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George S. Ledyard
07-04-2011, 04:50 PM
Hi Everyone,
After much reflection in the post Olson Sensei aftermath, I decided I needed to write something about what I see as the purpose of our art and how important the Dojo community is in preserving and transmitting it. I wanted to wait until I wasn't upset any more about the abysmal attendance at the event, which by the way, did not even break even. I was, at the time, embarrassed that my guest brought seven students all the way from Montana while the majority of our own folks, and especially our Beginner student population did not participate at all. Anyway, all that is what it is. My initial reaction was to read everyone the "riot act", which I realize simply isn't productive or effective. People cannot be forced to care about something they don't. So, I have decided to explain what I believe about Aikido, and what I see as the mission of Aikido Eastside. Folks can decide what these things mean to them, personally.

Aikido is a form of Budo. Budo is basically the use of the martial arts for personal transformation. Aikido as Budo is a "Michi" or Martial "WAY" (the "do" in Aiki-do). O-Sensei, the Founder, actually believed that through Aikido, the whole world could be brought into a state of harmony; he called our art "The Way of Peace". For him, Budo was a life and death matter. Given the right level of commitment one could truly become a better person, less fearful, stronger, braver, more compassionate. One could, in his or her own Mind and Body understand that everything in the universe is essentially connected. His creation of Aikido represents a radical transformation of how Budo was viewed historically. It is a unique art. It is not a "hobby", it is not a "sport", it is not a "workout", it is a Michi, a Way. The central maxim of Aikido is "masakatsu, agatsu" "True Victory is Self Victory".

I was blessed to stumble on to Aikido 35 years ago. My teacher, Mitsugi Saotome Sensei, trained under the Founder himself, for fifteen years. He is one of the true giants of post-war Aikido. Sensei's mission has been to create a line of "transmission" for the teachings of his teacher and to try to prevent the decline that often sets in after the Founder of a given art passes on. Josh Drachman and I have been greatly honored to be a direct part of this "transmission". We have been admitted to a select group which Sensei refers to as the Ueshiba Juku (named after O-Sensei's first dojo back in the 30's). To Sensei this represents the fact that we are in the direct line of transmission from the Founder, to himself, and then to us. I once asked him if that meant that at some point in the future, one or more of my own students would be a part of the Ueshiba Juku and carry on the "transmission". He replied "Absolutely!"

This is what Aikido Eastside is about. It represents the base of support for a number of us who are trying to attain some level of mastery in this amazing art. It is the place we come to work on our own understanding, it is the place we come to share what we know with the generations who are coming along afterwards. We serve as a support for other absolutely amazing teachers who come through to share their mastery with us and help us along this Path. I don't think that many of our members actually realize what we have here at Aikido Eastside. Often it takes "getting out" to realize what you have. We literally have people moving to our area to train with us. We have people coming from all over the US and even overseas to attend events. Some come specifically so that they can work with our students because they are know to be such great partners for` this training.

But this entire enterprise is dependent on committed participants. Without students who are "hungry", teachers cannot teach, no matter what their level of skill. We are totally co-dependent in our community. A student cannot progress without good partners. Teachers cannot teach without wiling students. Nothing we do is in isolation. People often think that it's not up to them, that someone else will make the effort. They can simply show up to the dojo and learn some interesting stuff, get a bit of exercise, pay dues for the privilege, and go home. If the issue were simply the survival of the Dojo over time, that would be fine. But that isn't what this whole thing is about. A Dojo literally means "Place for the Transmission or Practice of the Way". We have no equivalent in our culture. The success or failure of this transmission is entirely dependent on the people involved.

Aikido, and Budo in general, is endangered. Modern life places ever increasing demands of people's time, we are convinced that we need to fill our time with more and more things, just to keep pace. The number one reason for folks quitting or not training as much as they say they'd like is "lack of time". I have talked with various teachers and virtually all of them say that it is difficult, if near impossible, to find people who wish to train like we trained. Yet the fact of the matter is that every single person who ever mastered some art or pursued a spiritual path had exactly the same amount of time as we do. There have been 24 hours in a day since pre-history. If people allow themselves to become convinced that their time is scarce, then the very things that in an affluent society such as ours, in which we are not completely focused on not starving each day, we could be pursuing, making ourselves better, making our world better, then arts which contain what I call "old knowledge" will simply die out. They may still exist, just as you can see lots of Aikido being done out there, but in fact, there is very little truly deep Aikido being done. The tendency is to shape the art to fill the needs and abilities of the participants. Without a critical mass of committed folks, the art declines. Even the truly committed end up constrained by the fact that there are few who can or will train with them. Their own ability to achieve excellence is dependent on have a place which is supportive of that endeavor and offers an environment focused on attainment.

I realize that only a very few will ever devote themselves to any art the way my peers and I have done. It is the natural order of things that there always be a pyramid of sorts in which the number of the folks at the top is exponentially smaller than the number of folks at the bottom. There are an infinite number of gradations in this "transmission" of Aikido. Some will take their understanding to great depth and others will just touch the surface. Regardless, there is a certain commitment required to really participate in the "transmission". Below a certain level of time and effort, nothing is really happening... nothing is really being transmitted. I have never had the expectation that more than a few of our students will go the distance and run dojos of their own some day. It's a fact that less than ten percent will even stay long enough to get a Shodan. But what I do expect is that when the students are training, they do so seriously. That what they are doing and learning is really at some place along the continuum of of the knowledge we are attempting to transmit.

When people tell me they don't have time to train due to job, family, other concerns, what they are saying is really that it simply isn't important enough for them to prioritize their training. I won't use myself as an example, because I realize that I am not in any way, shape, or form typical or representative. But I think we have one of the finest examples I know of right at our dojo of someone who has managed to combine all of the elements of a typical person's life and still take his Aikido to a highly accomplished level. Alex Nakamura Sensei has had a family, a career, etc and still, he has been on the mat three times a week year in year out for 40 + years. When folks tell me they can't do that, I simply disagree. They could, but they choose not to. This is every person's right and responsibility. To choose. People will each choose differently, according to his or her individual concerns. But everyone should understand that these choices do not occur in a vacuum.

The folks in our dojo represent a tiny minority within our society. The demographics say that only one percent of the populace has any interest in martial arts at all. Of the folks that do train, a very small minority has any interest in the traditional arts, of which Aikido is one. Kids do Tae Kwan Do, and these days young male adults (the bilk of martial arts participants) want to fight and are doing Mixed Martial Arts. So the Aikido community in general represents a miniscule segment of the population. Then, consider that fact that of the many Aikido that do exist, only a small number can offer the chance to attain real excellence. I think it should be obvious that, whereas the numbers would indicate that Aikido is doing ok, not what it was fifteen years ago, but ok... the real issue is that while the art has grown, the commitment level of the students involved in the enterprise has not. Aikido, in the sense that it has anything to do with the art founded by O-Sensei is quite simply endangered. So, in a certain sense, the folks that do train and do care about this art of ours, have a greater responsibility rather than lesser to help save the art from a possible demise. When everyone assumes that someone else will make the effort, that someone else will support that seminar, that someone else will clean the dojo before the guest arrives, that training happens when there's spare time (which there seldom is), art is doomed.

Ikeda Sensei expressed his belief that this is simply an inevitable process. I am simply unwilling to accept that. Our school's mission is to "transmit" the art on some level that the Founder would find respectable, that my teacher, Saotome Sensei, feels justifies the efforts of his entire adult life. The dojo is at a fifteen year low in membership. This is due to the demographic issues I previously noted. Some teachers have reacted to this shift by designing the training to better fit the concerns of the larger population. They create what my good friend, James Bartee (retired Secret Service Agent), calls "happy dojos". These dojos survive because they have made the practice so user friendly that it has very little to do with the art as conveyed by my teacher. Dojos have become social centers where like minded folks get together and interact doing some interesting things and getting some exercise. But when this happens the "transmission" is broken. Nothing of any great depth is occurring, no great skill can be attained. Whatever personal transformation is taking place is very shallow. I will not do this. I have consistently resisted the temptation to dumb down the art to get more students. I have refused to construct our training to make people feel "as if" something of value were happening when it really isn't.

This dojo exists to allow anyone with the talent and motivation to become truly excellent at our art. I fully expect that some of our students will be top level teachers someday, part of the leadership of the art after I am gone. Whether or not people can or will make that commitment themselves, I hope they can see that it is an admirable effort and needs to be supported. I want every single person at our dojo to experience an Aikido that, at least on some level, has "aiki", helps them understand how we are all connected, that gives them some capability martially, helps them to understand Mind-Body-Spirit unification, etc.

Now Josh Drachman Sensei and I are actively on this Path, albeit substantially further along than you. To this end there are things that happen in the dojo that are, first and foremost, geared for our own training. The visits of Howard Popkin, Dan Harden, Ushiro Kenji, etc are really for our own training. We share it with interested folks. If we share the expense collectively, it is maintainable over time. But if it wasn't, we'd be finding a way to do the training anyway.

The Aikido seminars, on the other hand, are largely for you. Whereas I get a lot out of them myself, I don't need to do these for my own progress. But you folks do. In any dojo, there is a dominant paradigm as to how an art is taught, how it is explained and demonstrated. There is a certain point in ones training at which, if you were going to "get it" the way it's being taught, you would have already. Change in perspective is crucial. That's the primary reason there are seminars. Over and over my friends who are teachers talk about how one of their students had some epiphany at a seminar when they finally understood something their own teacher had been saying all along. It was the change in the perspective that did it.
When I invite a teacher to our dojo, I do so because I think that, at some level, this teacher is at the top of his or her game. We have hosted some of the finest Aikido in the world within our doors. When we get to the point at which only a quarter to a third of our membership participates in one of our Aikido seminars, then basically the process is broken. We are in serious danger of losing that critical mass needed to maintain excellence at our dojo. We have some fantastic instructors developing. But I am not seeing where the folks are in the pipeline coming along behind them, progressing in such a way that it pushes the seniors forward, rather than the seniors trying to pull folks along.

Basically, when a certain point is reached at a dojo, where not enough folks are interested in training at the three times a week (consistently) that it takes to progress, when dojo events happen and only a handful support those events, when the same very small group consistently shows up for the work parties that maintain the dojo, then that dojo is in trouble. Now perhaps our dojo is ion trouble because Aikido is in trouble (which is actually my belief) or perhaps there are things we are doing wrong. In any case, I think we need to take a look at what we are doing, why we are doing it, and what we have that so many are envious of and we are treating so cavalierly.

Many of my fellow teachers have solved these issues by being extremely hands on, very control oriented, by building up the "Sensei Mystique" I have always seen that as a trap, personally. When folks start to invest that much in a teacher, there's a point at which that teacher starts to think he or she deserves it. That's a trap and it isn't my style. I have noticed that at none of the dojos at which things are run that way, are they producing top level students who will be leaders in the future. So, in exchange for running a very tight ship with folks who really respect and listen to their teacher, they sacrifice (this is just my opinion) developing students who are independent, capable of progressing on their own, keeping the dojo going after that teacher is gone. I have not done this. I have been purposely low key on the whole "Sensei" thing. I ask the membership to do certain things, they do what they want anyway. It's fairly amusing how, the more I have pushed for certain things to happen over the years, the less likely they were to have happened. That's fine for me. It keeps me humble... no one can think I get too big for my britches when I get so many reminders of how little power or influence I actually have.

But I will say that I feel I have a number of students who look to be better than I am when I am gone. I have a dojo which would survive quite nicely if I were not there tomorrow. I have students whom I have made sure they have the personal relationships with teachers who could help them keep progressing if I were suddenly not around. I have set up blocks of training that have been kept going by the efforts of my students, not by my own efforts. Because I have had a hands off relationship with my students and the dojo, I have allowed those folks with the desire and the capacity to develop into leaders. These leaders within the dojo will someday be leaders within the whole Aikido community. I am not willing to sacrifice that in order to make people more responsive to my own leadership.

...

I have only one expectation of our students... that they are trying to be better. Otherwise they are wasting their own time and money and the time and effort of those teaching them and the partners who are training with them. I don't care how fast someone progresses, that's largely a matter of ability. O-Sensei was once asked which he would choose if he had two potential students in front of him, the one with great ability or the one who would work the hardest. He said that the one who works the hardest wins out every time. I am not asking that folks make Aikido the center of their lives. But I am asking for folks to do the minimum required to progress. I am asking that folks treat their membership in our dojo community as something important to them and not just an after thought. When we have a dojo cleanup, folks should consider it a responsibility of membership to participate, even if they can't actually go to the seminar... We hold three Aikido seminars each year.. just three. Participation of the membership in those three events is expected. Of course I have said this many times before and folks continue to ignore me. But I am saying this once again. IF you have the time, money, and commitment to take advantage of the other training we are offering, then great, bonus training for you. But our Aikido seminars are an integral part of your training and a responsibility of membership. When folks don't participate, they are essentially saying they don't respect me, they don't appreciate the dojo, and the don't really care about their training. When your instructors are telling you how important it is that you show up for an event and you don't bother, you are telling them their opinions don't matter. When I invite a close personal friend to my dojo to teach, a man who turned out 45 or so people when I taught at his dojo, and 2/3 of our own folks do not show up for even a part of the weekend, it is insulting to that guest and it's embarrassing for me. It makes those of us who have put so much of our time and effort into this art feel like we have been wasting our time because so few people care at all.

If you are a member of this dojo you are connected to every other member and the effort as a whole. Choosing to do less than you are capable of holds others back. I am not talking about the extraordinary effort to attain mastery or become a teacher. I am talking about the bottom line, baseline effort required to simply get better and to support the place you require to make that effort and the folks you rely on to do so. There is a point for any art at which the number of folks willing to make that effort can be outweighed by the number of folks who are not. At that point the art either gets dumbed down, which is what is happening to Aikido, or it ceases to be vibrant, developing and it loses it's vitality. Thinking that it is someone other than yourself who will determine which direction Aikido goes is a mistake. It is up to each of us, if we care at all about the outcome.

I have attached a document which has been posted on the board at the dojo for several years. It is supposed to be given to each new member when they enroll but this has fallen into inconsistency. So I am attaching it now for folks to read. I would especially point out the requirements that be met in order to be promoted past 4th Kyu. People are totally free to determine how much they train etc. But it is my job to set the "standard" for the dojo. This is something my teachers told me specifically. It isn't my teacher, or our organization... it isn't in comparison with any other school. It is my personal responsibility to set the standard for my students. So, folks are free to train any way they wish. But, if they wish to get ranking through me and Aikido Eastside, then a certain minimum effort is required. This is an effort standard, not a performance standard. It based on my assessment derived from several decades of practice of what it takes to progress in this art for the average student (not the talented whiz kid or the fanatic).

Thanks for your time. These things need to be said periodically, I think. Some folks have been around long enough to remember several of these, while others may have never heard this all before. I just want people to be conscious and intentional about what they are doing. While these are my expectations, no one is under any compulsion to meet them... that is entirely up to each individual.
- George

(Original blog post may be found here (http://aikieast.blogspot.com/2011/07/hi-everyone-after-much-reflection-in.html).)

robin_jet_alt
07-04-2011, 05:44 PM
Hi George,

While I appreciate the sentiment, I have to disagree on some points. Not everybody has the same amount of time, and we can't all choose our working hours or the length of our commute. I trained 3 or 4 times a week for a number of years, but that was because I had time to. Right now, I work 9 hours per day, commute for 2.5 and cook dinner 7 nights per week. I am lucky to find the time to train on weekends.

I am willing to bet that all of the people you know who are able to train 3 times a week have their partners look after themselves on the nights they are training. That isn't an option for me, and if I am going to train on a weeknight, I need to have dinner in the fridge ready to reheat, and I will usually end up doing the dishes etc. when I get home at 10:30. Then I need to get up at 6 the next morning to make breakfast and lunch.

Where exactly is this time supposed to come from, or am I just being lazy?

Russ Q
07-04-2011, 06:05 PM
Thank you George Sensei....,

To Robin: I think what George is trying to say is you do have time...we all have the same amount of time...it's how you prioritize. I am probably one of those "not so committed" students he is eluding to....I train 3x per week (teaching) I get an extra day when my sensei comes to visit, an extra weekend when George comes up this way and, maybe once a year, I go visit him when he is hosting a seminar. I could train more...I choose to spend more time with my kids, I choose to spend my money, generally, on things other than aikido training. I could choose to spend more time training with the quality instructors that abound in the Pacific Northwest, I could choose to spend more money doing just that....these choices would have consequences I would rather not face. My choices, I realize, are not bad, good or indifferent...they just are. That's today....I hope, as my children grow, as my income grows I can make choices more suited to my desire to progress in this art.

My two cents,

Russ

sakumeikan
07-04-2011, 06:25 PM
Hi George,

While I appreciate the sentiment, I have to disagree on some points. Not everybody has the same amount of time, and we can't all choose our working hours or the length of our commute. I trained 3 or 4 times a week for a number of years, but that was because I had time to. Right now, I work 9 hours per day, commute for 2.5 and cook dinner 7 nights per week. I am lucky to find the time to train on weekends.

I am willing to bet that all of the people you know who are able to train 3 times a week have their partners look after themselves on the nights they are training. That isn't an option for me, and if I am going to train on a weeknight, I need to have dinner in the fridge ready to reheat, and I will usually end up doing the dishes etc. when I get home at 10:30. Then I need to get up at 6 the next morning to make breakfast and lunch.

Where exactly is this time supposed to come from, or am I just being lazy?
Dear Robin,
I do realise you have very little spare time.However may I suggest that perhaps you could train one hour [say two/three times ]midweek ?As far as meals are concerned and washing dishes, you could buy a takeaway meal/go to a cheap restaurant and you would not have to think about piles of dishware.
What Mr Ledyard is saying is that his group fail to understand the importance of supporting the dojo /course.Aikido is more than just a night out , wearing fancy gear , and so forth.To fully understand Aikido one has to be committed , make personal sacrifice[money /time] while at the same time[and this is important ] maintaining a good connection with family etc.You must learn to practise both Big Aikido and Small Aikido.
May I say that I also have the same issues as Ledyard Sensei?
Many a night I turn up at my own dojo and find I am in a minority of one /two.You can take a horse to the water etc.Funny enough the students expect the teacher to be there , but with a few exceptions,
I see some students one night then I dont see them for a week or two.And as for seminars my colleagues and I [6thDan /4th dan /two 3rd Dans and a Shodan]host a bi monthly area course.We charge for 4 hours training the princely sum of between 9 dollars/15 dollars.
Hardly excessive prices-yet we struggle to get more than 16 people.
And that includes visitors from other groups.No one receives a course teaching fee, we use this money to try a fund other events.
In conclusion I sometimes think that some of the newbies at Aikido have no real idea of what aikido is.The old timers like Ledyard Sensei understand the nature of Aikido and what it means to be
a Sensei and leader.Without men like Ledyard Sensei the legacy of O Sensei may well end in the not too distant future.
To the younger generation, step up to the plate.Give back what you have been given by your own teachers to future aikidoka.
Please do not think I am personalising this issue, simply saying that sometimes with a bit of planning one can utilise time better.
Cheers, Joe.

graham christian
07-04-2011, 07:21 PM
Hi George.
It's me, the outsider here. Hope you don't mind me giving a few thoughts from the outside.

I think I understand what you're saying here and agree that now and again we have to do something we don't feel quite comfortable with, with regards to others. I call this 'time for the sword' albeit in essence it's a compassionate sword really.

That's my summary of the above, read with admiration.

That brings me to solution. We can't really expect others to have Aikido as their world and yet we may expect certain things from them. This as I see it is the dilemma you face.

Maybe it's a lesson for you to learn? Hear me out on this.

It is your 'world' your 'dream' that you are creating and running with goals for the future. Now in your world the rules are put there by you and when things don't go as planned it's review time. I say this just so you know how I'm thinking and that it moved me to write.

Your communication alone may be enough for the future plans. If you feel it isn't then how about this idea:

You could have it as part of your grading system that all students at the different levels have to have attended a certain amount of seminars to progress.

This of course would work both ways, it would mean you have to do more and more have to attend.

Note please this is not my way but given as food for thought that may help or not.

At worst it's just unasked for banter from that guy in the hat.

Regards.G.

robin_jet_alt
07-04-2011, 07:27 PM
I really do understand what you are all saying about prioritizing, and I admit that I am currently prioritizing, food, work and family over aikido. All I mean to say is that I doubt Alex Nakamura sensei for example is expected to do all the cooking in his household. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he could finish his training session, go home and have a snack and a cup of tea waiting for him. That makes a very big difference. I really don't think we should be making judgments about each other's choices unless we can walk in their shoes. There is a difference between someone who doesn't train regularly because they can't be bothered, and someone who doesn't train regularly because of other responsibilities.

In my own personal circumstances, if my wife and I were to eat takeaway 3 or 4 nights per week, I think we would quickly develop health problems, which would also hinder me from training. Not to mention the fact that it would just be gross. As things stand, I haven't been on the mat for about a month due to everything I've mentioned plus illness and things like going to a friend's wedding. I am literally itching to get on the mat. It really isn't due to a lack of will. I would much rather be on the mat than on these forums for instance.

JO
07-04-2011, 07:45 PM
I don't think the amount of training an individual does is that important to the maintaining of the art. The focus of that person during training is much more important. I prefer those that come out once a week and give it all they got over those that come 3 times a week (every class in my dojo) but train with the intent out a sleepy slug.

Commitment, priorities. Big words. I usually train 2 or 3 times a week (2 hour classes). The dojo is only open 3 days a week, so schedule conflicts have a huge impact on my training. I have a full time job and 3 young kids, plus my wife is also a member of the dojo. Me and my wife can't both make it to each class. The babysitter costs alone would do us in. So we take turns and do what we can. This week I can't train at all as I must stay home alone with my 2 year old (wife working out of town). On the other hand, each of my children have sat by the mat as babies as their parents trained. Could I do more, probably. But not without decreasing the input into my family, something I am unwilling to do. However, I try not to let anyone outdo me on intensity and focus on the mat. That I can do every time I manage to make it out. It takes nothing away from my other commitments.

And to those working on the "Happy Dojos" and George puts it. This will do you in in the medium term I think. Those that would put in the work gradually drift away for lack of intensity and challenge, leaving only the slugs. The most successful dojo I know personally tends more towards the higher intensity of things. An aikido dojo that still attracts the young hard cases that have always been the lifeblood of the martial arts. When I visit there I am not always physically fit enough to keep up with the most intense students. It's a nice change of pace really.

phitruong
07-04-2011, 09:52 PM
those who follow the way are slowly disappearing. nothing can withstand the passage of time. i wonder what aikido will be 20 years from now.

ninjaqutie
07-04-2011, 10:07 PM
I didn't see the attachment you mentioned that is hung in your dojo... did I miss something? Maybe it was incorporated into the post and I just didn't catch on.

dps
07-04-2011, 10:51 PM
You are disappointed, you chastise and expect more commitment of time and money from the people whose dues pays your salary.

Isn't that biting the hand that feeds you?

dps

Janet Rosen
07-04-2011, 10:54 PM
In terms of how many times one can train per week/month ... sometimes for some people it really is a matter more of convenience than need and really reflects priorities (just as for some people they complain about not having money but always have the latest tech toy, or highest price cable tv option, or a stack of new books on the coffee table or plenty of cigarettes and beer on hand...whereas when some complain about not having money, they may have actually chosen between dojo dues and putting new tires on the car before winter)... what I also carry away from George's post is the "somebody else will do it" attitude from dojo members, as if their dues were just membership in a health club and NOT part of actively supporting a dojo community. To me this is inexcusable ... there is always a half hour *somewhere* in the week one can do a run for needed supplies or dust the shomen or whatever, even if you can't necessarily get in for an extra class or even if you are nursing an injury.

Chuck Clark
07-05-2011, 12:18 AM
I started to echo what many others have written... well, they nailed it pretty well. Budo practice can fit in these times, but we have to each create our own practice. The hard part is that this is an individual practice that requires others to take part, and there's the rub...

"Don't Quit, and Don't Die"

Best regards,

George S. Ledyard
07-05-2011, 01:43 AM
Hi George.
It's me, the outsider here. Hope you don't mind me giving a few thoughts from the outside.

I think I understand what you're saying here and agree that now and again we have to do something we don't feel quite comfortable with, with regards to others. I call this 'time for the sword' albeit in essence it's a compassionate sword really.

That's my summary of the above, read with admiration.

That brings me to solution. We can't really expect others to have Aikido as their world and yet we may expect certain things from them. This as I see it is the dilemma you face.

Maybe it's a lesson for you to learn? Hear me out on this.

It is your 'world' your 'dream' that you are creating and running with goals for the future. Now in your world the rules are put there by you and when things don't go as planned it's review time. I say this just so you know how I'm thinking and that it moved me to write.

Your communication alone may be enough for the future plans. If you feel it isn't then how about this idea:

You could have it as part of your grading system that all students at the different levels have to have attended a certain amount of seminars to progress.

This of course would work both ways, it would mean you have to do more and more have to attend.

Note please this is not my way but given as food for thought that may help or not.

At worst it's just unasked for banter from that guy in the hat.

Regards.G.

Hi Graham,
Thanks for the response...

I don't think you can do what I do and not constantly get thrown up against yourself and your desires and expectations. Virtually nothing happens quite the way one wants nor do folks generally feel the need to meet your expectations.

I have thought a lot about this. I am quite capable of seeing what it is that people would like and could find a way of creating that. I am absolutely sure I cold have more students and the dojo could thrive in a way that it has never done. I have never been quite willing to make those changes. I have experimented with what is possible within certain self imposed limitations. But these explorations have taught me that there is a point at which I am unwilling to structure what I do differently, just to make the whole enterprise more "popular" or financially successful.

I think that this touches on the nature of leadership and what that entails. I was told by Sensei when I was just a white belt that he was "training leaders". I have chosen to follow that path.

I think a leader is someone who moves along a path and encourages others to follow. He or she cannot make anyone pursue that same path. But whether or not anyone anyone else at all follows along behind, one keeps going because it is ones path to do so. I think it is incumbent on leaders to make an effort to communicate to those that might follow along just why they should be making the effort.

As you move "up the mountain", as Ikeda Sensei puts it, you discover an array of things that one who has not gotten to the same point will not yet have experienced. Part of being a leader, I think, is trying to point the way to what the student might accomplish if the effort weren't allowed to come up short. Some levels of effort will not now, or ever, even allow you to glimpse the top of the mountain while other levels of commitment might give at least a sense of what could be had. Someone has to tell the students what that is... even when they won't like hearing it.

Anyway, I have changed vastly over time... I have been running a dojo now for 25 years. I am far more positive and "user friendly" now than when younger. I am far less judgmental about the choices folks make. I just think it is incumbent on me as a teacher to let my students know what the expectations are when they train at my dojo and hopefully develop an understanding that these expectations are not arbitrary but are based on my experience and my own estimation of what it takes to get out of the art at least a bit of what could be had on some deep level and what is required to support a dojo community that is serious about pursuing an Aikido that has both depth and breadth. O-Sensei was once asked which he would prefer, a student of great ability or one who would work hard in his training, He said that he'd go for the student who would work hard every time.

What we face today is something of a crisis of s different order than what he was referring to. Aikido is in danger of becoming an an that does not attract either the student of great ability or the student who is willing to work hard. It is in danger of losing the very characteristics that make it Budo and morphing into something that is just a hobby done by nice folks in their spare time.

This discussion needs to be had, over and over. Each teacher will decide for himself or herself what it is they require from their students. Each student will decide what he or she is willing to do. The main thing I want is for people to be clear about what they are doing. I have yet to hear anyone state that they are doing "Aikido-lite". Not one person... yet there are a set of choices that one can make about his training which virtually guarantees that Aikido-lite is the only thing that is happening.

That is not what I am trying to teach, that is not what I am personally pursuing, and it is not what our dojo is about. So periodically clear explanations of what I personally am trying to accomplish and certainly, what my expectations as chief instructor are need to be made. People can then decide for themselves what to do about it all.

George S. Ledyard
07-05-2011, 01:46 AM
I didn't see the attachment you mentioned that is hung in your dojo... did I miss something? Maybe it was incorporated into the post and I just didn't catch on.

I didn't attach it in the Blog... it's just something I like to give out when folks sign up. The issues were covered her anyway...

robin_jet_alt
07-05-2011, 02:05 AM
Hi Graham,
I have yet to hear anyone state that they are doing "Aikido-lite". Not one person... yet there are a set of choices that one can make about his training which virtually guarantees that Aikido-lite is the only thing that is happening.

I will be the first then. I think I am quite clear about the degree to which I am choosing to engage, and the amount I am likely to get out of it. I hope one day to be able to engage to a greater extent, much as I was able to do in the past. For now I am merely treading water, and I don't expect to progress much beyond where I am.

So, there you go. I am doing "Aikido-lite"

Tim Ruijs
07-05-2011, 02:14 AM
Dear George

I have read your letter with much interest.
The points you bring up are common to every dojo, I think.

For a long time I have had the feeling/the urge to grow, get a big dojo. But after a while I realised that the students you then get are not that committed. So you can have a small dojo that struggles to come by but generates (hopefully) quality and committed Aikidoka's or you have a more popular larger dojo with perhaps lower quality. Mind you, I do not imply to say that you cannot have a large dojo and good quality, but I do think that is very hard to achieve intentionally. It is hard to be humble, stay true to the Way and still get a group of committed students.

Somewhere along the line you mention that "you choose the way to become a (great) leader". But leadership requires to inspire, motivate members. I have not read your take on this, would you care to share your view on this, how you do this?

All things said and done....
My teacher pushes me to grow. He says to practise with a lot of different people is good and you cannot ever know which student will have long term commitment. When asked how to reach the 'right' people; he lacks an answer and says your view on Aikido is completely different from theirs....this is what I struggle with to the day:D

Also there has been one badly attended seminar, but to organise it on Mothersday has not been the smartest thing...:crazy:

George S. Ledyard
07-05-2011, 02:19 AM
You are disappointed, you chastise and expect more commitment of time and money from the people whose dues pays your salary.

Isn't that biting the hand that feeds you?

dps

David,
For one thing, people are paying me to be members of the dojo which is a place dedicated to teaching Aikido and carrying on a transmission that started with O-Sensei and came to me through my teacher.

If, as one might assume, they are paying to learn the art, then it is my job to make clear what needs to be done to do that. Not doing that job would be taking their money under false pretenses.

I can set up all of the opportunities to make progress and potentially achieve excellence but it is up to the student to decide whether to take advantage. It is possible that students of less experience don't understand why they need to make a particular effort, why it certain experiences are crucial to their Aikido development. So it needs to be stated.

I don't get why it is that in so many other activities, it would be considered absolutely normal for a teacher to demand a certain effort and, if that expectation were not met, the student would be asked to leave. Bela Karolyi taught gymnastics for many years and turned out champions on a regular basis. Does anyone think he accepted just anyone into that training? People had to be "accepted" into that training. They paid a lot of money just to have him demand their best. It was his job to demand their best and show them how to achieve that. Why is Aikido different?

If I were to find myself a top level piano teacher, does anyone think for a minute that he or she would put up with anything less than my full effort? The money I would pay for having such a teacher would be wasted if that teacher did not care enough to demand excellence from me. Is Aikido not at least as valuable as some other practice which has depth and requires great effort to achieve excellence?

I understand that my perspective is different than many others, because of who I trained with and because of the fact that I am a professional instructor. In my case, the local Seattle area has well over 20 dojos in the immediate metro area. There are multiple dojo choices open to any student wishing to train. Each of these dojos will have a different expectation, each will see its mission differently.

It is my job to set my expectations for my dojo and my students. I take the fact that they pay me to teach them Aikido VERY seriously. I have done my level best to set up a program which makes that possible. If people are paying me to learn Aikido but are not dong what needs to be done to do so, it is only doing my job to let folks know what I do feel is necessary. There are plenty of places folks can go which set an entirely different standard and have vastly different expectations. But if they join my dojo then it is up to me to set the standards and to let folks know when they are not meeting them. That is precisely what a professional teacher gets paid for. Not doing so is almost fraudulent as far as I am concerned.

guest1234567
07-05-2011, 02:24 AM
O-Sensei, the Founder, actually believed that through Aikido, the whole world could be brought into a state of harmony; he called our art "The Way of Peace". For him, Budo was a life and death matter. Given the right level of commitment one could truly become a better person, less fearful, stronger, braver, more compassionate. One could, in his or her own Mind and Body understand that everything in the universe is essentially connected.
Hi George,
I'm not your student, but I'm a student in a dojo that grows progressively. And I fully agree with Grahams post.These are just my humble thoughts and I do not want to bother you in any way.
All the best
Carina

Tim Ruijs
07-05-2011, 02:41 AM
You could have it as part of your grading system that all students at the different levels have to have attended a certain amount of seminars to progress.

This of course would work both ways, it would mean you have to do more and more have to attend.

I have practised in a dojo that actually does this. People have left because of this. They said the dojo became commercial and had moved away from traditional ways of teaching an art :(
People could only do exams on specific saturdays (seminar), for which a fee had to be paid. So you had to pay to attend the seminar and you paid for the exam. Sure this brings in the dollar (or euro in our case)...

Hellis
07-05-2011, 03:55 AM
Dear George

I had a wry smile as I read your post, as with Joe I see many of the problems that affect Aikido today.....Today students want a dojo within walking distance of their home with times that fit in with their favourite TV programmes. In the 1950's the first visitors to the Hut Dojo which was the only Aikido Dojo in the UK - Ralph Reynolds and a couple of students would drive down from Birmingham every Sunday morning for a two hour practice - this was a time when there were no motorways and would have been a four hour drive each way..As assitant to Ken Williams Sensei I had to be at the dojo every night - I would get home from work and then run two miles to the dojo...Now I see students arrive just minutes before the class starts and do not seem surprised to find that someone else has put the mats down for them..
Changing values I guess.

Henry Ellis
British Aikido
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/

Tim Ruijs
07-05-2011, 04:18 AM
Reading the responses I cannot help but think that perhaps our culture has changed/is changing. In the past (not so long ago?) people put in more effort to 'get' something. Nowadays there is this consumption mentality: quick and easy, available everywhere 24/7 at low prices.

To no ones surprise this mentality also reflects on Aikido.
One could argue that the old way (Way?) is dying and time has come for perhaps a modernised version of Aikido?
Earlier I said:
It is hard to be humble, stay true to the Way and still get a group of committed students.

guest1234567
07-05-2011, 04:32 AM
Dear George

I had a wry smile as I read your post, as with Joe I see many of the problems that affect Aikido today.....Today students want a dojo within walking distance of their home with times that fit in with their favourite TV programmes. In the 1950's the first visitors to the Hut Dojo which was the only Aikido Dojo in the UK - Ralph Reynolds and a couple of students would drive down from Birmingham every Sunday morning for a two hour practice - this was a time when there were no motorways and would have been a four hour drive each way..As assitant to Ken Williams Sensei I had to be at the dojo every night - I would get home from work and then run two miles to the dojo...Now I see students arrive just minutes before the class starts and do not seem surprised to find that someone else has put the mats down for them..
Changing values I guess.

Henry Ellis
British Aikido
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/

Hi Henry,

As Bob Dylan says "For the times they are a-changin'." ;) Anyway, I drive 15 min to my dojo after an 8 hours job and attending my family.
And if everything goes well I'll go 3 times to Tenerife this year, the neighbour island(more than 2 hours by ship or 15 min flight + the time you must be before at the airport and the drive of 30 min to the dojo), to attend several seminars(the last in november with Frank Noel Sensei) and the flight to the south of Spain in Granada 1750km from where I live to a seminar of Endo Sensei, because he is worth it.
Best
Carina

raul rodrigo
07-05-2011, 05:49 AM
What? "Biting the hand that feeds him"? Wouldn't that reduce George's relationship to his students a purely economic one? Isn't that tantamount to saying that basically, "their money, their rules"? That can't be right. It's George's dojo, his rules. The people who won't bring the effort and dedication should really bring their money elsewhere.

sakumeikan
07-05-2011, 06:15 AM
Dear George

I had a wry smile as I read your post, as with Joe I see many of the problems that affect Aikido today.....Today students want a dojo within walking distance of their home with times that fit in with their favourite TV programmes. In the 1950's the first visitors to the Hut Dojo which was the only Aikido Dojo in the UK - Ralph Reynolds and a couple of students would drive down from Birmingham every Sunday morning for a two hour practice - this was a time when there were no motorways and would have been a four hour drive each way..As assitant to Ken Williams Sensei I had to be at the dojo every night - I would get home from work and then run two miles to the dojo...Now I see students arrive just minutes before the class starts and do not seem surprised to find that someone else has put the mats down for them..
Changing values I guess.

Henry Ellis
British Aikido
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/
Dear Henry,
When I first started Aikido and travelled the length and breadth of the U.K to train with Chiba Sensei I often slept on dojo floors, under hedges , in my car .Looking back it was grim, but
the effort was worth it.Too many people expect things to be put on a plate for them nowadays.No pain No gain is my mantra.Aikido
in the 70s was gruelling.Now some dojos are more like social clubs.For those who have been uchi deshi of Chiba Sensei at San Diego Aikikai [for example]each of these students know through their experiences what it takes to be a skilled aikidoka and a future leader of the aikido fraternity.Sacrifice of time, endurance , commitment, enthusiasm and will power.The students also need a Sensei/s who lead from the front, never asking any student to do anything that the sensei/s would not do,one who inspires people.
We as aikidoka have a duty to maintain and preserve our aikido lineage.Many aikidoka before us some sadly deceased spent their lives transmitting the art to the younger generation.
No one expects everyone to have this frame of mind , but without present day teachers understanding this mindset aikido will diminish and be diluted . As I see it this is a potential problem and needs addressing now.
Cheers, Joe.

sakumeikan
07-05-2011, 06:21 AM
Hi Henry,

As Bob Dylan says "For the times they are a-changin'." ;) Anyway, I drive 15 min to my dojo after an 8 hours job and attending my family.
And if everything goes well I'll go 3 times to Tenerife this year, the neighbour island(more than 2 hours by ship or 15 min flight + the time you must be before at the airport and the drive of 30 min to the dojo), to attend several seminars(the last in november with Frank Noel Sensei) and the flight to the south of Spain in Granada 1750km from where I live to a seminar of Endo Sensei, because he is worth it.
Best
Carina
Dear Carina,
Your commitment to the art is commendable.Should I visit the Gran Canaria, I will look your dojo up.i did visit a dojo in Gran Canaria, but there were no classes on at that time.It was a nice dojo.I also visited Tenerife many years ago to conduct a Seminar .I was invited by Mr Brown, who at that point in time was residing in Tenerife.If my memory is ok the Dojo was in a Gym.
Cheers, Joe.

guest1234567
07-05-2011, 06:35 AM
Hi Joe,
Mr Brown brought the Aikido to the Canary Islands and Cesar Febles, the teacher of mine, who has his Dojo in La Laguna(Tenerife) was his student too, before Mr. Brown left. After that César found Frank Noel Sensei in Toulouse and invites him once a year( since aprox 15 years ago) to give us a seminar in one of the two islands. You will be very welcome to our dojo in Vecindario aprox 15 min driving from the airport, our teacher likes the visits very much:)
Take care
Carina

sakumeikan
07-05-2011, 06:40 AM
Hi Joe,
Mr Brown brought the Aikido to the Canary Islands and Cesar Febles, the teacher of mine, who has his Dojo in La Laguna(Tenerife) was his student too, before Mr. Brown left. After that César found Frank Noel Sensei in Toulouse and invites him once a year( since aprox 15 years ago) to give us a seminar in one of the two islands. You will be very welcome to our dojo in Vecindario aprox 15 min driving from the airport, our teacher likes the visits very much:)
Take care
Carina
Dear Carina,
Thanks , if I visit your neighbourhood , you are my first port of call, Best Regards, Joe.

JO
07-05-2011, 07:06 AM
.
I don't get why it is that in so many other activities, it would be considered absolutely normal for a teacher to demand a certain effort and, if that expectation were not met, the student would be asked to leave. Bela Karolyi taught gymnastics for many years and turned out champions on a regular basis. Does anyone think he accepted just anyone into that training? People had to be "accepted" into that training. They paid a lot of money just to have him demand their best. It was his job to demand their best and show them how to achieve that. Why is Aikido different?

If I were to find myself a top level piano teacher, does anyone think for a minute that he or she would put up with anything less than my full effort? The money I would pay for having such a teacher would be wasted if that teacher did not care enough to demand excellence from me. Is Aikido not at least as valuable as some other practice which has depth and requires great effort to achieve excellence?

.

here we touch on an important issue. In piano and gymnastics, the best of the best expect to really make it big. the best teachers can attract people who will pay them individually enough to cover a yearly salary in the hopes of the big time. the top judo dojos don,t have to put up with lazy students to survive because there are enough people chasing Olymnpic gold to keep the system running.

