he never, ever, talks about the responsibility of the student. Yamaguchi Seigo Shihan never did, either (though I believe that the two men were like chalk and cheese). I think that Tada Shihan strives to embody the shihan: understood as 'teacher-model' (which is what shihan means). So he teaches by showing--but with no strings attached at all about the responsibility of a student, over and above what would be considered as obvious.

Of course, Tada Sensei has students, and I was privileged to know one of them very well. Giorgio Veneri was one of Tada Shihan's students when the latter went to Italy to start aikido there. Giorgio (and his wife--this was quite important) clearly knew him very and I myself have seen this very close relationship. (You can think of your own relationship with Saotome Shihan here.) When Giorgio died, I expressed condolences to Tada Sensei when we next met. He turned, with just a touch of moistening of the eyes, and said, simply, "He was my friend for 40 years."

But there were areas in that friendship that Giorgio never entered.

Apologies for any thread drift here and, of course, any misunderstandings I might have had in your earlier posts.

Best wishes,

PAG

George S. Ledyard
01-13-2011, 08:42 AM
Hello George,

If I understand you correctly, I have to disagree here, for I do not think, by any stretch of the imagination, that what Tada Shihan shows at seminars could be interpreted as Aikido-lite.

In the first line quoted above you wrote the Dojo, but it seems that the Doshu would make more sense. However, if this is the case, the buck stops further back, with Morihei Ueshiba himself. As you know, Budo (1938) is a training manual with 50 different waza, compiled at the request of the Japanese military, to be taught to Japanese soldiers. I do not think these wartime 'Cliff Notes' could be called aikido-lite. In addition, one of the more interesting discussions that Ellis Amdur conducts in Hidden in Plain Sight is that Ueshiba himself reduced the number of Aiki(budo) waza from the plethora of Daito-ryu waza, in order to allow aiki(budo) to remove the kasu sediment from the body more effectively, which he also called misogi. I had always thought that Kisshomaru Ueshiba did this, but, after reading HIPS, I am not so sure.

Certainly, Kisshomaru did away with the arcane Omoto-kyo terminology and those I have talked to suggest that this was a collective decision, supported by Tomiki, Tohei, Okumura, and Osawa, who were all involved in resurrecting the old Tokyo dojo. But I am less sure that he reduced the waza. At some point in my Aikiweb columns I will make a detailed comparison between the two technical manuals published under the name of Morihei Ueshiba and the early manuals published by Kisshomaru

I chose Tada Shihan as example because I know that you teach aikido for a living. One of the severest criticisms made against the present Aikikai Hombu by some shihans who were taught by O Sensei is that the Aikikai have lost, or abandoned, the idea that aikido training--and teaching, is a calling, a vocation, something that you know you have to do, regardless of the consequences. The consequence is that the Hombu becomes a business, geared to the market, one result of which is that students come to be regarded as customers and their satisfaction--established by means of the latest market research--becomes paramount. Training has to cater for all these customers, or essential market share will be lost. I do not know whether Doshu compares notes with Yoshinkan, just down the road, but I do know that the Aikikai is very anxious about the dwindling number of Japanese students who enter university aikido clubs.

Tada Sensei has never made this criticism of the Aikikai, but he certainly believes that he had a calling to be a deshi of O Sensei. He also twists the knife somewhat, and states that the number of deshi taught by O Sensei who actually believe(d) this is in fact very few. If it is a calling, however, then other considerations do not enter into it. Here, the teacher-as-model is an appropriate metaphor. Tada answered the calling very early on--and went to Nakamura Tempu as part of the answer, along with his training at the Aikikai. I do not know whether he was supported financially by his family. He once told us that he was descended from pirates in the Seto Inland Sea, who used to control merchant shipping between Japan and Korea. (Think of Somalia, Japan-style.)

What Tada Shihan does in his two-day seminars in Hiroshima is a distilled version of what he does in the week-long Summer Schools he conducts in Italy, which I have attended on several occasions. I mentioned him earlier because he never, ever, talks about the responsibility of the student. Yamaguchi Seigo Shihan never did, either (though I believe that the two men were like chalk and cheese). I think that Tada Shihan strives to embody the shihan: understood as 'teacher-model' (which is what shihan means). So he teaches by showing--but with no strings attached at all about the responsibility of a student, over and above what would be considered as obvious.