In aikido, even the highest level professionals can barely get by. There are shihan level guys out there surviving on day jobs. Alos there is no ysytem to train professional level instructors in a timely fashion (meaning they are good enough to make a living out of it by the age of 25). In such a situation it is hard to get quality people to put in the effort. I would love to teach aikido as a living. But don,t know how to get to that level without dropping everything else, which leaves the problem of finding a way for my kids to eat and have a house to live in.

Right now, high level aikido is surviving due to a few fanatics that love the art and sacrifice a lot for it. That is a fragile system.

Demetrio Cereijo
07-05-2011, 07:54 AM
What we face today is something of a crisis of s different order than what he was referring to. Aikido is in danger of becoming an an that does not attract either the student of great ability or the student who is willing to work hard. It is in danger of losing the very characteristics that make it Budo and morphing into something that is just a hobby done by nice folks in their spare time.


Then bring the Budo back.

New age kumbaya singing in skirts are gone. Welcome to 21 century.

I think the future is in offering the aikido that was taught back in the day by people like Abbe, Chiba, Mochizuki, Abe, etc. People will put the time, effort and sweat if they receive a functional Budo.

The sacrifices done by the people Henry or Joe mentioned in their posts were done because these people received quality training on exchange.

Today's people is not lazy, they are putting similar effort in MMA, BJJ, Kickboxing, etc, because they are receiving what they are paying for: intense, hard and functional martial arts training.

Marc Abrams
07-05-2011, 08:01 AM
It is not surprising that many people have a hard time understanding where George is coming from. People need to step back and look at what percentage of the population in Japan were direct students of O'Sensei. How much did these individuals have to sacrifice to learn directly from the founder? How many of those direct students are alive today, yet alone teach every day?

Those direct students have (had) worked hard to pass down a very special legacy. How many of the people in the Aikido world who are associated with any of those direct students, are actually direct students of those teachers, with a substantial amount of time with direct training with those teachers?

If people are luckily enough to have had the opportunity to be a direct student of one of direct students of O'Sensei, how many of them have made the sacrifice and commitment to try and get as much of the "gift" that is (was) being handed to them and are now trying to pass this "gift" on to the next generation?

George is one of those very few people. Joe, Henry and others know what George is experiencing. I am at a earlier point than they are, but know full-well the weight of trying to pass on a legacy (in my case, with Imaizumi Sensei). The sad part is a larger reality that very, very few people will chose to try and live up to and pass down a very special legacy. Martial arts were really not suppose to be taught on the large scale that it is today. The people who seek deep transmission will always be few and the available teachers who can do so, will also be few. If you are in the position that George is in, the weight of responsibility only gets heavier as we get older. Who will "wear George's shoes?" Who wants to make that kind of commitment? George has every right to challenge his students to reach as high as possible. George has every right to expect at least a few of his students will try and reach their teacher's level of accomplishments (and hopefully higher). George has every right to expect even the casual student to know that being a casual student in that dojo still has obligations and expectations that exceed a membership at a gym.

People like George really care deeply about their sense of responsibility and obligation. Students of George (and the other teachers like him) should let their students "appreciate" the weight of the endeavor. Being challenged, tested, pushed, goaded, etc. is somehow not seen in the same light as it use to be. Maybe too many people are too soft on themselves and others? Maybe people judging George should step back and recognize that there is nothing more that he and others like him want than to have our students strive like we have, sacrifice like we do, and hopefully take what we have given and go beyond where we have gone. If that is too much for people to understand and appreciate, then they should train at another school where life is simply easier.

Marc Abrams

guest1234567
07-05-2011, 09:56 AM
Hi Marc,
I think everybody understood the point of views of George, Henry and Joe, but as a few people posted times change and we should adapt to them. Would it not have been much better to encourage people to come to the next seminar by telling all the positive things that happened in this one? Just a thought:sorry:

phitruong
07-05-2011, 10:29 AM
Would it not have been much better to encourage people to come to the next seminar by telling all the positive things that happened in this one? Just a thought:sorry:

i am sure George would have done that already with every seminar. he took his responsibilities seriously. it wouldn't matter though. the U.S culture has become a fast food, instant messaging, entitlement culture. we are spoiled. in many of the third world countries, you open a dojo and you have to keep folks away; membership and participation aren't a problem. i think we should move to third world countries and open dojos, where folks fight for the foods, instead in the U.S. here they want to be spoon fed.

guest1234567
07-05-2011, 10:35 AM
Hi Phi,
Do you think Gran Canaria is in the third world?
Ok we are pretty close to Africa;)
Best
Carina

phitruong
07-05-2011, 11:27 AM
Hi Phi,
Do you think Gran Canaria is in the third world?
Ok we are pretty close to Africa;)
Best
Carina

by the look of Gran Canaria, i think i should move there instead. speedo thong for gi? :)

sakumeikan
07-05-2011, 11:29 AM
Dear All,
In my Aikido career I have seen at first hand the sacrifices made a some people in promoting / transmitting aikido .
People such as Henry Ellis, DerekEastman, Mick Holloway , George Girvan , Bill Smith, Terry Ezra ,Ken Williams to name a few in the U.K.
sacrificed time , money and energy to promote Aikido.I could name a list of others, but I do not want to make this a whos who.Others overseas included Norberto Chiesa, Daniel Brunner, Juba Nour , Nobu Iseri[sadly missed ] ,Jack Arnold, Gloria Nomura, and many more sensei I know all gave of their time and energy
Many Japanese sensei such as K.Abbe, Chiba Sensei, Tamura Sensei , Murashige Sensei [both father /son] Shibata Sensei, Noro Sensei and others did much to transmit Aikido to Europe/U.K. /U.S.A and eastern europe .Without their industry and commitment to the art , we would not be where we are today.
There are now emerging countries where Aikido is welcomed.These include Tunisia, Algeria, Russia , Turkmenistan , Poland ,Iran etc where there is a growing Aikido community.Maybe these groups will enable to ensure the future of Aikido?I certainly hope so.
Cheers, Joe.

George S. Ledyard
07-05-2011, 11:41 AM
Dear George

I had a wry smile as I read your post, as with Joe I see many of the problems that affect Aikido today.....Today students want a dojo within walking distance of their home with times that fit in with their favourite TV programmes. In the 1950's the first visitors to the Hut Dojo which was the only Aikido Dojo in the UK - Ralph Reynolds and a couple of students would drive down from Birmingham every Sunday morning for a two hour practice - this was a time when there were no motorways and would have been a four hour drive each way..As assitant to Ken Williams Sensei I had to be at the dojo every night - I would get home from work and then run two miles to the dojo...Now I see students arrive just minutes before the class starts and do not seem surprised to find that someone else has put the mats down for them..
Changing values I guess.

Henry Ellis
British Aikido
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/

Hi Henry,
When I periodically reach my limits and sound-off, it's always the old-timers who seem the most sympathetic. I usually get several PMs saying some version of "right-on".

I go back to 1981 in Seattle. Back then there were three dojos, not the twenty + there are now. Only one of those dojos had a seminar or two in a year. My buddies and I hot anything that was held within a ten hour drive, which was Vancouver, BC down to Arcata, CA (Tom Read) over to Mizzoula, MT. If it happened within that circle, we were there.

I had a demanding job as a men's wear buyer for Eddie Bauer. I bought all their sweaters at one point. When they re-located me from DC where I was training with Saotome Sensei, he told me to find Mary Heiny Sensei in Seattle. They knew each other from Japan. So I trained with her. But Heiny Sensei didn't do weapons work nor was she interested in the martial application side of the art so when Bookman Sensei came back from Japan, I trained at both dojos, paid dues at both, and hit every seminar I could get to.

Seattle grew like crazy back then... My commute to the dojos in Seattle got longer by ten minutes or so each year. By 1989 when I finally opened my own school, it was taking an hour and ten minutes to get to class in Seattle. I could get on the mat just as warm-ups were ending. I did this 6 - 7 days a week.

I had every VHS tape on Aikido available and owned and read every book on Aikido that had been printed up to that time. This represented a substantial investment in those days. The amount of good information available today compared to back then is off the charts.

So, when I teach a seminar and ask who has read anything by the Founder and three people raise their hands, I find it rather incomprehensible. I'll have folks who run dojos who haven't read any of the writings Peter Goldsbury has posted here in AikiWeb. Nor have they ever had a subscription to Aikido Journal. They know little or nothing of our art's history. They have only the foggiest notion of the philosophical / spiritual underpinnings of the art. And these folks are teaching.

One of the teachers whose seminars I attended recently stated that Aikido would be far better off if half the people were training than currently are and they trained twice as seriously as they currently do.

Comments have been made that folks are doing MMA and other styles rather than Aikido because they feel they get what they pay for, i.e. some demonstrable competence martially. I think that is true. You can feel like you get capable in MMA in a very short period if you train hard. The guys we see on prime time TV have mostly trained for four or five years, if that. You simply can't do that in Aikido.

I think more people would be patient and stick it out if their teachers were actually martially competent. But the fact of the matter is that they aren't. Basically, at least here in the States, young men, who used to provide the bulk of the new student population, simply are not doing Aikido (very small number of exceptions). So we have a steadily aging population. This changes the art. You end up with a population of folks who are physically past the point at which they can continue to train hard physically.

This is the natural progression of things. Martial arts has always had its population of experienced oldsters, who paid their dues when young and now impart their hard earned wisdom to the young men and women who train like maniacs, perhaps unwisely in some cases as I think we did. The smartest of these youngsters actually pay attention to these seniors despite their suspicions that perhaps they are over the hill. Every once in a while an uppity junior finds out just what 40 years of experience actually means and that too is a part of the learning.

But now, I teach at dojos at which the average age is in the 40's. New students come in to sign up who are already past the point at which they could do they kind of training we did. Then, the small number of young students who do train get drawn away by Systema or MMA, or whatever. The see that other arts offer capability faster, other arts offer greater depth of knowledge, even offer up a deeper possibility of personal transformation than what Aikido, as it currently exists seems to offer.

There is some amazing stuff happening right now in Aikido. You have 6th and 7th Dans actively taking their art, after 35 or 40 plus years, into whole new areas. These folks are drawing from Daito Ryu, from Systema, from T'ai Chi, even MMA. They are revitalizing our art. Aikido has the potential to regain what it had back in the day when O-Sensei was alive. But there have to be students who are hungry, who REALLY want it, or we will end up with teachers who have made huge jumps and no for them to pass the knowledge off to.

I was watching some old summer camp video of Ikeda Sensei teaching back in 1896. He has taken his Aikido to several dimensions beyond that... completely different now. Yet, what struck me most forcibly was that very, very few of the folks I know have even managed to get as good as he was then, much less up to where he is now. That's 25 years of training and little to actually show for it. And the folks I am talking about are mostly teachers. What does that say about their ability to shepherd a younger generation of students to a future in which Aikido is anything but a nice social exercise, a hobby for middle aged folks to do in their spare time?

It's possible that the whole enterprise is doomed. It's possible that the world as currently constituted simply isn't suited for Budo or the pursuit of ones personal "Michi". Certainly one can see that most folks have an expectation that what is demanded of them in their practice be adjusted to what they feel they can or wish to do and not the other way around. I constantly get people saying, "I'll get back to class as soon as things ease up at work." Well, things aren't gong to "ease up" at work. By the time your kids are out of the house, you are well past your prime for training. So if you are waiting until they are out of college to get back to the training you say you love so much, you will never be as good as you could have been and will never take your training to a very high level.

Every time I post something like this, a number of folks reply that they are doing what they can and that it isn't really their intention to be instructors or open dojos, etc. They just like training and fit it in as they can. While that is fine for any given individual, even a whole base group of individuals, the art requires that the majority be striving for excellence or the art declines. There has to be a critical mass that can train intensively and is willing to train frequently enough that they can actually get to what I call the "goodies" in the art. I don't see that happening currently.

I have absolutely no "power", no "authority" to force any change. I can't even do that within my own dojo much less in the broader Aikido community. I write to try to get the dialogue going. Perhaps there are some folks who might be influenced by this but I expect not. Most folks will probably just think I am being bitchy and unreasonable. It is what it is... But I am disinterested in pretending that things are ok when they aren't. As far as I am concerned there's been far too much smiling and nodding, too much I'm ok, your ok, going on when the standards were steadily declining. The folks who really did have some power, some authority to effect this decline failed to do so. Folks from my generation simply do not have the kind of investment from the general population that would allow us to push things in a different direction.

But I will not go along pretending that everything's just fine. I won't do it just to be popular or get more seminar invitations. I won't do it to grow my dojo population at the expense of the quality I have personally spent my whole adult life seeking. I posted the letter to my students on the Blog. not because I thought that many folks would agree and take it to heart, but because I expected very few to do so. People need to be clear about what they are and are not doing and how their own decisions actually do effect the art.

It still comes down to that old saying, "If not me, then who? If not now, then when?" If we are all just too busy to save the things that are really worth saving, then what are we doing? What will we look back open at the end of our lives?

sakumeikan
07-05-2011, 11:44 AM
Hi Phi,
Do you think Gran Canaria is in the third world?
Ok we are pretty close to Africa;)
Best
Carina

Dear Carina,
Your not in the third world. We might qualify for that distinction here in the U.K.With our extremely open borders I do wonder at times whether I am living in the U.K. or elsewhere.To say Britain is a multicultural society is an understatement of the decade.
Cheers, Joe.

guest1234567
07-05-2011, 11:51 AM
Dear Carina,
Your not in the third world. We might qualify for that distinction here in the U.K.With our extremely open borders I do wonder at times whether I am living in the U.K. or elsewhere.To say Britain is a multicultural society is an understatement of the decade.
Cheers, Joe.

:D :D :D I know, I have an EU passport;) And as Phi said, many people would like to live here!
Cheers,
Carina

ninjaqutie
07-05-2011, 11:51 AM
I have attached a document which has been posted on the board at the dojo for several years. It is supposed to be given to each new member when they enroll but this has fallen into inconsistency. So I am attaching it now for folks to read. I would especially point out the requirements that be met in order to be promoted past 4th Kyu. People are totally free to determine how much they train etc. But it is my job to set the "standard" for the dojo.

Sorry George, I took you TOO literally I guess. :o

I think what George is striving for would certainly be the ideal. The problem is, not many people are willing to live the way needed to make aikido their way of life. I am ashamed to say that I am nowhere near this "ideal" student. Unlike many others, I have no kids and my husband also does aikido. I do have a dog that needs to be cared for, so that does take a bit of planning. I do have a full time job working in a forensic lab and my husband and I do our best to fit aikido in.

The dojo has classes five days a week and I am only able to train three days (though I used to train four before I got injured- my body can't handle four days again yet). I live about 18 miles from the dojo, which takes me about a half hour to make. When I was mandated to take two months off from class, I still paid dues and went and watched when my husband trained and I also helped out with cleaning and fundraisers if there were any. The issue I had, was that I could not justify driving that far, sitting out and watching the classes that my husband wasn't able to attend due to work. My husband and I are struggling financially to make ends meet and like others have mentioned, I choose save the gas money in order to have the bills paid instead of putting in mat time.

We do give up a lot in order to pay our $200 a month dues, but I am sure someone could easily state that we could be more frugal in order to go to more seminars and train more often. We could give up cable and internet and oh.... get rid of the dog and I'm certain we would be able to afford a bit more.

Despite the fact I can not be as dedicated as I would like, I try to make an effort to be the best student I can be. I am one of the students that used to be very reliable. If it was Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday, you would see me on the mat. For a while, there were only about three students who would show up on a regular basis and there were many times where my instructor and I had private or semi-private lessons because no one else showed up.

My biggest hope is to return to my previous schedule once I am finally able. My foot just can't handle the training schedule that I had before. If I had the time and money, I would love to ditch work all together and join an unchideshi program or kenshusei program, but unfortunately, neither of those is in the cards for me at the moment. As it is, I hardly see my husband and if I were to take on a kenshusei program when I am able, my husband would never see me. Would he understand, I believe he would, but my marriage is very important to me.

I am truly inspired by those who can and are able to dedicate their life towards aikido. It is an admirable thing and when I walk in and see my dojo more or less empty, I am saddened. There is another aikido dojo not too far from mine and their mats are always packed (or so I hear). It is my impression that they run their dojo with a completely different attitude and that things are a bit more laid back then ours, but I can't say for certain since I have never gone. It is a shame that there are so many excellent teachers with empty mats... or they have a student population that chooses not to train on a regular basis for one reason or another.

I guess the bottom line is we all have choices. Some of our choices we have various options to pick from. Others we do not. Some choices just... are. For those of us who truly can't afford to go to seminars or train as often as we'd like because we need to pay bills, get new tires, work late, etc a bit of leniency would be appreciated. Then again, most instructors know who those students are and appreciate those students presence when they can make it.

All in all, great blog George.... a lot to think about. Thanks.

George S. Ledyard
07-05-2011, 12:15 PM
Today's people is not lazy, they are putting similar effort in MMA, BJJ, Kickboxing, etc, because they are receiving what they are paying for: intense, hard and functional martial arts training.

I think you are absolutely correct that it isn't that folks today are "lazy". Clearly, they are willing to train at certain things quite hard and take it to the limit i doing so.

My generation pioneered the spread of Aikido. We were coming off the Viet Nam War and that infused my generation with a certain sensibility. I truly believe that the reason Aikido spread so quickly and so broadly was that people really did find O-Sensei's message of a Budo that was about creating Peace, that was non-violent (whether correctly understood is another thing) to be very compelling.

I think it is interesting and perhaps just a bit distressing that the young folks today are more interested in "fighting" and less interested in the content of an art. It isn't just Aikido that is hurting. All traditional training has experienced a decline of interest as MMA has caught the imaginations of the younger generation.

I could see it coming way back when Brad Pitt was in "Fight Club". It was a sensibility that was largely absent from much of my generation. It wasn't that there weren't fighters around. If you did martial arts in one of America's urban areas, especially back when the crack cocaine epidemic hit, you were probably most interested in functional self defense. That meant poking, gouging, breaking, and finishing things quickly and brutally. The whole beating the crap out of each other as recreation simply wasn't part of the zeitgeist.

The Koryu have taken care of this problem by keeping their numbers really small. There are arts in which the total number of practitioners in the country number under fifty or so. When you are that "exclusive" you can usually find enough folks willing to be really serious about an art that the training can be kept at a high level. Folks are simply expected to meet a certain standard of commitment and skill or they don't get promoted. The standard doesn't get adjusted to the preferences of the students. And the shifts in demographics simply do not have the same effect in the koryu because they simply do not require o even want the kinds of numbers we have in Aikido much less the kinds of numbers one sees in MMA etc.

There are folks who have set up smaller sub communities within the larger Aikido community and treat what they do almost like a koryu. I think a teacher like Chuck Clark Sensei is a fine example. His network of dojos isn't huge but the quality level is uniformly strong and consistent. He has a methodology that is demonstrably effective in passing on what he wishes to pass on. he has created a "transmission" that has ensured that after he passes the process will continue. Once again, it's quality over the numbers.

I really believe that, if we do our jobs properly right now, today, those young folks who are off pursuing their "fighting" arts will eventually return to us. For one thing, doing what they are currently doing, they won't last more than ten years before they are physically trashed. I have friends running dojos who are already seeing young men coming in with knees and shoulders blown out. It's taken them seven to ten years to do what it took me 35 years to accomplish.

Anyway, I think that as these folks mature, they will start to see what depth there is in an art like Aikido. They will want to keep training but will need to find something less physically destructive. If there is an Aikido that has quality and depth waiting for them, they will return to the art. But they won't come back to an art in which they cannot find that depth, in which they walk in to a given dojo and know just from looking at what's going on that they could take the teacher and not break a sweat. They may come around looking for an art that won't trash them the way their "fighting" has done but they won't be willing to pursue something that is simply wishful thinking taught by folks who don't know what they are dong martially.

George S. Ledyard
07-05-2011, 12:20 PM
Dear Carina,
Your not in the third world. We might qualify for that distinction here in the U.K.With our extremely open borders I do wonder at times whether I am living in the U.K. or elsewhere.To say Britain is a multicultural society is an understatement of the decade.
Cheers, Joe.

Hi Joe,
It's the price you guys are paying for owning half the world back in the day. We don't do that... we just go in and blow stuff up for while then go home. We tell ourselves that we did it for their own good and that they should be grateful that we did and we don't take much of any responsibility for them later on. Works well...

Hellis
07-05-2011, 12:24 PM
Hi George
It is like our own kids, you try to give them all the things we never had - it just does not work.
In the 1950s our dojo was the only Aikido dojo in the UK - Initially the students did not come to us, we had to go out and find em - Can you imagine how tough it was visiting Judo Clubs and showing them Aikido for the first time - those guys would not fall down on request - I can just imagine if we had turned up doing Aikido with ribbons, we would have been strangled with them.
We owe so much to the Judoka who allowed Aikido classes in their dojos - we travelled all over the UK to teach for free, often sleeping in the car . Last year Chiba Shihan invited the last three Aikido pioneers to lunch at the Hut Dojo pub ( next door ) He said that todays Aikidoka have no respect or appreciation for what we had achieved in those early days - I agreed with that - at the same time I no longer care as I know that it was a wonderful time in my life..
Sadly for me I am seeing so many of my old Aikido brothers pass away almost monthly. I have no regrets.

Henry Ellis
British Aikido
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/

Janet Rosen
07-05-2011, 12:51 PM
George, as one of the middle aged, way past prime beginners, I totally get what you are saying - I know I'm not the future of the art. And yes, multiply me by many many others and it isn't a pretty picture....IF one expects the art to grow in numbers or to stabilize in numbers. I have a feeling you may be right that there will end up being a de facto schism between a larger number of dojos essentially offering "aikido lite" and a smaller number of dojos able to adhere to more rigorous and correct aikido. The saving grace will be that, thanks to the internet, it will be easier for the latter folks to keep finding each other, sharing resources, training together, etc.

Personal note....I've pretty much structured and lived my life in such a way as to have accumulated neither money nor regrets when my life ends...but there is no getting around one HUGE regret - that I didn't come to aikido when I was a very healthy, active, strong 20 year old w/ no other responsibilities.

Kevin Leavitt
07-05-2011, 01:09 PM
Ledyard sense I, I think you hit on some very good points and observations in post 36. I really cannot comment much other than to say I agree with your observations.

My own experiences as I have discussed with you on occasion over theyears have pretty much death with many of these issues. Mainly how do i best spend my time in budo.

As you know I split my time between BJJ and Aikido.

I have discussed many of the same issues you raise with Lasky sensei over the last couple of years. He tells me stories of t it used to be like in the old days with Saotome sense I and how hard you guys used to train. It is absent in many respects as you know for a number of reasons you raise aove some good and some bad.

I think there are alot of factors going on there the reasons and again. I agree with your assessment above.

I have been fortunate to be able to spend my time wih the folks at A here in DC..the guys you grew up with and they all have much to offer. Like you it escapes me that there are so many that fail to see what these old guys have to offer.

That said. I think for better or worse the modern things like systema and BJJ are hitting a demographic that is taking the young guys in and providing them with the level of energy and fight that they are looking for. for. from the stories that Mike Lasky has told me, I feel many of these guys would have been in the Takoma dojo in the old days. However, I don't think that outlet or dynamic is there today.

Anyway. I appreciate your insights and thanks for sharing as usual.

Aiki1
07-05-2011, 01:12 PM
Hi George:

"I have only one expectation of our students... that they are trying to be better."

A simple statement, but really, not at all. Clearly, and understandably, you have something in mind as to what this means. You later state:

"We hold three Aikido seminars each year.. just three. Participation of the membership in those three events is expected."

So, that's one thing that, to you, seems imperative to "trying to get better." That's great. But I see it as Your responsibility, as the instructor, to see that carried out in action, because it's Your expectation. Nothing wrong with it in my mind, but it's perhaps unrealistic at some level to put the responsibility for your own expectations on others without making it extremely clear that their adherence is a necessity - the course of events bears this out. And if it isn't a necessity, then either people will feel they are getting mixed messages and be confused, and/or you may continue to be disappointed.

Later you also state:

"But I am asking for folks to do the minimum required to progress."

Again, to me a reasonable thing to "ask" of people, but unless it's explained explicitly, and your expectations made clear as requirements, I see a lot of different potential responses from people in their behavior.

You also write:

"I am asking that folks treat their membership in our dojo community as something important to them and not just an after thought."

Absolutely. Right on. :) But - this may mean something different to each and every person in the dojo - indeed, it may not even be understood by some. Although I am not particularly a "follower" of D. M. Ruiz, in his book "The Four Agreements" he states something I think relevant, and applicable here:

"Be Impeccable With Your Words

Don't Take Anything Personally

Don't Make Assumptions

Always Do Your Best"

To go on, something you wrote early in your piece stood out for me:

"Sensei's mission has been to create a line of "transmission" for the teachings of his teacher and to try to prevent the decline that often sets in after the Founder of a given art passes on. Josh Drachman and I have been greatly honored to be a direct part of this "transmission". We have been admitted to a select group which Sensei refers to as the Ueshiba Juku (named after O-Sensei's first dojo back in the 30's). To Sensei this represents the fact that we are in the direct line of transmission from the Founder, to himself, and then to us."

I find this…. difficult. Not in concept or context, but in….. what I find to be universal assumption. To me, each person that studied with O Sensei passes down the art that they perceived from his teaching and their experience. I am somewhat familiar with Saotome's teaching over the last 30 years, and what I have learned and what I do and teach is rather different. My style originates very directly from O Sensei as well, and contains aspects of Aiki that I still have not seen…. many others doing. Does that make mine the true lineage? Not to me. Perhaps I'm reading something that isn't there, but if any of your expectations of your students come from some sense that you are the holders of the truth of what O Sensei taught, this is a setup for disappointment. To me, it is A truth, not The truth, as is what anyone else with any credibility is likely teaching, in their own way. There's another issue here to be sure, but I am pointing to what I consider to be an assumption that might be cause for reflection.

Lastly, you wrote:

"It is a unique art. It is not a "hobby", it is not a "sport", it is not a "workout", it is a Michi, a Way."

This is how I see things as well. But if you have an expectation that every one of your students feel this way, than personally, I would screen them to make sure they do, and not let anyone in the dojo who feels differently. Because not everyone is even capable of feeling this way, let alone will. It's your choice to set things up the way you want to, and this includes how you relate to other people's experiences and perspectives, and the boundaries that you are willing to both create and put up with.

Sincerely,

Aiki1
07-05-2011, 01:29 PM
One more thing. I see things this way. As an instructor, it is my duty to teach people to be at least as good as I am at Aikido, otherwise I haven't passed down the art to the fullest extent, and the next "generation" will lose something, and so on, and the art get's diluted and dies. However, as good as some people are getting in my dojo, I am really ultimately only looking for one person to get it fully. One day, that person, whoever it ends up being, will be better than me, and my style will be passed down and evolve intact. The good thing is, there are actually several who are really getting it, and a very high level. And much sooner in their training than ever before. This is a good thing, and reinforces my sense that the teaching/transmission is getting better as well. The more the merrier…. :)

graham christian
07-05-2011, 01:55 PM
Hi George.
Glad you received my response in the spirit it was given.

On reading the posts and your responses I would like to run an idea past you.

I see how the world and times and cultures have changed etc. and how it could be better in another part of the world. Also how students attitudes compared to the past are different. All these 'reasons'

Now I'll say the general complaint is that the 'budo' must be maintained or put back in but the problem is how and then as you say how comes other fields don't have this perceived or real problem?

Well I think the answer is staring everybody, I mean teachers, in the face but are they willing to do it? The answer is indeed under the banner of budo and can be seen if we look at budo as discipline.

Now everybody agrees that discipline isn't what it used to be. why? It can only be that teachers aren't putting it there. The question is how to do it, how to get students to put it in and the answer I'm going to give you is to do with organizational structure.

One aspect of it only. What is the aspect of organizational structure which brings about discipline?

Rules, specific rules called policy. Policy is operational rules. Those rules which everyone has to abide by. They are thus different from me or you saying something, that may be opinion, orders etc but not policy. Nothing to do with 'let's make more money' but everything to do with showing these are the disciplines to be followed or don't come.

Thus they need to be written down as policy or else students will make up their own. That's the simplicity of it I think.

The necessity is greater because youngsters are not used to taking responsibility and those that are will look at them and it will make perfect sense to them.

The biggest barrier to doing so is us. However, if we feel that something is needed and beneficial and that all will benefit from it then we must make it policy or else we are denying them the discipline for which they seek. Policies can be to do with timekeeping, behaviour, attendances and to what, etc. etc.

In my humble opinion this is the hard part of leadership unless you are fortunate enough to live in a time or place where others don't need to be told.

It's our own giving in to that leads to these situations no different to giving in to a child with sweets and ending up with a spoilt kid.

My 2 cents more. G.

jonreading
07-05-2011, 02:24 PM
I saw this post elsewhere and I appreciate Ledyard Sensei's comments. It's sometimes difficult to voice the elephant in the room and it certainly makes you a target.

Church attendance is down. Charity is down. Everywhere you turn we advocate that someone else should fix our problem. Give me money. Give me food. Give me cable TV. Give me. Give me. Give me. Give me aikido? What happened to teach me how to care for myself?

When you have to ask a student to make themselves better, doesn't that already highlight the problem? When you have to remind a student to pay dues or attend class, doesn't that tell you what they would rather not do? Hell, I got an app on my iPad that reminds me to watch my favorite programs. Do I really need sensei to remind me to pay my dues?

I do not entertain these types of argument because frankly I do not wish to validate the array of excusatory answers that one hears. Many serious aikido people sacrifice much in order to excel at their training. I do not allow others who sacrifice less the satisfaction of comparison.

Prioritize where aikido stands in your life. Truthfully express that priority with others so they may account for it in their actions. Why is this so difficult? I see seminar after seminar where students train and cannot understand what sensei is doing. I may see these students at the same seminar year after year NOT getting the same techniques over and over. What should Sensei take away from watching a student unsuccessfully perform techniques for years? A friend of mine has a saying about any of the ASU camps where you are in front of the big guys. Whatever you do not pickup during the seminar, find one thing and work on it until you get it so next time Sensei sees you, you'll have improved in at least one aspect.

My instructor says that you cannot hide who you are on the mat. You can talk and gesture, and drop names, and go to seminars, and in every respect falsify who you are. But when you step on the mat you cannot hide who you are. I asked Hooker Sensei one time why he starts so many of his seminars with ikkyo or another simple technique. He said it was because he could evaluate the level of everyone in the room with such a technique.

Budo is a personal endeavor. Somehow we have turned sensei into a Richard Simons-esque cheerleader that we pay to stay at our side and cheer us on. Regardless of we make any progress, pay our dues and keep moving along and Sensei will cheer us on. Well, no class tonight so I can't budo; I'll just see what's on TV. Sensei not in class? Well, he's the only one that can teach so I'll skip class. I knew about a seminar 3 months in advance but something came/will come up. Bullshido. Sensei is trying to impress his capitalist attitude on me so I will retort by ignoring my financial obligations. I am not chastising anyone for their commitment to aikido, I am simply saying that we need to be honest with our level of commitment and our level of expectation.

Mark Gibbons
07-05-2011, 02:45 PM
If I can't live up to my Sensei's expectations - I'm done.

If I can't live up to my own expectations - I'm done.

Why waste everyone's time?

Mark

Tim Ruijs
07-05-2011, 03:39 PM
Jon

I took some highlights from your post
What happened to teach me how to care for myself?

Prioritize where aikido stands in your life.

What should Sensei take away from watching a student unsuccessfully perform techniques for years?

...find one thing and work on it until you get it .... you'll have improved in at least one aspect...

...it was because he could evaluate the level of everyone in the room with such a technique.

... be honest with our level of commitment and our level of expectation.

I believe that part of the problem is the level (or lack) of commitment of the teachers. A teacher should motivate and inspire his/her students. In the early days a (relative) handful of teachers were available and were of high quality. Those wanting to learn Aikido followed them wherever, whenever and however possible. Nowadays there are much more 'teachers'.
The base of the pyramid has grown a lot. Today those who want to learn Aikido often locate the nearest (cheapest?) dojo and start.
Back in the day chances were good you end up with a proper teacher, chances are not so good anymore today.

I also firmly believe that those really committed to learning Aikido will find their way.

Bryan
07-05-2011, 03:40 PM
My dojo is very small, an addition built onto my instructors home. There are only 3 classes per week, with 2-5 students at a time. As senior student, anytime the instructor cannot hold a class I offer to teach best I can or even just take ukemi for other juniors. I don't like to miss any classes if I can avoid it. There are no other Aikido dojos in town so I supplement my training by visiting dojos in Portland Or, just across the river, when I can. Traffic is challenging. I also try to make as many of the intensives and guest seminars hosted at Ledyard Sensei's dojo.

I have never been a full time student of Ledyard Sensie, but I travel the 3 hours to Seattle/Bellevue as often as I can stretch my schedule and funds. I've been doing so for several years now. Lately I have the mixed fortune of having extra time, but this also comes at the expense of less income. I am also very fortunate to have an understanding wife.

The quality of training available at Aikido Eastside is phenomenal. George keeps his word to continually provide the highest level of training available to his students. I would never be able to afford to travel to all of the high level of guest instructors he invites to his dojo. Every month there is at least one 'can't miss' opportunity going on. I wish I could attend them all, but that would surely lead to a trip to the marriage counselor.

I can attest to the fact that Ledyard's expectations of his students are very clear. I've seen the document he's referring to posted right on the bulletin board as you enter the dojo. He also spends a lot of time talking about it during and after training. To put it politely, it is obvious to even the most casual observer.

I can also attest to the fact that not only does George tie the philosophy and principles of Aiki and Aikido to life as 'a way', but he is also very committed in maintaining the martial aspects of Aikido as a Budo.

Regards
-bryan

graham christian
07-05-2011, 03:55 PM
Jon

I took some highlights from your post

I believe that part of the problem is the level (or lack) of commitment of the teachers. A teacher should motivate and inspire his/her students. In the early days a (relative) handful of teachers were available and were of high quality. Those wanting to learn Aikido followed them wherever, whenever and however possible. Nowadays there are much more 'teachers'.
The base of the pyramid has grown a lot. Today those who want to learn Aikido often locate the nearest (cheapest?) dojo and start.
Back in the day chances were good you end up with a proper teacher, chances are not so good anymore today.

I also firmly believe that those really committed to learning Aikido will find their way.

Tim, good pertinent points. I agree with both. Our success is blocked only by ourselves. Add to this that quality far outweighs quantity, therefore looking in terms of numbers can always be a false path.

Another point here, if culture has changed and more youth are on drugs or poor or even into computers, that's no reason not to reach those groups and offer what could help them in their lives. How many just discard various 'types' of people through their own 'blindness' and thus wonder why no-ones coming? As with my last post, without wisdom we make policies which make us fail.

Regards.G.

Janet Rosen
07-05-2011, 05:39 PM
Prioritize where aikido stands in your life. Truthfully express that priority with others so they may account for it in their actions. Why is this so difficult? I see seminar after seminar where students train and cannot understand what sensei is doing. I may see these students at the same seminar year after year NOT getting the same techniques over and over. What should Sensei take away from watching a student unsuccessfully perform techniques for years?..... But when you step on the mat you cannot hide who you are. I asked Hooker Sensei one time why he starts so many of his seminars with ikkyo or another simple technique. He said it was because he could evaluate the level of everyone in the room with such a technique.

Thank you for the whole post, I'm just snipping the part I liked the best....the whole thing was worth reading and pondering.

RED
07-05-2011, 07:03 PM
Aikido is about love. Duty is about love. Service is about love. Love is a choice, a verb, a commitment, not JUST a feeling. IMHO We prioritize the majority of our time in the service and pursuit of that which we love. Aikido is no different from work, family or country in my personal view. The definition of Aikido is service in my opinion. The things I love have the priority over the hours of my day.
And there is no shame in some one saying that their duty to their children, family etc takes priority. Love is what fuels our service and duty.
I love Aikido.

"A man's real belief is that which he lives by. What a man believes is the thing he does, not the thing he thinks". -George Macdonald

Mary Eastland
07-05-2011, 07:06 PM
Hi George:

I really appreciate your openness and how you speak from your heart.

I see your commitment to Aikido in your writing and after meeting you at Marc's dojo I now can put your writing into context with your spirit. Your dedication to the art if commendable.

Students and teachers who are commited to Aikido are such a gift to a dojo and the art as a whole.

Ron and I focus on those that come to train. We practice "positive mind" with commitment. Is is so very easy and very tempting to slide away from this practice by judging "what is."

Who ever shows up at a class or seminar is the perfect combination for that particular day. That group of people, gathered at that time, at that dojo, with that teacher is what is perfect because it is what happened.

You can feel embarassed if you need to, though it is not a reflection on you. Do you get embarrassed when a river floods or a volcano erupts? People are part of nature. We can ask for what we need, which you did, and then we can let go of the results. Then we can be fully present for the training that is happening in the moment.

I hope you were able to enjoy the seminar without a minute of regret for who was not there.

Best,
Mary

George S. Ledyard
07-06-2011, 12:59 AM
Hi George:

I really appreciate your openness and how you speak from your heart.

I see your commitment to Aikido in your writing and after meeting you at Marc's dojo I now can put your writing into context with your spirit. Your dedication to the art if commendable.

Students and teachers who are commited to Aikido are such a gift to a dojo and the art as a whole.

Ron and I focus on those that come to train. We practice "positive mind" with commitment. Is is so very easy and very tempting to slide away from this practice by judging "what is."

Who ever shows up at a class or seminar is the perfect combination for that particular day. That group of people, gathered at that time, at that dojo, with that teacher is what is perfect because it is what happened.

You can feel embarassed if you need to, though it is not a reflection on you. Do you get embarrassed when a river floods or a volcano erupts? People are part of nature. We can ask for what we need, which you did, and then we can let go of the results. Then we can be fully present for the training that is happening in the moment.

I hope you were able to enjoy the seminar without a minute of regret for who was not there.

Best,
Mary

Hi Mary,
I normally do exactly what you suggest. The student who I haven't seen for six months gets my full attention just as the student who I see every day. My tirades are only periodic expressions of things I feel need to get said... than I go about my daily business which is training myself and trying to pass on what I have figured out to ANYONE who is interested.

I loved meeting you and Ron. There are folks like you all over if one looks. People who absolutely love the art and are devoting themselves to it transmission. The fact that we all have different takes on what the art is and how it should be passed on just guarantees that the "Aikido gene pool" stays diverse and the art remains "alive".

If we all network and exchange, share our knowledge and insights with each other, I think that it is possible that at least collectively we could exceed what any individual, even perhaps the Founder could attain. Anyway, while I do concern myself with what has been lost in Aikido, I also believe that we have something truly unique in our art. Aikido has the potential to be an art of tremendous depth with the power to really transform the lives of the folks who seriously pursue it. It is a treasure.

This is why I often get a bit frustrated when people settle for so much less than is offered. It's right there in front of everyone. All they have to do is make the effort and they can have the "goodies". What they might have from Aikido is not something they will find just anywhere. It is special!

I also get really upset when I see the whole "Japanese" mystique thing in action. I can have Saotome Sensei out and have a hundred people on the mat without even working to publicize the event. No more than a handful of these folks will have a clue what he is doing and his explanations demand a high degree of understanding already to be comprehensible. But I can have someone like Gleason Sensei to my dojo, a guy who is functioning at the highest level and who can actually really teach you to do what he is doing and not a single person from another dojo will bother to show up.

So I can invite an absolutely top notch teacher to do a seminar at my dojo and have the event barely break even, if that. If I had one of the Japanese teachers, I'd be turning people away. The actual learning possibilities are probably greater for the vast majority of the students with the American teacher. But everyone wants to bask in the presence of the Japanese guy, even if they walk away having no clue what the guy was dong all weekend.

That's why I get embarrassed. The folks I bring in are at the top of their game. If they weren't, I wouldn't have invited them. Some of them are folks who have hosted me at their dojos. When I was there, there may have been 40 to 50 people on the mat. The welcome I received, the effort I was given, was so gratifying that when I have failed to be able to reciprocate, that maybe a third of my own students turned out for the seminar, I think it is embarrassing. I certainly do take it personally.

Of course we who are actually attending the seminar get fantastic training with lots of personal attention. It's great to have a wonderful teacher all to ourselves... But I am still conscious of what is being implicitly stated about how we treat our home grown American teachers. I am aware of how training is less about what one is actually learning, how one is really getting better, and more about being in the "presence" of some Japanese teacher who either cannot or won't actually be able to help one get better.