Of course, Tada Sensei has students, and I was privileged to know one of them very well. Giorgio Veneri was one of Tada Shihan's students when the latter went to Italy to start aikido there. Giorgio (and his wife--this was quite important) clearly knew him very and I myself have seen this very close relationship. (You can think of your own relationship with Saotome Shihan here.) When Giorgio died, I expressed condolences to Tada Sensei when we next met. He turned, with just a touch of moistening of the eyes, and said, simply, "He was my friend for 40 years."

But there were areas in that friendship that Giorgio never entered.

Apologies for any thread drift here and, of course, any misunderstandings I might have had in your earlier posts.

Best wishes,

PAG

I didn't mean to imply anything in particular about Tada Sensei I never trained with him. And most folks would have died and gone to Heaven if their Aikido could have been as good as the Nidai Doshu's... despite what was left out compared to what Saotome Sensei or Chiba Sensei learned as uchi deshi.

I think these teachers chose to teach a core or what they thought was important at seminars. And that core was high quality and as sophisticated as each knew how to do.

What I meant by Aikido-lite wasn't something fluffy or anythi8ng like that. It's more that typically, these teachers had their own dojos and their own deshi and what they did with them was usually broader and deeper than what they could do with a bunch of folks who only trained with them a few times a year at most. So those foreign students ended up focusing on a seriously reduced presentation of the art and thought that this was the whole thing.

A lot has dropped out when compared to what I know of Saotome Sensei, Chiba Sensei or Imaizumi Sensei's training. These teachers came to the states and did attempt to pass on the breadth of what they knew. But I don't think that is happening generally, especially back in Japan at headquarters.

MM
01-13-2011, 11:03 AM
In the first line quoted above you wrote the Dojo, but it seems that the Doshu would make more sense. However, if this is the case, the buck stops further back, with Morihei Ueshiba himself. As you know, Budo (1938) is a training manual with 50 different waza, compiled at the request of the Japanese military, to be taught to Japanese soldiers. I do not think these wartime 'Cliff Notes' could be called aikido-lite. In addition, one of the more interesting discussions that Ellis Amdur conducts in Hidden in Plain Sight is that Ueshiba himself reduced the number of Aiki(budo) waza from the plethora of Daito-ryu waza, in order to allow aiki(budo) to remove the kasu sediment from the body more effectively, which he also called misogi. I had always thought that Kisshomaru Ueshiba did this, but, after reading HIPS, I am not so sure.

Best wishes,

PAG

Hello Peter,

Just some of my thoughts. If they're any help, great.

When Ueshiba first met Takeda, it's very unlikely that Ueshiba would have been taught aiki at that first seminar. Not impossible, just unlikely. We know there were 2 more 10 day seminars to follow. So, there is a slight possibility that Ueshiba either was taught aiki exercises or was astute enough to "steal" some.

In 1916, we have more training with Takeda. We have to assume that jujutsu techniques were taught along with aiki:

1.Because Ueshiba knew the techniques. A lot of them. In an interview, Mochizuki wonders why Ueshiba trimmed down the Daito ryu techniques.

and

2. If Ueshiba had not started some sort of aiki training in 1915-1916, then he would never have progressed so much in 1922. Ueshiba's daunting phsyical strength was a large detriment to the start of building aiki. So, by 1922, he had to have progressed enough such that Takeda could make a martial giant out of Ueshiba that year.

We also know that Ueshiba started learning from Deguchi around 1920.

By the time Ueshiba opened the Kobukan dojo in 1931, he had at least 9 years of merging Daito ryu aiki and Omoto spirituality/misogi/etc.

I think Ueshiba was *still* working out and building aiki in his body (building aiki in the body can be done separate from techniques) in those Kobukan years plus he had all the demand for "technique" driven jujutsu. I think that's why the prewar students got something. Ueshiba was still working on some aspects of aiki within jujutsu driven techniques. But for other aspects of aiki, he had merged his spirituality and even the prewar students didn't understand him.

And while working out and merging his aiki with spirituality, I think he tossed out things (techniques) that he didn't think he needed. I think that he took the Daito ryu concept of it being a formless art and merged that with his spirituality such that only a fraction of Daito ryu techniques were really needed by him to showcase his "Aikido".

dave9nine
01-13-2011, 12:19 PM
The consequence is that the Hombu becomes a business, geared to the market, one result of which is that students come to be regarded as customers and their satisfaction--established by means of the latest market research--becomes paramount. Training has to cater for all these customers, or essential market share will be lost. PAG

this is exactly what i was trying to get at. it helps crystalize a thought, such that i think i can now frame it:

this is about 2 different paradigms. people seem to either approach the art from 1) a business/customer relationship, or 2) a traditional sensei/deshi relationship.

i think the scenario described in the OP is a product of #1. especially nowadays as people are raised more and more as consumers, developing passive, download-life-while-sitting-at-home sort of interfaces for learning (the way most schools are set up seems to reinforce this). in this context, then, a seminar is much like a rock concert; people are paying money to go and see an 'act', to live vicariously through the 'star' as it were, and to be able to say that they were there.