Anyway, there are for me a number of vexing factors that contribute to my periodic expressions of frustration. Once I have vented, I get back to the business at hand. I think I have seen the result of letting these frustrations take control and produce an isolated and embittered teacher. I know several of these and I am not going to be one myself. If I can make things better through my efforts I certainly will. But I don't really have the time or energy to stop more than an instant once in a while and vent. Folks will respond or they won't. In the mean time, the folks that really do care are training and getting better. That's the way it goes.

philipsmith
07-06-2011, 04:22 AM
I go back to 1981 in Seattle. Back then there were three dojos, not the twenty + there are now. Only one of those dojos had a seminar or two in a year. My buddies and I hot anything that was held within a ten hour drive, which was Vancouver, BC down to Arcata, CA (Tom Read) over to Mizzoula, MT. If it happened within that circle, we were there.

And I guess therein lies the problem.

I too remember the times when we had to travel to train.
When I got my Shodan in 1976 there were only 74 Yudansha in the UK (I know because I was no 75!) and only one 6th Dan Shihan i.e. Chiba Sensei. Now I don't know how manyYudansha there are and my own dojo has 2 6th Dan Shihans as it's main instructors. Maybe the realissue is that there's a lot of Aikido around compared to when we were young (er)

DanielR
07-06-2011, 06:01 AM
Thank you for this important discussion, George Sensei.

Judging from the events schedule at Aikido Eastside, there's a weekend seminar almost every month at your dojo, sometimes even two times a month, always with outstanding instructors. This being the Seattle area, there are other great seminars that take place at other local dojos throughout the year. It's a great problem to have for a dedicated Aikido student, but could it be that a substantial part of it is that practitioners in your area simply have to make some hard choices as to which seminars to attend?

Peter Goldsbury
07-06-2011, 10:06 AM
Hello George,

I read your letter as your latest blog and have also read it here, together with all the responses. Of course, I have a few questions.

First, the letter was written as an open letter, and these letters tend to be rhetorical, but have you actually received any responses from your target readers: your own students?

Secondly, you mentioned that Mr Saotome was training leaders and trying to prevent a decline in the art after the pioneers had gone. However, there is an ambivalence here, which is highly relevant to the issues you raise in the letter. Hence a sharp question: As a Hombu deshi, was Saotome Sensei's allegiance primarily to Morihei U or to Kisshomaru U, or did he see them as two sides of the same coin? One can reframe the question in even sharper terms: Did Saotome Sensei have to pay for his training as a deshi, or was he supported by Kisshomaru?

My context here is a remark by a certain Hombu shihan, now deceased, to the effect that postwar deshi did not have any money and this is why Kisshomaru had to take a job in Tokyo, immediately after the war. (When he found out, Morihei U was shocked in a way that a Tokyo (Edo) samurai would be shocked, because his son was in a type of employment utterly unbecoming of a samurai--in this case a budoka, with all that this involved--regardless of any economic circumstances.) However, it was simply not possible to rely on the tiny income from the Iwama dojo and O Sensei's genius as a smallholder—and Morihei U seems not to have realized this. So, the ‘certain Hombu shihan' studied for a while, but had to leave and return later, because they could not afford to keep him.

Even though I have done much research and talked to many people, I am not quite sure whether the following scenario is entirely correct. In the days of the Kobukan, uchi-deshi had to be recommended by two sponsors and also had to pay for their training and upkeep. There was no fixed fee, however, and some members paid very much, to counter-balance those who could not pay so much. There were also some very wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors, who were an essential component of dojo finances—-and this explains why the Kobukan had to become a foundation for tax purposes: in Japan, even nowadays, no one donates money unless there are tangible tax benefits.

So, in the heyday of the Kobukan, O Sensei could really choose those who he would admit to train in his dojo. He was exclusive—-and very famous: and the Kobukan was a budo Harvard.

Now, fast-forward to the late 40s and early 50s. O Sensei was pottering around in his smallholding in Iwama, seemingly unconcerned about promoting aikido, and Japan was in dire economic straits. Kisshomaru was faithfully carrying out the mission he had been given to keep the Tokyo dojo running and it was he—and the same wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors--who decided to resurrect the earlier tax-free foundation. Only now, the aims would be completely different. Aikido would no longer be the preserve of the wealthy upper classes, who had the means to train hard all day, but would be available to everybody, as a healthy and fulfilling activity: exactly the right activity to help Japan to get back on its feet. And, since Japan had been defeated by the allied powers, notably the US and Britain, there was really no problem in sending deshi to these countries to spread this new postwar art of aikido and show them that there was something good about Japan and its culture. I am still researching here, but I believe that this was a huge 'paradigm-shift' for an art like aikido, which eschewed competition (contra K Tomiki), but aimed to offer the chance of acquiring top-quality budo knowledge to everybody who wanted it.

Now I think that Kisshomaru assumed that the Hombu training these deshi had received would simply see them through in the end, but I think you can see the issues here. K Chiba, with whom I had long conversations many years ago, faced the problem of how to train the modern, foreign, counterparts of Hombu deshi, but also earn enough money to survive. He had a kenshusei system. Kenshusei trained much harder than the general dojo population and received recognition; they were earmarked as future instructors. Other postwar Japanese deshi who went to live abroad, like M Kanai, seem not to have followed this system, but also had their own, more subtle, ways of recognizing potential instructors.

So this leads to the third question. I believe it was also K Chiba who used the metaphor of roots, trees, branches, and leaves to characterize an art like aikido. I am sure there are many ways you can apply the metaphor, but a view of the tree above ground presents the trunk, the major boughs, the minor branches, and the leaves. All are necessary to enable the tree to survive as a tree, but all have their respective functions. A pretty ruthless application of the metaphor to a dojo relegates the leaves (ordinary dojo members) to budding every spring and withering away every autumn. The trunk always survives and grows each year. As do the bough and branches, which sprout new leaves. Actually, this is a pretty good metaphor for a Tokugawa-era martial art, which is biologically fixed, but it leaves open some interesting questions, such as how, for example, a leaf from one tree can become a branch of the same tree or of another.

If we consider the tree analogy in relation to your own dojo, do you treat everyone the same, as potential leaders, or do you maintain an unofficial ‘class' system, with differing expectations / obligations placed on the branches and the leaves?

Best wishes,

PAG

George S. Ledyard
07-06-2011, 10:45 AM
Thank you for this important discussion, George Sensei.

Judging from the events schedule at Aikido Eastside, there's a weekend seminar almost every month at your dojo, sometimes even two times a month, always with outstanding instructors. This being the Seattle area, there are other great seminars that take place at other local dojos throughout the year. It's a great problem to have for a dedicated Aikido student, but could it be that a substantial part of it is that practitioners in your area simply have to make some hard choices as to which seminars to attend?
This is certainly the case... and the other dojos do not have more "serious" students than I do. I have had several conversations wit my friends who run dojos and their experience does not really differ from mine in that it seems very difficult these days to find folks who can / will train as we trained when we wee young.

Now that may be the central issue. It is young people who typically can train like maniacs. They may not be married, typically do not have kids, mortgages, huge insurance, and blah, blah, blah so they can devote themselves to building that solid foundation that carries them through the later stages of their lives when perhaps they can't train six or seven hours a day.

If you have a situation as we do now, when people begin their training already in mid-career, with relationships and families and all that entails, well they never get the chance to put in the time and effort that we did. I think this has serious implications for the art.

In my own case, I understand that all of the local dojos hold their own events and their students pretty much feel that's their limit. I have developed overlapping communities which support our events. The Aiki / Internal Power work has a core of folks from my dojo which is augmented by out of town folks fro Eastern Washington and Oregon. Collectively, we can bring Dan Harden and Howard Popkin Senseis out three times each a year. The seminars barely break even but since they are about my own training as well as everyone else's I just need it to be close enough that I don't have much out of pocket.

Because of the plethora of Aikido in my area, and the fact that most folks tend not to train outside their own group, I need my students to really step up and support the Aikido seminars we hold which are three in number. I can't afford to subsidize these events out of my own pocket nor should I have to do so. The number of students I have training at the dojo is fully sufficient to support our events in-house and any folks who coe from outside are just gravy.

I treat my dojo as a resource for the larger Aikido community. Ihold one seminar each summer in which I invite teachers whom I know but are perhaps less well known around. I want to support American teachers of Aikido and I use that seminar to give people exposure. These are top level folks. Yet I'll turn away people when I have Ikeda Sensei and worry about whether we'll break even when it's a non-Japanese teacher. That's even true when it's Gleason Sensei in the Fall.

Anyway, it is what it is and I am absolutely cognizant of the fact that we are pushing the envelope in terms of what we can support. The larger community is starting to realize what we have going on and in many cases I am more likely to have someone jump on a plane and attend one of our events than I am have someone from another local dojo attend. I think that's fairly ironic but it is what it is.

Sacha Cloetens
07-06-2011, 11:17 AM
Hi George,

Just a thougt
Aren't those commiting, actually beeing financialy punised?
If - in surplus of regular dues - your students attending seminars at your dojo - have to pay extra fees, won't you end up with a financially reversed pyramid ( vs overall membership pyramid)?

If overall dues were a little higher, would you be in the possibilty to organise the 3 seminars at your dojo " for free" for your regular students?
If people don't attend, it's their loss - they already payed for it...
If they do attend, they're not extra charged for showing up....( so they put in only extra time & effort ;-) .... )

That way merely showing up is actually rewarded rather than being extra burdened, ...its not always the same guys, paying the most often....

Don't you think its a little weird, a student who can show up on any given day of the week ( & has excellent tutoring on these days - fulfilling all his needs - getting plenty of individual attention - ) at the dojo would have to pay extra in that same dojo if showing up on seminar-day ( with a 100 + attendance, where he doesn' get thrown even once ? )

Maybe it's time to rethink the economical / educational model ?

Attendance is also related to overal social relations. I see people post that "its' not a social club".... I don't agree...
"Après-aikido" is important in forging friendships & comraderie. It's the cement that ties a group. Can you expect comitment if there's nobody to commit to ? Is a visting sihan / instructor you see at the far end of the mats somebody one can really commit to?
Isn't it easier to get things done when the group spirit is engaging ( that's how the mats get there al by thelmselves ;-) )?

Have individual members possibilties to easily get in touch & interact with each other ( if x,y z, is going, i'm going ? )

Commitment is a slow proces.
Did you commit a full 100 % from day one - or did it all start as a hobby, a pass-time, a great - non-competitive & philosophically interesting- work-out, where you got the chance to meet nice ( outside your regular job ) people.... that gradually morphed into something else ?

Maybe it's not for everybody?
You mention 1 other person beside yourself. What about all the others ?
Maybe it just takes time to understand & value what it is that's actually being thaught.

You believe all of O'Senseis students fully commited & faithfully transmitted?
& Takeda's ( 30.000 + ) students ?

Did they teach individuals /small groups or large ( 100+ - ich -ni -san- chi type ) seminars - Gokui or waza -?

As to attract young males - being the natural fishing grounds for new talent?
Do you think it's really that different elsewhere?
I've been told ( could be wrong) most people in Japan quit martial-arts after high school / College & eventually get back to it after ther family lives & carreers allow them to - i.e. at 50+ y.
Those sticking to it thro-out their ( economicaly) active lifes being rather exceptional ( & most often than not perceived as a little odd ?)

Weren't plenty of O senseis' students past their " young males" stage when they were introduced to O'Sensei? Didn't they already have a very solid bases in other martial arts? ( Takeshita - Sugano - Murashige - Hisa- Tenryu ?)

Didn't aikido take off more easily in countries outside Japan where the sihans could draw on Judo facilities & (more mature & often injured / worn out) practitioners, like France?

Is your own aikido better now, or when you were 25-30 ?
Is there an age/ physical barrier to technical improvement ?
Has technical improvement to do with hard practice/ fysical prowess & lots of sweat alone, or does it take (tactile) experience - overall comprehension & ( multiple -layer) understanding ( sense & sensetivity :-) ) ?
Does the later coincide or clash with typical "young-male energy"?
Why do some teachers completely fysicaly exhort their students before actual practice?

Is the thing(s) that attracted you to aikido in the first place ( Sales-Pitch = Non-competitive - spirituality - non-violence - ki over fysical strenght - mystical Japanese sihans - traditional/ exclusive/ elitistic/ exotic activity) the same as what keeps you envolved ( Budo) ?

Is that "sales pitch" still enticing to the people you wish to attract?

Wether one gets hooked- wether not...
Can't blame those who don't.

Plenty of Koryu got extinct.... & not for a lack of quality/watering down of techniques.

Thoughts ?

Sacha

Tim Ruijs
07-06-2011, 01:23 PM
Is that "sales pitch" still enticing to the people you wish to attract?

Wether one gets hooked- wether not...
Can't blame those who don't.

Plenty of Koryu got extinct.... & not for a lack of quality/watering down of techniques.
Remember that what you know of Aikido is not what potential members think they know. Herein lies the challenge. What makes a good sales pitch and still maintain true to yourself/the Way? ;)

I am curious what Georges view is on this?

jonreading
07-06-2011, 02:09 PM
I believe that part of the problem is the level (or lack) of commitment of the teachers. A teacher should motivate and inspire his/her students. In the early days a (relative) handful of teachers were available and were of high quality. Those wanting to learn Aikido followed them wherever, whenever and however possible. Nowadays there are much more 'teachers'.
The base of the pyramid has grown a lot. Today those who want to learn Aikido often locate the nearest (cheapest?) dojo and start.
Back in the day chances were good you end up with a proper teacher, chances are not so good anymore today.
Tim,

First off, I believe there is a different set of expectations in aikido then say, 20 years ago. It is our responsibility as instructors to evaluate our expectations to ensure they are realistic and maintain a curriculum that allows students to meet those expectations. Second, I think students need to evaluate their expectations and express them to the dojo. Third, students and instructors need to compare their expectations and develop a plan to meet them.

Yes, there are some instructors out who cannot meet the expectations set forth by the student. Yes, there are some students out there who cannot meet the expectations set forth by the instructor. Yes, there are some dojos that cannot provide the appropriate access to training. However, these situations can all be addressed and resolved by either the student or the instructor, or both.

The common denominator here is expectation. We have students who want to be black belts but who will not train like they want to be black belts. Their expectations do not match their level of commitment to aikido. I know many dojo who will offer 2 or 3 class a week without extra opportunity to train; you cannot excel at aikido training 2 or 3 times a week. The dojo needs to be a place of opportunity for those students who wish to excel can train 4, 5 or 6 days a week. FInally, instructors need to offer a more complete curriculum of training. We have many instructors who are not yet capable of providing a full spectrum of competent curriculum. These instructors need to understand "sensei" is more than instructor and they need to act in accord with the entirety of the responsibility.

That said, the end decision to train aikido will always remain with the student. A good sensei can inspire you to train on those days you'd rather stay home, but so too can a good sempai, kohei or spouse. (I love you honey!).

The dojo needs to meet the expectations of its instructors and its students. Periodically, we need to have open letters and dialog between the invested parties to make sure the dojo is meeting everyone's needs. There also needs to be a dialog between students. Sempai teach you swear words, show you how to clean the mat, interpret sensei when you have difficulty understanding instruction. Kohei remind you of what you used to be like, they need you to give them structure and aid, they are the rag doll that comes back asking for more. The modern dojo is having a problem with these relationships. We need students who will accept and fulfill their roles. We need instructors who will accept and fulfill their role. We need collective participation from the dojo to maintain a dojo environment that can meet the needs of everyone.

I also believe modern dojos have a problem recognizing excellence. The commodity culture says "I pay the same money that guy does, he is no better than I." What it does not say is "We pay the same, but that guy is in class twice as often as I." It's the ol' "everyone gets a trophy" here mentality. But again, we have differing expectations between the student who trains twice as often and the student who trains half as often. Set out the tissues; yes, the girl that trains twice as much as you stands to improve at a faster rate. Don't like it? Train more.

I sound like a broken record, but you can only blame so many other people for your decision not to train. Our perspective on this problem is wrong. We are pointing out why we do not train; we need to be finding reasons to train.

And I appreciate Dr. Goldsbury's post. There are a number of interesting points there.

George S. Ledyard
07-06-2011, 02:20 PM
Hello George,

I read your letter as your latest blog and have also read it here, together with all the responses. Of course, I have a few questions.

First, the letter was written as an open letter, and these letters tend to be rhetorical, but have you actually received any responses from your target readers: your own students?

Yes, I did. And in typical fashion, it was precisely the ones that I wasn't really addressing who took it to heart. One of the things I have liked about Saotome Sensei over the years is that he almost never singles an individual out for any type of public criticism. He'll address his concerns to the group and let folks decide for themselves if he is talking about them. I have tried to do much the same. But I have noticed the folks who take the criticism seriously and take it on as applying to them are seldom the people actually being addressed. So I had one female student apologize for not being at the seminar... she is actually someone who attends more events than anyone but the seniors. She is also doing Systema seriously and has traveled up to Toronto to work with Vlad and Michael. She is doing everything she can afford in terms of time and money. But she was one of the ones that responded whereas I have seen a number of the intended targets of the letter whom responded not at all, didn't say a word about it. So, either they pretty much feel it's someone else's issue or they already know they don't wish to change their behavior and are going to simply pretend it never happened.

Secondly, you mentioned that Mr Saotome was training leaders and trying to prevent a decline in the art after the pioneers had gone. However, there is an ambivalence here, which is highly relevant to the issues you raise in the letter. Hence a sharp question: As a Hombu deshi, was Saotome Sensei's allegiance primarily to Morihei U or to Kisshomaru U, or did he see them as two sides of the same coin? One can reframe the question in even sharper terms: Did Saotome Sensei have to pay for his training as a deshi, or was he supported by Kisshomaru?

It is quite clear to me that Saotome Sensei's "allegiance" was to the Founder. O-Sensei was clearly the major formative influence on Saotome Sensei's life. He was close to the Nidai Doshu and considered him to be one of his teachers, along with Osawa Sensei and Yamaguchi Sensei.

It is my understanding that Sensei was supported by the Hombu Dojo as a professional instructor, although this might not have been true for his entire association. I believe the way the deshi system worked was that the uchi deshi basically "worked off" their support by teaching at all the companies and schools which requested support by way of hombu providing them with a teacher. I have seen Sensei's resume from the time and he oversaw, on behalf on Honbu dojo, a large number of clubs at companies and schools. He was on the mat 6 - 8 hours a day including at least two classes in which he trained at Hombu. He also did private lessons for folks willing to pay. I do not know if the deshi got that as income or whether it was part of their responsibility to Hombu and the dojo got the income. He also had administrative duties and was instrumental i setting up the large network of dojos around tokyo which wer under the Hombu Dojo's umbrella.

My context here is a remark by a certain Hombu shihan, now deceased, to the effect that postwar deshi did not have any money and this is why Kisshomaru had to take a job in Tokyo, immediately after the war. (When he found out, Morihei U was shocked in a way that a Tokyo (Edo) samurai would be shocked, because his son was in a type of employment utterly unbecoming of a samurai--in this case a budoka, with all that this involved--regardless of any economic circumstances.) However, it was simply not possible to rely on the tiny income from the Iwama dojo and O Sensei's genius as a smallholder—and Morihei U seems not to have realized this. So, the ‘certain Hombu shihan' studied for a while, but had to leave and return later, because they could not afford to keep him.

I think that this may have depended on how close to the end of the war the deshi was enrolled. Saotome Sensei talks about eating garbage he found on the street to survive right after the war ended. I am sure that K Ueshiba did not have the resources to get things off the ground. It doesn't surprise me that deshi had to come and go initially. I know that Sensei spent some period of time working at a regular job. He was trained as an engineer in product design. As I mentioned above. he was a central player in helping Hombu set up the network of satellite programs which later served as a major financial support for the enterprise. I think these guys were totally winging it. It was a new paradigm and they evolved it over time.

Even though I have done much research and talked to many people, I am not quite sure whether the following scenario is entirely correct. In the days of the Kobukan, uchi-deshi had to be recommended by two sponsors and also had to pay for their training and upkeep. There was no fixed fee, however, and some members paid very much, to counter-balance those who could not pay so much. There were also some very wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors, who were an essential component of dojo finances—-and this explains why the Kobukan had to become a foundation for tax purposes: in Japan, even nowadays, no one donates money unless there are tangible tax benefits.

So, in the heyday of the Kobukan, O Sensei could really choose those who he would admit to train in his dojo. He was exclusive—-and very famous: and the Kobukan was a budo Harvard.

Now, fast-forward to the late 40s and early 50s. O Sensei was pottering around in his smallholding in Iwama, seemingly unconcerned about promoting aikido, and Japan was in dire economic straits. Kisshomaru was faithfully carrying out the mission he had been given to keep the Tokyo dojo running and it was he—and the same wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors--who decided to resurrect the earlier tax-free foundation. Only now, the aims would be completely different. Aikido would no longer be the preserve of the wealthy upper classes, who had the means to train hard all day, but would be available to everybody, as a healthy and fulfilling activity: exactly the right activity to help Japan to get back on its feet. And, since Japan had been defeated by the allied powers, notably the US and Britain, there was really no problem in sending deshi to these countries to spread this new postwar art of aikido and show them that there was something good about Japan and its culture. I am still researching here, but I believe that this was a huge 'paradigm-shift' for an art like aikido, which eschewed competition (contra K Tomiki), but aimed to offer the chance of acquiring top-quality budo knowledge to everybody who wanted it.

This is my understanding as well. The democratization of what had been more of a traditional Budo was quite radical. I think that his was the beginning of the double standard that continues to this day. The uchi deshi of the immediate post war period were given the finest traiing which the Founder and his son could design. As we have discussed elsewhere, it is clear that the deshi were provided with optional training opportunities which gave them backgrounds in areas they were never actually expected to teach. This was especially true of sword work. O-Sensei taught them various aspects of martial application which were not intended for public consumption. In other words, the uchi deshi got the real training and the public students got the more simplified program.

I think this was the origin of the problem we see today and the source of the issues I am addressing in my letter to my students. The general run of the mill students were never actually expected to really "get it". That was for the professionals. Everyone else was simply benefiting from doing the training. No one actually expected them to have understanding of great depth nor did they themselves aspire to the highest levels of skill.

But then comes the Aikido diaspora in which teachers go all over the world with this new art and the whole mythology of the Founder. Folks wer REALLY taken with what they were able to glean about O-Sensei, which we know now to have been greatly edited. They didn't sign up to do Aikido-lite. Foreigners all over the world turned their lives upside down to pursue this art... while back in Japan, the powers that be had no expectation that any of these folks could possibly understand Budo or O-Sensei or attain anything like the technical skill level they associated with their own Shihan.

But the first folks in each country generally did their level best to pass on what they had been given. There was no double tier system at Sensei;'s DC dojo back in 1976. Sensei stated that he was training future professionals and everyone trained in the same way as if all of us would eventually do that. It was not a beginner friendly place. The dojo did not grow beyond about thirty students until Sensei wasn't teaching all the classes. The training I got was meant to duplicate, at least on some level, what Sensei had gotten back in Japan. Nothing was watered down. Everyone trained six or seven days a week.

From reading some of the stories about the early days in Britain and France, it's clear that much the same thing took place. Where as the Japanese pioneers who took Aikido to foreign countries generally tried in their own ways to create competent instructors and some even really tried to create teachers who were as good as themselves, I do not belive that the folks at Hombu ever had that expectation and they have had to adjust over the decades to the fact that there are top level, non-Japanese teachers of this art. Especially the place which the Founder holds for foreign practitioners and his importance in how they see Aikido is entirely different than how Hombu understood what was going on overseas.

Now I think that Kisshomaru assumed that the Hombu training these deshi had received would simply see them through in the end, but I think you can see the issues here. K Chiba, with whom I had long conversations many years ago, faced the problem of how to train the modern, foreign, counterparts of Hombu deshi, but also earn enough money to survive. He had a kenshusei system. Kenshusei trained much harder than the general dojo population and received recognition; they were earmarked as future instructors. Other postwar Japanese deshi who went to live abroad, like M Kanai, seem not to have followed this system, but also had their own, more subtle, ways of recognizing potential instructors.

With my teacher, he simply trained everyone "as if" they would be and the folks who wouldn't or couldn't go the distance fell away rather than having a general training out of which he picked out folks for something deeper and more intensive. That was one of the things that was truly exciting about that time (and can't be duplicated today). We all knew that we were getting everything... the full meal deal. Sensei did classes he had done for the Shihan at Hombu when no one in the dojo was more than Shodan. Totally over our heads but that's what made it exciting. That's one of the reasons I have so little understanding of the beginner who won't move out of the beginner program into the open level program because it's too intimidating...

So this leads to the third question. I believe it was also K Chiba who used the metaphor of roots, trees, branches, and leaves to characterize an art like aikido. I am sure there are many ways you can apply the metaphor, but a view of the tree above ground presents the trunk, the major boughs, the minor branches, and the leaves. All are necessary to enable the tree to survive as a tree, but all have their respective functions. A pretty ruthless application of the metaphor to a dojo relegates the leaves (ordinary dojo members) to budding every spring and withering away every autumn. The trunk always survives and grows each year. As do the bough and branches, which sprout new leaves. Actually, this is a pretty good metaphor for a Tokugawa-era martial art, which is biologically fixed, but it leaves open some interesting questions, such as how, for example, a leaf from one tree can become a branch of the same tree or of another.

If we consider the tree analogy in relation to your own dojo, do you treat everyone the same, as potential leaders, or do you maintain an unofficial ‘class' system, with differing expectations / obligations placed on the branches and the leaves?

For the most part I have opted to treat everyone the same. Other than taking Saotome Sensei and Ikeda Sensei's advice to create a super user friendly beginner program which I do not teach, I have followed my teacher's lead and basically offer the best training I possibly can to everyone. That's one of the prime reasons I require a certain minimum attendance for anyone to test above 4th Kyu and require participation at certain events as a condition of testing. I have no interest whatever in offering a dumbed down version of Aikido to the "leaves" just because they may or may not stay. Everyone gets the same opportunity and the ones that take advantage of it get better. The ones who don't can play around as much as they'd like but they don't get promoted past a certain point and generally, out of self preservation, stay away from the advanced classes.

I really believe that everyone is capable of doing Aikido with some level of "aiki". What is required is clear instruction and some hard work. Instruction has been so lacking over the years in Aikido, worst amongst the technically finest teachers, that the general Aikido populace simply got in the "habit" of not getting it. People trained for years and didn't get any better, went to seminar after seminar with their teachers and got no closer to understanding what that teacher was doing than they had been a decade before. And everyone just accepted this as natural. The Japanese Shihan were somehow "special". I remember hearing folks state quite clearly that we would never do Aikido like Saotome Sensei. So there were two Aikidos. The really amazing, deep and mysterious Aikido of our teachers and the Aikido that the rest of us did.

I am not willing to buy into that. There is no reason that any mid-level yudansha should have Aikido that isn't working for precisely the same reasons that Saotome Sensei or Ikeda Sensei's Aikido is working. So, I am unwilling to buy into the two tier system in which only the serious folks get the goods and everyone else exists just to pay the bills. I'd close the dojo before I'd do that. But periodically I have to re-explain that this is my attitude and folks who train with me need to understand that. There are plenty of dojos around which seem to have plenty of quite contented "leaves" at which the "roots" aren't very deep. Everyone is happy, which is fine, but there's not much happening.

My point to folks is that it really doesn't take a whole lot more effort to do good Aikido than it does to do bad Aikido. If you are going to put a certain amount of time. money, and effort into the art, why not give it that little more that's required to do it well.
Thanks for your thoughts!
- George

Tim Ruijs
07-06-2011, 04:04 PM
Thanks Jon for your comment. Makes a lot of sense to me and hopefully to others reading it;) .

We are pointing out why we do not train; we need to be finding reasons to train.
In addition we have to respect that not everybody practises Aikido with the same motivations/expectations.

How do we make clear what one can expect from Aikido?


...let folks decide for themselves if he is talking about them. But I have noticed the folks who take the criticism seriously and take it on as applying to them are seldom the people actually being addressed...
This is a very Japanese way of teaching and is hard to understand with Western upbringing/schooling. My teacher is like that, I make an effort to become like that. However, I hasten to add that it is very important to teach your students about Japanese culture. How else can you expect 'the right' students to pick up on this? And when you know you do why bother?

anecdote
At a seminar of my teacher a few years ago he explained to the group that when seated to his right one can do this because you are a guest (in that dojo) and thus show your respect. After a while there also comes a time to take your rightful (as Menkyo) position (and move to his left between more advanced students). As I always seated myself to his right just where the first 'hakama' seated, I felt addressed by him. For the next class I seated myself to his left. He made eye contact to make sure I saw that he saw.

These subtle messages can indeed be hard to pick up. It is also a good tool for teachers to see who understands...but is is demanding...

sakumeikan
07-06-2011, 05:57 PM
Hello George,

I read your letter as your latest blog and have also read it here, together with all the responses. Of course, I have a few questions.

First, the letter was written as an open letter, and these letters tend to be rhetorical, but have you actually received any responses from your target readers: your own students?

Secondly, you mentioned that Mr Saotome was training leaders and trying to prevent a decline in the art after the pioneers had gone. However, there is an ambivalence here, which is highly relevant to the issues you raise in the letter. Hence a sharp question: As a Hombu deshi, was Saotome Sensei's allegiance primarily to Morihei U or to Kisshomaru U, or did he see them as two sides of the same coin? One can reframe the question in even sharper terms: Did Saotome Sensei have to pay for his training as a deshi, or was he supported by Kisshomaru?

My context here is a remark by a certain Hombu shihan, now deceased, to the effect that postwar deshi did not have any money and this is why Kisshomaru had to take a job in Tokyo, immediately after the war. (When he found out, Morihei U was shocked in a way that a Tokyo (Edo) samurai would be shocked, because his son was in a type of employment utterly unbecoming of a samurai--in this case a budoka, with all that this involved--regardless of any economic circumstances.) However, it was simply not possible to rely on the tiny income from the Iwama dojo and O Sensei's genius as a smallholder—and Morihei U seems not to have realized this. So, the ‘certain Hombu shihan' studied for a while, but had to leave and return later, because they could not afford to keep him.

Even though I have done much research and talked to many people, I am not quite sure whether the following scenario is entirely correct. In the days of the Kobukan, uchi-deshi had to be recommended by two sponsors and also had to pay for their training and upkeep. There was no fixed fee, however, and some members paid very much, to counter-balance those who could not pay so much. There were also some very wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors, who were an essential component of dojo finances—-and this explains why the Kobukan had to become a foundation for tax purposes: in Japan, even nowadays, no one donates money unless there are tangible tax benefits.

So, in the heyday of the Kobukan, O Sensei could really choose those who he would admit to train in his dojo. He was exclusive—-and very famous: and the Kobukan was a budo Harvard.

Now, fast-forward to the late 40s and early 50s. O Sensei was pottering around in his smallholding in Iwama, seemingly unconcerned about promoting aikido, and Japan was in dire economic straits. Kisshomaru was faithfully carrying out the mission he had been given to keep the Tokyo dojo running and it was he—and the same wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors--who decided to resurrect the earlier tax-free foundation. Only now, the aims would be completely different. Aikido would no longer be the preserve of the wealthy upper classes, who had the means to train hard all day, but would be available to everybody, as a healthy and fulfilling activity: exactly the right activity to help Japan to get back on its feet. And, since Japan had been defeated by the allied powers, notably the US and Britain, there was really no problem in sending deshi to these countries to spread this new postwar art of aikido and show them that there was something good about Japan and its culture. I am still researching here, but I believe that this was a huge 'paradigm-shift' for an art like aikido, which eschewed competition (contra K Tomiki), but aimed to offer the chance of acquiring top-quality budo knowledge to everybody who wanted it.

Now I think that Kisshomaru assumed that the Hombu training these deshi had received would simply see them through in the end, but I think you can see the issues here. K Chiba, with whom I had long conversations many years ago, faced the problem of how to train the modern, foreign, counterparts of Hombu deshi, but also earn enough money to survive. He had a kenshusei system. Kenshusei trained much harder than the general dojo population and received recognition; they were earmarked as future instructors. Other postwar Japanese deshi who went to live abroad, like M Kanai, seem not to have followed this system, but also had their own, more subtle, ways of recognizing potential instructors.

So this leads to the third question. I believe it was also K Chiba who used the metaphor of roots, trees, branches, and leaves to characterize an art like aikido. I am sure there are many ways you can apply the metaphor, but a view of the tree above ground presents the trunk, the major boughs, the minor branches, and the leaves. All are necessary to enable the tree to survive as a tree, but all have their respective functions. A pretty ruthless application of the metaphor to a dojo relegates the leaves (ordinary dojo members) to budding every spring and withering away every autumn. The trunk always survives and grows each year. As do the bough and branches, which sprout new leaves. Actually, this is a pretty good metaphor for a Tokugawa-era martial art, which is biologically fixed, but it leaves open some interesting questions, such as how, for example, a leaf from one tree can become a branch of the same tree or of another.

If we consider the tree analogy in relation to your own dojo, do you treat everyone the same, as potential leaders, or do you maintain an unofficial ‘class' system, with differing expectations / obligations placed on the branches and the leaves?

Best wishes,

PAG
Dear Peter,
I can confirm the T.K. Chiba statements about the tree[roots, trunk, branches].I may be wrong here[my memory is going fast ]but I seem to remember a logo with a flourishing tree on it.Was it the Aikikai of G.B logo?
Regarding the system of future /potential teachers as you know Chiba Sensei introduced the shidoin/fukushidoin certification tests in the U.K. in the early 70s.Having moved later to San Diego he then set up Kenshusei /Uchi deshi programmes.There are now from these programmes many U.S.A teachers, and a number of
European/U.K. ex kenshusei now teaching currently.
Hope you are well, Joe

robin_jet_alt
07-06-2011, 07:16 PM
But she was one of the ones that responded whereas I have seen a number of the intended targets of the letter whom responded not at all, didn't say a word about it. So, either they pretty much feel it's someone else's issue or they already know they don't wish to change their behavior and are going to simply pretend it never happened.


I find this rather pessimistic. They may have been too embarrassed to say anything, but it doesn't mean that they haven't taken your message to heart. You may find a number of them suddenly start appearing much more regularly.

I know I argued with you early in this thread, but this discussion has at least led me to think about my training, what is possible, and what benefit I am gaining from it. If your message can do that for someone who argues about it with you, then who knows what it can do for someone who merely stays silent.

graham christian
07-06-2011, 07:47 PM
Aikido is about love. Duty is about love. Service is about love. Love is a choice, a verb, a commitment, not JUST a feeling. IMHO We prioritize the majority of our time in the service and pursuit of that which we love. Aikido is no different from work, family or country in my personal view. The definition of Aikido is service in my opinion. The things I love have the priority over the hours of my day.
And there is no shame in some one saying that their duty to their children, family etc takes priority. Love is what fuels our service and duty.
I love Aikido.

"A man's real belief is that which he lives by. What a man believes is the thing he does, not the thing he thinks". -George Macdonald

Maggie. Now that woke me up! I love it!

A lesson in Aikido. Plus- receive with love, let it be with love, accept with love and may any changes be made with love. Then their's nothing to fret about.

Regards.G.

oisin bourke
07-06-2011, 07:59 PM
Hi George,

You believe all of O'Senseis students fully commited & faithfully transmitted?
& Takeda's ( 30.000 + ) students ?

Did they teach individuals /small groups or large ( 100+ - ich -ni -san- chi type ) seminars - Gokui or waza -?

As to attract young males - being the natural fishing grounds for new talent?
Do you think it's really that different elsewhere?
I've been told ( could be wrong) most people in Japan quit martial-arts after high school / College & eventually get back to it after ther family lives & carreers allow them to - i.e. at 50+ y.
Those sticking to it thro-out their ( economicaly) active lifes being rather exceptional ( & most often than not perceived as a little odd ?)

Weren't plenty of O senseis' students past their " young males" stage when they were introduced to O'Sensei? Didn't they already have a very solid bases in other martial arts? ( Takeshita - Sugano - Murashige - Hisa- Tenryu ?)

Sacha

Generally, there's a huge gap in budo practicioners in Japan. As far as I can see, Karate and Shorinji Kenpo is pretty much done by and for kids. Aikido is done by older middle aged men and housewives. Judo holds up but mainly because it's a sport from whch one can gain prestige and even make an income. Maybe Kendo too. The whole model of constant training at the same dojo for twenty years is becoming outdated IMO. The state of the Japanese economy means that most people will never be able to do that again. As Professor Goldsbury pointed out, the whole "deshi" model of Aikido training is actually not all that new. IMO, it developed due to the unique economic/social environment of post-war Japan. Ueshiba Morihei and his peers didn't train like that. They trained intensively for relatively short periods of time under master instructors and developed their arts through learning from other sources. Maybe the whole paradigm needs looking at.

Basia Halliop
07-06-2011, 10:25 PM
Yes, I did. And in typical fashion, it was precisely the ones that I wasn't really addressing who took it to heart.

That's basically what I thought when I read your letter - those who are already pretty committed will feel guilty, those who don't think it's as important will not be as bothered by your words, those who believe they are already doing everything they can will be upset and more likely to give up or leave in the long run... what you describe is very much the expected response to such a letter, I think.

Personally I think that's just the way guilt works - it's primarily effective on those who already feel a strong sense of responsibility and commitment. I would be rather surprised if you could 'create' motivation where it isn't already there by using guilt this way.... I just don't think that's how people work, generally...

There also needs to be a dialog between students. Sempai teach you swear words.....
This made me laugh... this is certainly an important responsibility that many of my own sempai seem to take very seriously.

guest1234567
07-07-2011, 08:34 AM
Reply to George Ledyard's Open Letter: "Some Reflections," by Alister Gillies
(http://blog.aikidojournal.com/blog/2011/07/06/reply-to-george-ledyards-open-letter-some-reflections-by-alister-gillies/)
from: Aikido Journal Online

jonreading
07-07-2011, 09:38 AM
In addition we have to respect that not everybody practises Aikido with the same motivations/expectations.

How do we make clear what one can expect from Aikido?

I think this is a problem in aikido. There is some amount of respect that needs to exist between students who do not share the same commitment or interest level in aikido. In previous discussions we have looked at different language to describe interest levels: hobby, past time, profession, etc. We go both ways here; we look down on those who take aikido less seriously and we gossip about those who take aikido more seriously. Maggie has a good post; aikido is about service and obligation. This is where I think expectation needs to be clear. I think with that honesty should also come a clear conscience that releases us from guilt of not training enough. I would rather a student be honest and train less, than feel guilty and pretend to train more.

The problem we have in voicing our expectations is they often sound silly. "I want to train 2 days a week but I expect to be a black belt" is not a realistic expectation - you cannot train that little and perform high level aikido. Yet many of us think that is OK and we evidence it by attending class 2 days a week. "I want to stay practiced until I can bump up my commitment to 4 days a week; 2 days a week is all I have and I understand that will reflect in my aikido." Better statement and more realistic.

The problem is we all envision ourselves wandering through California righting wrongs (a la Kung Fu) or confronting muggers in a dark alley. Previous posts concerning the assumed ability to harmlessly disarm and neutralize would-be attackers is evidence of the unrealistic expectations we hold. Two minutes in a cage cures those notions; or, honesty with your commitment.

Janet Rosen
07-07-2011, 10:11 AM
"I want to stay practiced until I can bump up my commitment to 4 days a week; 2 days a week is all I have and I understand that will reflect in my aikido." Better statement and more realistic.
Agreed. Clarifying priorities and goals and having them congruent with reality can and should be within the realm of what any adult learner does.

The problem is we all envision ourselves wandering through California righting wrongs (a la Kung Fu) or confronting muggers in a dark alley. Previous posts concerning the assumed ability to harmlessly disarm and neutralize would-be attackers is evidence of the unrealistic expectations we hold. Two minutes in a cage cures those notions; or, honesty with your commitment.
Man, I hate "we all" statements, whether they have to do with consumerism, pop culture, or yeah, martial arts fantasies...Yes I know there ARE some people like that, they may not actually represent a majority....
Not only do I not entertain those fantasies, they have nothing to do with what led me and many students I know to start training nor do they motivate us to continue training.

JO
07-07-2011, 11:14 AM
Hello George,

My context here is a remark by a certain Hombu shihan, now deceased, to the effect that postwar deshi did not have any money and this is why Kisshomaru had to take a job in Tokyo, immediately after the war. (When he found out, Morihei U was shocked in a way that a Tokyo (Edo) samurai would be shocked, because his son was in a type of employment utterly unbecoming of a samurai--in this case a budoka, with all that this involved--regardless of any economic circumstances.) However, it was simply not possible to rely on the tiny income from the Iwama dojo and O Sensei's genius as a smallholder—and Morihei U seems not to have realized this. So, the ‘certain Hombu shihan' studied for a while, but had to leave and return later, because they could not afford to keep him.