#2, on the otherhand, is a mentality/cultural understanding that is harder to maintain/develop/instill as generations progress, particularly in a world economic context where advanced capitalism has gotten to where it is now. is it a stretch to suggest that the aspects of 'traditional' koryu are/were culturally interwoven with the fuedalism surrounding them? and that it was precisely the movement away from that era that coincides with the changes in the approach to MA in general?

with all this in mind, i think the answer to the OPs question depends on which paradigm people operate under:
if it's #2, the 'responsibility' in training is to humble oneself and focus intensely on soaking up all that sensei has to offer/teach; to serve sensei and sempai with dilligence, and to be the best training partner one can be, and to learn with the understanding that one day whatever was learned will also be passed on to others to continue the 'way.'

if it is #1, then im afraid that 'responsibility' disappears...

my 2 pesos, anyway....
-dave

kewms
01-13-2011, 12:38 PM
with all this in mind, i think the answer to the OPs question depends on which paradigm people operate under:
if it's #2, the 'responsibility' in training is to humble oneself and focus intensely on soaking up all that sensei has to offer/teach; to serve sensei and sempai with dilligence, and to be the best training partner one can be, and to learn with the understanding that one day whatever was learned will also be passed on to others to continue the 'way.'

if it is #1, then im afraid that 'responsibility' disappears...


I don't think those are the only two choices at all. You can be absolutely equal to your instructor in everything except your knowledge of aikido, but still have too much respect for him and the other students to want to waste their time.

Aikido training is a group endeavor. If any member of the group doesn't hold up their end, the training of the whole group suffers. If you don't like the feudal baggage of the traditional sensei/student relationship, then consider a football team where one person doesn't bother to study the playbook, or a writer's workshop where one person hasn't read the work being critiqued.

Katherine

Basia Halliop
01-13-2011, 01:14 PM
I've been to many seminars that had some classes that were divided by rank, e.g. yudansha only, or ikkyu and up, etc. Or on the other hand yukyusha classes where yudansha could still attend but with the understanding that their focus was on helping the yukyusha. No reason you couldn't have a seminar that was sandan/yondan/whatever and up... Or private 'by-invitation-or-recommendation-only' seminars.

Although I've also seen some teachers are remarkably good at teaching both in the same lesson... e.g. teaching something that's superficially simple that the beginners have a chance of picking up something from, but that more advanced students will be able to see more layers to.

Another related issue is the size of the seminar. The way you teach and what results you can expect sometimes have to be different for a 'presentation' vs a 'tutorial' style (i.e., how much it's possible to interact with the individual students). Small seminars can be awesome...

RED
01-13-2011, 02:59 PM
They are making their own Aikido as per O'Sensei.

Who says they have a responsibility to learn?

Most people don't want to change themselves let alone the world.

Your worry too much about what other people are doing.

Your expectations of other people are too high.

David

Sure, it's just too bad that Aikido requires partnership to train. My partner's failures effect my training.
Many of great martial traditions, and even non-martial traditions, have seen their end in a few generations for many of the reasons discussed in this thread thus far. For anyone who loves Aikido, you can understand the frustration.

dave9nine
01-13-2011, 03:34 PM
"You can be absolutely equal to your instructor in everything except your knowledge of aikido, but still have too much respect for him and the other students to want to waste their time"

"If you don't like the feudal baggage of the traditional sensei/student relationship, then consider a football team where one person doesn't bother to study the playbook, or a writer's workshop where one person hasn't read the work being critiqued"

Katherine

im sorry, i dont understand either of these statements and im not sure how they address what ive said...:confused:

kewms
01-13-2011, 10:02 PM
im sorry, i dont understand either of these statements and im not sure how they address what ive said...:confused:

You offered two possible paradigms:

#1: Customer - vendor, with the customer expecting to simply receive the product with minimal effort on their part.

#2: Master - student, with the student expected to humble themselves in the hope that the master will deign to teach them.

I am proposing a third paradigm, in which teacher and student are social equals, but the student understands that learning requires his active participation, for both his own sake and the group's. And I offered a football team or a writer's workshop as examples of that paradigm that lie outside the feudal baggage that you saw as entangled with the traditional master-student relationship.

Katherine