Even though I have done much research and talked to many people, I am not quite sure whether the following scenario is entirely correct. In the days of the Kobukan, uchi-deshi had to be recommended by two sponsors and also had to pay for their training and upkeep. There was no fixed fee, however, and some members paid very much, to counter-balance those who could not pay so much. There were also some very wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors, who were an essential component of dojo finances—-and this explains why the Kobukan had to become a foundation for tax purposes: in Japan, even nowadays, no one donates money unless there are tangible tax benefits.

So, in the heyday of the Kobukan, O Sensei could really choose those who he would admit to train in his dojo. He was exclusive—-and very famous: and the Kobukan was a budo Harvard.

Now, fast-forward to the late 40s and early 50s. O Sensei was pottering around in his smallholding in Iwama, seemingly unconcerned about promoting aikido, and Japan was in dire economic straits. Kisshomaru was faithfully carrying out the mission he had been given to keep the Tokyo dojo running and it was he—and the same wealthy and powerful dojo sponsors--who decided to resurrect the earlier tax-free foundation. Only now, the aims would be completely different. Aikido would no longer be the preserve of the wealthy upper classes, who had the means to train hard all day, but would be available to everybody, as a healthy and fulfilling activity: exactly the right activity to help Japan to get back on its feet. And, since Japan had been defeated by the allied powers, notably the US and Britain, there was really no problem in sending deshi to these countries to spread this new postwar art of aikido and show them that there was something good about Japan and its culture. I am still researching here, but I believe that this was a huge 'paradigm-shift' for an art like aikido, which eschewed competition (contra K Tomiki), but aimed to offer the chance of acquiring top-quality budo knowledge to everybody who wanted it.

Now I think that Kisshomaru assumed that the Hombu training these deshi had received would simply see them through in the end, but I think you can see the issues here. K Chiba, with whom I had long conversations many years ago, faced the problem of how to train the modern, foreign, counterparts of Hombu deshi, but also earn enough money to survive. He had a kenshusei system. Kenshusei trained much harder than the general dojo population and received recognition; they were earmarked as future instructors. Other postwar Japanese deshi who went to live abroad, like M Kanai, seem not to have followed this system, but also had their own, more subtle, ways of recognizing potential instructors.

PAG

Hello Peter,
Your history above has me curious of the economics of the current Hombu setup. They seem to have a more or less constant stream of young instructors working their way up to the status of Hombu Shihan. Where do these guys come from and how is the financing of Hombu's teaching staff set up? How does the situation at Hombu compare with the rest of Japan? Are there any lessons or ideas that spring from this example that would be of any use in the West?

Aiki1
07-07-2011, 11:23 AM
Man, I hate "we all" statements, whether they have to do with consumerism, pop culture, or yeah, martial arts fantasies...Yes I know there ARE some people like that, they may not actually represent a majority....

Not only do I not entertain those fantasies, they have nothing to do with what led me and many students I know to start training nor do they motivate us to continue training.

Exactly - there are MANY statements of "the way it is" flying through this whole thread that are not at all. It always amazes me how many Aikido people assume their own experiences and opinions are universal truth for everyone else as well....

I like the quote:

"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."

Chris Li
07-07-2011, 11:58 AM
Hello Peter,
Your history above has me curious of the economics of the current Hombu setup. They seem to have a more or less constant stream of young instructors working their way up to the status of Hombu Shihan. Where do these guys come from and how is the financing of Hombu's teaching staff set up? How does the situation at Hombu compare with the rest of Japan? Are there any lessons or ideas that spring from this example that would be of any use in the West?

The young instructors are generally recruited - usually out of one of the university clubs in the Tokyo area, which are overseen by the hombu instructors.

They are regular salaried employees of hombu. The financing comes from income at hombu, from the clubs around Japan at which they are sent to instruct, overseas seminars, etc.

Not many people outside of hombu can actually afford to do Aikido for a living in Japan (even fewer than in the USA), or can even afford to maintain an exclusive training space.

Best,

Chris

sakumeikan
07-07-2011, 05:20 PM
The young instructors are generally recruited - usually out of one of the university clubs in the Tokyo area, which are overseen by the hombu instructors.

They are regular salaried employees of hombu. The financing comes from income at hombu, from the clubs around Japan at which they are sent to instruct, overseas seminars, etc.

Not many people outside of hombu can actually afford to do Aikido for a living in Japan (even fewer than in the USA), or can even afford to maintain an exclusive training space.

Best,

Chris
Dear Christopher,
Hombu finances? Lets not forget the amount of money charged by Hombu to register Dan grade certificates.In some cases the cost of registering a Dan grade could be a large %age of someones wages in an economic underdeveloped country..Certainly its not cheap .Grading certs can cost hundreds of pounds for a document written in Japanese.Only bit you recognise is your name, the rest might be whatever.If I added up the total cost of my own certs amassed over the years I reckon I could have a vacation in a
chalet somewhere nice.Plus change for a few rum and cokes.
Cheers, Joe.

Chris Li
07-07-2011, 05:30 PM
Dear Christopher,
Hombu finances? Lets not forget the amount of money charged by Hombu to register Dan grade certificates.In some cases the cost of registering a Dan grade could be a large %age of someones wages in an economic underdeveloped country..Certainly its not cheap .Grading certs can cost hundreds of pounds for a document written in Japanese.Only bit you recognise is your name, the rest might be whatever.If I added up the total cost of my own certs amassed over the years I reckon I could have a vacation in a
chalet somewhere nice.Plus change for a few rum and cokes.
Cheers, Joe.

Well, if I take the last one (which was more than a lot of people pay) and break it down by year (since the one before that) then it works out to around $100/year, which is a whole lot less then the dues for most professional organizations. Previous certificates probably broke down a little more cheaply.

It's no cheaper for certificates in, for example, tea ceremony or calligraphy in Japan.

I had no problem reading the entire certificate :) .

Best,

Chris

George S. Ledyard
07-07-2011, 06:12 PM
Reply to George Ledyard's Open Letter: "Some Reflections," by Alister Gillies
(http://blog.aikidojournal.com/blog/2011/07/06/reply-to-george-ledyards-open-letter-some-reflections-by-alister-gillies/)
from: Aikido Journal Online

Very nicely written... here's my reply...

I totally get this perspective... Doing a Japanese art, one should be doubly aware of the issue of change. These arts we have inherited are direct outgrowths of monumental effort on the part of the Budo giants of the post-Meiji period in which interest in Budo and anything tradition in general endangered and in many cases destroyed the transmission of many arts.

Today we hear the we are in the midst of one of histories mass extinctions in which a huge percentage of the world's species died out. The rate at which this is happening may be faster than in previous times. There are many people out there who are devoting their lives to trying to slow this around or even turn it around completely.

One of the unfortunate things about the current extinction process is that many species are simply passing out of existence even before we had a chance to discover them. They came and went and we never knew. In many ways I think that the changes we see today in our society and the demographics which effect all arts involved with the transmission of what I call "Old Knowledge" are potentially endangering much of that old knowledge and doing so before most folks even had a chance to know what that knowledge was.

There was a reason that people felt that something in Budo was important to preserve despite the fact that the warrior class had ceased to exist and modern technology had made traditional fighting skills irrelevant. Those same reasons still exist. O-Sensei went an extra step and created an art in which the old knowledge was given a radically new perspective. It did not throw out the old Budo, it morphed it into something deeper, more vibrant, and potentially more trans-formative.

But, it is clear to me, and others can certainly see it differently, that the foundation of this new Budo was still the old knowledge. So the idea that we simply change with the times and adapt what we do to these changes is fine in one sense and will have to be done. But at the same time, we can't just adjust... we need to give direction to that adjustment. What I am talking about i saving what needs to be saved. Just as with animals that are almost extinct, someone needs to try to keep the few remaining animals alive. Perhaps then later we could clone them or re-introduce them i the wild. But once they are gone, they are gone.

The Aikido I was shown by my teacher is endangered. Lots of Aikido is being done, very little has much to do with what I was taught. I think that if this knowledge passes away, it will not re-evolve. Yes, one can easily see that Aikido may change and become something else entirely. This is happening all over the world in every area. But in my own case, my primary concern for the art is that it not lose the very elements that made it worth doing in the first place. Other people may feel free to take the art in new directions, to let the tides of change determine for them what the art should become.

Personally, what I am devoted to is evolving how we transmit the art, how we teach it, how we can keep the art vibrant and alive while making sure it doesn't lose the connection with its "old knowledge" core. There is so much to be learned doing our art. But the principles have to be taught and carried on. I am unwilling to let Aikido morph into something with less depth and breadth just because my society seems to be moving into a "sound bite" culture in which shallow exposure passes for knowledge and age and experience are devalued because what we are looking at is the latest and greatest techno shift.

I do see a day when there will be a different Aikido... I can see it happening. What I am fighting for is making sure that the Aikido of O-Sensei, at least as I have understood it and as it was past to me through my teacher, is still alive and being transmitted. My experience has been that when one can give people a taste of Aikido which contains more depth, they respond positively. People aren't purposely doing Aikido-lite. If there is an alternative, they generally choose the practice with more content. The folks who don't, well. they weren't serious about their Aikido-lite either.

graham christian
07-07-2011, 06:14 PM
Agreed. Clarifying priorities and goals and having them congruent with reality can and should be within the realm of what any adult learner does.

Man, I hate "we all" statements, whether they have to do with consumerism, pop culture, or yeah, martial arts fantasies...Yes I know there ARE some people like that, they may not actually represent a majority....
Not only do I not entertain those fantasies, they have nothing to do with what led me and many students I know to start training nor do they motivate us to continue training.

Janet. Didn't you know, we're all doomed. It's all bad. It's getting worse. (example, example example)

But seriously though, how many people look for the opposite? Dojo's that are doing well?

Plus when you find them how about discovering what they do but you don't? (not you personally)

Complain about the bad or study the good?

In the end the only person we're actually angry with is ourself. I would say it's a matter of 'budo self analysis.'

Regards.G.

David Orange
07-07-2011, 08:05 PM
...I do see a day when there will be a different Aikido... I can see it happening. What I am fighting for is making sure that the Aikido of O-Sensei, at least as I have understood it and as it was past to me through my teacher, is still alive and being transmitted. My experience has been that when one can give people a taste of Aikido which contains more depth, they respond positively. People aren't purposely doing Aikido-lite. If there is an alternative, they generally choose the practice with more content. The folks who don't, well. they weren't serious about their Aikido-lite either.

Sensei,

I'm afraid it's too late to worry about these things. Even in the case of Saotome Sensei, whose aikido you revere, the real old-timers (from the original "Ueshiba Juku" and the "Hell Gym") were not that impressed by him. They had the same lament about him that you do about people coming along now--not that he was un-committed or any of that, but that he was promoting a "changed" aikido that was nothing like "the way we used to train."

To tell the truth, I believe the real underlying problem is "organizations". It seems Sokaku Takeda had no organization at all (as in a group with rules and structure). Morihei Ueshiba developed his power before he had an organization behind him.

And even where organizations are "good," it seems they do their best work in the earliest days, when the founder is still a "maverick" doing his own thing from his own heart--i.e., Ueshiba's "Hell Gym" days. The closer he got to death, the more conflicts arose within his organization and, after he died, it splintered and continues to splinter off to this day. (Or you could consider Jesus, with twelve followers, and the contradictory and often hate-filled mess that Christianity has become today.)

I guess it's organizations and ranks that are really the root of the problem. As much as I admire Jigoro Kano, the introduction of the black belt and dankai to aikido seems not to have been so good for the art.

Best to you.

David

Hanna B
07-07-2011, 08:06 PM
Here's a blog post titled Never make demands of your students and never let students make demands of you (http://budodoukoukai.blogspot.com/2011/02/never-make-demands-of-your-students-and.html) - not written by an aikidoist, but by a budoist.

It's not your job to make demands of students in terms of attendance, fitness, practice, start assigning them homework or required reading. If a student only turns up once every couple of months or doesn't do any practice or doesn't try to improve his or her poor level of fitness it is not your problem - it is theirs. Doing this brings stress onto yourself and usually works against you.

Perhaps a teacher who gets a little bit more focused on his own training and a little bit less on his students actually does everyone involved a favour? At least I think this kind of teacher is less vulnerable. And I think it makes him a better leader, someone people want to follow. Few people at the seminar? Make sure working on your own stuff, then, and be an inspiration to those who are there.

I always (well, almost) was a very busy seminar-goer. But if seminars were expected of me... perhaps I actually would feel less like going.

Honestly, Mr Ledyard. I don't think you give a good message to your students in that open letter. Not if a "good message" is measured by how much it increases their interest in training.

I hope I'm not too impertinent. Just trying to give my honest feedback.

David Orange
07-07-2011, 08:31 PM
...Never make demands of your students and never let students make demands of you...

It's hard to keep that view when you have a dojo to pay for, but I agree that if the student doesn't train very much, it's not my problem. It's my job to concentrate on developing myself.

Mochizuki Sensei once told me, "Treat your students like guests."

I often saw him turn up his hands and shrug at what some people would do on the mat, as if to say, "Well, he obviously didn't understand what I just told him..."

He had to take his comfort in seeing the few who did get it. Of course, his yoseikan was often criticized for being "not Ueshiba's aikido," but he always said, "Nobody did Ueshiba's aikido except Ueshiba."

To me, in a way, it's the same problem Jesus spoke of about a rich man's getting into heaven. It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Maybe aikido is too big to pass through the eye of a needle--too rich to achieve the heavenly aim of reaching the student's heart. If it takes years and years just to get the most basic principles down...maybe something is lacking in the formal content of the art or the formal teaching curriculum.

If we try to make sure that all students absorb the entire technical curriculum of aikido, we might miss passing on the most essential nature of the art. I think there's an essence of aikido that can be passed on with almost none of the external appearance of aikido and that it can be passed along very quickly.

Mochizuki Sensei told me "Teach as much as possible as fast as possible" and "Teach something in every lesson that the student can go out and use that very day."

From that advice, I created my "Zero Degree" teaching method. But it's only a five-hour course, it carries no rank (except Zero Degree) and people get tired of going over and over the same five lessons again and again.

But I think it does contain the most important essence of the art of aikido and if I only have five hours to teach them, I want them to at least experience that much. If I have only one hour to give them the best I can, the first one-hour lesson of the Zero Degree program can give them that. So if I only meet them once and never see them again, I'll know I have given them a congruent piece of the best I know to give them.

Still, in trying to maintain everything his teacher gave him, I think Ledyard Sensei is very worthy and admirable. I just think that maybe that really was a thing for that time only--something he and his teacher shared that can't be preserved like a museum piece because it's not appropriate to the current day, much less the times to come.

If we can find the essence, though, and share that...I believe we will have done the best that can be done.

FWIW

David

hughrbeyer
07-07-2011, 10:12 PM
The folks who don't, well. they weren't serious about their Aikido-lite either.

Oh, man. Engrave it in gold and write it on my tombstone.

Speaking from the point of view of the student--I very much appreciate the occasional "come to Jesus" talk from my teacher. No, I shouldn't need it. Yes, I should be self-motivated. Yes, it's unfair, mostly unfair to the teacher.

But the fact is, I need the occasional reminder of why I am here and why it matters. I need the occasional infusion of passion from the guy who, after all, I chose as my teacher because I thought he had something to teach me.

So, George Sensei, even if you're not my day-to-day teacher, thanks for the shot in the arm. I return to training re-invigorated.

George S. Ledyard
07-07-2011, 11:32 PM
Here's a blog post titled Never make demands of your students and never let students make demands of you (http://budodoukoukai.blogspot.com/2011/02/never-make-demands-of-your-students-and.html) - not written by an aikidoist, but by a budoist.

Perhaps a teacher who gets a little bit more focused on his own training and a little bit less on his students actually does everyone involved a favour? At least I think this kind of teacher is less vulnerable. And I think it makes him a better leader, someone people want to follow. Few people at the seminar? Make sure working on your own stuff, then, and be an inspiration to those who are there.

I always (well, almost) was a very busy seminar-goer. But if seminars were expected of me... perhaps I actually would feel less like going.

Honestly, Mr Ledyard. I don't think you give a good message to your students in that open letter. Not if a "good message" is measured by how much it increases their interest in training.

I hope I'm not too impertinent. Just trying to give my honest feedback.

Hi Hanna,
What would be impertinent? You saying something different from me? I certainly do not take it that way.

You don't know me and don;t know what I do about my training. My own experience has been that the more I train and the better I get, the fewer folks see themselves as being able to duplicate what I am doing. One assumes that seeing someone model something would be motivational... but it doesn't always work that way.

I had one great student quit right when he got to Brown Belt. He was actually a personal friend off the mat as well and I was able to talk to him about why he was quitting. He told me that he didn't feel as if he was getting anywhere. He looked at me and knew that he would never be able to train as hard as I was and as he watched me getting better he felt that relatively speaking he was actually falling farther behind. In other words, my own training served as a sort of "bar" for him and he felt as if the bar were constantly being raised.

Of course this wasn't really true... when he moved away he found that he missed training and looked for a dojo in the LA are where he could start up again. He traveled around checking out various schools and much to his surprise, found that he really had learned quite a bit at our school. He found a great dojo and has been training ever since.

So, I don't think it is necessarily true that just focusing on your own training is motivational for others unless they think that they can duplicate the training themselves.

What I have found is the most motivation for people is showing them that you actually do care if they get better. The whole Japanese thing of "I showed you... you get it, not get it, not my problem." leaves folks completely to their own devices. What I have seen of this has been a generation of folks who simply gave up on thinking they could be as good as the "Shihan". He was "special". The there are the rest of us.

If you can show people that they can do precisely what their teacher has been doing and show them you care if they get it, that you are willing to invest in them, that is by far the most motivational thing I have found. Occasionally, you have to remind them that it's a two way street. There's a certain effort involved that is required because no matter how good the instructions are, if you don't take it to the mat and do it ten thousand times, it won't matter.

I am not trying to motivate people who are not serious to become serious. I am telling the folks who think they are serious what that means. Some folks may realize that they aren't serious and don't wish to make the effort. They may leave or simply not change their behavior at all. The ones who think of themselves as serious sometimes need a wake up call. That's all.

I have to say that, whereas I understand what yo have said and feel that it is a perfectly reasonable approach, one that some of my own teachers have taken, in fact, I do think a statement that indicates that if you were expected to do something, you'd feel less like doing it, is a bit like a kid saying "NO! You can't make me!"

I am a teacher. People come to my school and pay money to learn. If I feel that certain things are important for their progress, it is my job to tel them so. I am the one that sets the standard, no one else. I was told this by my teachers when I asked who set the standards for the folks in our organization. What I was told was that I have the responsibility to set the standard for my own students.

If I am going to set the standards, I have to let them know what, in my own experience, is required to be able to succeed. If I didn't think having several guest seminars each year was important for their training, I wouldn't do it. So, I need to let people know that this is all part of the program. It's part of the expectation when they join up. No one forces anyone to come to my dojo and sign up. There are many other choices in my area. If folks are going to be part of the dojo they need to support the dojo. I don't see that as unreasonable. If some folks find my being straight forward about what is expected to be not motivational, they are probably at the wrong dojo.

sakumeikan
07-08-2011, 03:33 AM
Well, if I take the last one (which was more than a lot of people pay) and break it down by year (since the one before that) then it works out to around $100/year, which is a whole lot less then the dues for most professional organizations. Previous certificates probably broke down a little more cheaply.

It's no cheaper for certificates in, for example, tea ceremony or calligraphy in Japan.

I had no problem reading the entire certificate :) .

Best,

Chris
How many certs have you registered? The cost per grade is not the same across the board.The price goes up as the grade goes up.As for you understanding your certificate , good.I do note your surname and your location.Hawaii has /had a lot of Nisei , so even if you could not read the scroll/s I am sure someone local could.I have yet to meet in my neighbourhood anybody who reads kanji.The point I was making that the revenue generated over the years multiplied by the no. of people now dan grade must be
quite a sum of cash for Hombu.Hombu might well be seen by some as some sort of spiritual home but when you look at it objectively its a family business. If you live in a country where the average income is very low, how do you pay for a certificate which might be a relatively expensive item?Do you ask Hombu for a credit card or 2 years to pay or what? I hardly think so.
Cheers, Joe.

sakumeikan
07-08-2011, 03:46 AM
Very nicely written... here's my reply...

I totally get this perspective... Doing a Japanese art, one should be doubly aware of the issue of change. These arts we have inherited are direct outgrowths of monumental effort on the part of the Budo giants of the post-Meiji period in which interest in Budo and anything tradition in general endangered and in many cases destroyed the transmission of many arts.

Today we hear the we are in the midst of one of histories mass extinctions in which a huge percentage of the world's species died out. The rate at which this is happening may be faster than in previous times. There are many people out there who are devoting their lives to trying to slow this around or even turn it around completely.

One of the unfortunate things about the current extinction process is that many species are simply passing out of existence even before we had a chance to discover them. They came and went and we never knew. In many ways I think that the changes we see today in our society and the demographics which effect all arts involved with the transmission of what I call "Old Knowledge" are potentially endangering much of that old knowledge and doing so before most folks even had a chance to know what that knowledge was.

There was a reason that people felt that something in Budo was important to preserve despite the fact that the warrior class had ceased to exist and modern technology had made traditional fighting skills irrelevant. Those same reasons still exist. O-Sensei went an extra step and created an art in which the old knowledge was given a radically new perspective. It did not throw out the old Budo, it morphed it into something deeper, more vibrant, and potentially more trans-formative.

But, it is clear to me, and others can certainly see it differently, that the foundation of this new Budo was still the old knowledge. So the idea that we simply change with the times and adapt what we do to these changes is fine in one sense and will have to be done. But at the same time, we can't just adjust... we need to give direction to that adjustment. What I am talking about i saving what needs to be saved. Just as with animals that are almost extinct, someone needs to try to keep the few remaining animals alive. Perhaps then later we could clone them or re-introduce them i the wild. But once they are gone, they are gone.

The Aikido I was shown by my teacher is endangered. Lots of Aikido is being done, very little has much to do with what I was taught. I think that if this knowledge passes away, it will not re-evolve. Yes, one can easily see that Aikido may change and become something else entirely. This is happening all over the world in every area. But in my own case, my primary concern for the art is that it not lose the very elements that made it worth doing in the first place. Other people may feel free to take the art in new directions, to let the tides of change determine for them what the art should become.

Personally, what I am devoted to is evolving how we transmit the art, how we teach it, how we can keep the art vibrant and alive while making sure it doesn't lose the connection with its "old knowledge" core. There is so much to be learned doing our art. But the principles have to be taught and carried on. I am unwilling to let Aikido morph into something with less depth and breadth just because my society seems to be moving into a "sound bite" culture in which shallow exposure passes for knowledge and age and experience are devalued because what we are looking at is the latest and greatest techno shift.

I do see a day when there will be a different Aikido... I can see it happening. What I am fighting for is making sure that the Aikido of O-Sensei, at least as I have understood it and as it was past to me through my teacher, is still alive and being transmitted. My experience has been that when one can give people a taste of Aikido which contains more depth, they respond positively. People aren't purposely doing Aikido-lite. If there is an alternative, they generally choose the practice with more content. The folks who don't, well. they weren't serious about their Aikido-lite either.

Dear Ledyard Sensei,
I share your views on the future of Aikido.The message you have written is one that I and people like Henry Ellis [we the dinosaurs ] have been saying for some time now.You are one of the few people who clearly see this happening.Some may say you are being pessimistic, however if modern teachers do not watch out Aikido will [as we know it ] will end up as dead as a dodo.
Cheers, Joe.

Dazzler
07-08-2011, 05:11 AM
Re Joes reply....+1

I'm in an organisation, I care passionately about that organisation and go the extra mile to see the the organisation fulfills its obligations to students in providing a supporting framework to enable their Aikido development.

Its a thankless task...Sometimes this brings me into conflict, usually this is handled well, not always....sometimes I wonder why its my job. But because I care I do it. No one forces me....but it can be hard work and the rewards are often hidden.

For me organisations can be good and through collective power can enable access to resources that otherwise wouldn't have been available due to cost.

If not for collective grouping for instance Alister & I and others would have been unlikely to meet Dan Harden recently.

Not everyone is an organisation person, but surely everyone can recognise Ledyard Senseis absolute dedication to providing the best scenario for the training of those within his organisation.

Clearly his frustration at this good seed being ignored by bad ground has resulted in this open letter.

Would I have posted it myself? Probably not but I've posted similar ones on my own groups website born out of exatly the same frustration.

George Ledyard is for me the best Aikido poster on this forum, his posts are always sincere, heartfelt and more importantly educational.

I find the open letter similar, as I do his replies.

At no point is there ever a sniff of someone with a vested interest in protecting the status quo. Just someone with a desire to share.

We've never met apart from here...but thanks for the continued input George...it is much appreciated.

Regards

D

ps. Joe

Perhaps you could translate those certificates into 'glasgae' dialect and send them back..or geordie for that matter. I'm sure that would give the hombu mandarins something to think about.!

pps. I'm not old enough to qualify for a 'dino club' badge...how about something younger...sabre toothed chicken perhaps ;-)

jonreading
07-08-2011, 10:02 AM
The problem is we all envision ourselves wandering through California righting wrongs (a la Kung Fu) or confronting muggers in a dark alley. Previous posts concerning the assumed ability to harmlessly disarm and neutralize would-be attackers is evidence of the unrealistic expectations we hold. Two minutes in a cage cures those notions; or, honesty with your commitment.
Man, I hate "we all" statements, whether they have to do with consumerism, pop culture, or yeah, martial arts fantasies...Yes I know there ARE some people like that, they may not actually represent a majority....
Not only do I not entertain those fantasies, they have nothing to do with what led me and many students I know to start training nor do they motivate us to continue training.

Janet, I apologize for not being clear on this point. I usually tend to stay away from "all" comments, but I am pretty confident in this one. My point is that human nature is to imagine, to create fantasy. Our creativity, our perseverance, our hope; fantasy helps us to transform what is not into what is. I do not deter fantasy, heck two or three times a day I am fighting off ninjas or Magneto or something. I am simply advocating that fantasy should not be an expectation of commitment.

Let he who has no sin, right?... Of course we have all imagined winning a fight, or proving someone wrong on a point, or resolving some issue that no one else could. How many times has our spouse been completely wrong... in our mind? You could have totally pulled of the nikyo on that gorilla, but you took the high road and let it go so no one would get hurt, right? That guy is a complete jerk and was resisting your excellent technique, that's why it didn't work, right? Maybe you were not a Shaolin monk in your fantasy, but everyone has imagined something that was not realistic. My extreme examples were specific to martial arts because I am advocating to maintain realistic expectations in martial arts. Obviously, I am not contesting your response, simply offering a point of reconsideration.

Cliff Judge
07-08-2011, 10:16 AM
Aikido is a budo, which is supposed to be a system of personal transformation and improvement. Attention to the dojo, the responsibility you have to your teachers, students, seniors and juniors, are very much a part of that. If your teacher says something like "it is very important to me that we make a good showing at this upcoming seminar" and you are not suddenly dismembered or dead, and you don't show up, you are doing the whole thing wrong. That's not your teacher making a personal request, that's your teacher embodying the collective spirit of the dojo making a request.

That's something that Americans can tend to miss though. I think the elephant in the room when we worry about the future of Aikido or talk about declining membership is that Aikido has all of this integral Japanese baggage that is tough to sell to Americans and some other Westerners, but that we can't get rid of.

Aikido is a great art to get into for anybody who is looking to invest time and energy into a long-term endeavor that engages your full self and returns very subtle, but highly integrated improvement of the self. In America, this is going to be a small set of people. I was talking to Wendy Whited Sensei last week about this and she opined that American culture is not into depth of experience these days, everybody wants to do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

But even if American culture got to a place where everybody (not just people who self-identify as "kinda weird"), at age 18, found some main activity outside of work or family life that they were going to stick to for life and plumb the depths of, Aikido is likely to still be limited by its Japaneseness. There are still going to be things to invest your life in that don't require strange clothes, basic physical skills like sitting in seiza that you did not spend your entire childhood developing, sublimation of self-interest for the good of the group, or faith that despite the fact that you have NO idea what just happened when Sensei threw that guy, that you may be able to do that at some point in the future, even though your sempai can't do it.

Chris Li
07-08-2011, 10:25 AM
How many certs have you registered? The cost per grade is not the same across the board.The price goes up as the grade goes up.As for you understanding your certificate , good.I do note your surname and your location.Hawaii has /had a lot of Nisei , so even if you could not read the scroll/s I am sure someone local could.I have yet to meet in my neighbourhood anybody who reads kanji.The point I was making that the revenue generated over the years multiplied by the no. of people now dan grade must be
quite a sum of cash for Hombu.Hombu might well be seen by some as some sort of spiritual home but when you look at it objectively its a family business. If you live in a country where the average income is very low, how do you pay for a certificate which might be a relatively expensive item?Do you ask Hombu for a credit card or 2 years to pay or what? I hardly think so.
Cheers, Joe.

Well, the price goes up, of course, but the years between promotions goes up too. If you do the math it pretty much works out as I said before, it compares pretty favorably with the dues you'd pay to belong to any professional organization. Both the Japan Association of Translators and the American Translators Association, for example, have yearly dues that work out to more than that. Plus, the certificate fees are heavily discounted for overseas organizations through fourth dan.

Yes, it does generate income, but I'm not sure why you're implying that there's something wrong with that, or with certificates written in Japanese. I was born in New York, btw, and got my first promotion in Ohio :) . Yes, I can read Japanese (a learned, not inherited, skill), but anybody with a kanji dictionary can puzzle their way through the certificates if they really want to.

Best,

Chris

sakumeikan
07-08-2011, 11:43 AM
Well, the price goes up, of course, but the years between promotions goes up too. If you do the math it pretty much works out as I said before, it compares pretty favorably with the dues you'd pay to belong to any professional organization. Both the Japan Association of Translators and the American Translators Association, for example, have yearly dues that work out to more than that. Plus, the certificate fees are heavily discounted for overseas organizations through fourth dan.

Yes, it does generate income, but I'm not sure why you're implying that there's something wrong with that, or with certificates written in Japanese. I was born in New York, btw, and got my first promotion in Ohio :) . Yes, I can read Japanese (a learned, not inherited, skill), but anybody with a kanji dictionary can puzzle their way through the certificates if they really want to.

Best,

Chris
Dear Chris,
The rate for grading certs from Hombu increase as the grade increases.I take the view that the increased cost is for some people prohibitive.I note you did not take me up on the point I was making about poorer countries. I am not aware of Hombu offering discounts to these people. I also think that since the unit cost of producing any grading cert. and subsequent admin. costs are likely to be the same I hardly imagine a sixth Dan Cert manufacturing cost to be higher/or cost more to register than a Ist Dan, the price of said certificates should be the same across the board.I did not say anywhere that generating income was bad.
Put it another way if you go into a supermarket and buy a tin of beans for a dollar, would you go into the same supermarket and buy another tin of beans [same size/same tomato sauce] and pay
3 times the price? Explain to me how any group can justify the differential in costs ? Cheers, Joe.

Chris Li
07-08-2011, 11:58 AM
Dear Chris,
The rate for grading certs from Hombu increase as the grade increases.I take the view that the increased cost is for some people prohibitive.I note you did not take me up on the point I was making about poorer countries. I am not aware of Hombu offering discounts to these people. I also think that since the unit cost of producing any grading cert. and subsequent admin. costs are likely to be the same I hardly imagine a sixth Dan Cert manufacturing cost to be higher/or cost more to register than a Ist Dan, the price of said certificates should be the same across the board.I did not say anywhere that generating income was bad.
Put it another way if you go into a supermarket and buy a tin of beans for a dollar, would you go into the same supermarket and buy another tin of beans [same size/same tomato sauce] and pay
3 times the price? Explain to me how any group can justify the differential in costs ? Cheers, Joe.

Well, most professional organizations have different levels of membership with varying costs. A sixth dan ought to have a higher level of commitment and involvement than, for example, a sho dan.

I'd say it's much the same. And most of the professional organizations that I've seen don't have discounts for members from poorer nations.

Best,

Chris

Basia Halliop
07-08-2011, 12:04 PM
I don't actually object to paying grading fees... I guess the organization has to make money somehow...

But I'm not sure the comparison to professional dues works 100%, because part of the point of professional dues is that they help you get a paying job and earn a good living :).

George S. Ledyard
07-08-2011, 12:27 PM
My friend, Greg O'Conner Sensei sent me this. He hasn't posted on AikiWeb and sent it to me with permission to post. If you don't know O'Conner Sensei you can see a short bio here:
Greg O'Conner Sensei (http://www.aikidocenters.com/html/ACNJ_Founder.htm)

His letter:

Hi George,

I hope all is well with you my friend. I saw your post to your students and it inspired me to write a comment to post but I do not have one of the required profiles so I thought I'd pass it on anyway via this email. If you'd like to post it in the comments on your blog then feel free...

Well said George. And, yes, I have expressed the same many times over the years for our own dojos. Keeping a dojo vital without "dumbing down" is, indeed, an on-going challenge. Bringing each person along according to their appropriate level of commitment and potential I guess I can say, actually gets my juices flowing - both as their teacher and as the one responsible for the direction and nuturing of the dojos.

And I have never focused on numbers. When someone asks me "How many students do you have?" I feel it is a shallow question and I am reduced to taking a guess or giving the honest answer of "enough". Whether it's five or five hundred it still requires the same level of dedication to both the individual and the whole.

I often think over the years that there is truly no way that I'll be able to transmit all that I have been blessed to acquire from my training and travels. You and I came to Aikido at a very unique period - a time we can say is now "gone with the wind". To use another cliche - "Those were the best of times. Those were the worst of times." An Aikido seminar was a rare event, teachers were fewer and farther between and those teachers were in a physical prime that over-shadowed their human shortcomings. Knowing what we know now about the true purpose behind Aikido or any discipline, that the development of one's character and spirit is the only true worthwhile and lasting goal of value, inspires me to continue to recover when necessary and grow. Life and Aikido training both have their ups and downs and when it's hardest to come up to one knee that is exactly the time when you must. Only with the experience of how to do that can I bring credibility to my efforts to help others grow because, as you know also, there's a big difference between describing someplace like you've been there (when you've only seen the postcards) and actually having been there.

I also do not compromise my expectations on the quality of technical achievement nor on the level of awareness of one's self and how one relates to those they train with. True training goes on whether on the mat or off and "good" technique without the depth of our shared human experience remains shallow to say the least - and can even go beyond simple futility into creating an on-going cycle of insideous self deterioration.

So, as for what we can offer and what we can benefit from through our inclusion of Aikido in our lives let's continue to accept and even enjoy the inevitable changes that come along and do so with a slight shrug if needed and a smile, small or big, and the assurance that we will continue to preserve and polish those aspects that hold true and lasting value. It's the good fight - and a good fight, regardless of duration, is worth the effort.

I look forward to the next time we're together - both for the shared talking as well as the comfortable silence when all talk is done and we are left with shared presence and all that comes along with that.

All my best,

Greg O'Connor
Chief Instructor
Aikido Centers Inc.

sakumeikan
07-08-2011, 01:58 PM
Well, most professional organizations have different levels of membership with varying costs. A sixth dan ought to have a higher level of commitment and involvement than, for example, a sho dan.

I'd say it's much the same. And most of the professional organizations that I've seen don't have discounts for members from poorer nations.

Best,

Chris

Dear Chris,
So to encourage the shodan you charge a lower fee for his/her certificate, and at the same time the higher charge is levelled against
students who in most cases have already displayed a higher level of commitment and involvement?I for one do not think you penalise anyone financially for simply being a higher grade.As one contributor points out , aikido grades are not exactly the equivalent of a B.SC. or an Harvard/Oxford degree.As it happens most of my certs have been
dumped in a corner in my attic.No doubt the moths /critturs are getting more value /appreciation from them than I .
Cheers, Joe

Chris Li
07-08-2011, 02:04 PM
Dear Chris,
So to encourage the shodan you charge a lower fee for his/her certificate, and at the same time the higher charge is levelled against
students who in most cases have already displayed a higher level of commitment and involvement?I for one do not think you penalise anyone financially for simply being a higher grade.As one contributor points out , aikido grades are not exactly the equivalent of a B.SC. or an Harvard/Oxford degree.As it happens most of my certs have been
dumped in a corner in my attic.No doubt the moths /critturs are getting more value /appreciation from them than I .
Cheers, Joe

Looked at the other way, the higher grade ought to be expected to commit to and support the organization at a higher level. In any case, if you look at the fee structure of any professional organization, the top level fees are generally more than the bottom level fees.

Anyway, if you're dumping them in the attic, then why take a promotion at all? Then you don't have to worry about fees.

Best,

Chris

Hanna B
07-08-2011, 04:35 PM
Hi George,

of course I don't know you and I don't know what you do about your training. I just judge from what I read. And from that reading, if I was your student I would not be encouraged by it but rather the opposite. Would it ever be possible to make you happy with my level of commitment, I'd wonder. I would probably feel that way even if I was one of those who comes to almost every class... it's some time ago now, but my staple level of training used to be 3-5 classes a week, plus seminars. But I wouldn't match you anyhow... so how could I ever please you, regarding commitment?

If my teacher would write to his group of students what you just wrote to yours, I think I'd loose a bit of courage. Then I'd say "OK, I am not the kind of student he really wants, the one to bring the his art to future generations of exponents". And then quite probably my attendance would drop, because I would feel what I do is not enough for my teacher and never will be.

But I am not your student. Some students and some teachers are not good matches. Perhaps your students don't react like me at all. On the other hand - maybe some of them do?

Of course I have no clue what your IRL interactions with your students look like. Perhaps they interpret your text quite differently than I do simply because they know you and I don't. But I would be wary to tell my students I was unhappy about attendance rates. I just don't think that is going to change things for the better. That was my main reason for linking to that blog post.

Probably you can't know for sure what it is that makes your students feelings that you get more and more inimitable, or unreachable as an ideal. You interpret it as it being your level. But what if - just if - it is actually something in your attitude and some things you say that makes them feel this way?

I'm not saying you are not paying attention to your own training (what would I know about that, and talk about being impertinent!) I am saying that to me, it has been a big inspiration to see my teachers working on their own development, and taking part in that as "training dummy" or what have you, in ways that clearly showed this was what they were doing. On your level you to a fairly large degree teach yourself things - right? Otherwise you'd stop learning when your teacher passes away, and I don't think that's the case. You don't need somebody's guidance all the time - or as Toby Threadgill has put it, regarding his now deceased teacher, "he is still guiding me, he always will". But the investigation of that guidance is to be done by you yourself - and that is also something to show a student, that it can be done. That at some level, one learns how to somewhat teach oneself, investigate what one has learned so far and find new things in it. To me it opened up the can of possibilites, kind of. And this is something best done in small groups. A small group is a golden opportunity to teach some precious things. A big group is a golden opportunity to do something else. Ceasing the opportunity rather than letting the students hearing complaints... that's what I would think would be more rational, and also one of the things in that blog post I linked to.

If your text was originally written for Aikiweb, with a different title, I probably would have reacted differently. Web forums can be a great place to vent things one doesn't necessarily shout all over the place in one's own dojo. Of course some of your students would have found it anyhow, but still it is different when the text is written directly for your students, I think.

Of the comments on your blog post on its original location, I like Julian Harel's.

I still fear being impertinent. What I am writing is - um. Speculative criticism. But since you put that text not only on your own blog but also here on Aikiweb, I suppose you want some feedback - and this is mine. Take it and do with it what you wish. If I have just misunderstood the lot, of well. Then throw it in the scrap bin after reading.

Best,
Hanna

graham christian
07-08-2011, 05:04 PM
Hanna.
I'm not going to say if I agree or disagree with your response only to say it was a fine response.

Regards.G.

jbblack
07-08-2011, 05:28 PM
Hanna,
Excellent post!

George S. Ledyard
07-08-2011, 06:44 PM
Hi George,

of course I don't know you and I don't know what you do about your training. I just judge from what I read. And from that reading, if I was your student I would not be encouraged by it but rather the opposite. Would it ever be possible to make you happy with my level of commitment, I'd wonder. I would probably feel that way even if I was one of those who comes to almost every class... it's some time ago now, but my staple level of training used to be 3-5 classes a week, plus seminars. But I wouldn't match you anyhow... so how could I ever please you, regarding commitment?

If my teacher would write to his group of students what you just wrote to yours, I think I'd loose a bit of courage. Then I'd say "OK, I am not the kind of student he really wants, the one to bring the his art to future generations of exponents". And then quite probably my attendance would drop, because I would feel what I do is not enough for my teacher and never will be.

But I am not your student. Some students and some teachers are not good matches. Perhaps your students don't react like me at all. On the other hand - maybe some of them do?

Of course I have no clue what your IRL interactions with your students look like. Perhaps they interpret your text quite differently than I do simply because they know you and I don't. But I would be wary to tell my students I was unhappy about attendance rates. I just don't think that is going to change things for the better. That was my main reason for linking to that blog post.

Probably you can't know for sure what it is that makes your students feelings that you get more and more inimitable, or unreachable as an ideal. You interpret it as it being your level. But what if - just if - it is actually something in your attitude and some things you say that makes them feel this way?

I'm not saying you are not paying attention to your own training (what would I know about that, and talk about being impertinent!) I am saying that to me, it has been a big inspiration to see my teachers working on their own development, and taking part in that as "training dummy" or what have you, in ways that clearly showed this was what they were doing. On your level you to a fairly large degree teach yourself things - right? Otherwise you'd stop learning when your teacher passes away, and I don't think that's the case. You don't need somebody's guidance all the time - or as Toby Threadgill has put it, regarding his now deceased teacher, "he is still guiding me, he always will". But the investigation of that guidance is to be done by you yourself - and that is also something to show a student, that it can be done. That at some level, one learns how to somewhat teach oneself, investigate what one has learned so far and find new things in it. To me it opened up the can of possibilites, kind of. And this is something best done in small groups. A small group is a golden opportunity to teach some precious things. A big group is a golden opportunity to do something else. Ceasing the opportunity rather than letting the students hearing complaints... that's what I would think would be more rational, and also one of the things in that blog post I linked to.

If your text was originally written for Aikiweb, with a different title, I probably would have reacted differently. Web forums can be a great place to vent things one doesn't necessarily shout all over the place in one's own dojo. Of course some of your students would have found it anyhow, but still it is different when the text is written directly for your students, I think.

Of the comments on your blog post on its original location, I like Julian Harel's.

I still fear being impertinent. What I am writing is - um. Speculative criticism. But since you put that text not only on your own blog but also here on Aikiweb, I suppose you want some feedback - and this is mine. Take it and do with it what you wish. If I have just misunderstood the lot, of well. Then throw it in the scrap bin after reading.

Best,
Hanna

The whole point of posting the letter to my Blog, which is linked to AikiWeb, was to generate discussion. I gauge how folks react and who is doing the reacting. If a number of folks I respect have a negative reaction, I reassess my thinking... I may not change but I definitely reconsider. On this one on the whole the reaction has been about 60 / 40 positive, which to me indicates that it's largely a matter of opinion and personal style. Everybody has different ideas and everyone has his or unique ways of dealing with them. Your critique is thoughtful and probably correct in that I assume there are students of mine for whom this was intended that have the same reaction you do. I knew that going in.

I can assure everyone who had various counter suggestions about how to motivate folks, how to communicate, how to lead, etc that since I opened the dojo in 1989, we have pretty much tried everything. Frankly. I have never seen folks change their behavior based on any particular approach we have taken.We did at one point actually incorporate the seminar fees in to the dues. Folks loved that... when they attended the events it felt like they were free. But, interestingly, the attendance didn't change, Folks didn't change their training habits even when they had paid for the event.

I think that this is just a very difficult cycle we are going through. My senior students used to train like crazy. Over the years they have gotten married, had kids, gotten more responsibilities at work, etc. Most of them have a harder time training like they did. It is very difficult to find a way to pass on all that was taught to me simply because no one can train frequently enough to cover all of it well. This is a natural process for any dojo. However, usually, in the past there has been a more steady influx of young new folks coming in to the pipeline who were at the stage in their lives when they could train like total maniacs. Right now I have one student who fits this bill.

So the dojo gets older, the training changes to fit their requirements and the character of the dojo changes with it. If it goes too far this way, it becomes a dojo at which it is not possible to really train hard. At that point it becomes a dojo which can no longer produce excellence. Perhaps it doesn't matter. In the traditional arts, the only real responsibility of a teacher was to pass on the art to at least 1 person, Two or three was better, in case something happened to the first one, but 1 person was needed to carry the art through another generation. So, I have my seniors. Several look to be better than I am down the road and they'll be able to teach effectively as well. So perhaps I shouldn't worry about all these other folks.

Anyway, Hanna thanks for taking the time to provide thoughtful discussion here. There isn't enough of that. No gnashing of teeth and rending of garments... no vituperation, just a discussion. I am quite happy with how it progressed.

SeiserL
07-09-2011, 07:57 AM
Osu Sensei,

IMHO, where ever we go we run into that bell shaped distribution curve, where the vast majority of people settle for a average level of competence. There are far fewer who are really bad or really good.

IMHO, its a personal choice where on that curve we want to be. Some of that depends on the motives or intent by which we study or undertake any endeavor.

Many people would like the end result of excellence but do not necessarily believe it is possible for them (argue for our limits and they are yours) or are not committed t the process/work it takes to get there.

I am just please there are a few of you shooting for excellence to be an example for the result of us who want more from our art, ourselves, and our lives.

Looking forward to the next time we share space and time.

Michael Hackett
07-09-2011, 01:25 PM
When I read Ledyard Sensei's original post I took one message from him. His follow-up postings have delivered another. From my perspective he is laying out a roadmap to excellence and clearly telling his students how to become better than he is, better than Saotome Sensei, better than they can imagine. I doubt that all of his students, or all of any other teacher's students, could achieve that level of skill, but some can, and some will if they follow his prescription.

In many ways he is merely an aikido teacher and in some ways he is the head of a sort of koryu art. He's offering both paths to his students and those choosing his most demanding track will have the opportunity to achieve great skill. The others will learn damned good aikido, but will likely never achieve greatness. Damned good aikido is goal enough for most of us and a very few desire something more. To his credit, he offers both pathways.

He makes his living from his dojo, his seminars and his DVDs and doubtlessly has to provide damned good aikido instruction in order to eat. Even if he were fabulously wealthy, I suspect he would still have to provide that kind of instruction as a member of a formal orgainization. That he is successful at doing so and still providing something way beyond for those who wish it is amazing.

In his original post and subsequent postings he has given his students clear instructions how to achieve something greater than damned good aikido. Those who elect to follow that path will have the opportunity. But his doors are open to those who don't. How many dojo operate that way? How many instructors think that way? I suspect very few.

Sometimes Ledyard Sensei comes off sounding like that grumpy neighbor who wouldn't return the ball that fell into his yard. I had the opportunity to train with him at the last Aiki Expo as a brand new 6th kyu. We were doing katatori sumi otoshi and he had no problem at all putting me on the mat. I simply couldn't move him. He worked with me and showed me exactly where I was going wrong and demonstrated patience and interest while doing so. When I finally "got it" and could throw him consistently, I got the impression that he was happier about it than I was. He's not a curmedgeon, but he certainly doesn't suffer fools.

George S. Ledyard
07-09-2011, 03:52 PM
Even if he were fabulously wealthy,

Hah, hah, I almost choked when I read that one. Just remember, you are not really broke as long as you have "balance available".

Chapter One of my book on how to be a professional Aikido teacher will be instruction on how to find and marry someone with a real job.

Diana Frese
07-09-2011, 04:26 PM
After reading Linda Eskin's excellent blog post about this thread, (I had already posted good wishes for her third kyu test before I found her previous blog post) George's most recent comment was enough of a challenge for me to finally post here after skimming through this very fascinating topic and intending to study all the posts later.

Yes I am a dropout! But why do I still care?

Memories of "flying for people"

I joined Aiki Web on the Thanksgiving thread in gratitude to former teachers, training partners and students, and have probably already run out of stories since then.....

But I do want to say something about what some people might call ulterior motives.

On returning from Japan at the age of thirty naturally people were thinking I should go meet people, date, etc..... but somehow I thought a person who didn't know about martial arts in general wouldn't understand me, and understanding is important in marriage.

Later when the publishing company downsized, I thought maybe I should look for a job which wasn't a desk job. How about police work or construction. That moment I was standing in front of the old Town Hall here in Stamford. I figured police work was out, even though I had friends from the Y who were police officers.... because the thought of firing a weapon in the line of duty was scary.

Strangely enough I did end up in construction, and married another friend from the Y who hired me. But we didn't get rich and I didn't continue teaching. But at least it's something a Japanese would understand as a traditional trade .... We practice from time to time and remember with nostalgia the times we did hard training, he in Shotokan, and me in Aikido. So that is why I consider myself a part of both sides of the debate. And I'm grateful to so many on Aiki Web who have assured me one is never too old....:)

My hat's off to all of you who have persevered!

George S. Ledyard
07-09-2011, 07:44 PM
After reading Linda Eskin's excellent blog post about this thread, (I had already posted good wishes for her third kyu test before I found her previous blog post) George's most recent comment was enough of a challenge for me to finally post here after skimming through this very fascinating topic and intending to study all the posts later.

Yes I am a dropout! But why do I still care?

Memories of "flying for people"

I joined Aiki Web on the Thanksgiving thread in gratitude to former teachers, training partners and students, and have probably already run out of stories since then.....

But I do want to say something about what some people might call ulterior motives.

On returning from Japan at the age of thirty naturally people were thinking I should go meet people, date, etc..... but somehow I thought a person who didn't know about martial arts in general wouldn't understand me, and understanding is important in marriage.

Later when the publishing company downsized, I thought maybe I should look for a job which wasn't a desk job. How about police work or construction. That moment I was standing in front of the old Town Hall here in Stamford. I figured police work was out, even though I had friends from the Y who were police officers.... because the thought of firing a weapon in the line of duty was scary.

Strangely enough I did end up in construction, and married another friend from the Y who hired me. But we didn't get rich and I didn't continue teaching. But at least it's something a Japanese would understand as a traditional trade .... We practice from time to time and remember with nostalgia the times we did hard training, he in Shotokan, and me in Aikido. So that is why I consider myself a part of both sides of the debate. And I'm grateful to so many on Aiki Web who have assured me one is never too old....:)

My hat's off to all of you who have persevered!

Hi Diana,
Ellis Amdur, another former student of Aikido who went in different directions, once described Aikido as being like that "old girl friend" that always has a special place in your heart long after you've moved on. And, I suspect that the "old girl friend" wasn't left unaffected either. Anyone who put as much of herself into Aikido as you did, left the art better than when you found it, I am sure.

Just as in our other relationships, some folks move on to new relationships that better suit them, others stay married for fifty years. You even have folks who once got divorced getting together again later and remarrying.

Aikido is an amazing art and the doing of it seriously can reverberate down through ones life, well after mat time has ceased.

- George

Dan Rubin
07-09-2011, 09:09 PM
George

Thank you for starting this discussion. It's good for such thoughts to be aired and discussed by the wide variety of people who inhabit AikiWeb. I would like to comment on a few things that have been brought up.

First, in other threads you have insisted that the training you grew up with was injurious and counterproductive. You've gone so far as to state that your earlier training had been a waste of time. From this I assume that you don't expect--or even allow--your students to train like you used to train.

Second, you've noted with approval that many of today's best aikido students are invigorating their aikido with what they've learned from other arts.

So if you no longer want your students to train like you did, and you value the new aikido enhanced by other arts, why do you lament the passing of the old way of training? If your students do not show the enthusiasm and commitment that you showed when you were a young man, perhaps it's because you are not providing them what you were provided with. Perhaps you should expose them to an aikido that is simpler, less subtle, less internal, more muscular, more athletic, more dangerous, more macho.

But if you choose to teach a different aikido--albeit a "better" aikido--should you not expect your students to receive the training differently than you received it?

And you might consider the following: Think back to how things were when you first started practicing. Think about the great training, the great social life, the great energy in the dojo. Now think about what that energy would have been like had the dojo been run by fifty- and sixty-year-olds. Because that's who's running dojos now. If my calculations are correct, when you met Saotome Sensei he was 39 years old. Ikeda Sensei was in his 20s. Now, Saotome Sensei is in his 70s and Ikeda Sensei is in his 60s. And you're no spring chicken yourself.;)

You're older and wiser. Ironically, that might be a problem.

I've missed the past three summer camps, but I'll attend this year. I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.

Dan

George S. Ledyard
07-10-2011, 01:28 AM
George

Thank you for starting this discussion. It's good for such thoughts to be aired and discussed by the wide variety of people who inhabit AikiWeb. I would like to comment on a few things that have been brought up.

First, in other threads you have insisted that the training you grew up with was injurious and counterproductive. You've gone so far as to state that your earlier training had been a waste of time. From this I assume that you don't expect--or even allow--your students to train like you used to train.

Waste of time is too strong. I learned an awful lot. One thing you can say about the generation I trained with, you can't make them back up, they go straight at the threat. You can't overstate how important that is. So many folks these days can't do that.

On the other hand, we trained with too much tension, mentally and physically for too long. How we trained was never going to result in an understanding of what our teacher was doing. It shouldn't take 25 years. But I do think some period of time, necessarily when you are younger and can do it, is an important part of ones development in Aikido, It just shouldn't last too long... four or five years at most. And not perhaps at the very beginning of ones training.

Second, you've noted with approval that many of today's best aikido students are invigorating their aikido with what they've learned from other arts.

So if you no longer want your students to train like you did, and you value the new aikido enhanced by other arts, why do you lament the passing of the old way of training? If your students do not show the enthusiasm and commitment that you showed when you were a young man, perhaps it's because you are not providing them what you were provided with. Perhaps you should expose them to an aikido that is simpler, less subtle, less internal, more muscular, more athletic, more dangerous, more macho.

But if you choose to teach a different aikido--albeit a "better" aikido--should you not expect your students to receive the training differently than you received it?

I do not lament the fact that people do not train in the same fashion as we trained. As I have said, I do not think it was a very effective or efficient way of figuring out what the higher level folks were doing.

I do lament the fact that it seems difficult to find as many folks who wish to train with the same commitment. What one is doing in Aiki training is burning in a whole new mental and physical paradigm. No matter how clear the instruction, no matter how well one does following the exercises at some seminar, the fact is that without a fair amount of practice, including at some point practice under pressure, the new paradigm will not become ones "default setting". The fact that we should train differently than I did doesn't mean we don't train hard or we can train less.

And you might consider the following: Think back to how things were when you first started practicing. Think about the great training, the great social life, the great energy in the dojo. Now think about what that energy would have been like had the dojo been run by fifty- and sixty-year-olds. Because that's who's running dojos now. If my calculations are correct, when you met Saotome Sensei he was 39 years old. Ikeda Sensei was in his 20s. Now, Saotome Sensei is in his 70s and Ikeda Sensei is in his 60s. And you're no spring chicken yourself.;)

You're older and wiser. Ironically, that might be a problem.

Yeah! Yeah... go ahead and remind me. I'll be sixty next year, which has always been officially "old" in my book. But I am told sixty is the new forty so what the hell. You could be right but I do think there is a demographic shift taking place. My own experience is limited, essentially being part of the first generation of American Aikido students training under a Japanese Shihan who had moved here after training with the Founder. I haven't observed a couple of generation cycles.

But arts with longer history than ours have been passed down over hundreds of years. Clearly at any point in time there were old timers and there were the young folks coming up the pipeline. But I think it is different now. It is not just Aikido but rather almost all the traditional arts which are experiencing a falling off of interest on the part of younger folks. I have heard this from any number of teachers of martial arts and traditional cultural arts (I am talking Japanese arts right now).

Anyway, I'll see you at camp. I am looking forward to it very much.

oisin bourke
07-10-2011, 08:58 AM
Yeah! Yeah... go ahead and remind me. I'll be sixty next year, which has always been officially "old" in my book. But I am told sixty is the new forty so what the hell. You could be right but I do think there is a demographic shift taking place. My own experience is limited, essentially being part of the first generation of American Aikido students training under a Japanese Shihan who had moved here after training with the Founder. I haven't observed a couple of generation cycles.

But arts with longer history than ours have been passed down over hundreds of years. Clearly at any point in time there were old timers and there were the young folks coming up the pipeline. But I think it is different now. It is not just Aikido but rather almost all the traditional arts which are experiencing a falling off of interest on the part of younger folks. I have heard this from any number of teachers of martial arts and traditional cultural arts (I am talking Japanese arts right now).


I think that arts that adapted to the lifestyles of the "boomer" generations in the 60s to 80s are suffering. Previous generations didn't have the same time or money available to train daily for decades, and the current/future generations are/will be unable to do so. Traditional arts that didn't change with the times are probably doing the same as they always were. The current generation of "shihan" instructors across the arts (ikebana. chado, budo etc.) are managing to maintain some level of committed students/income, although it's becoming increasingly difficult. IMO, it will be the current generation of mid to upper level instructors who will face serious issues in ten or twenty years (when they become Shihan). They will have invested a huge amount of time and money to learn something that most people will not be willing or able to invest similar levels of commitment.

An interesting article on this social shift can be read here:

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/language/T110701003914.htm

George S. Ledyard
07-10-2011, 11:06 AM
An interesting article on this social shift can be read here:

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/language/T110701003914.htm

Really fascinating... thanks so much.

In our own society, I would argue that a quite intentional "culture of fearfulness" has been encouraged. It has allowed the ruling elite to push through security measures that would previously have been considered far too intrusive and something out of 1984.

It has also allowed the large business community to systematically destroy organized labor and to keep the work force feeling that they are lucky to have jobs at all and therefore need to put up with whatever conditions their employers wish to impose. Every time we hear about economic growth due to so-called "productivity gains" you are hearing about folks doing the same work with fewer people. So either folks are working longer hours for less money, which is the case, or technology has replaced some workers, which also serves to keep the workers feeling insecure about their job prospects.

So, the number one reason you hear that folks can't train more, at least in my area which is fairly affluent, is so-called "lack of time". But, as I have pointed out elsewhere, we have exactly the same amount of time anyone ever had. We have simply convinced ourselves that we have to fit more stuff into that time.

It is getting crazy. Globalization is increasing the pressure on everyone to work harder just to get by. Recently, the Univ of Washington, a State school, announced that it was reserving a portion of each entering class for foreign students because they would pay tuition at the full non-resident rate. So, the rich from other countries can push out potential students from our own state even though the school is a state school.

I have friends who went to Harvard. They recently contacted the school to ask what they should be doing with their kids to make sure that they can be accepted into the school when they are ready. They were told that the process of preparation starts in elementary school now. The "power Elite" as C Wright Mills referred to it, is now globalized. The pressures that this puts the middle class under is enormous.

Anyway, it is really about choices. We spend as much on cosmetics or pet food as some countries live on. We are still the richest society in the world. If there was ever a society which should be able to support activities which are geared towards personal growth, it is ours. Instead we choose to engage in military interventionism which makes a huge amount of money for a small group of people while costing the society as a whole massive amounts both psychologically and financially.

When I talk about people not being willing to train as we did when we were younger, I do not mean to infer that they are lazy. In fact they are most likely working harder than we felt we had to. They have more "stuff" to support, larger mortgages of nicer homes, the kids have a thousand activities that seem to be imperative these days. Life was considerably slower when I was younger. I had a good job and a family but managed to train a lot.

I think that as a society we should be considering the direction we've taken. Wealth is increasingly concentrated and the mass of folks live under considerable stress and fear which allows the folks that "run the show" to pretty much do as they please. I do not think that our current direction is maintainable over the long run. I believe we have the wealth to support an entirely different life than we are creating for ourselves but we need to set a whole new set of priorities. And there is a vast propaganda / marketing machine out there which is geared towards making sure that doesn't happen.

As a number of folks have stated "times change". No question, but are we powerless to effect that? Do we just get blown around by the winds of change or do we give some direction to that change? Do we just accept the fact that we don;t have time any more for the things that we find most fulfilling? Or do we try to shape our priorities to allow us to pursue the things that are truly valuable rather than working ourselves to death so that the small group of folks at the top get richer than ever?

Dave de Vos
07-10-2011, 01:36 PM
But arts with longer history than ours have been passed down over hundreds of years. Clearly at any point in time there were old timers and there were the young folks coming up the pipeline. But I think it is different now. It is not just Aikido but rather almost all the traditional arts which are experiencing a falling off of interest on the part of younger folks. I have heard this from any number of teachers of martial arts and traditional cultural arts (I am talking Japanese arts right now).


Although Go is not a martial art, it is a traditional eastern art and I can see some parallels between your story and the history of Go in my country. In Go too there has been a steady decline in numbers of active players in the Netherlands for the past 20 years or so. The player population gets older on average. Many started when they were young adults in the seventies and eighties. They had the time then but today they have jobs, family etcetera.

What I have seen in go (but also in darts and poker), is that growth occurs in booms. The last Go boom was triggered by the anime series "Hikaru no go" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikaru_no_Go) about 10 years ago which attracted many young and enthusiastic players. Some of them put in enough effort to become strong players, so in recent years there is a surge of strong players under 30 (but numbers are dwindling again).

So these periodical booms causes the "pipeline" to have narrow sections and wide sections. It may not be life threatening to an art, as long as the inflow of new students doesn't dwindle too much (but I think this extinction threshold is quite low).

George S. Ledyard
07-10-2011, 02:01 PM
Although Go is not a martial art, it is a traditional eastern art and I can see some parallels between your story and the history of Go in my country. In Go too there has been a steady decline in numbers of active players in the Netherlands for the past 20 years or so. The player population gets older on average. Many started when they were young adults in the seventies and eighties. They had the time then but today they have jobs, family etcetera.

What I have seen in go (but also in darts and poker), is that growth occurs in booms. The last Go boom was triggered by the anime series "Hikaru no go" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikaru_no_Go) about 10 years ago which attracted many young and enthusiastic players. Some of them put in enough effort to become strong players, so in recent years there is a surge of strong players under 30 (but numbers are dwindling again).

So these periodical booms causes the "pipeline" to have narrow sections and wide sections. It may not be life threatening to an art, as long as the inflow of new students doesn't dwindle too much (but I think this extinction threshold is quite low).

Interesting.. thanks for posting. What I know about Go could fit on the head of a pin with 20,000 arch-angels.

Dave de Vos
07-10-2011, 04:01 PM
Interesting.. thanks for posting. What I know about Go could fit on the head of a pin with 20,000 arch-angels.

I won't blame you, Go is hardly know in the west :)

And my post was merely intended as a comment on the "pipeline" and the survival of traditional arts anyway.

Basia Halliop
07-10-2011, 05:09 PM
I agree with so much in both Hanna's and Dan Rubin's posts...

With Hanna, I agree - to me, being chastised in this way would be very demotivating, and I can only take people's word that there are other people who would find it motivating.

You mentioned few beginners came to your seminar -- aren't beginners usually the most loosely tied? It takes time for something like Aikido to become an important part of your life, and time to get the basis in class to begin to feel comfortable looking even further to another teacher who will likely confuse you even more. I would be more worried if it was mostly beginners who came, and only a few seniors.

I think Dan has really hit on something also - on the one hand, you seem to wish you had more young, intense people (and you more specifically mention young men several times) - on the other hand, you want people who will train subtle, rather non-physical things, very hard to explain things...

Perhaps it's not that people or 'society' are changing but that they aren't? I think young intense people have always been drawn in much larger numbers to altheticism and physical intensity. It's the nature of youth.... And especially if they have never experienced anything different to compare what you are doing to, can they really understand enough to even understand why your way would be beneficial? Would the people you trained with when you were young even have been drawn in the same way to the way you train now? Would you have been?

Personally, I think in life you generally can't control any other people's behaviour or choices or attitudes, and you only drive yourself crazy (and often them) if you try too much to do so. Of course you can choose your own behaviour, and often you do have an influence on others', but I think one mostly has to step back on some level and just accept that other human beings often just won't act how you want them to.

danj
07-10-2011, 05:32 PM
. On this one on the whole the reaction has been about 60 / 40 positive, which to me indicates that it's largely a matter of opinion and personal style.

Of all the feedback I'd be interested to hear if its different for people that teach and run dojo. Sitting in the 'hot' seat tends to change perspective I imagine.

best and love your work

dan

George S. Ledyard
07-10-2011, 05:55 PM
Of all the feedback I'd be interested to hear if its different for people that teach and run dojo. Sitting in the 'hot' seat tends to change perspective I imagine.

best and love your work

dan

It's a style issue mostly. Some folks feel it's better to be "motivational", some take the approach that one should simply lead by example, and others sympathize with the occasional let the students know exactly what's expected. This time and in the past when I have made statements that seemed a bit demanding to some folks, it was the real old timers who seemed to get what I was talking about. The folks with 30 to 40 years in. I think that's because a lot was expected of us. We didn't question it, we just did it. I'm not saying that everyone back then felt the way we did, it's just that the ones who didn't left. So the ones that are still here have a bit more "old school" attitude. But it isn't simply that. People have widely differing communication styles and that doesn't necessarily correlate with time in or seniority. Francis Takahashi goes back to the flood in American Aikido but he has a very positive and diplomatic style. I am frequently more direct than he would do himself and often I feel he is too nice. On the other hand I have seen and heard him do a verbal wrath of God and I have at times been quite diplomatic when I thought that's what would be best.

FiuzA
07-10-2011, 07:34 PM
Hello,

I'm an aikido instructor and I run a very small dojo in Portugal.

It's so small that even if all of a sudden more students would join the dojo it just wouldn't do for everybody.

On top of that, I don't have nearly the experience that George Ledyard sensei has since I only teach since 2007 (when I was 18 years old). And I am certainly not a professional.

This little context of me aside, all I have to say is that I understand the problematic George Ledyard sensei brought here. Not only regarding the lack of interest, dedication and commitment with the art but also the reduced number of students in our art.

It's actually funny since I wrote not long ago on my blog a post titled "Nobody knows what's Aikido". http://pe-de-atleta.blogspot.com/2011/06/ninguem-sabe-o-que-e-o-aikido.html

Even though I only speak about the reality of aikido in Portugal (the one I know the best, of course) the bottom line doesn't go too far from what sensei has written on his blog and posted here (the 1st post and subsequent responses).

It's in portuguese but you could give it a try by translating it on google or something ;)

What happens in Portugal is that almost 10 years have passed without the number of practitioners having raised.

Regarding commitment, same happens. I am not 60 years old nor did I train 30 years ago, but even 10 or 15 years ago the commitment and dedication was undoubtedly higher.

Now people say "they have no time". Sometimes it's actually true since people have to work a little bit more in this recession country not only doing extra hours, a second job, you name it.

So, sometimes really "there's no more time" (or normally, no more patience after a hard day's work). But hell, that's not even the majority of the cases. I too believe the "no time" excuse is a lousy one. Even though each case is a unique case, of course if one really wants, if one really prioritizes it, there's always time for aikido (or anything else, for that matter).

Today the society is too "McDonaldized" for my taste (there's a good read about it from the author George Ritzer).

Now in Portugal, and Europe I believe, to graduate in university it downgraded from 5 years to 3 years, for instance.

Everything is getting "easier" and certainly faster.

Thing is, aikido ain't fast. It takes time and dedication, even when the learning curve is mitigated, such as sensei George aims for.

Today I see too many people using aikido like they chew gum. Also, they want too many "candies". Candies that keep the interest up. When I say candies I'm talking about more tangible stuff, like belts and such, when aikido (or budo?) is not really about that also.

So, like I was saying, if I remember right, 10/15 years ago there was more commitment.

People are way too stressed with their lives. They wanna relax. And because aikido requires dedication, hell, that's a pain, right?

Well, ok.

I should add that I've shared your text, Ledyard sensei, with my sensei (which have a bigger dojo than mine but have suffered a decline in attendance also) and he replied to me this way (I'm sure there's no problem sharing this):

The text is magnificent…

Personaly, I subscribe it almost fully…

At least, the thoughts about what's going on in practice are completely true…

I feel it everyday…

Which is a big problem, as you know…

Thank you for sharing.

But… Gambatte kudasai…

Succinct, but I felt the same.

Now, what Oisin Bourke said made me think and worry. Because I'm a young guy and if this state of decline continues, aikido could be endangered indeed (specially in my country where the number of practitioners are just incomparable with the US ones for example).

Regarding what the students of Ledyard sensei may think about this text, well, it's like sensei said, it's his style. Good thing he sticks with his style. There's no "right" style, so, some students might have been touched by his text and probably will think about it and others may feel somewhat... pressed in some negative way.

But, normal thing people react differently.

Personally, I think Ledyard sensei did good with being honest and direct about his feelings and thoughts about the matter and sharing his concerns.

I am no oldschool like yourself but I sure do share the same concerns. And if it's a professional, more experienced instructor saying it, the better. It means people like you, who dedicate an entire life to the art, are willing to fight for it even on darker times. Maybe this sound too much like chit-chat, but I don't think that way.

You say you have no power to change things. Me neither. But step by step, who knows, things can change (for the better).

Best regards,
from this youngster,
André

Peter Goldsbury
07-10-2011, 08:08 PM
I think that arts that adapted to the lifestyles of the "boomer" generations in the 60s to 80s are suffering. Previous generations didn't have the same time or money available to train daily for decades, and the current/future generations are/will be unable to do so. Traditional arts that didn't change with the times are probably doing the same as they always were. The current generation of "shihan" instructors across the arts (ikebana. chado, budo etc.) are managing to maintain some level of committed students/income, although it's becoming increasingly difficult. IMO, it will be the current generation of mid to upper level instructors who will face serious issues in ten or twenty years (when they become Shihan). They will have invested a huge amount of time and money to learn something that most people will not be willing or able to invest similar levels of commitment.

An interesting article on this social shift can be read here:

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features/language/T110701003914.htm

Hello Oisin,

I have read the Yomiuri article and I have some reservations. However, I have not done any research based on my own, pretty extensive, experience of teaching the children of the yakeato generation. I suspect that the yakeato generation form a large proportion of the membership of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Japan. They fit their training patterns to their jobs and home life, but, given these constraints, their attendance is regular and can last for decades.

I also believe that it is very difficult to compare Japan with the United States, more difficult than I myself thought at first. One of the problems is that comparing aikido in the US with aikido in Japan is like comparing apples and oranges.

One of the major differences is that in the US (and the UK to a lesser extent), as far as I can see, aikido is able to be 'counter-cultural'. One sense of this term is that there is no prior tradition of 'US martial arts', of which aikido sees itself as a part--or not. So, when I trained in the UK, along with the obligatory Tohei and Westbrook & Ratti, people also read The Teachings of Don Juan and Alan Watts.

In Japan, the only sense in which aikido can be said to be counter-cultural is in the much narrower sense of being originally tied to one of the 'new religions', but this aspect has largely been forgotten, consigned to the Aikido Museum of Antiquities. As one of the postwar 'budo', aikido promotes itself very actively and is increasingly taught in schools. And the budo ideology has been refashioned to go with this. I think it is no coincidence that the many references in Morihei Ueshiba's writings to aiki (合気) as aiki (愛気) are postwar: "You see, postwar aikido is all about world peace and love--and the Old Man thought so, too."

Occasionally, I talk to some of the Japanese yakeato shihans who went to live abroad. They are frustrated that aikido is changing (in Japan), but that they have no place in the change. They accept that times must change (because they always do), but have no answer to the dilemma this poses for them: times must indeed change, but the way in which they themselves were taught must also be preserved.

Best wishes,

PAG

Tim Ruijs
07-11-2011, 04:04 AM
It is very difficult to find a way to pass on all that was taught to me simply because no one can train frequently enough to cover all of it well. This is a natural process for any dojo.
What exactly do you mean by this? You simply cannot pass on everything you have learned. Everything that you have learned was done by you as the person you are. Nobody is the same as you. You can pass on the methods, way of learning, point out the most important aspects and help them on their way.

When you feel something might get lost, but you think is important to pass on...
The concern about who will follow in your footsteps is also natural to any dojo(cho). I really believe motivation is important. Once people have entered your dojo, show what you are about, show what road lies ahead. Some will leave, some will stay. Some progress more than others. But the heart of the dojo will be healthy and spirits will be up.
Your Aikido will then have found a place.

dps
07-12-2011, 02:10 AM
Ahh the old lament: this generation does not know what it was like in back in the day.

Why in my father's day he had to walk to school in two feet of snow ( all year round ) with no shoes, no coat and up hill both ways.

Whereas I had a coat and shoes and the two feet of snow was in the winter.
It was still uphill both ways.

My kids don't even have to leave the house. There are home schooled over the internet.

dps :)

oisin bourke
07-12-2011, 02:16 AM
Hello Oisin,

I have read the Yomiuri article and I have some reservations. However, I have not done any research based on my own, pretty extensive, experience of teaching the children of the yakeato generation. I suspect that the yakeato generation form a large proportion of the membership of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Japan. They fit their training patterns to their jobs and home life, but, given these constraints, their attendance is regular and can last for decades.

I also believe that it is very difficult to compare Japan with the United States, more difficult than I myself thought at first. One of the problems is that comparing aikido in the US with aikido in Japan is like comparing apples and oranges.

One of the major differences is that in the US (and the UK to a lesser extent), as far as I can see, aikido is able to be 'counter-cultural'. One sense of this term is that there is no prior tradition of 'US martial arts', of which aikido sees itself as a part--or not. So, when I trained in the UK, along with the obligatory Tohei and Westbrook & Ratti, people also read The Teachings of Don Juan and Alan Watts.

In Japan, the only sense in which aikido can be said to be counter-cultural is in the much narrower sense of being originally tied to one of the 'new religions', but this aspect has largely been forgotten, consigned to the Aikido Museum of Antiquities. As one of the postwar 'budo', aikido promotes itself very actively and is increasingly taught in schools. And the budo ideology has been refashioned to go with this. I think it is no coincidence that the many references in Morihei Ueshiba's writings to aiki (合気) as aiki (愛気) are postwar: "You see, postwar aikido is all about world peace and love--and the Old Man thought so, too."

Occasionally, I talk to some of the Japanese yakeato shihans who went to live abroad. They are frustrated that aikido is changing (in Japan), but that they have no place in the change. They accept that times must change (because they always do), but have no answer to the dilemma this poses for them: times must indeed change, but the way in which they themselves were taught must also be preserved.

Best wishes,

PAG

Peter,

That's a very good point about Aikido being seen as "countercultural" outside of Japan. From those I know practicing Aikido where I live, there seems to be the "old school Japan" group and the hippies. However, Hokkaido has an interesting dynamic. A growing number of Japanese (and foreigners) who are fed up with the state of things are moving up here to pursue a lifestyle: growing blueberries and snowboarding etc. Also, people up here are all relative newcomers, apart from the Ainu, so traditional ties aren't as strong as they are in other parts pf the country. You also still have the DR people with roots back to Sokaku.

RE: the article: I have absolutely no idea as to the accuracy of the analysis, other than my personal observations, but it seems to strike a chord with the mood of the country. I have noticed how one is much more defined in terms of one's generational cohort in Japan compared to Europe and the states, down to the Kanji used in one's name, one's political outlook, etc. I know this happens in other countries, of course, but it seems much more apparent over here.

RE:Your overseas"Yakeato" friends: What are the problems that they see with Aikido in Japan,?

sakumeikan
07-12-2011, 06:25 AM
Ahh the old lament: this generation does not know what it was like in back in the day.

Why in my father's day he had to walk to school in two feet of snow ( all year round ) with no shoes, no coat and up hill both ways.

Whereas I had a coat and shoes and the two feet of snow was in the winter.
It was still uphill both ways.

My kids don't even have to leave the house. There are home schooled over the internet.

dps :)
Dear David,
So if you asked your children to emulate your fathers days
would they be capable or willing to suffer to the degree your father did?Having had it easy I think not.Only if circumstances changed dramatically would the children adapt to harsh living.
Cheers, Joe.

chillzATL
07-12-2011, 07:57 AM
George,

Looking at the post for your upcoming group seminar it seems that the spots are filling in nicely. I know Dan keeps his seminars small on purpose, so I'm sure you have no issues with those. What about other seminars by people like Ushiro, Ikeda, Threadgill, etc? Do you have any issues with filling those? If not, do you feel that says something about the one that prompted you to write this letter?

phitruong
07-12-2011, 08:42 AM
thought to throw this in

First Generation - Build
Second Generation - Use
Third Generation - Abuse

I am the first generation of immigrant to the U.S. so i build the foundation. my children will use that foundation and expand it. my grand children will surely abuse what the first two generations put together. It's a repeating pattern exist through out history. no different for Aikido.

sakumeikan
07-12-2011, 10:49 AM
thought to throw this in

First Generation - Build
Second Generation - Use
Third Generation - Abuse

I am the first generation of immigrant to the U.S. so i build the foundation. my children will use that foundation and expand it. my grand children will surely abuse what the first two generations put together. It's a repeating pattern exist through out history. no different for Aikido.
Dear Phi,
Did this not happen to mayor civilisations such as Rome , Egypt, China, Japan, India to name but a few. The west was populated by early pioneers who suffered greatly[read the Oregon Trails books].Later carpetbaggers thieves and vagabonds took over, now we have had the Bush administration, Blair in the U.K.
The pattern is the same.The quicker the current Aikido groups fade into obscurity and a new breed of fresh guys come in and build on the success of the older groups [and avoid/learn from the mistakes] the better.Isnt sad that we build houses on less than solid foundations , and repeat the mistakes of the past over and over again.We never seem to learn from history.
All the best , Joe.

dps
07-12-2011, 11:20 AM
Dear David,
So if you asked your children to emulate your fathers days
would they be capable or willing to suffer to the degree your father did?Having had it easy I think not.Only if circumstances changed dramatically would the children adapt to harsh living.
Cheers, Joe.

Why would I ask them to emulate my father?

Good parents and teachers make prior knowledge easier to learn so their children and students can surpase them.

Complaining they do not have it as difficult as you did is selfish and counter productive.

dps

George S. Ledyard
07-12-2011, 12:47 PM
George,

Looking at the post for your upcoming group seminar it seems that the spots are filling in nicely. I know Dan keeps his seminars small on purpose, so I'm sure you have no issues with those. What about other seminars by people like Ushiro, Ikeda, Threadgill, etc? Do you have any issues with filling those? If not, do you feel that says something about the one that prompted you to write this letter?

AS I stated in earlier posts... I never even have to consider whether a seminar with one of the Japanese Shihan won't break even. Typically, I turn folks away. It is frustrating in that, although these teachers are functioning at an extremely high level, their ability to articulate what they are doing and, even more importantly, get other folks to do it, is not anywhere near as good as some of the Non-Japanese instructors who are at the highest level.

It begs the question, why do people go to seminars? One of the Shihan I host flat out told me that "people generally do not attend seminars to get better. It's a social event." So, as if there were some inherent value to "basking in the presence" of the great one, they consistently go off to events at which from Friday to Sunday, they learn almost nothing. They do this for years. They pay a lot of money and sacrifice a lot of weekends to do this.

One weekend with William Gleason Sensei is worth years of seminar attendance with most of the Japanese Shihan. By Sunday night you feel as if you couldn't fit one more thing into your head. What you learn will have a virtually immediate effect on your training. The guy's Aikido has gone to the stratosphere. But in metro are with twenty plus dojos, three others in our own organization, I may have zero students from outside our dojo or, if there are some, they flew in from around the country to attend.

Are folks making their training decisions based on who can help them get better or who they want to be able to say they've been seen with recently? In many ways, I think that they are apt to work with the ones who make the fewest demands on them. Someone like myself or Bill Gleason will come in and tell you what you are doing that doesn't work and give precise instruction on what will work better. I did a whole seminar once in which there were some instructor level folks attending who had some serious issues with what they were doing. You could easily demonstrate that what they were doing didn't work or left them open. I spent quite a bit of time explaining how they needed to change their training in order to start getting better.

I had a friend at their dojo at the time. This person was frustrated by the quality of the training at the time (he has since left and trains elsewhere). At the end of the seminar, he was very excited because he thought that after a whole weekend of my retooling their approach to training, there would be a positive shift when they returned home. Instead, when they got on the mat on Monday night they went right back to what they had been doing all along. It was as if the seminar never happened.

(Another Koan, perhaps? If a seminar takes place but no one tries to learn anything, did the seminar actually happen?)

This is one of the greatest barriers to positive change in Aikido. Its just plain inertia. At any point in time, the vast majority of folks doing the art are happy with what they are doing. If they weren't happy, they'd have quit already. So, they aren't generally going to seminars to change what they do. Which is one of the reasons, I think, that training with the Japanese Shihan works for them.

With many the Japanese teachers, I have found that they are apt to walk around the mat and just smile ( to their credit, I have found that Chiba and Endo Senseis are less likely to do this, in fact Chiba will scream at you, which while terrifying, still means he is trying to get across to you. Endo Sensei is quieter and simply looks disgusted when he doesn't like what you are doing. But he is clear about it, which I like). Occasionally, I will see Saotome Sensei looking at something so wretched that he actually looks pained, but mostly he just walks around smiling. Folks need to understand that this doesn't not mean that everything's fine. It usually means that he has simply given up on folks. If you look like you are making a creditable attempt at "getting it", or you are simply so junior that no one would expect you to, he will help you. In other words, if he is on your case, it's because he still thinks you have some hope. But if you are a yudansha and simply look out to lunch, you are apt to get no feedback at all.

So, when I see absolutely world class teachers like William Gleason Sensei struggling to make a living while folks flock to seminars with teachers who will not or can not help them get better, well, it is frustrating and discouraging.

Even the Aiki Principles seminar with five instructors we are holding in Seattle may not be full until the last minute and the limit was only 65 students. The folks teaching are all top drawer folks. I expect it to be full by the time it rolls around but when I had Saotome Sensei several years back, the seminar filled up in four hours when I announced on-line registration was open. I turned away people and we had eighty folks attending.

The seminar with Saotome Sensei was a weapons seminar. I rented a gym so we'd have space. The general level of skill (and this was an instructor level seminar) was so poor that I had some kyu ranked students commenting on the fact that they were training with dojo heads who didn't hold their swords correctly. Sensei any number of times had to change what he was trying to present because the group was too remedial.

In an attempt to rectify that situation and raise the general level of skill up to the point at which Sensei could actually teach what he'd like to be teaching, I put together a seminar at the same venue the next year. I invited Tres Hofmeister Sensei (Ikeda Sensei's senior student) and John Messores Sensei (Saotome Sensei's original American student) to teach along with me. In our organization, this would be the "A" team for weapons work. Three teachers who would be able to teach at a level and with explanations that would actually allow folks to walk away after the weekend better than when they had arrived. I wanted to make it an annual event so that every three or four years we would get Sensei back and people could actually benefit.

I got absolutely clobbered on the seminar. The same folks who flocked to Saotome Sensei, even though they couldn't do a darn thing he did all weekend, stayed away when it was us teaching. As Bob Dylan once said, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." With a line-up like that, in an area which has so much Aikido, we came in with 15 attendees less than my worst case projection.

So the short answer to your question is that I ALWAYS worry about the attendance on our seminars unless it's one of the Shihan teaching. The only reason that we can have Popkin Sensei and Dan Harden Sensei as frequently as we do is that a) we have a Study Group for which one of the conditions of membership in the group is support of the events when he host the outside teachers. Even if you are out of town, you support the event. b) on any of these visits which doesn't quite break even, we have a guy who underwrites the shortfall on the theory that at least he didn't have to fly somewhere, rent a car, stay in a hotel, etc to get the training.

Seminars for us are all about the training. Financially, at the end of year, if we'd had no seminars, I suspect I wouldn't even notice. It's basically a break even endeavor for guest events. The ones I teach myself are something else again. Those are an important source of support for me.

chillzATL
07-12-2011, 02:16 PM
AS I stated in earlier posts... I never even have to consider whether a seminar with one of the Japanese Shihan won't break even. Typically, I turn folks away. It is frustrating in that, although these teachers are functioning at an extremely high level, their ability to articulate what they are doing and, even more importantly, get other folks to do it, is not anywhere near as good as some of the Non-Japanese instructors who are at the highest level.

Your reply was much in line with what I was thinking when I asked the question. People in your area just don't know how good they have it. We don't get much of anything here, which is crazy considering it's Atlanta. I had to drive 11 hours to see Toby and four to see Ikeda! Owell, maybe one of these days the ban will be lifted and we'll get someone down here. Thanks for the reply.

Basia Halliop
07-12-2011, 02:23 PM
I think people do go to seminars for all sorts of reasons, and not always for the same reasons they go to class...

From a pure training perspective, for me and for many it doesn't actually make much 'sense' to go to seminars. I may pay the equivalent of several months' dojo fees on one weekend with perhaps 10 hours total of class (my dojo has plenty of classes so if I took every class offered I'd be up to the same number of hours in less than a week at a tiny fraction of the cost), often with a class large enough that I don't get any individual attention. At home I have small classes with frequent individual help from an instructor who's good enough that other people travel to seminars to see him, and plenty of help from his top students.

And yet I keep going to seminars... why?

A lot of it is about that experience of training with different people on the mat who I'm not used to, a lot is about seeing specific teachers who I have learned to like both in terms of their technique and they teaching style, (e.g. who show a different perspective on things, in ways that help me learn), and a big part is about getting to train all day instead of just a couple of hours a day. But some of these are things that build with time, because until you start going to seminars, you don't start to get to know different teachers.... (And until you've actually trained all day you aren't that sure if you even can).

Actually if I recall the very first time I went to summer camp, what finally tipped the balance in favour of going was the realization that many of the first generation of O-Sensei's students were aging, some who I would so like to have met and taken classes from had died before I had had a chance to meet them, and that I would never know if this might be my last chance to see the others' training in person or to meet them. So actually, if I think about it it was those Japanese Shihans that drew me in the first time...

sakumeikan
07-12-2011, 02:31 PM
Why would I ask them to emulate my father?

Good parents and teachers make prior knowledge easier to learn so their children and students can surpase them.

Complaining they do not have it as difficult as you did is selfish and counter productive.

dps
Dear David,
Maybe by emulating your/their father might reveal the fact that your/their father may well have been made of sterner stuff?In todays society perhaps the younger generation are cosseted?
How do you arrive at your conclusion that making a statement that you may have had a harder upbringing is selfish/counter productive? In fact pointing out the difference between each generation may well make the current generation of students learn to appreciate the sacrifices made by the older generation.I see that as a positive.I do agree with your other statement any teacher/parent worth their salt wants their children/students to do better than them.You are stating the blindingly obvious here.
Cheers,Joe.

phitruong
07-12-2011, 02:57 PM
We don't get much of anything here, which is crazy considering it's Atlanta. I had to drive 11 hours to see Toby and four to see Ikeda! Owell, maybe one of these days the ban will be lifted and we'll get someone down here.

i am willing to come down and give seminar on my stuffs. it will involve us spending considerable time in the kitchen with a meat cleaver, poultry, vegetables, noodles, rice, and spices. i can assure, none of my customers has ever complaint and/or able to complaint. and since i am asian, which meant folks will flock to the event. :D

Michael Hackett
07-12-2011, 06:18 PM
Jason, if you haven't yet, try and train with Andy Sato Sensei or Ginny Whitelaw in Atlanta. Very, very different approaches and both have some great things to offer.

Kevin Flanagan
07-12-2011, 09:59 PM
Dear George Sensei,

You have taught me that when attacked with a shomen cut, the safe place is directly under the blade. Enter, connect, tenkan, keep your balance. I hope that I have understood this properly because it is in this spirit that I am responding to your letter.

I am a proud and grateful member of the Aikido Eastside dojo.

When I received your open letter to the members of our dojo, I was taken aback. Your communications are always thought provoking, so I have had to read your letter numerous times to try to understand what you are saying.

At my next class, I called aside some of the leaders of our dojo to ask, “Am I still welcome in this dojo, or should I be looking for a new place to train?” They wanted to know why I was asking. I told them that I could not keep up with your expectations. You see George, I am a leaf. I am not a branch and certainly not a trunk or a root. I am just a humble white belt. I don’t train in aikido so I can kick ass in bar fights. I have no desire to open my own dojo. I don’t ever expect to master this infinitely complex art and I have no delusions about surpassing your technical skills. I am just a happy leaf.

Please allow me to describe my background. Last month I celebrated my first anniversary as a full member of Aikido Eastside. Next month I will celebrate my 63rd birthday. In October I will have had 4 years training in aikido and aikijujutsu. December was my goal for testing for 5th kyu.

In my previous dojo, I tested for 7th, 6th and 5th kyu. As I was training for 4th kyu I saw that I would have to do 3 man randori, full speed, a la “Path beyond Thought”, and full speed kotegaeshi into high, hard breakfalls. I was coming home from training with repetitive stress injuries and decided to change dojos.

My previous dojo only met twice a week. After my first year, I was ready for more. I started visiting other dojos and attending seminars. I averaged one seminar per month for the next two years and have visited more than 20 different dojos. We live in a very aikido rich environment, so I haven’t been everywhere, but I have seen a lot.

George, the first time we met, I was overwhelmed. Here was this giant of the aikido world, taking the time to teach me the basics of irimi. I could not believe the generosity that you extended to me.

You gave me permission to attend your classes as a regular visitor. When you saw that I was attending every event that you offered, you told me that you would have to make me an honorary member of Aikido Eastside. You made my day.

When it came time to change dojos, yours was my first choice. It was not an easy decision. I have some very close friends in my former dojo. I have to drive 90 minutes each way for every class at yours. Not an easy decision at all.

When I joined AE, I realized that there was a great deal of basic knowledge that I was missing. I decided that I should join your beginners program and have been happy and challenged there since. You call it a beginners program, but I think of it as a basics program. It is a lot more challenging than the title indicates and the instructors are some of the best that I have met in the aikido world. Any one of them could open a dojo in my local community. I would happily join and have enough challenge to last the rest of my life.

When you sent this letter to AikiWeb, I was hurt, offended and insulted. It feels like you have slapped every member of our dojo across the face in front of the whole aikido community. I must object. I think that you have mischaracterized us unfairly.

Fellow AE students have told me that I dare not question you or I would face “The Wrath of God”. Really? I thought that we were training ourselves not to be cowards. Aren’t we supposed to join with the energy of our partners, turn to see from their perspective and keep our own balance? Should I be afraid to tell you when I disagree with you? I don’t believe in master-student relationships. Teacher-student is fine with me. I don’t accept masters.

Please allow me to contrast two dojo experiences. My original dojo: I came to my third class to find sensei vacuuming the met. I took the vacuum from him and finished cleaning the mat. Thereafter, every two weeks, I brought my vacuum from home, came to the dojo an hour early, and cleaned the mat. Very, very rarely did another member offer to help. One day, I even shut off the vacuum and asked my training partners, ”In the other dojos that you have belonged to, did you have maid service?” “Well yes, we did. That is what we pay dues for.” They thought this was amusing.

At Aikido Eastside: While you were on vacation, a junior member of the dojo organized us to come together. We stripped the walls bare, we built you a new private office, we built a new dojo office, and we remodeled the entryway. Then we painted every wall in the dojo. Two offices, two changing rooms, storage room, entry and mat area. Then we replaced every work of art and cleaned the dojo thoroughly.

We did this solely to express to you our love, admiration, and gratitude for what you have created at AE.

Yet you characterize us as unresponsive and disrespectful aikidoka.

I have read and reread your letter many times. Each time I see something different. Right now, I am hearing a painful cry from the heart. The aikido that you have dedicated your life to is changing in ways that you can not control. You know that we are irreversibly interconnected and that the universe is constantly in motion. Still, you hope to preserve O Sensei’s art unchanged.

The aikido that I am learning from you is not the same as the aikido that you learned from Saotome. Saotome did not teach the same aikido that he learned from O Sensei. And O Sensei did not pass on Takeda’s art unchanged.

We struggle to preserve and protect our legacy, but it will not remain static. The aikido that we pass on will be created by us. In our own hearts, in our own lives, in our own dojos.

I think that you should be proud of the dojo you have created. It is a magnificent place to train. Studying at Eastside is like trying to drink from a firehose. To take full advantage of all of the opportunities that you offer is almost impossible. For a person that is making aikido a centerpiece of their life, AE may be the best possible place to train.

Regrettably, this does not describe me. Every day I wish I had found aikido as a teenager. I would have been a better person, lived a better life and helped to make the world a better place.

You and I see many things differently. There is only one aikido area where I am certain that I am right and you are wrong. You stated that if one persists in training until mid-yudansa level, that one can have a transformative experience. But, I am just a white belt, and aikido has already changed my life for the better. My wife of 27 years will testify to this. Friends that have known me for 40+ years have told me. I am more compassionate, braver, more patient as well as more persistent. I am more connected with others than I have ever been.

I was not seeking this when I began training. As a 59 year old man, I thought I was a fully formed person. I was wrong. Aikido has changed me for the better. I paid attention. I polished my mirror. I forged my blade. I persisted. But aikido did this for me. Neither religion, nor counseling, nor group therapy has ever affected me this way.

Please do not discourage people that are stumbling along their path. I know that you would not do this intentionally. But you are a very intimidating man. Your words have power. Please be more careful how you use them.

Whenever I visit another dojo, I am always asked, “Where do you train? Who is your sensei?” For the past year, I have been proud to say “I train at Aikido Eastside and George Ledyard is my sensei.” Now I am afraid that people will think, “Oh, he’s one of those bums that won’t even support his own dojo. Why should we welcome him here?” I think that you have done real damage to our reputation.

This year has brought some unexpected financial challenges and I have had to reevaluate my spending. Aikido Eastside dues, gas, wear and tear are costing $6,000 per year. That is before buying and single book or DVD or attending a single seminar. Each seminar cost a minimum of $500. You talk of 3 seminars a year, but don’t mention Dan Harden coming every six weeks, or Howard Popkin coming 3 times a year or Kenji Ushiro coming from Japan or the two randori intensives each year. Our neighboring dojos also host great teachers. Senseis like Endo, Nevellius, Choate, Doran and many others come every year.

My finances, just like my training, my health and my safety, are my own responsibility. No one else gets to decide for me how much is enough.

Since receiving your letter, I have watched my enthusiasm and motivation run down hill. It is easier to find reasons not to make that long drive and harder to fight the temptation to stay home. In class, the joy I had experienced, is gone. As I look around the dojo, all of my peers are missing from class. Perhaps I am missing them because I am not coming as often. Perhaps it is the school vacation and summer has finally arrived. Perhaps they feel as l do and just have not found a way to tell you.

In the metaphorical aikido forest, you are a giant maple tree. Broad of shoulder, strong of limb, reaching for the sky. Keep reaching George. Keep growing. We leaves need you. We cling to you for nourishment, support, and inspiration. But never forget, my friend, without leaves, the forest will die. We have been created to depend upon each other.

I have decided to take a sabbatical from aikido. I need some time and distance to contemplate, and reflect on what my training means to me, and how I want to proceed.

Please accept my resignation from Aikido Eastside.

I have tried to communicate in this letter, my respect, admiration and affection for you. I hope that in the future, I will be welcome to train with you again. If you feel otherwise, please let me know. I don’t like to go where I am not welcome.

Sincerely in musubi,
Kevin Flanagan

P.S. I am sending a copy of this letter to AikiWeb and to some of my personal mailing list. I would be grateful to you if you would forward this letter to the adult membership list.

Hellis
07-13-2011, 01:07 AM
Kevin Flanagan""
You see George, I am a leaf. I am not a branch and certainly not a trunk or a root. I am just a humble white belt. I don't train in aikido so I can kick ass in bar fights. I have no desire to open my own dojo. I don't ever expect to master this infinitely complex art and I have no delusions about surpassing your technical skills. I am just a happy leaf.""""

Kevin
I must say that I was most impressed by the content off your letter from the heart...I understand the statement above very well, this applies to many students everywhere.
I too had a student who was in his early sixties, who sadly died just a few weeks ago - he was probably the longest serving 5th kyu in Aikido, a badge he wore with pride, for several years he was the secretary of the " Ellis Schools of Traditional Aikido " he had no ambition of high grades - he enjoyed helping new members and being a part of the team, he too was a `leaf ` and a very happy leaf.
We all miss him.

Henry Ellis
British Aikido
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/

sakumeikan
07-13-2011, 02:28 AM
Dear George Sensei,

You have taught me that when attacked with a shomen cut, the safe place is directly under the blade. Enter, connect, tenkan, keep your balance. I hope that I have understood this properly because it is in this spirit that I am responding to your letter.

I am a proud and grateful member of the Aikido Eastside dojo.

When I received your open letter to the members of our dojo, I was taken aback. Your communications are always thought provoking, so I have had to read your letter numerous times to try to understand what you are saying.

At my next class, I called aside some of the leaders of our dojo to ask, "Am I still welcome in this dojo, or should I be looking for a new place to train?" They wanted to know why I was asking. I told them that I could not keep up with your expectations. You see George, I am a leaf. I am not a branch and certainly not a trunk or a root. I am just a humble white belt. I don't train in aikido so I can kick ass in bar fights. I have no desire to open my own dojo. I don't ever expect to master this infinitely complex art and I have no delusions about surpassing your technical skills. I am just a happy leaf.

Please allow me to describe my background. Last month I celebrated my first anniversary as a full member of Aikido Eastside. Next month I will celebrate my 63rd birthday. In October I will have had 4 years training in aikido and aikijujutsu. December was my goal for testing for 5th kyu.

In my previous dojo, I tested for 7th, 6th and 5th kyu. As I was training for 4th kyu I saw that I would have to do 3 man randori, full speed, a la "Path beyond Thought", and full speed kotegaeshi into high, hard breakfalls. I was coming home from training with repetitive stress injuries and decided to change dojos.

My previous dojo only met twice a week. After my first year, I was ready for more. I started visiting other dojos and attending seminars. I averaged one seminar per month for the next two years and have visited more than 20 different dojos. We live in a very aikido rich environment, so I haven't been everywhere, but I have seen a lot.

George, the first time we met, I was overwhelmed. Here was this giant of the aikido world, taking the time to teach me the basics of irimi. I could not believe the generosity that you extended to me.

You gave me permission to attend your classes as a regular visitor. When you saw that I was attending every event that you offered, you told me that you would have to make me an honorary member of Aikido Eastside. You made my day.

When it came time to change dojos, yours was my first choice. It was not an easy decision. I have some very close friends in my former dojo. I have to drive 90 minutes each way for every class at yours. Not an easy decision at all.

When I joined AE, I realized that there was a great deal of basic knowledge that I was missing. I decided that I should join your beginners program and have been happy and challenged there since. You call it a beginners program, but I think of it as a basics program. It is a lot more challenging than the title indicates and the instructors are some of the best that I have met in the aikido world. Any one of them could open a dojo in my local community. I would happily join and have enough challenge to last the rest of my life.

When you sent this letter to AikiWeb, I was hurt, offended and insulted. It feels like you have slapped every member of our dojo across the face in front of the whole aikido community. I must object. I think that you have mischaracterized us unfairly.

Fellow AE students have told me that I dare not question you or I would face "The Wrath of God". Really? I thought that we were training ourselves not to be cowards. Aren't we supposed to join with the energy of our partners, turn to see from their perspective and keep our own balance? Should I be afraid to tell you when I disagree with you? I don't believe in master-student relationships. Teacher-student is fine with me. I don't accept masters.

Please allow me to contrast two dojo experiences. My original dojo: I came to my third class to find sensei vacuuming the met. I took the vacuum from him and finished cleaning the mat. Thereafter, every two weeks, I brought my vacuum from home, came to the dojo an hour early, and cleaned the mat. Very, very rarely did another member offer to help. One day, I even shut off the vacuum and asked my training partners, "In the other dojos that you have belonged to, did you have maid service?" "Well yes, we did. That is what we pay dues for." They thought this was amusing.

At Aikido Eastside: While you were on vacation, a junior member of the dojo organized us to come together. We stripped the walls bare, we built you a new private office, we built a new dojo office, and we remodeled the entryway. Then we painted every wall in the dojo. Two offices, two changing rooms, storage room, entry and mat area. Then we replaced every work of art and cleaned the dojo thoroughly.

We did this solely to express to you our love, admiration, and gratitude for what you have created at AE.

Yet you characterize us as unresponsive and disrespectful aikidoka.

I have read and reread your letter many times. Each time I see something different. Right now, I am hearing a painful cry from the heart. The aikido that you have dedicated your life to is changing in ways that you can not control. You know that we are irreversibly interconnected and that the universe is constantly in motion. Still, you hope to preserve O Sensei's art unchanged.

The aikido that I am learning from you is not the same as the aikido that you learned from Saotome. Saotome did not teach the same aikido that he learned from O Sensei. And O Sensei did not pass on Takeda's art unchanged.

We struggle to preserve and protect our legacy, but it will not remain static. The aikido that we pass on will be created by us. In our own hearts, in our own lives, in our own dojos.

I think that you should be proud of the dojo you have created. It is a magnificent place to train. Studying at Eastside is like trying to drink from a firehose. To take full advantage of all of the opportunities that you offer is almost impossible. For a person that is making aikido a centerpiece of their life, AE may be the best possible place to train.

Regrettably, this does not describe me. Every day I wish I had found aikido as a teenager. I would have been a better person, lived a better life and helped to make the world a better place.

You and I see many things differently. There is only one aikido area where I am certain that I am right and you are wrong. You stated that if one persists in training until mid-yudansa level, that one can have a transformative experience. But, I am just a white belt, and aikido has already changed my life for the better. My wife of 27 years will testify to this. Friends that have known me for 40+ years have told me. I am more compassionate, braver, more patient as well as more persistent. I am more connected with others than I have ever been.

I was not seeking this when I began training. As a 59 year old man, I thought I was a fully formed person. I was wrong. Aikido has changed me for the better. I paid attention. I polished my mirror. I forged my blade. I persisted. But aikido did this for me. Neither religion, nor counseling, nor group therapy has ever affected me this way.

Please do not discourage people that are stumbling along their path. I know that you would not do this intentionally. But you are a very intimidating man. Your words have power. Please be more careful how you use them.

Whenever I visit another dojo, I am always asked, "Where do you train? Who is your sensei?" For the past year, I have been proud to say "I train at Aikido Eastside and George Ledyard is my sensei." Now I am afraid that people will think, "Oh, he's one of those bums that won't even support his own dojo. Why should we welcome him here?" I think that you have done real damage to our reputation.

This year has brought some unexpected financial challenges and I have had to reevaluate my spending. Aikido Eastside dues, gas, wear and tear are costing $6,000 per year. That is before buying and single book or DVD or attending a single seminar. Each seminar cost a minimum of $500. You talk of 3 seminars a year, but don't mention Dan Harden coming every six weeks, or Howard Popkin coming 3 times a year or Kenji Ushiro coming from Japan or the two randori intensives each year. Our neighboring dojos also host great teachers. Senseis like Endo, Nevellius, Choate, Doran and many others come every year.

My finances, just like my training, my health and my safety, are my own responsibility. No one else gets to decide for me how much is enough.

Since receiving your letter, I have watched my enthusiasm and motivation run down hill. It is easier to find reasons not to make that long drive and harder to fight the temptation to stay home. In class, the joy I had experienced, is gone. As I look around the dojo, all of my peers are missing from class. Perhaps I am missing them because I am not coming as often. Perhaps it is the school vacation and summer has finally arrived. Perhaps they feel as l do and just have not found a way to tell you.

In the metaphorical aikido forest, you are a giant maple tree. Broad of shoulder, strong of limb, reaching for the sky. Keep reaching George. Keep growing. We leaves need you. We cling to you for nourishment, support, and inspiration. But never forget, my friend, without leaves, the forest will die. We have been created to depend upon each other.

I have decided to take a sabbatical from aikido. I need some time and distance to contemplate, and reflect on what my training means to me, and how I want to proceed.

Please accept my resignation from Aikido Eastside.

I have tried to communicate in this letter, my respect, admiration and affection for you. I hope that in the future, I will be welcome to train with you again. If you feel otherwise, please let me know. I don't like to go where I am not welcome.

Sincerely in musubi,
Kevin Flanagan

P.S. I am sending a copy of this letter to AikiWeb and to some of my personal mailing list. I would be grateful to you if you would forward this letter to the adult membership list.

Dear Kevin,
Do not be so hard on yourself or on Mr Ledyard.Mr Ledyard I believe wrote his original article with good intent.
On reading your letter I believe you have already acquired Aiki.
You may require polishing you technical skills but your heart and character are already fully developed.There is no need for you to feel obliged to go to seminar, you have the choice.Neither should you or your fellow students take a negative viewpoint to the open letter.If you were happy at Eastside why cut off your nose to save your face by resigning?
I wish I had a person like you training with me.I consider you someone of sincere views and courage.You are certainly in no way a coward in my eyes.The Sempai/Kohai relationship should be one where there is genuine heart to heart connection between each person , not a relationship built on fear.
Cheers, Joe.

Tim Ruijs
07-13-2011, 03:19 AM
...let folks decide for themselves if he is talking about them. But I have noticed the folks who take the criticism seriously and take it on as applying to them are seldom the people actually being addressed...


Kevin, I side with sakumeikan. Are you sure he refers to you? That would indeed surprise me.:ai: :ki:

Ernesto Lemke
07-13-2011, 04:05 AM
Dear Kevin,

Your letter struck a deep chord. I found it a very mature, impressive and sincere expression 'from the heart' (as Hellis noted so nicely) that resonated with some events that took place in my aikido past.

If nothing else, the fact that it touched me, someone almost 30 years your junior, living on the other side of this planet, unaware of your existence untill this letter, that is a remarkable feat in itself isn't it? Unintended as it may have been, thank you for that, and I sincerely hope your contemplation will have a positive outcome.
Best wishes,

Ernesto Lemke

George S. Ledyard
07-13-2011, 04:46 AM
Dear George Sensei,

You have taught me that when attacked with a shomen cut, the safe place is directly under the blade. Enter, connect, tenkan, keep your balance. I hope that I have understood this properly because it is in this spirit that I am responding to your letter.

I am a proud and grateful member of the Aikido Eastside dojo.

When I received your open letter to the members of our dojo, I was taken aback. Your communications are always thought provoking, so I have had to read your letter numerous times to try to understand what you are saying.

At my next class, I called aside some of the leaders of our dojo to ask, "Am I still welcome in this dojo, or should I be looking for a new place to train?" They wanted to know why I was asking. I told them that I could not keep up with your expectations. You see George, I am a leaf. I am not a branch and certainly not a trunk or a root. I am just a humble white belt. I don't train in aikido so I can kick ass in bar fights. I have no desire to open my own dojo. I don't ever expect to master this infinitely complex art and I have no delusions about surpassing your technical skills. I am just a happy leaf.

Please allow me to describe my background. Last month I celebrated my first anniversary as a full member of Aikido Eastside. Next month I will celebrate my 63rd birthday. In October I will have had 4 years training in aikido and aikijujutsu. December was my goal for testing for 5th kyu.

In my previous dojo, I tested for 7th, 6th and 5th kyu. As I was training for 4th kyu I saw that I would have to do 3 man randori, full speed, a la "Path beyond Thought", and full speed kotegaeshi into high, hard breakfalls. I was coming home from training with repetitive stress injuries and decided to change dojos.

My previous dojo only met twice a week. After my first year, I was ready for more. I started visiting other dojos and attending seminars. I averaged one seminar per month for the next two years and have visited more than 20 different dojos. We live in a very aikido rich environment, so I haven't been everywhere, but I have seen a lot.

George, the first time we met, I was overwhelmed. Here was this giant of the aikido world, taking the time to teach me the basics of irimi. I could not believe the generosity that you extended to me.

You gave me permission to attend your classes as a regular visitor. When you saw that I was attending every event that you offered, you told me that you would have to make me an honorary member of Aikido Eastside. You made my day.

When it came time to change dojos, yours was my first choice. It was not an easy decision. I have some very close friends in my former dojo. I have to drive 90 minutes each way for every class at yours. Not an easy decision at all.

When I joined AE, I realized that there was a great deal of basic knowledge that I was missing. I decided that I should join your beginners program and have been happy and challenged there since. You call it a beginners program, but I think of it as a basics program. It is a lot more challenging than the title indicates and the instructors are some of the best that I have met in the aikido world. Any one of them could open a dojo in my local community. I would happily join and have enough challenge to last the rest of my life.

When you sent this letter to AikiWeb, I was hurt, offended and insulted. It feels like you have slapped every member of our dojo across the face in front of the whole aikido community. I must object. I think that you have mischaracterized us unfairly.

Fellow AE students have told me that I dare not question you or I would face "The Wrath of God". Really? I thought that we were training ourselves not to be cowards. Aren't we supposed to join with the energy of our partners, turn to see from their perspective and keep our own balance? Should I be afraid to tell you when I disagree with you? I don't believe in master-student relationships. Teacher-student is fine with me. I don't accept masters.

Please allow me to contrast two dojo experiences. My original dojo: I came to my third class to find sensei vacuuming the met. I took the vacuum from him and finished cleaning the mat. Thereafter, every two weeks, I brought my vacuum from home, came to the dojo an hour early, and cleaned the mat. Very, very rarely did another member offer to help. One day, I even shut off the vacuum and asked my training partners, "In the other dojos that you have belonged to, did you have maid service?" "Well yes, we did. That is what we pay dues for." They thought this was amusing.

At Aikido Eastside: While you were on vacation, a junior member of the dojo organized us to come together. We stripped the walls bare, we built you a new private office, we built a new dojo office, and we remodeled the entryway. Then we painted every wall in the dojo. Two offices, two changing rooms, storage room, entry and mat area. Then we replaced every work of art and cleaned the dojo thoroughly.

We did this solely to express to you our love, admiration, and gratitude for what you have created at AE.

Yet you characterize us as unresponsive and disrespectful aikidoka.

I have read and reread your letter many times. Each time I see something different. Right now, I am hearing a painful cry from the heart. The aikido that you have dedicated your life to is changing in ways that you can not control. You know that we are irreversibly interconnected and that the universe is constantly in motion. Still, you hope to preserve O Sensei's art unchanged.

The aikido that I am learning from you is not the same as the aikido that you learned from Saotome. Saotome did not teach the same aikido that he learned from O Sensei. And O Sensei did not pass on Takeda's art unchanged.

We struggle to preserve and protect our legacy, but it will not remain static. The aikido that we pass on will be created by us. In our own hearts, in our own lives, in our own dojos.

I think that you should be proud of the dojo you have created. It is a magnificent place to train. Studying at Eastside is like trying to drink from a firehose. To take full advantage of all of the opportunities that you offer is almost impossible. For a person that is making aikido a centerpiece of their life, AE may be the best possible place to train.

Regrettably, this does not describe me. Every day I wish I had found aikido as a teenager. I would have been a better person, lived a better life and helped to make the world a better place.

You and I see many things differently. There is only one aikido area where I am certain that I am right and you are wrong. You stated that if one persists in training until mid-yudansa level, that one can have a transformative experience. But, I am just a white belt, and aikido has already changed my life for the better. My wife of 27 years will testify to this. Friends that have known me for 40+ years have told me. I am more compassionate, braver, more patient as well as more persistent. I am more connected with others than I have ever been.

I was not seeking this when I began training. As a 59 year old man, I thought I was a fully formed person. I was wrong. Aikido has changed me for the better. I paid attention. I polished my mirror. I forged my blade. I persisted. But aikido did this for me. Neither religion, nor counseling, nor group therapy has ever affected me this way.

Please do not discourage people that are stumbling along their path. I know that you would not do this intentionally. But you are a very intimidating man. Your words have power. Please be more careful how you use them.

Whenever I visit another dojo, I am always asked, "Where do you train? Who is your sensei?" For the past year, I have been proud to say "I train at Aikido Eastside and George Ledyard is my sensei." Now I am afraid that people will think, "Oh, he's one of those bums that won't even support his own dojo. Why should we welcome him here?" I think that you have done real damage to our reputation.

This year has brought some unexpected financial challenges and I have had to reevaluate my spending. Aikido Eastside dues, gas, wear and tear are costing $6,000 per year. That is before buying and single book or DVD or attending a single seminar. Each seminar cost a minimum of $500. You talk of 3 seminars a year, but don't mention Dan Harden coming every six weeks, or Howard Popkin coming 3 times a year or Kenji Ushiro coming from Japan or the two randori intensives each year. Our neighboring dojos also host great teachers. Senseis like Endo, Nevellius, Choate, Doran and many others come every year.

My finances, just like my training, my health and my safety, are my own responsibility. No one else gets to decide for me how much is enough.

Since receiving your letter, I have watched my enthusiasm and motivation run down hill. It is easier to find reasons not to make that long drive and harder to fight the temptation to stay home. In class, the joy I had experienced, is gone. As I look around the dojo, all of my peers are missing from class. Perhaps I am missing them because I am not coming as often. Perhaps it is the school vacation and summer has finally arrived. Perhaps they feel as l do and just have not found a way to tell you.

In the metaphorical aikido forest, you are a giant maple tree. Broad of shoulder, strong of limb, reaching for the sky. Keep reaching George. Keep growing. We leaves need you. We cling to you for nourishment, support, and inspiration. But never forget, my friend, without leaves, the forest will die. We have been created to depend upon each other.

I have decided to take a sabbatical from aikido. I need some time and distance to contemplate, and reflect on what my training means to me, and how I want to proceed.

Please accept my resignation from Aikido Eastside.

I have tried to communicate in this letter, my respect, admiration and affection for you. I hope that in the future, I will be welcome to train with you again. If you feel otherwise, please let me know. I don't like to go where I am not welcome.

Sincerely in musubi,
Kevin Flanagan

P.S. I am sending a copy of this letter to AikiWeb and to some of my personal mailing list. I would be grateful to you if you would forward this letter to the adult membership list.

I have already written to Kevin but I'll post a reply here. I noted earlier that the problem with the generalized feedback approach taken by my teacher, Saotome Sensei, which I always rather appreciated was that more often than not, the folks that took what he said most to heart were the folks that he least meant to address,

Kevin was definitely not one of the folks I was addressing. Kevin has been attending seminars at or dojo since long before he was a member. He made the trip to the dojo every week despite the fact that it took him well over an hour, often two.

Every time Kevin showed up, it represented two or three times the effort of any other student yet he managed to be there consistently, if not as frequently as he might have liked.

So far two students have made comments to me about my letter. In both cases neither one was one of the intended targets. The folks for whom I really intended the letter have been completely silent. I have not heard from any of the instructors that there was a reaction. This is my fault for not being more specific in how I chose to deliver feedback.

So, as a number of you pointed out, the letter probably did not have the intended results. The folks that care took it on themselves and I now have to repair the damage and the folks who don't care, still don't.

Anyway, I will spend some time clarifying with my students want my intent was. While I still have little or no idea how to move things in the needed direction at the dojo, it's clear that this wasn't effective. Thanks to to the folks who understood the intention and thanks to the folks who felt I could have handled it differently. Probably correct... After twenty three years with my own dojo, I still struggle with how to get right.

At least we had a good discussion out of it. I was really impressed by the quality of the responses.

Tim Ruijs
07-13-2011, 05:55 AM
George

Thanks (to all) for sharing. I have learned a lot from this discussion. Even though my dojo is only a few years young and non commercial, I can relate to most of the issues, be it on a smaller scale.
Best of luck :)

gates
07-13-2011, 06:45 AM
Kevin Flanagan""
You see George, I am a leaf

No Kevin you are the Cherry Blossom.

Mary Eastland
07-13-2011, 08:50 AM
Hey Kevin:

Nice letter. To me that is what Aikido is all about. Being able to speak your Truth and hear another's.

I am sure George will read it in the context you sent it. George is not a Mighty Oak. He is a person who has been training longer than you. We all make mistakes. I am learning not to take things personally or to let my own sensitivity torture me.

I hope you continue training. If you quit because of a story that you telling yourself, you will still have quit. The way people continue to progress in Aikido is to train through this opportunities to grow and learn about ourselves and our teachers.

Demetrio Cereijo
07-13-2011, 10:01 AM
Hi George,

So far two students have made comments to me about my letter. In both cases neither one was one of the intended targets. The folks for whom I really intended the letter have been completely silent. I have not heard from any of the instructors that there was a reaction. This is my fault for not being more specific in how I chose to deliver feedback.

So, as a number of you pointed out, the letter probably did not have the intended results. The folks that care took it on themselves and I now have to repair the damage and the folks who don't care, still don't.

Reading statements like this one Kevin made:

Fellow AE students have told me that I dare not question you or I would face "The Wrath of God".

Make me wonder if the generalizad lack of response to your letter from your students is not caused only because "they don't care".

What do you think? Are there a significant number of scared students?

Regards.

Janet Rosen
07-13-2011, 10:32 AM
Kevin, your letter/post is as heartfelt, cogent and brave as any I've read in my years on this list. I hope you and George work through this because it would be a pity for me to come all the way up to Seattle in August and not have a chance to train with you!

jbblack
07-13-2011, 10:41 AM
Kevin Flanagan""
You see George, I am a leaf

No Kevin you are the Cherry Blossom.

Kevin, I hope you will continue your Aikido journey. We need many Sakura along the path!

Cheers,
Jeff

George S. Ledyard
07-13-2011, 10:42 AM
Hi George,

Reading statements like this one Kevin made:

Make me wonder if the generalizad lack of response to your letter from your students is not caused only because "they don't care".

What do you think? Are there a significant number of scared students?

Regards.

While I would say that most are not... I suspect that some are. My wife often says that I am somewhat unaware of the force of my personality. Since she is an extremely perceptive person, I will assume she is correct.

I think that, it's more a matter that, at least in most cases, my students actually like me too much. There's this whole "approval" thing that operates in any activity that has hierarchy. It's one of the reasons that so many really senior teachers fall into the "guru" trap. So, something as simple as who gets used for ukemi, how you tell someone that what they just did doesn't work, etc all gets invested with a whole layer of stuff that is unrelated to the issue at hand.

Different teachers handle this differently. Some maintain a distance between themselves and their students. On some levels I think this serves to protect them as well as buffer the students from getting too sucked in. It definitely serves to protect the teacher from getting too invested in the students and then being disappointed.

I have seen teachers who do the strict hierarchical, disciplined thing. I have to say that, this approach, in my experience had the highest likelihood of ending badly with abuse problems etc in the dojo.

Other teachers are the student's friend. Everyone is buddies, it's all low key. While pleasant, I seldom think this results in a dojo where people are apt to push themselves. Certainly, when everything is happy in everyone's training, there is seldom any personal transformation going on.

My own approach is to walk a fine line. It's my own and not modeled after any other teacher I know of. I am largely hands off about the dojo and let the students run the place for the most part. My letter was one of my rare cases of inserting myself into the process. I saw a small group doing all the work and hard training and a number of others not supporting the efforts.

My students treat me respectfully but are not at all slavish. When we travel to seminars, especially when I am teaching, they fold my hakama after class but generally do not do so on a daily basis. I mostly choose the ukes based on seniority (or the ability to safely do he ukemi for what I am teaching). Occasionally I rotate it through everyone there so as to not leave anyone out. I don't think we have too much of an issue with the "uke role" as a popularity contest.

I have created blocks of instruction, like an iai class, and a IP study group which, after I got it going, I stepped back in order that the students themselves get in the habit of keeping their training going rather tha being motivated just by me. It's worked well and the dojo would survive quite nicely if I weren't there tomorrow.

I suspect that the folks who are most "scared" of me are the ones I rarely see. I do not teach the beginners classes (something recommended by my teachers) and they don't know me very well. Not to mention that my training background was with a Japanese teacher... so my default setting was not as positive feedback oriented as it is these days. My wife has made an effort to get me to retool this area. When I trained one simply didn't get positive feedback. If one was doing ok, one was given the next thing to work on. If one wasn't doing ok, one got it pointed out in no uncertain terms. I trained for thirty years before I got an actual compliment about something I had done (in this case a class that I had taught that my teacher observed) that wasn't in the context of reflecting back on my teacher in some fashion.

So, I am always trying to find the right balance. The folks that come to my classes daily I do not think are terribly scared, nor do I think they are overly motivated by seeking my approval. On the other hand, I do know that they are proud of the dojo and want to do a good job "representing" when they have to be in public, as at seminars or at Dan tests. I am glad that they care... I want them to wish to do a good job. It makes it hard to get folks to want to test because they always want a bit more time so they can be "perfect". Usually i end up having to tell them they have to test. That isn't a bad thing I think.

Anyway, I do think about these issues. I think I m far more "supportive" in an overt sense than anything I grew up with in my own Aikido but I suspect that I can do better. I always look at dojos where I think the training is top level and try t see how their teacher handles things. If I think he or she is doing a better job, I will adjust. We all operate within our own limitations however, so I am not saying that I can't improve here. This is another "old school" thing in many ways. When I first started, what we did was considered Budo. Being scared on some level was normal and you were expected to suck it up. Having looked at how Systema folks deal with this I think I have changed my views on this. But my process probably needs to evolve to keep pace with my ideas.

sakumeikan
07-13-2011, 11:18 AM
Dear All,
One of the problems I think exists in Aikido is that there can exist a climate in a dojo where the relationship between teacher and student sometimes is not quite balanced.This is particularly the case if the sensei has a strong personality coupled with strong waza.Its not always easy for a junior to socialise or communicate with this type of instructor.Usually the junior has to either get more experienced or
make a deliberate decision to engage with the teacher.
Of course you can get a teacher whose persona is such that people are drawn to him/her by the manner of the teacher.For example, Tamura /Sekiya Sensei were very personable and kind both on /off the mat,very easy to get along with and both were sociable.
The main thing I feel is to realise that a teacher is like everyone first and foremost a human being .The sensei may well be high ranked and as such you respect this fact.You as a student must learn to differentiate the status/relationship between your being a friend of the teacher and being a student of the teacher.The relationship is different here.
You can tell from Mr Ledyard that he has his own issues to deal with.I cannot think of any instructor I know who has not had the odd sleepless night thinking about issues related to aikido.The role of a teacher is like a father figure /counsellor/nice guy /bad guy/agony aunt .It s not easy , so I would suggest that Kevin and any other students who are a bit peeved to understand Mr Ledyards viewpoint. Guys, be a bit charitable here.I also think that Kevins wonderful blog has probably given Ledyard Sensei something to consider in depth.
Cheers, Joe.

chillzATL
07-13-2011, 11:39 AM
While I would say that most are not... I suspect that some are. My wife often says that I am somewhat unaware of the force of my personality. Since she is an extremely perceptive person, I will assume she is correct.

I think that, it's more a matter that, at least in most cases, my students actually like me too much. There's this whole "approval" thing that operates in any activity that has hierarchy. It's one of the reasons that so many really senior teachers fall into the "guru" trap. So, something as simple as who gets used for ukemi, how you tell someone that what they just did doesn't work, etc all gets invested with a whole layer of stuff that is unrelated to the issue at hand.

Different teachers handle this differently. Some maintain a distance between themselves and their students. On some levels I think this serves to protect them as well as buffer the students from getting too sucked in. It definitely serves to protect the teacher from getting too invested in the students and then being disappointed.

I have seen teachers who do the strict hierarchical, disciplined thing. I have to say that, this approach, in my experience had the highest likelihood of ending badly with abuse problems etc in the dojo.

Other teachers are the student's friend. Everyone is buddies, it's all low key. While pleasant, I seldom think this results in a dojo where people are apt to push themselves. Certainly, when everything is happy in everyone's training, there is seldom any personal transformation going on.

My own approach is to walk a fine line. It's my own and not modeled after any other teacher I know of. I am largely hands off about the dojo and let the students run the place for the most part. My letter was one of my rare cases of inserting myself into the process. I saw a small group doing all the work and hard training and a number of others not supporting the efforts.

My students treat me respectfully but are not at all slavish. When we travel to seminars, especially when I am teaching, they fold my hakama after class but generally do not do so on a daily basis. I mostly choose the ukes based on seniority (or the ability to safely do he ukemi for what I am teaching). Occasionally I rotate it through everyone there so as to not leave anyone out. I don't think we have too much of an issue with the "uke role" as a popularity contest.

I have created blocks of instruction, like an iai class, and a IP study group which, after I got it going, I stepped back in order that the students themselves get in the habit of keeping their training going rather tha being motivated just by me. It's worked well and the dojo would survive quite nicely if I weren't there tomorrow.

I suspect that the folks who are most "scared" of me are the ones I rarely see. I do not teach the beginners classes (something recommended by my teachers) and they don't know me very well. Not to mention that my training background was with a Japanese teacher... so my default setting was not as positive feedback oriented as it is these days. My wife has made an effort to get me to retool this area. When I trained one simply didn't get positive feedback. If one was doing ok, one was given the next thing to work on. If one wasn't doing ok, one got it pointed out in no uncertain terms. I trained for thirty years before I got an actual compliment about something I had done (in this case a class that I had taught that my teacher observed) that wasn't in the context of reflecting back on my teacher in some fashion.

So, I am always trying to find the right balance. The folks that come to my classes daily I do not think are terribly scared, nor do I think they are overly motivated by seeking my approval. On the other hand, I do know that they are proud of the dojo and want to do a good job "representing" when they have to be in public, as at seminars or at Dan tests. I am glad that they care... I want them to wish to do a good job. It makes it hard to get folks to want to test because they always want a bit more time so they can be "perfect". Usually i end up having to tell them they have to test. That isn't a bad thing I think.

Anyway, I do think about these issues. I think I m far more "supportive" in an overt sense than anything I grew up with in my own Aikido but I suspect that I can do better. I always look at dojos where I think the training is top level and try t see how their teacher handles things. If I think he or she is doing a better job, I will adjust. We all operate within our own limitations however, so I am not saying that I can't improve here. This is another "old school" thing in many ways. When I first started, what we did was considered Budo. Being scared on some level was normal and you were expected to suck it up. Having looked at how Systema folks deal with this I think I have changed my views on this. But my process probably needs to evolve to keep pace with my ideas.

George,

Some of this is just built into the art or the mindset people have about the art, since it operates in a somewhat "traditional" mode. The heirarchy is, for the most part, unavoidable. You could be the warmest, most open and approachable person on the planet and a large part of your students are simply going to be scared of you. I'm not sure scared is even the right word, but they're so concerned about upsetting the tradition and being scolded by seniors, that they forget that they're just normal people. It certainly doesn't sound like you do anything to support this type of mindset, so there's really not much you can do to change it. I see the same thing in our organization. Sensei is the most laid back, easy going guy. It's funny how most people seem almost scared to talk to him. When they do it's almost always the same old stuff, asking stories about O'sensei, Tohei and his various other teachers. Which I'm sure he enjoys, but nobody ever seems to just talk to him about this or that, which I know he would enjoy too. I'm pretty sure he's never done anything to foster the idea that you have to walk on eggshells around him or risk his wrath, but that mindset eixsts all the same.

Janet Rosen
07-13-2011, 12:07 PM
I'm a pretty self-contained and outspoken person, so tend to treat bosses and instructors more as highly respected peers than as parent figures or whatever. But there have been those who for some reason I just don't quite click with on that level and remain flustered or unnerved around.
It may be that this is operating for some folks in any given dojo, including w/ George - again, simple force of personality may be enough to trigger it in some people.

Mike Sigman
07-13-2011, 12:49 PM
Trying to read through to the crux of the issue in the thread, my impression is that George was disappointed with the amount of "support" his students gave to some teachers doing workshops; i.e., not enough attendance. Kevin noted that instead of 3 workshops a year, there are more in the neighborhood of 18 workshops a year that need to be supported in addition to class dues, and so on.

I personally never attended a dojo where there were more than about 3 extraneous (to the normal classes) events, but different strokes for different folks. However, if 18 (or thereabouts) is a realistic number, I can see why George is observing that people aren't supporting his invitees and I can also see why students may be feeling a bit stressed.

2 cents.

Mike Sigman

George S. Ledyard
07-13-2011, 01:51 PM
Trying to read through to the crux of the issue in the thread, my impression is that George was disappointed with the amount of "support" his students gave to some teachers doing workshops; i.e., not enough attendance. Kevin noted that instead of 3 workshops a year, there are more in the neighborhood of 18 workshops a year that need to be supported in addition to class dues, and so on.

I personally never attended a dojo where there were more than about 3 extraneous (to the normal classes) events, but different strokes for different folks. However, if 18 (or thereabouts) is a realistic number, I can see why George is observing that people aren't supporting his invitees and I can also see why students may be feeling a bit stressed.

2 cents.

Mike Sigman

Hi Mike,
Just to be clear, and this has been communicated to the students, we have several tracks going on. The three seminars I am referring to are the three Aikido guest seminars we hold. They are targeted at the general Aikido student at the dojo, although occasionally, they might be restricted to seniors.

We do have a Daito Ryu Study Group. It is operating under the supervision of Howard Popkin Sensei. It functions some what autonomously from the Aikido program in that we have a number of folks from outside the dojo who are members of this group. Because Josh Drachman recently moved to our dojo and had a previous relationship with Dan harden, we are now lucky enough to have him willing to come as well. So, yes, we are pushing the envelope as far as what the dojo can support.

I have tried to make it clear that my expectation that people support our seminars is limited to the Aikido seminars and clearly not everything we are doing. Much of what we are doing is primarily for my own and Josh's training. While I am happy that my students are doing the training as well, I would be holding as many of these as I could support even if the events meant out of pocket for us. The fact is that we have just enough folks participating that we are almost at break even on these visits... so when compared to flying someplace else and all the expense that entails, it's still a bargain for such great instruction.

But I do not expect the general dojo to support these events. Doing so has been a condition of membership in the study group. But on the rare occasions when someone has said that they can't attend due to financial issues, we have not turned folks away who are dojo members. We have always felt that doing the training benefits the dojo even if a student can't pay. We are in a fairly affluent area and most of my students are gainfully employed. While expense is a consideration, for most of them it's the time issue rather than the expense.

We are gradually establishing ourselves as a venue at which folks from outside our immediate dojo community expect to find training that they can't easily encounter elsewhere. As this happens, we are finding it possible to set up an ambitious training schedule that simply could not be supported by the small dojo student population itself. We now have regular participation from folks regionally on the Study Group sponsored events and this is growing. The same is true for various blocks of targeted training that I do myself such as our Randori and Weapons Intensives held twice a year. We are getting world wide participation on those events at this point.

I am definitely pushing the envelop on this. But is far it's working. And I am trying to be really clear with the students about the difference between training that is totally optional and what is considered part of the core instruction. As I said, there are only three Aikido seminars each year with guests from outside that I consider par of everyone's training. The rest is open to folks who want to but is as much for my own training as for anyone else and I have no particular expectations that folks support the events (unless they are part of the study group, in which case they need to have the exposure to the folks we are bringing in).

Mike Sigman
07-13-2011, 02:04 PM
I am definitely pushing the envelop on this. But is far it's working. Hi George:

If it was really working, perhaps you wouldn't have made your original post/blog and one of your students wouldn't have resigned while mentioning the number and cost of workshops?

Best.

Mike

George S. Ledyard
07-13-2011, 02:21 PM
Hi George:

If it was really working, perhaps you wouldn't have made your original post/blog and one of your students wouldn't have resigned while mentioning the number and cost of workshops?

Best.

Mike

Mike,
Ok, let me be more clear. The folks that didn't show up for the Aikido seminar were not the folks who attend the study group. In fact, the folks that attend the study group seminars also have consistently attended the Aikido seminars.

The folks I was meaning to address and I have already specified that Kevin was not intended as one of these folks because he does actively support our events and has for some time, are the folks that never attend anything. If holding any seminars at all is too much of a burden, then that's another story... but I do not think that this is the case and if it is, it's only for one or two folks, not the group.

- George

DH
07-13-2011, 02:30 PM
I think people are still confusing the issues. I read it like this.
1. Three training sessions a week
2. Three AIKIDO seminars a year.

All other seminars are of their choice.

To accent George's point, when I was there doing a seminar one of the students -whom George was ACTUALLY talking about showed up, not knowing regular class was cancelled...why did they not know...they hadn't been around for weeks.

Even though ya spelled it all out, George, the good ones thought you were talking about THEM; the casual ones who don't come to class, probably don't read your blog anyway!
I got it...but I would call Kevin. Keep up the good work. You have a seriously good group of people there. Most people who have met your group comment on their dedication.
All the best
Dan

Basia Halliop
07-13-2011, 02:56 PM
In the USAF, there are seminar requirements for some of the gradings, although only starting at 1st kyu (before that it's encouraged but not a requirement), and they don't have to be specific seminars (except if you're instructing - you must attend a number of seminars by technical committee members).

It isn't spoken of much, though - it's just listed there on the requirements page along with attendance and list of techniques for testing.

Mike Sigman
07-13-2011, 03:14 PM
In the USAF, there are seminar requirements for some of the gradings, although only starting at 1st kyu (before that it's encouraged but not a requirement), and they don't have to be specific seminars (except if you're instructing - you must attend a number of seminars by technical committee members).

It isn't spoken of much, though - it's just listed there on the requirements page along with attendance and list of techniques for testing.That's interesting to know. It would be nice to see (in some separate thread) a discussion about, for instance in the old days, the requirements to get a Menkyo Kaiden (a license to teach which presumes someone knows enough to teach) and some of the more modern views on being qualified to teach or be a certain grade, etc. Of course times change, but while I've always been encouraged to attend seminars (in various arts including Aikido), I've never heard of it being a requirement. On the other hand, two seminars a year for first-kyu and above ensures that there isn't inbreeding and insularity as expertise develops, so it's probably a good thing.

Mike Sigman

Chris Li
07-13-2011, 03:17 PM
That's interesting to know. It would be nice to see (in some separate thread) a discussion about, for instance in the old days, the requirements to get a Menkyo Kaiden (a license to teach which presumes someone knows enough to teach) and some of the more modern views on being qualified to teach or be a certain grade, etc. Of course times change, but while I've always been encouraged to attend seminars (in various arts including Aikido), I've never heard of it being a requirement. On the other hand, two seminars a year for first-kyu and above ensures that there isn't inbreeding and insularity as expertise develops, so it's probably a good thing.

Mike Sigman

There was a similar requirement in ASU, IIRC, when I was there - but that was some time ago...

Best,

Chris

George S. Ledyard
07-13-2011, 03:41 PM
There was a similar requirement in ASU, IIRC, when I was there - but that was some time ago...

Best,

Chris

The ASU still requires attendance at two seminars with Ikeda Sensei or Saotome Sensei for all Dan Grading (within the previous twelve months) and for Nidan and San Dan, attendance at one of the week long Camps (also within the previous twelve months). I do not think this has changed for quite some time.

Basia Halliop
07-13-2011, 04:02 PM
Ours doesn't specify camps vs weekend seminars. Which I think is good because half the mid-dan ranking people I know (2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc) have never been to summer camp, despite going to weekend seminars.... It's quite expensive, you have to be able to take a week off of work, leave the country, etc... So for that I like it that it's not a requirement...

chillzATL
07-13-2011, 04:05 PM
we have no sort of seminar requirement, but dan testing is only done at summer camp, so there isn't much wiggle room there.

sakumeikan
07-13-2011, 04:36 PM
That's interesting to know. It would be nice to see (in some separate thread) a discussion about, for instance in the old days, the requirements to get a Menkyo Kaiden (a license to teach which presumes someone knows enough to teach) and some of the more modern views on being qualified to teach or be a certain grade, etc. Of course times change, but while I've always been encouraged to attend seminars (in various arts including Aikido), I've never heard of it being a requirement. On the other hand, two seminars a year for first-kyu and above ensures that there isn't inbreeding and insularity as expertise develops, so it's probably a good thing.

Mike Sigman
Dear Mike,
In the group that I am a member of when someone is recognised as a authorised teacher eg Shidoin/Fukushidoin there is an obligation for said teacher to attend three national events.
Of course this requirement is not written in tablets of stone.One can miss them if there are certain criteria that precludes one from attending.For example injury, domestic reasons, age related issues.Generally speaking the system works well.
Cheers, Joe.

CSFurious
07-13-2011, 04:47 PM
i completely agree with this poster

when i was in college & younger, i.e., no wife or child, i trained 4 to 5 days per week and attended multiple seminars per year; i even trained at multiple dojos & in different styles

if you work 40-50 hours per week & have a family, you do not have time to train like that

Hi George,

While I appreciate the sentiment, I have to disagree on some points. Not everybody has the same amount of time, and we can't all choose our working hours or the length of our commute. I trained 3 or 4 times a week for a number of years, but that was because I had time to. Right now, I work 9 hours per day, commute for 2.5 and cook dinner 7 nights per week. I am lucky to find the time to train on weekends.

I am willing to bet that all of the people you know who are able to train 3 times a week have their partners look after themselves on the nights they are training. That isn't an option for me, and if I am going to train on a weeknight, I need to have dinner in the fridge ready to reheat, and I will usually end up doing the dishes etc. when I get home at 10:30. Then I need to get up at 6 the next morning to make breakfast and lunch.

Where exactly is this time supposed to come from, or am I just being lazy?

Chris Li
07-13-2011, 04:55 PM
i completely agree with this poster

when i was in college & younger, i.e., no wife or child, i trained 4 to 5 days per week and attended multiple seminars per year; i even trained at multiple dojos & in different styles

if you work 40-50 hours per week & have a family, you do not have time to train like that

As an older working person with a family I train - every day - two hours or more.

I've holding four workshops of my own this year, and attending a number of workshops arranged by other people.

It's a matter of making the time and deciding what your priorities are. I'm not saying that's for everybody, just that it's possible.

Best,

Chris

Mike Sigman
07-13-2011, 04:57 PM
Dear Mike,
In the group that I am a member of when someone is recognised as a authorised teacher eg Shidoin/Fukushidoin there is an obligation for said teacher to attend three national events.
Of course this requirement is not written in tablets of stone.One can miss them if there are certain criteria that precludes one from attending.For example injury, domestic reasons, age related issues.Generally speaking the system works well.
Cheers, Joe.

Hi Joe:

Well, I've always agreed with that approach. If someone is a qualified teacher in a style they have a responsibility to keep their skills sharp and up-to-date. I think that's always been understood.

The question is how many workshops outside of the teacher do the students need? It's obvious that the more highly ranked students in USAF and ASU have, let's say, two requirements (which I don't think is a bad idea, on the whole, assuming the student can afford it in time and money). Generally though, the more broader question is about dojo requirements and suggestions in terms of workshops and that's pretty much the topic at hand. Since I never encountered requirements for seminar attendance (I just trusted the teacher to pass on to me what he knew), I'm simply unfamiliar with some of the discussion focus.

Best.

Mike

aikilouis
07-13-2011, 04:59 PM
The limit to the required seminar system is that when the group is too big, teaching more impersonal and teachers do not know students well anymore, people come to seminars just to get their license stamped.

George, I agree with pretty much everything you said so far. I also have a question : at this point of your teaching career, how many students of yours have reached a level of practise that you judge satisfactory for the future of your lineage ?

George S. Ledyard
07-13-2011, 05:32 PM
The limit to the required seminar system is that when the group is too big, teaching more impersonal and teachers do not know students well anymore, people come to seminars just to get their license stamped.

George, I agree with pretty much everything you said so far. I also have a question : at this point of your teaching career, how many students of yours have reached a level of practise that you judge satisfactory for the future of your lineage ?

I have a couple of seniors, one San Dan and one Nidan who started with me who show ever sign of being better than I am. I have a couple of other students who started with other teachers but who are now training with me. I am having a significant contribution to the training although technically they aren't really my students. They also should be better than I am.

My only yardstick is to lo0ok at folks and reflect back as to where i was when i had the same amount of experience. Using that metric, I may have as many as 6 - 8 people who will eventually be better than I am. There is however, a difference between how technically proficient one is and the amount of "stuff" one knows. I am not sure any of my students will be able to put the time in that will allow them to cram as much "stuff" into their heads as I have. But what hey'll do, they'll do well.

dps
07-13-2011, 05:44 PM
George,

Instead pressuring your students into obtaining what you want for them in Aikido, why don't you ask them what they want from Aikido and how they think you can help them.

dps

graham christian
07-13-2011, 06:44 PM
Hi George.
May I say first that I empathise with your situation and with the people it adversely affected.

Also that I admire your balanced approach to trying to learn and resolve it.

In light of what I suggested earlier as a possibility and in light of the above post it seems to me the crux is the seminars (three) and your expectations.

To me I suggest IF you have expectations for them regarding attendance of the Aikido students then it should be part of the curriculum.

If on the other hand you let go of any expectations then it would be purely optional.

Thus I am saying it could be just down to this differentiation and the mixing of expectation with optional could be the sole problem.

You may have thought this already or it may be incorrect.

Regards.G.

Kevin Flanagan
07-13-2011, 07:27 PM
Dear Friends,

Thank you for all the kind words. I am still blushing. Cherry blossom, indeed. My wife really hopes that name does not catch on.

Thank you also to Jun for providing this forum. AikiWeb is a wonderful gift to our community and we are all in your debt.

I’ll try to not be as verbose as my last letter, but I need to clarify some things.

First of all, George and I are fine; we have had a respectful and dignified exchange of viewpoints. This is not a conflict, but a source of illumination. Our friendship remains one of mutual respect and affection.

I did not write in order to change George. I wrote because I felt that people I cared about were being portrayed unfairly. I could not live with myself without saying something. The matter is clearer now and I learned something, as did George. And I think that others have benefited as well.

Second, it was not my intention to make George sound scary. He is not; but, George can be a very intimidating man. He is over six feet tall and unbelievably fast. One night, he hit me in the chest three times in less than a heartbeat. He had perfect control. I was hit but unhurt. He is as smart as a whip with a lifetime of aikido experience. You do not want to get into a verbal dual with him about anything in aikido. George has enormous presence, but this is not a problem for me. If I am having difficulty expressing myself to him, that is my problem. Not his. I certainly have no reason to fear him.

Third, George’s expectations of three days a week and three seminars a year are perfectly reasonable for a person expecting to make real progress in aikido. The problem is that this is not congruent with my body or my bank account.

My decision to take a sabbatical came through the process of thinking and writing about what aikido means to me. I don’t think of myself as quitting. I am training in yoga to improve my posture and to find some relief for the tension that I carry in my body. And I need some time to reflect. I hope that I am still training in aikido ten years from now, even if it means I’m still wearing a very dirty white belt.

Thank you all again for your thoughtful comments.

Sincerely,
Kevin Flanagan

sakumeikan
07-14-2011, 05:23 AM
Dear Kevin,
You open letter to Mr Ledyard took a lot of bottle[courage ].Not many people I know in the Aikido community have the courage to say outright what they think about an thorny /awkward subject.Especially when there are big differences in the grades of the people involved in any debate.You however took the bull by the horns and stated your point of view.Wonderful.
Your last letter indicates you still have a good relationship with Ledyard Sensei.Thats really good.Sometimes when people express a different viewpoint the relationship breaks down.
As far as your own Aikido career is concerned no reason why you cannot pick up where you left off sometime in the future.You are relative to myself a young guy.I wish you all the very best on your continued journey.I hope I speak for the members of this forum when I say that your blogs are /have been some of the finest , most honest, most sincere contributions I have had the pleasure to read.Cherry Blossom , I salute you.
Cheers, Joe.
PS Drop us a line and tell us how you are doing if you get a chance or can spare a few moments of your time.

CSFurious
07-14-2011, 01:32 PM
i will elaborate

if you leave for work at 7:45am & get home from work at 6:30pm & have a wife & 2-year-old son, you might have trouble training

if you tell your wife, i am going to be home at 8:30pm because i am going to train (leaving your wife, to watch the child alone from 4:00pm to bedtime, you might have trouble training or staying married); you are also missing out on your child growing up which happens fast & is much more precious than any Aikido training that i ever participated in

if you tell your wife, i am going to train on Saturday or Sunday, she will probably say ok (but is it worth the monthly dojo fee to train for 2 hours on the weekend? maybe)

anyway, life evolves just like your Aikido & sometimes there other responsibilites besides training which is a somewhat selfish pursuit as it involves mainly you & the small sphere of the Aikido world

a Sensei is a Sensei because he/she has dedicated their life to the art,; if we all did that then we would all be a Sensei

i will train regularly again one day when my son is older, but for right now i am on sabbatical

As an older working person with a family I train - every day - two hours or more.

I've holding four workshops of my own this year, and attending a number of workshops arranged by other people.

It's a matter of making the time and deciding what your priorities are. I'm not saying that's for everybody, just that it's possible.

Best,

Chris

sakumeikan
07-14-2011, 01:51 PM
i will elaborate

if you leave for work at 7:45am & get home from work at 6:30pm & have a wife & 2-year-old son, you might have trouble training

if you tell your wife, i am going to be home at 8:30pm because i am going to train (leaving your wife, to watch the child alone from 4:00pm to bedtime, you might have trouble training or staying married); you are also missing out on your child growing up which happens fast & is much more precious than any Aikido training that i ever participated in

if you tell your wife, i am going to train on Saturday or Sunday, she will probably say ok (but is it worth the monthly dojo fee to train for 2 hours on the weekend? maybe)

anyway, life evolves just like your Aikido & sometimes there other responsibilites besides training which is a somewhat selfish pursuit as it involves mainly you & the small sphere of the Aikido world

a Sensei is a Sensei because he/she has dedicated their life to the art,; if we all did that then we would all be a Sensei

i will train regularly again one day when my son is older, but for right now i am on sabbatical
Dear Chris,
When i first started aikido in 1970 and later I had a wife and young family I must confess I spent a great deal of time doing aikido.I travelled all over the U.K to train.Looking back, with hindsight, i should have spent more time with my missus and children.
Future events proved to me that I had inadvertently neglected one of my sons and we both paid a heavy price for this lack of father /son attention.Of course I did not realise I was affecting my sons emotional development.So in conclusion I think I made an error of judgement here.I still train , but my priorities are different.
My task now is to try and be there for my family.They hopefully will be there for me and I for them after I hang up my hakama.Keep things in perspective and maintain a balance between work, family and play.Life is so short and there are so many things to do other than aikido. Cheers, Joe.

Chris Li
07-14-2011, 03:17 PM
i will elaborate

if you leave for work at 7:45am & get home from work at 6:30pm & have a wife & 2-year-old son, you might have trouble training

if you tell your wife, i am going to be home at 8:30pm because i am going to train (leaving your wife, to watch the child alone from 4:00pm to bedtime, you might have trouble training or staying married); you are also missing out on your child growing up which happens fast & is much more precious than any Aikido training that i ever participated in

if you tell your wife, i am going to train on Saturday or Sunday, she will probably say ok (but is it worth the monthly dojo fee to train for 2 hours on the weekend? maybe)

anyway, life evolves just like your Aikido & sometimes there other responsibilites besides training which is a somewhat selfish pursuit as it involves mainly you & the small sphere of the Aikido world

a Sensei is a Sensei because he/she has dedicated their life to the art,; if we all did that then we would all be a Sensei

i will train regularly again one day when my son is older, but for right now i am on sabbatical

I have a wife and a daughter, I leave for work at 7am, but I get back a little bit earlier. As I said, it's not for everybody, but it is possible. Nothing's perfect, of course.

Best,

Chris

robin_jet_alt
07-14-2011, 07:51 PM
I have a wife and a daughter, I leave for work at 7am, but I get back a little bit earlier. As I said, it's not for everybody, but it is possible. Nothing's perfect, of course.

Best,

Chris

Chris, I don't mean to belittle your dedication, however, I still don't think it is fair to compare your situation to others since there are so many other factors that may influence how easy/difficult it is to train regularly.

For example, does your wife work full time? Can she cook? Does she mind looking after the children in the evening? How far is the dojo from your house? What time would you get home from training? All of these things play a major role, so to say because you are able to work full time and train regularly with a wife and a child is still comparing apples to oranges in my opinion.

Chris Li
07-14-2011, 08:07 PM
Chris, I don't mean to belittle your dedication, however, I still don't think it is fair to compare your situation to others since there are so many other factors that may influence how easy/difficult it is to train regularly.

For example, does your wife work full time? Can she cook? Does she mind looking after the children in the evening? How far is the dojo from your house? What time would you get home from training? All of these things play a major role, so to say because you are able to work full time and train regularly with a wife and a child is still comparing apples to oranges in my opinion.

Yes, she works and cooks (as do I). Time to dojo has varied over the years, anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. And it's a basic fallacy that you need to get to the dojo in order to train.

Best,

Chris

oisin bourke
07-14-2011, 08:13 PM
Dear Chris,
When i first started aikido in 1970 and later I had a wife and young family I must confess I spent a great deal of time doing aikido.I travelled all over the U.K to train.Looking back, with hindsight, i should have spent more time with my missus and children.
Future events proved to me that I had inadvertently neglected one of my sons and we both paid a heavy price for this lack of father /son attention.Of course I did not realise I was affecting my sons emotional development.So in conclusion I think I made an error of judgement here.I still train , but my priorities are different.
My task now is to try and be there for my family.They hopefully will be there for me and I for them after I hang up my hakama.Keep things in perspective and maintain a balance between work, family and play.Life is so short and there are so many things to do other than aikido. Cheers, Joe.

Good advice IMO.

@Chris Froba. I am in a similar situation. I have a four year old daughter, but, while I cut back on training after she was born, I never gave it up. I have managed to to train 100 -140 times a year, which averages about two-three times a week, plus some seminars/intensive training. It's not as much as I used to do, but it's enough to keep ticking over.

I did it with the support of my wife who realised it was important for me to get out of the house a couple of times a week and do something I love. It's good for the whole family! After two years, she came back to practice and we now alternate training.

Perhaps you could come to an arrangement with your wife: If you could get practice one week night plus one weekend day. Then on one weeknight, she could go off and do something she enjoys while you look after your son. It would help you both to recharge your batteries.

The other thing I did when I realised I couldn't train 6 days a week was that I took up a practice that I could do in my free time, daily. In my case, it is the shakuhachi, but any other Japanese art (calligraphy, iai, zazen, etc ) will help deepen your Aikido. Many prominent martial artists were/are also painters, calligraphers, musicians, meditators etc.

I agree with Joe about balancing your family life, but I think it's good to have a regular pursuit while you bring up your family. It will set a good example for your son.

Best of luck,

oisin bourke
07-14-2011, 08:19 PM
And it's a basic fallacy that you need to get to the dojo in order to train.

Best,

Chris

While I personally agree with that, I think George Ledyard is has been quite clear that he sees Aikido training (i.e training recognised as improving one's Aikido/needed for grading etc) as dojo training. Other training, though important, is supplementary.

Chris Li
07-14-2011, 08:44 PM
While I personally agree with that, I think George Ledyard is has been quite clear that he sees Aikido training (i.e training recognised as improving one's Aikido/needed for grading etc) as dojo training. Other training, though important, is supplementary.

Well, everybody has an opinion - but it's not an either/or thing, IMO. If someone is really interested in training - then they'll find a way to train.

Best,

Chris

robin_jet_alt
07-14-2011, 08:44 PM
Yes, she works and cooks (as do I). Time to dojo has varied over the years, anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. And it's a basic fallacy that you need to get to the dojo in order to train.

Best,

Chris

Thanks for the reply Chris. I didn't mean to ask you to tell us those things or to force you to 'prove your dedication'. I just meant that each of those factors plays a part in how often people can train. You are absolutely right about not needing to get to the Dojo to train, but like Oisin, I was specifically referring to Dojo training.

To Oisin, the arrangement you suggested is exactly what I am working on at the moment. It will take a bit of refining, but I think we can make it work.

oisin bourke
07-14-2011, 09:17 PM
To Oisin, the arrangement you suggested is exactly what I am working on at the moment. It will take a bit of refining, but I think we can make it work.

Best of luck to you. If you have children, IME the taikukan are very family-friendly places. There are often lots of other children around that your child can play with while you do some practice.

robin_jet_alt
07-14-2011, 09:41 PM
No children yet. I am newly married and trying to work out a schedule with my wife. We are both working long(ish) hours, she doesn't cook at all and she has had a few health problems lately, so it is a bit tricky. Over the last few weeks we have got to the stage where she can look after herself one night per week and I don't need to spend an hour doing housework when I get home at 10:30. Still, I try to have dinner prepared for her to heat up. The next step is to find her something interesting to do 1 night per week..

Chris Li
07-14-2011, 10:01 PM
Thanks for the reply Chris. I didn't mean to ask you to tell us those things or to force you to 'prove your dedication'. I just meant that each of those factors plays a part in how often people can train. You are absolutely right about not needing to get to the Dojo to train, but like Oisin, I was specifically referring to Dojo training.

To Oisin, the arrangement you suggested is exactly what I am working on at the moment. It will take a bit of refining, but I think we can make it work.

I think that it is a basic mistake to assume that dojo training is better, but that's a different discussion.

Even if you assume that dojo training is better, that doesn't mean, therefore, that training on your own has no value.

Anyway, everybody has to make their own choices.

Best,

Chris

George S. Ledyard
07-14-2011, 10:06 PM
Well, everybody has an opinion - but it's not an either/or thing, IMO. If someone is really interested in training - then they'll find a way to train.

Best,

Chris

The problem about non-dojo training is that not very many folks know much to do solo. I used to do some solo exercises such as I learned from Aikido teachers and would do weapons work in my back yard, but I have to say that it wasn't until I did some of the IP work that I recognized how solo training was not just something you'd do when you couldn't get to the dojo but Important in itself.

- George

Chris Li
07-14-2011, 11:48 PM
The problem about non-dojo training is that not very many folks know much to do solo. I used to do some solo exercises such as I learned from Aikido teachers and would do weapons work in my back yard, but I have to say that it wasn't until I did some of the IP work that I recognized how solo training was not just something you'd do when you couldn't get to the dojo but Important in itself.

- George

I agree absolutely.

If someone really has no clue what to do on their own then I'd recommend that they do their hard physical work outs at home and then concentrate on moving softly and slowly in the dojo. At least then they can optimize each part of their trainings.

Best,

Chris

JW
07-15-2011, 02:47 PM
All of these things play a major role, so to say because you are able to work full time and train regularly with a wife and a child is still comparing apples to oranges in my opinion.

It's always an important point that one's life experiences do not on their own allow one to see another's point of view clearly. Sometimes we have to think, hey maybe someone's life really is different from what I have been through.

Anyway.. sorry for perpetuating OT distractions.. Ledyard Sensei, yes our art is changing and the way it is practiced is changing. I for one am glad we have you on the front lines of that change. I wish you the best and hope to visit you sometime soon.

aikilouis
07-15-2011, 05:32 PM
I have a couple of seniors, one San Dan and one Nidan who started with me who show ever sign of being better than I am. I have a couple of other students who started with other teachers but who are now training with me. I am having a significant contribution to the training although technically they aren't really my students. They also should be better than I am.

My only yardstick is to lo0ok at folks and reflect back as to where i was when i had the same amount of experience. Using that metric, I may have as many as 6 - 8 people who will eventually be better than I am. There is however, a difference between how technically proficient one is and the amount of "stuff" one knows. I am not sure any of my students will be able to put the time in that will allow them to cram as much "stuff" into their heads as I have. But what hey'll do, they'll do well.

Takeda or Ueshiba both taught many decades and their top students could be counted on two hands. It might be a cynical view, but the rest of the practitioners (and given my current practise I would be in that number if I studied with you) are mostly here to provide an environment for excellence of a few to grow. They might benefit of course of training with better people, but it is chiefly a byproduct.

If on the contrary the inertia of the majority of mediocre students is such that it endangers the developpement of the best, then you might get worried for the future of your lineage.

After reading your posts and blogs for quite some time and purchasing a few DVD sets (very informative for a reasonable price !), I think you are one of those who perceive the best that aikido today is in a very exciting phase. I previously made a parallel between Ellis Amdur's Hidden in Plain Sight and Michael Lewis's Moneyball. Both books describe how a few people challenge the conventional wisdom (is Mike Sigman aikido's Bill James ?) and show a way to simply do things better simply by shaking off the old habits and organising training towards more concrete goals, starting from day one of one's journey as a student.

Peter Goldsbury
07-15-2011, 08:46 PM
Dear Peter,
I can confirm the T.K. Chiba statements about the tree[roots, trunk, branches].I may be wrong here[my memory is going fast ]but I seem to remember a logo with a flourishing tree on it.Was it the Aikikai of G.B logo?
Regarding the system of future /potential teachers as you know Chiba Sensei introduced the shidoin/fukushidoin certification tests in the U.K. in the early 70s.Having moved later to San Diego he then set up Kenshusei /Uchi deshi programmes.There are now from these programmes many U.S.A teachers, and a number of
European/U.K. ex kenshusei now teaching currently.
Hope you are well, Joe

Hello Joe,

Many apologies. I missed this mail of yours.

Certainly, Tamura Shihan's European organization had a tree as an emblem. People like Pierre Chassang and Andre Gonze used to wear navy blue blazers with the tree emblem on the breast pocket. I can remember a seminar at the London Boys' Club taught by N Tamura. All the EAF people wore blazers, as did N Tamura himself. I think the AGB/BAF thought this was taking European solidarity a bit too far.

When I was in the UK, K Chiba was trying to get the shidoin / fukushidoin system adopted throughout the Aikikai. I saw repeated early drafts of what are now the Aikikai international regulations. (The Hombu were not so enthusiastic.) But I seem to remember a kenshusei system in place at the Tempukan, which, as you know, was really K Chiba's London outpost in the UK, after he had returned to Japan. I have some grounds for believing that he came to regret his decision to return to Japan.

I have heard many times from some deshi of K Chiba's generation that there was unhappiness at what was allegedly happening in the Hombu Dojo, but the unhappiness seems to have been based on a vague nostalgia for the old ways, coupled with a certain resignation that ‘things have to change'. I do not think this unhappiness has anything to do with the issues concerning 'internal' training that have been discussed in other threads. In the last few years I have talked a lot with some senior Hombu shihans (both resident in Japan and resident abroad, some still living; many passed away) and I remain unconvinced that Morihei Ueshiba actually taught his deshi how to practice this type of solo training. He might well have shown it in his own daily training sessions—which those deshi who claim to have been very close to Morihei Ueshiba would presumably have seen, but I doubt whether those deshi who had not had some related experience (like R Shirata and K Tomiki, prewar, or K Tohei, H Tada, M Sasaki postwar, the latter all at the hands of Tempu Nakamura) would have had a conceptual grasp of what he was showing.

Best wishes,

PAG

Toby Threadgill
07-19-2011, 09:22 PM
George,

Instead pressuring your students into obtaining what you want for them in Aikido, why don't you ask them what they want from Aikido and how they think you can help them.

dps

Hi,

If ever a statement concisely described why I dedicated so much effort to Nihon Koryu and gave up on gendai budo, this is it.

Toby Threadgill / TSYR

dps
07-19-2011, 10:36 PM
Hi,

If ever a statement concisely described why I dedicated so much effort to Nihon Koryu and gave up on gendai budo, this is it.

Toby Threadgill / TSYR

And you are getting what you want from your Nihon Koryu that you weren't getting from a gendai budo such as Aikido.

dps

Michael Hackett
07-20-2011, 12:54 AM
This presents a question to those involved, is the integrity of the art/skill/school more important than the desires of the student? If your answer to the question is "yes", then you are firmly in the camp of Ledyard and Threadgill Sensei. If "no" then by all means change your curriculum, your standards, your teaching method to satisfy those desires. The only correct answer is the one you adopt for yourself and your teaching or training. Others may disagree, but it is your house and your vision for the future. Somehow it seems simple to me - but then maybe I haven't tucked my head enough in ukemi.

dps
07-20-2011, 06:02 AM
If "no" then by all means change your curriculum, your standards, your teaching method to satisfy those desires.

You don't have to change anything to show them that what they want is in Aikido.

If the students are afraid of the teacher ( the Wrath of God ) then there is no connection between the two. They might as well be watching a dvd.

Make a connection with the student before they resign.

dps

Basia Halliop
07-20-2011, 09:14 AM
This presents a question to those involved, is the integrity of the art/skill/school more important than the desires of the student? If your answer to the question is "yes", then you are firmly in the camp of Ledyard and Threadgill Sensei

I wouldn't always assume that if a students isn't 'happy' that the two things (desires of the student and integrity of the art) are in conflict, though. Of course sometimes they are, but people can be unhappy or in conflict about all kinds of other things too.

Michael Hackett
07-20-2011, 09:47 AM
Basia, you're right, of course. There can be many issues as to why a student may be unhappy in a particular dojo or with a particular teacher. I was, at least in my mind, addressing the underlying expectations that Ledyard Sensei set in his open letter. My interpretation was that he has a prescription for maintaining the quality of the aikido taught in his school, and if a student was unhappy following that path, so be it. No doubt a student could follow his pathway and still be unhappy for some other reason.

Toby Threadgill
07-21-2011, 03:09 AM
And you are getting what you want from your Nihon Koryu that you weren't getting from a gendai budo such as Aikido.

dps

(Mr Skaggs, I think you botched your question but I believe I understand what you were asking....)

It's a mindset thing.

People who undertake training koryu have almost always started in gendai budo. They move to koryu for very concrete reasons.

I had frankly become bored and rather disenfranchised with the casual mindset I kept running to in modern budo circles. Generally the people I was surrounded by treated their training with all the emotional intensity you find in a bowling alley. I was looking for more, for people on the same wavelength as I was. I was looking to be challenged at the most visceral and intense levels. Finally, after a long search I met a man who was so intense that he changed my perception of what budo was. A man who really lived and breathed budo to the point of dedicating his whole life to it. Becoming involved in TSYR required a level of dedication and passion I had not encountered before, and what made the journey all the more fantastic was that the people around me were similarly dedicated. This is obliquely what I think George is getting at. He is lamenting the fact that the full measure of aikido is in danger of degenerating because he's not finding the level of dedication in todays students that he had. He has dedicated himself to do something about this delimma and is disappointed to realize that many of his own students may not be willing or interested in following his lead.

We all understand that every student can't be a budo zealot, but every dojo needs a core of powerfully motivated zealots to drive the spirit of the dojo forward. They are the ones that the teacher hopes he can count on, the ones who will pick up the mantle when he can no longer carry on. This type of personal bond and sense of trust is what differentiates a real dojo from a gym. You can feel it when you step in the door. I felt it everytime I stepped on the mat in Taks or Dave Maynards dojo and I feel it everytime I step in my dojo. It is unmistakable. It is a feeling that is hard to define, but very powerful and real.

So...Forgive me, but when people start talking about catering to the whims and desires of the students, I wince. I know that's how it is supposed to be in most modern budo schools but in koryu we do not cater to students. This type of consumer mindset is simply not part of the koryu paradigm. In TSYR all the formal members of the ryu have taken a blood oath to the school and are dedicated to it's survival. They all understood from the moment their blood was entered in the student register, alongside all the other students, deceased and living, that they were part of something much larger than themselves and not part of a casual circle of hobbyists. Every formal TSYR member has become part of a living legacy, part of an entity with a rich history and uncertain future. To live up to the promise made to those members who had preceded them and were responsible for the knowledge they now draw from, they each have a personal duty or obligation. It's not about them, its about the school.

Sure...there are dedicated people in modern budo, very dedicated people. George is obviously one of those, but its rather common that a modern budo like aikido struggles internally because it tries to appeal to everyone. I've said this for years... Aikido has just about the most difficult mandate of any martial art I know of. It is functionally schizophrenic. It has to be. It's mission is to be a non-violent martial art. Think about that statement for a second. It is not a criticism, in fact, I admire the heck of out of all you aikido instructors out there. You guys have a very tough job, a job that is frequently at odds with itself. Ueshiba set you on a quest that is so doggone difficult that I cannot imagine it.

George has been asking the aikido community to wake up for a long time because he sees problems down the road. I completely understand that when he looks down the aiki road and doesn't see some of the faces he expected to be right behind him, its more than a little disquieting.

My only advice is: Keep up the good work and don't quit, never quit.

Toby Threadgill / TSYR

Diana Frese
07-21-2011, 04:44 PM
My experience is time-limited as far as teaching is concerned and being part of dojos, but a few people kept in touch. One practices around three days a week, at her present dojo where she has attended for over ten years. Around two years in this area, fourth kyu and now going for nidan, maybe later this year, maybe next.

Many changes happened in my own life, so I wasn't able to keep up with everyone after the main class ended August 1983. Another student ended up assisting a first kyu in founding a dojo with someone from the midwest she met through a notice on a bulletin board at work in the state she moved here in the northeast.

Both were fourth kyu when they left here, neither had met the other, and both re started in their new locations after quite a few years.

I guess my point is, cast a wide net, we can't always know in advance who will be dedicated in future, who will persist. It seems like in the koryu you must make a committment. Many of us rather than making a formal commitment, just assumed that we would be training in some form or other for our whole lives. In my case, I learned from former students that we who have stopped may yet return ....

Byron Foster
07-21-2011, 07:55 PM
Wow, this topic has stirred up more conversation than I thought it would at first. Why we practice and how we practice Aikido seems to be very personal...

I do find it amazing based on this thread and others that it is often people who no longer practice Aikido (Toby Threadgill, Ellis Amdur, Dan Harden) can have the most insightful comments regarding the state of Aikido being practiced today. Do you have to be outside the system to see the system?

George S. Ledyard
07-21-2011, 08:23 PM
Wow, this topic has stirred up more conversation than I thought it would at first. Why we practice and how we practice Aikido seems to be very personal...

I do find it amazing based on this thread and others that it is often people who no longer practice Aikido (Toby Threadgill, Ellis Amdur, Dan Harden) can have the most insightful comments regarding the state of Aikido being practiced today. Do you have to be outside the system to see the system?

I think there are a number of points of view, obviously. There are certainly there are the folks that feel "it's all good" and there is no problem to be fixed. Everyone knows Aikido is changing, the whole world is changing. so Aikido will inevitably change with it. They are happy with going along with that change.

But amongst the folks that started Aikido "back in the day" it w3as presented as a certain thing... that's why we started training. Over time as folks poured themselves into their training, the started questioning as to whether Aikido was delivering on its promise. Folks were exposed to other martial systems, looked at what they felt they were getting out of their art and the group split into two. There were the folks that left... the vast majority of the koryu folks started in Aikido or trained seriously at some point. They left because they perceived problems with our art and felt that the koryu training either delivered something that most Aikido training did not or that it had less dysfunction than the koryu they had encountered. This continues to this day. There are a really significant number oif Systema folks who left Aikido because Systema delivered what Aikido had only promised.

There are a number of us that, while not in disagreement with these folks about the issues, have chosen to stay within Aikido hoping to help the art deliver in its promise. Of the koryu folks, the only one I am familiar with is Larry Biery Sensei who teaches in Ithaca, NY. He started training in koryu back in the day along with the other big names of American koryu, but he never quit Aikido. While I have not trained at his dojo, I would suspect that what he does with his Aikido would have a quite different "content" than the Aikido we often find problematical.

I think we have a great gift to be practicing at the first time in history when circumstances have made information exchange possible on a scale never ever dreamt of in the past. I really think that the information and the instruction is available to make Aikido what it always should have been, what it certainly was for the Founder. It isn't a koryu nor is it a "fighting" style. But it can have all of the elements that folks found so satisfying in these other styles. It will certainly be an Aikido-ized version but it can be something that folks from other arts find respectable rather than failing toi live up with its promise. If we can do that for our art, perhaps the exodus of our "best and the brightest" so to speak, will stop and we'll get back to the place at which highly experienced folks from other martial arts come to Aikido to train.

JO
07-21-2011, 08:53 PM
Thank you Toby. Your post struck a chord. I've seen people leave, including one of my favorite training partners because they didn't feel the focus of the training was high enough. Around here there is no serious koryu I know of, so they just move on to unrelated pursuits. Personally I try to make the best of what little time I manage to put in my training and try to bring out the best in my partners, whatever their level of commitment.

It has been a common mistake to try to please all the students, usually by watering down the intensity. I always try to push my partners a bit and get them to step up. Though aikido is meant to be open to all, irrespective of strength, age, ability or even level of commitment, it is not too much to expect people to be THERE when they step on the mat and put 100% of what they have to offer up. But that requires a lot of input and focus by the instructor and the senior students. I try, but tired at the end of the day I don't always live up to my own standards.

You also have to be willing to lose a few. But the ones you lose will generally be the lazy ones. Those that are there to train will stick around when pushed, even if they are slow learners, or tired, or can only show up once every two weeks. But when they bow on, they will be present. I also think that solid intense training will attract more of the type of people that will stick around longer and become more passionate about their training.

Note to George. I didn't realize Larry Bieri had a koryu background. Trained with him once at a seminar. Nice guy, asked me about my teachers and noted my Kanai-ish take on a technique taught by Yamada sensei. I didn't note much unusual about his aikido, but then he wasn't teaching. I noticed on the USAF site that he is now a certified shihan.

Lan Powers
08-05-2011, 04:26 PM
The point that resonated the most for me, throughout this long, and deeply interesting thread was just one simple statement,
(paraphrased, of course since it is waaay back there and I am too lazy to seek back for the EXACT wording ) :)
" No matter how expert the instruction, without putting in 10,000 hours practice, it all is meaningless"
Words to that effect....

Rang- out pretty strongly for me, anyway.
Best,
Lan

richardlowc
08-11-2011, 02:33 AM
George,

I have stayed away from the Aikido forums for nearly 11 years for several reasons.

I talked with my friend ten years ago and I predicted exactly what you said in your first post.

I'll keep this simple as I can. I could go on but I won't.

When I read your statement that said "membership is at an all time low" in 15 years. There are several things you have not addressed. People may not agree with me but based on my prediction 10 years ago I believe I am right.

I don't think you or the "aikido world" have acknowledged, accepted and realized how the martial arts world was turned on its head the day the Gracie family introduced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the world in the UFC. You had a skinny white boy from Brazil (Royce Gracie) who nobody thought would do much went on to single handily destroy almost every single martial art in one night to prove their art could beat anyone from any style.

It completely shook the martial arts world and the seed was sewn that night in Denver Colorado in 1994. The world was about to stand up and take notice of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. MMA today as we know it based on what happened that night. MMA is based on Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The explosive growth of this art has been nothing short of a phenomenon and whether you choose to accept it or not, it has been hugely responsible for the decline of other arts.

A lot of people take up martial arts for self defence not to hear religious quotes of love and peace from an old man they had never met or cannot relate to. Half the Japanese students had no idea what O'sensei was talking about

I hear you and other high ranking Aikidoka quote all these Japanese teachers and bitch about who was first, who was connected with who, who brought what first etc, it's stupid. You all fail to acknowledge the one person who was perhaps single handedly responsible for creating an explosion of new Aikido students to you and all the other Aikido dojos throughout the world over the last 15 years. I think you know who I am going to say. Steven Seagal. Maybe you don't want to admit a fellow American was responsible for the huge growth in the later 80's early 90s.

Seagal sensei kept it real. He kept it simple. You knew what you were going to get. I travelled to Japan last year and out of all the dojos I visited, his dojo in Osaka stood out head and shoulders above anyone else in my opinion. Seagal can't carry people any longer. He is not the same anymore. The glory days have gone.

A lot of Aikido teachers are arrogant. They treat the students like crap and they believe its ok to behave like it. They don't appreciate or they forget it's the students who keep the club going. The Gracie family said It should be us bowing to the students for allowing us to teach them. It says it all doesn't it. They strut around in their Hakama thinking they are it. They are not. They are far from it.

People just don't know what they are getting anymore when they come into Aikido. You change it when it suits you.

I don't know where Aikidos future lies anymore. It's quite worrying. The Aikido class I go to has dropped down to just 4 people now. I've only stayed because of Steven Seagal and I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu anyway.

I hate going to Aikido seminars. It's full of arrogant people, it's too much of a tense atmosphere, it's not enjoyable and it's like a freaking institution. You all need to take a chill pill and stop thinking you are a cut above the rest.

I hear you all talk about how hard you all used to train back in the day. You should see how hard the BJJ training is.

I could say a lot more but I think you get my point.

Peace.

dps
08-11-2011, 07:36 AM
George,

I have stayed away from the Aikido forums for nearly 11 years for several reasons.

I talked with my friend ten years ago and I predicted exactly what you said in your first post.

I'll keep this simple as I can. I could go on but I won't.

When I read your statement that said "membership is at an all time low" in 15 years. There are several things you have not addressed. People may not agree with me but based on my prediction 10 years ago I believe I am right.

I don't think you or the "aikido world" have acknowledged, accepted and realized how the martial arts world was turned on its head the day the Gracie family introduced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the world in the UFC. You had a skinny white boy from Brazil (Royce Gracie) who nobody thought would do much went on to single handily destroy almost every single martial art in one night to prove their art could beat anyone from any style.

It completely shook the martial arts world and the seed was sewn that night in Denver Colorado in 1994. The world was about to stand up and take notice of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. MMA today as we know it based on what happened that night. MMA is based on Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The explosive growth of this art has been nothing short of a phenomenon and whether you choose to accept it or not, it has been hugely responsible for the decline of other arts.

A lot of people take up martial arts for self defence not to hear religious quotes of love and peace from an old man they had never met or cannot relate to. Half the Japanese students had no idea what O'sensei was talking about

I hear you and other high ranking Aikidoka quote all these Japanese teachers and bitch about who was first, who was connected with who, who brought what first etc, it's stupid. You all fail to acknowledge the one person who was perhaps single handedly responsible for creating an explosion of new Aikido students to you and all the other Aikido dojos throughout the world over the last 15 years. I think you know who I am going to say. Steven Seagal. Maybe you don't want to admit a fellow American was responsible for the huge growth in the later 80's early 90s.

Seagal sensei kept it real. He kept it simple. You knew what you were going to get. I travelled to Japan last year and out of all the dojos I visited, his dojo in Osaka stood out head and shoulders above anyone else in my opinion. Seagal can't carry people any longer. He is not the same anymore. The glory days have gone.

A lot of Aikido teachers are arrogant. They treat the students like crap and they believe its ok to behave like it. They don't appreciate or they forget it's the students who keep the club going. The Gracie family said It should be us bowing to the students for allowing us to teach them. It says it all doesn't it. They strut around in their Hakama thinking they are it. They are not. They are far from it.

People just don't know what they are getting anymore when they come into Aikido. You change it when it suits you.

I don't know where Aikidos future lies anymore. It's quite worrying. The Aikido class I go to has dropped down to just 4 people now. I've only stayed because of Steven Seagal and I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu anyway.

I hate going to Aikido seminars. It's full of arrogant people, it's too much of a tense atmosphere, it's not enjoyable and it's like a freaking institution. You all need to take a chill pill and stop thinking you are a cut above the rest.

I hear you all talk about how hard you all used to train back in the day. You should see how hard the BJJ training is.

I could say a lot more but I think you get my point.

Peace.

Points taken and never have truer words been written.

dps

donhebert
08-11-2011, 12:50 PM
Hello Richard,

I tend to agree with your observations that Gracies have had a huge influence on the direction of martial arts in general and that Steven Segal and his movies have had an important impact as well. However, beyond that I think your generalizations are, well, too general.

For example, some Aikido teachers are arrogant and treat their students like crap. But there are many gracious and talented Aikido teachers out there are well. George, in particular is a thoughtful and considerate teacher who treats his students with a great deal of respect. So the arrogance argument doesn't explain the problems he has encountered.

Many people come to Aikido for self defense. But many who stay with the art become drawn into the O Sensei's larger vision. While many of O Sensei's direct students admit that they often did not understand his words, a good deal of O Sensei's main ideas have come through. I, for one, am much more interested in Aikido's potential for developing the human being than I am in practicing for some fight.

Aikido's future is in doubt not only because of the erosion of its martial brilliance, but also because of the diminishment of its spiritual potential. The good news is that are talented people in the Aikido community who working hard to address these issues. It is leaders like George who are helping to keep Aikido alive as living, breathing art.

Best regards,
Don Hebert

P.S . I can't remember the last time I was at an Aikido seminar that was full of arrogant, tense people. We must travel in different circles.

richardlowc
08-11-2011, 02:42 PM
I would just like to clarify I am not directing this at George personally.

Thanks

Richard Stevens
08-12-2011, 12:02 PM
George,

I have stayed away from the Aikido forums for nearly 11 years for several reasons.

I talked with my friend ten years ago and I predicted exactly what you said in your first post.

I'll keep this simple as I can. I could go on but I won't.

When I read your statement that said "membership is at an all time low" in 15 years. There are several things you have not addressed. People may not agree with me but based on my prediction 10 years ago I believe I am right.

I don't think you or the "aikido world" have acknowledged, accepted and realized how the martial arts world was turned on its head the day the Gracie family introduced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the world in the UFC. You had a skinny white boy from Brazil (Royce Gracie) who nobody thought would do much went on to single handily destroy almost every single martial art in one night to prove their art could beat anyone from any style.

It completely shook the martial arts world and the seed was sewn that night in Denver Colorado in 1994. The world was about to stand up and take notice of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. MMA today as we know it based on what happened that night. MMA is based on Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The explosive growth of this art has been nothing short of a phenomenon and whether you choose to accept it or not, it has been hugely responsible for the decline of other arts.

A lot of people take up martial arts for self defence not to hear religious quotes of love and peace from an old man they had never met or cannot relate to. Half the Japanese students had no idea what O'sensei was talking about

I hear you and other high ranking Aikidoka quote all these Japanese teachers and bitch about who was first, who was connected with who, who brought what first etc, it's stupid. You all fail to acknowledge the one person who was perhaps single handedly responsible for creating an explosion of new Aikido students to you and all the other Aikido dojos throughout the world over the last 15 years. I think you know who I am going to say. Steven Seagal. Maybe you don't want to admit a fellow American was responsible for the huge growth in the later 80's early 90s.

Seagal sensei kept it real. He kept it simple. You knew what you were going to get. I travelled to Japan last year and out of all the dojos I visited, his dojo in Osaka stood out head and shoulders above anyone else in my opinion. Seagal can't carry people any longer. He is not the same anymore. The glory days have gone.

A lot of Aikido teachers are arrogant. They treat the students like crap and they believe its ok to behave like it. They don't appreciate or they forget it's the students who keep the club going. The Gracie family said It should be us bowing to the students for allowing us to teach them. It says it all doesn't it. They strut around in their Hakama thinking they are it. They are not. They are far from it.

People just don't know what they are getting anymore when they come into Aikido. You change it when it suits you.

I don't know where Aikidos future lies anymore. It's quite worrying. The Aikido class I go to has dropped down to just 4 people now. I've only stayed because of Steven Seagal and I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu anyway.

I hate going to Aikido seminars. It's full of arrogant people, it's too much of a tense atmosphere, it's not enjoyable and it's like a freaking institution. You all need to take a chill pill and stop thinking you are a cut above the rest.

I hear you all talk about how hard you all used to train back in the day. You should see how hard the BJJ training is.

I could say a lot more but I think you get my point.

Peace.

Love the inaccurate hyperbole. :D

Cliff Judge
08-12-2011, 12:04 PM
BJJ and Aikido have largely different sets of things to offer. I cannot help but feel that anyone who Aikido has "lost" to BJJ was probably not a good fit for Aikido to begin with.

George S. Ledyard
08-12-2011, 12:52 PM
George,

I have stayed away from the Aikido forums for nearly 11 years for several reasons.

I talked with my friend ten years ago and I predicted exactly what you said in your first post.

I'll keep this simple as I can. I could go on but I won't.

When I read your statement that said "membership is at an all time low" in 15 years. There are several things you have not addressed. People may not agree with me but based on my prediction 10 years ago I believe I am right.

I don't think you or the "aikido world" have acknowledged, accepted and realized how the martial arts world was turned on its head the day the Gracie family introduced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the world in the UFC. You had a skinny white boy from Brazil (Royce Gracie) who nobody thought would do much went on to single handily destroy almost every single martial art in one night to prove their art could beat anyone from any style.

It completely shook the martial arts world and the seed was sewn that night in Denver Colorado in 1994. The world was about to stand up and take notice of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. MMA today as we know it based on what happened that night. MMA is based on Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The explosive growth of this art has been nothing short of a phenomenon and whether you choose to accept it or not, it has been hugely responsible for the decline of other arts.

A lot of people take up martial arts for self defence not to hear religious quotes of love and peace from an old man they had never met or cannot relate to. Half the Japanese students had no idea what O'sensei was talking about

I hear you and other high ranking Aikidoka quote all these Japanese teachers and bitch about who was first, who was connected with who, who brought what first etc, it's stupid. You all fail to acknowledge the one person who was perhaps single handedly responsible for creating an explosion of new Aikido students to you and all the other Aikido dojos throughout the world over the last 15 years. I think you know who I am going to say. Steven Seagal. Maybe you don't want to admit a fellow American was responsible for the huge growth in the later 80's early 90s.

Seagal sensei kept it real. He kept it simple. You knew what you were going to get. I travelled to Japan last year and out of all the dojos I visited, his dojo in Osaka stood out head and shoulders above anyone else in my opinion. Seagal can't carry people any longer. He is not the same anymore. The glory days have gone.

A lot of Aikido teachers are arrogant. They treat the students like crap and they believe its ok to behave like it. They don't appreciate or they forget it's the students who keep the club going. The Gracie family said It should be us bowing to the students for allowing us to teach them. It says it all doesn't it. They strut around in their Hakama thinking they are it. They are not. They are far from it.

People just don't know what they are getting anymore when they come into Aikido. You change it when it suits you.

I don't know where Aikidos future lies anymore. It's quite worrying. The Aikido class I go to has dropped down to just 4 people now. I've only stayed because of Steven Seagal and I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu anyway.

I hate going to Aikido seminars. It's full of arrogant people, it's too much of a tense atmosphere, it's not enjoyable and it's like a freaking institution. You all need to take a chill pill and stop thinking you are a cut above the rest.

I hear you all talk about how hard you all used to train back in the day. You should see how hard the BJJ training is.

I could say a lot more but I think you get my point.

Peace.

The fundamental assumptions running throgh this miss the point entirely. And that serves to make my points for me.

Why do you assume that we didn't understand or ignored the effect that the Gracies had and how MMAas transformed the martial arts? I watched all of the early UFC fights avidly. I incorporated some BJJ ground work into my Aikido repertoire as a result. There's was combat ground work in the koryu I studied. I can do a shin kick that will put you on the ground, I know how to choke you out... So what? That's just waza not the art...

The idea that Steven Seagal represents some sort of pinnacle of modern Aikido development is absurd. I have nothing but respect for the guy's waza and I think he turned out one of the best up and coming teachers in American Aikido in the person of Matuoka Sensei. So kudos to him. But his stuff isn't any more or less martial than what I have been taught.

Graham being a major exception, I am quite amazed at how many of the folks from Britain seem to treat Aikido as some sort of street fighting art. What happened over there? The almost intentional lack of thoughfulness I see in many of the posts is really fascinating. Or is it just the folks who have chosen to post?

Anyway, the idea that we fail to understand or appreciate BJJ or MMA is simply not based on any accurate information on your part. Why would you think I don't appreciate how hard the MMA folks train? They train like maniacs... In fact these young men are succeeding in doing as much damage to their bodies in 7 or 8 years as I took 35 to do (here I mean MMA rather than true BJJ which I think is pretty healthy). No, I understand how hard they train quite well.

My generation of American Aikido practitioners were all of the Viet Nam War generation. Everyone I knew was involved, one way or another with the anti war movement. Many of my frineds were combat veterans. We found this new martial art, which espoused values that resonated with the times, The Founder's philosophy had a tremendous appeal. I absolutely believe that it was what we understood of that philosophy coupled with the beauty and power of the art itself that drew most of us to Aikido. We started Aikido long before any Steven Seagal movies.

I have been running an Aikido dojo for almost 25 years. In all that time, I can remember only a couple of folks who came in the door talking about Steven Seagal. I am not saying that his movies didn't help us grow the art... But all these years later, in my opinion, the folks who are still training aren't the folks who started because of his movies.

I belive that the young folks today are quite alienated and fairly angry. In my day we were as well, but we had the anti war movement to vent. We demonstated, lobbied against the war, got arrested, etc Today, there is no anti war movement worth the name, despite two wars going on. There's no political opposition movement of any consequence and I think that this fascination with "fighting" for its own sake, the "Fight Club" mentality, is the direct result of our current zeitgeist.

It's not just Aikido that's not of interest to our young men, it's all traditional forms. It's not just about whether it's realistic self defense... there's less interest in the koryu as well and those are 500 year old combat styles. No, it seems to be about "fighting" for its own sake and that has little to do with Aikido.

Anyway, I give it about ten years. When this generation of young men has totally trashed their bodies, which they are doing, but still wish to train, they'll be back, looking for something more sensible to do. I suspect that at that point, they'll be more reflective than they seem to be currently. They'll be tough, they'll know how to train, but they will be a lot more mature by then and I think that Aikido will potentially go through another growth spurt.

richardlowc
08-13-2011, 05:46 AM
Hi George,

I think you are little out of touch with reality now.

You say give it ten more years and they'll be back to study something more sensible. There you go, your arrogance again.

Helio Gracie was 95 and still practicing. Age makes no difference in BJJ because it was founded on true principles of leverage.

Saying Seagal doesn't represents some sort of pinnacle of modern Aikido development is absurd. It's bit like saying Arnold Schwarzenegger didn't have some sort of pinnacle on Bodybuilding. Seagal was one of the biggest action movie stars of all time. He was on the same level as Stallone and Schwarzenegger. He was able to promote Aikido on a scale that nobody else could do but he did it right. There were lines outside the video shops on the day his films were released. People went to see his Aikido.

After watching your technique on Youtube it is nothing like Seagal sensei. I'm not disrespecting it though. In the clips I saw, it wasn't near enough to make an impression like the start of Above the Law. And that is what Seagal did. He made an incredible impression with his own unique style very quickly.

I have spoke to several people who trained with Seagal and some top Japanese such as Tohei and the interesting thing is that all of them said nobody was as good as Seagal sensei. When I was in Japan, I was told by a Japanese teacher that other Japanese instructors are now stealing Seagal's exercises.

Have you heard the interview with Seagal sensei where he talks about O'sensei? It's no wonder so many modern Aikidoka have got his teachings all scewed.

I don't know where you got the impression that us Brits think Aikido is a street fighting art. When did I say that? Aikido was meant to be a system of self defence. If it is not, what exactly is it then George?

I can sense jealously in your post, a bit of a know it all.

Rich
P.S I was out last Friday and got talking to someone in a restaurant. He was interested in martial arts. When I told him I practice BJJ and Aikido, he said Aikido, why do you do that for? "It's just based on silly cooperation. The only good thing about Aikido was Steven Seagal". And now you wonder why the numbers are dropping.

mathewjgano
08-13-2011, 12:30 PM
Saying Seagal doesn't represents some sort of pinnacle of modern Aikido development is absurd. It's bit like saying Arnold Schwarzenegger didn't have some sort of pinnacle on Bodybuilding.
I think it's a bit absurd to say he was the pinnacle. At least Arnold was Mr. Universe, which is actually an example of what could be called "pinnacle." Popularity of movies has nothing to do with ability in Aikido...nothing against Segal's Aikido here. Simply that I disagree with your notion that popularity somehow equates to pinnacle of achievement.

Seagal was one of the biggest action movie stars of all time. He was on the same level as Stallone and Schwarzenegger. He was able to promote Aikido on a scale that nobody else could do but he did it right. There were lines outside the video shops on the day his films were released. People went to see his Aikido.
Not in my experience. I grew up watching his movies with my friends and nobody I knew knew about Aikido from him. Those lines weren't to see Aikido; they were to see him own dudes like a bad-ass. Yes he increased the popularity of Aikido, but that means very little.

P.S I was out last Friday and got talking to someone in a restaurant. He was interested in martial arts. When I told him I practice BJJ and Aikido, he said Aikido, why do you do that for? "It's just based on silly cooperation. The only good thing about Aikido was Steven Seagal". And now you wonder why the numbers are dropping.

That's as pointless as this:
I was hanging out with my friend, who's been in a number of fights, and he said I did some Bruce Lee @#$% on him. Totally proves I, and by extension Aikido, are totally bad-ass. :D
I think you seem to be missing one of the points George was making, that many Aikido students should train more seriously, which applies to any number of factors, including physical potency.
Your remarks strike me as rather more arrogant than Ledyard sensei's, but what do I know, I'm just a deluded, high-falutin Aikidoist.:p
I think economy is just as big a factor (if not more so), though I would agree the popularity of BJJ and MMA are a big factor too.

Belt_Up
08-13-2011, 12:52 PM
I think you are little out of touch with reality now.

Come in pot, this is kettle, over.

After watching your technique on Youtube it is nothing like Seagal sensei. I'm not disrespecting it though. In the clips I saw, it wasn't near enough to make an impression like the start of Above the Law.

Surely this is a joke. A poor joke, at that, but a joke.

P.S I was out last Friday and got talking to someone in a restaurant. He was interested in martial arts. When I told him I practice BJJ and Aikido, he said Aikido, why do you do that for? "It's just based on silly cooperation. The only good thing about Aikido was Steven Seagal". And now you wonder why the numbers are dropping.

People in restaraunts know everything now. Amazing.

The majority of British Aikidoka are nothing like Richard Lowcock, I'm very happy to say. What a total embarrassment. We're not all like this, I swear. :(

George S. Ledyard
08-13-2011, 01:12 PM
Helio Gracie was 95 and still practicing. Age makes no difference in BJJ because it was founded on true principles of leverage.


I have never said a bad word about BJJ or the Gracies. I have good friends who trained with some of the Gracies and others who trained with the Machados. If you read my post more closely you'll notice that I made a distinction between BJJ and what is being called MMA. The predominance of Muy Thai in MMA coupled with the heavy use of impact techniques on the ground make it quite a bit different than traditional BJJ. The Gracies and the Machados consider what they do to be health systems as well as martial arts. As I said, we actually do a bit of that in our dojo but it isn't a main part of the training. Aikido is a system primarily designed for multiple attackers and I think is based on the assumption that weapons are present, on the part of both of the folks training. That's the logic behind what we do. BJJ and MMA, while being great sports and fine for one on one are simply not applicable in the kind of environment Aikido was designed for. If folks want to do both, that's just great. But they are not interchangeable... one or the other leaves some gaps in your defensive system. Anyway, I am an Aikido teacher. There are plenty of folks around where one can develop ones ground work if one wishes.

After watching your technique on Youtube it is nothing like Seagal sensei. I'm not disrespecting it though. In the clips I saw, it wasn't near enough to make an impression like the start of Above the Law. And that is what Seagal did. He made an incredible impression with his own unique style very quickly.

The YouTube clips are of me teaching class. I am demonstrating principles, not making an action movie. I am quite capable of making my Aikido look like Seagal's... but it's not what I am doing when I am teaching. I have film of Seagal Sensei actually teaching classes, with real students, not as drama in an action movie and guess what? He's showing the moves slowly, gently, with explanation because he's teaching class, not showing off for a movie audience.

I have spoke to several people who trained with Seagal and some top Japanese such as Tohei and the interesting thing is that all of them said nobody was as good as Seagal sensei. When I was in Japan, I was told by a Japanese teacher that other Japanese instructors are now stealing Seagal's exercises.

I am sorry... this sounds like it came out of some public relations ad copy. Seagal Sensei's ability to create a persona, much of which is highly fictionalized is legendary. Starting with his special ops work in Viet Nam to his learning the Blues at the feet of the old blues men in Detroit and now becoming a Tibetan Tulku, the man's ability both to market himself and to periodically reinvent himself is amazing.

I know quite a number of Japanese Shihan. As a group they were all supremely unconcerned with Steven Seagal. Now, I am on record as having repeatedly saying that I like his Aikido. His Aikido was closest in conception to what I learned from Saotome Sensei. But the idea that he is some major technical influence on contemporary Aikido is just silly. He had a really good dojo for a number of years and trained some good folks, many of whom I know and have trained with. Matsuoka Sensei is an absolute gem in my opinion.

But very few of these old students are still associated with him. He has largely moved on to other personas and projects and is not very present on the American Aikido scene. It is simply a fact that most of the folks doing Aikido over here have either been marginally influenced by him or didn't find his Aikido compelling from the standpoint that it was what they wanted to do.

While Seagal Sensei was running his small dojo and training some excellent folks, people like Frank Doran, Bill Witt, Bob Nadeau, Terry Dobson, Mary Heiny, and so on were the ones that were developing and spreading American Aikido here (along with the Japanese Shihan who came over here originally). Folks may have walked in to their dojos after seeing a Steven Seagal movie but it was other folks who ran those dojos, developed the Aikido community, grew the organizations, etc. He simply isn't that influential in the Aikido community. The idea that Aikido is shrinking because we aren't dong Seagal's Aikido is humorous at best. Most folks never were and weren't terribly interested.

Don't get me wrong... I love his Aikido. Always have. On-line I have always been one of the folks that publicly stated that I thought his Aikido was great. But I trained with a guy that trained under the Founder for fifteen years. There are other folks who trained with teachers who also trained with the Founder. Seagal never trained with the Founder. Forgive me if I don't take his word about the Founder's ideas about Aikido over the teachers who actually trained with him. Seagal Sensei is just one of a number of excellent Aikido folks here, not some Aikido demi-god, despite what his public relations folks would have everyone believe.

I don't know where you got the impression that us Brits think Aikido is a street fighting art. When did I say that? Aikido was meant to be a system of self defence. If it is not, what exactly is it then George?

Well, I have written quite a lot about what I think it is. I do think that it is potentially a system of self defense. If one trains properly, some ability to defend oneself should result. But I also think that there is no evidence whatever that O-Sensei thought he was creating a new fighting style when he developed Aikido out of the Daito Ryu he started with. O-Sensei's presentation of Aikido was almost entirely as a spiritual practice. He hardly ever talked about how to do technique. Yet in the posts by many of the folks from the UK, not only is there seldom any consideration of the philosophical / spiritual side of the art but that aspect of Aikido is actively disdained and denigrated. If it isn't about fighting, they aren't interested.

There are certainly exceptions and perhaps my perception is colored by who is the most vocal. But it certainly has been my perception that the crowd as appearing here on Aikiweb is not terribly thoughtful. On the other hand, I'll be teaching over there next year and I suppose the folks that invited me did so for their own reasons so I can't assume everyone in the UK is of one mind any more than they are here.

As for being jealous? I can honestly say with complete and utter sincerity I am not "jealous" of Steven Seagal. I actually seldom even consider him, except when one of his movies shows up on cable. As I say, I love his Aikido... but other than that, well, I just don't think about him, nor do most of the Aikido teachers I know.

Cliff Judge
08-13-2011, 01:37 PM
I can sense jealously in your post, a bit of a know it all.

Rich
P.S I was out last Friday and got talking to someone in a restaurant. He was interested in martial arts. When I told him I practice BJJ and Aikido, he said Aikido, why do you do that for? "It's just based on silly cooperation. The only good thing about Aikido was Steven Seagal". And now you wonder why the numbers are dropping.

What was your answer to this question?? I bet I am not the only one reading this who is dying to know. :D

FYI, people reading your posts can sense quite a bit of something in them as well!

Dave de Vos
08-13-2011, 04:19 PM
Saying Seagal doesn't represents some sort of pinnacle of modern Aikido development is absurd. [...] He was able to promote Aikido on a scale that nobody else could do but he did it right. There were lines outside the video shops on the day his films were released. People went to see his Aikido.

I didn't even know that Steven Seagal was an aikidoist before I started aikido last year. And now that I know, I still don't think his movie aikido is a good example of what aikido is like. Sure, it is impressive to watch him fight with stuntmen, but it also portrays a very brutal image of aikido. I wouldn't want to do aikido if its pinnacle would be to be that brutal.

Janet Rosen
08-13-2011, 05:05 PM
People went to see his Aikido.

Um, no, they went to see his action movies.

Except for a couple of short clips here and there, I didn't see a S.S. movie until after training for well over a decade. People suggested I try his first one as being the one with the most aikido in it. It was so poorly written and acted I had to turn it off before any martial arts scenes - about par for the course for me and action/revenge fantasy movies.

I have visited dojos all across the USA and have yet to meet or train with anybody who came to aikido because they saw one of his movies.

sakumeikan
08-13-2011, 06:53 PM
Dear Mr Ledyard,
As an aikidoka of over forty years and a Brit I take exception to your comment concerning your view that U.K Aikidoka are only interested in 'fighting Aikido 'and are not interested in the spiritual , moral side of Aikido.For what it is worth I have an library of philosophic books related to Aikido, Zen, Macrobiotics.I have also been an uchideshi in San Diego Aikikai where I was exposed to Za Zen.I have also attended lectures with Zen monks.To suggest that the Brits are just interested in fighting is certainly in my view incorrect.Just because we may not post about these subjects does not mean we do not practice /study these subjects.
We have regular visit from Zen priest, and last week at our Summer School in Worcester many of the attendees did early morning Zen training.Rather than generalise, why not seek information before making the comments?
Cheers, Joe.

graham christian
08-13-2011, 07:26 PM
Dear Mr Ledyard,
As an aikidoka of over forty years and a Brit I take exception to your comment concerning your view that U.K Aikidoka are only interested in 'fighting Aikido 'and are not interested in the spiritual , moral side of Aikido.For what it is worth I have an library of philosophic books related to Aikido, Zen, Macrobiotics.I have also been an uchideshi in San Diego Aikikai where I was exposed to Za Zen.I have also attended lectures with Zen monks.To suggest that the Brits are just interested in fighting is certainly in my view incorrect.Just because we may not post about these subjects does not mean we do not practice /study these subjects.
We have regular visit from Zen priest, and last week at our Summer School in Worcester many of the attendees did early morning Zen training.Rather than generalise, why not seek information before making the comments?
Cheers, Joe.

Wow! Did he say that? Shame. Funny how when I mention all things spiritual and indeed philosophical he seems to question it or indeed ignore it or equate it with unreal. There again maybe he thinks I'm not British and am an alien. Yeah, that would make sense.

Anyway Joe, have a cuppa, stiff upper lip and all that. Plus remember.....'Pull yourself together man -- you're British!!! Ha,ha.

Regards.G.

Belt_Up
08-13-2011, 07:29 PM
Mr Ledyard did take pains to aim his comment quite accurately:

Yet in the posts by many of the folks from the UK, not only is there seldom any consideration of the philosophical / spiritual side of the art but that aspect of Aikido is actively disdained and denigrated. If it isn't about fighting, they aren't interested.

There are certainly exceptions and perhaps my perception is colored by who is the most vocal. But it certainly has been my perception that the crowd as appearing here on Aikiweb is not terribly thoughtful. On the other hand, I'll be teaching over there next year and I suppose the folks that invited me did so for their own reasons so I can't assume everyone in the UK is of one mind any more than they are here.

Given comments like this:

I've only stayed because of Steven Seagal and I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu anyway.

I wouldn't blame him if he did generalise it to include all Brits. Truly cringeworthy.

graham christian
08-13-2011, 07:43 PM
Mr Ledyard did take pains to aim his comment quite accurately:

Given comments like this:

I wouldn't blame him if he did generalise it to include all Brits. Truly cringeworthy.

I suppose if you look at things and relate them to nationality then you are not very smart. If you're talking about cultures etc. then that's different. Why defend the indefencible? Do you see that quote as representing Brits or as a persons opinion?

Belt_Up
08-13-2011, 07:54 PM
I suppose if you look at things and relate them to nationality then you are not very smart.

Then the human race as a whole is not very smart. Every single person, at one time or another, has generalised about a person based on their nationality.

What I pointed out was that Mr Ledyard's comment was not aimed at all British aikidoka, merely some of the small percentage on Aikiweb, but faced with what I consider to be, quite frankly, arrogance and rudeness from a totally uninvolved party who cannot possibly understand the factors involved, I personally would forgive him tarring us all with the same brush, as such spectacular negativity would wipe out considerable positivity from others. This is related to the concept of negativity bias, where bad or negative things draw the attention of humans much more powerfully than good or positive things.

It's bringing things like confirmation bias into play when that eyebrow-raiser of a comment from Lowcock ("I've only stayed because of Steven Seagal and I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu anyway.") merely confirms what Mr Ledyard has just opined ("...not terribly thoughtful.").

graham christian
08-13-2011, 08:10 PM
Then the human race as a whole is not very smart. Every single person, at one time or another, has generalised about a person based on their nationality.

What I pointed out was that Mr Ledyard's comment was not aimed at all British aikidoka, merely some of the small percentage on Aikiweb, but faced with what I consider to be, quite frankly, arrogance and rudeness from a totally uninvolved party who cannot possibly understand the factors involved, I personally would forgive him tarring us all with the same brush, as such spectacular negativity would wipe out considerable positivity from others.

It's bringing things like confirmation bias into play when that eyebrow-raiser of a comment from Lowcock ("I've only stayed because of Steven Seagal and I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu anyway.") merely confirms what Mr Ledyard has just opined ("...not terribly thoughtful.").

Agreed, we tend to be not very smart.

So Mr Ledyard was led by rudeness? I fail to see the connection. I have and so have many others been led by various forms of rudeness but the responses have never then been to the effect of Americans or Dutch or whatever nationality.

Mentioning nationality at all is not very smart. I suggest he apologises. Not for my sake but for his own. I don't see him as a lesser person but I do see his error.

As I said, why defend the indefensible. Be neither for nor against the person but politely point out the error that's all.

Regards.G.

Belt_Up
08-13-2011, 08:22 PM
The error? I see a pretty big error here, and it's not from Mr Ledyard, nor is he the one that should be apologising. He did not generalise his comment to include all Brits, merely some of the very few British aikidoka that post on Aikiweb, and from what I can see, he was entirely correct to do so.

There is an excellent example of just that minority Mr Ledyard mentioned in Lowcock, there.

graham christian
08-13-2011, 08:37 PM
The error? I see a pretty big error here, and it's not from Mr Ledyard, nor is he the one that should be apologising. He did not generalise his comment to include all Brits, merely some of the very few British aikidoka that post on Aikiweb, and from what I can see, he was entirely correct to do so.

There is an excellent example of just that minority Mr Ledyard mentioned in Lowcock, there.

I didn't say he did. I said the mention of Nationality. Why do it?

I dare you to find some arrogant or stupid posts from a few who happen to be from one country and then for you to group them in terms of nationality.

You wouldn't do it I am quite sure. Why? Because you KNOW it may cause offence and is actually irrelevant let alone irreverent.

If I was to say I notice some Yoshinkan or some Daito ryu folks on this forum seem to be more interested in fighting don't you think I would have a lot of Yoshinkan and daito ryu folks complaining?

We are responsible for the words we use. Or not.

Regards.G.

George S. Ledyard
08-14-2011, 12:06 AM
Dear Mr Ledyard,
As an aikidoka of over forty years and a Brit I take exception to your comment concerning your view that U.K Aikidoka are only interested in 'fighting Aikido 'and are not interested in the spiritual , moral side of Aikido.For what it is worth I have an library of philosophic books related to Aikido, Zen, Macrobiotics.I have also been an uchideshi in San Diego Aikikai where I was exposed to Za Zen.I have also attended lectures with Zen monks.To suggest that the Brits are just interested in fighting is certainly in my view incorrect.Just because we may not post about these subjects does not mean we do not practice /study these subjects.
We have regular visit from Zen priest, and last week at our Summer School in Worcester many of the attendees did early morning Zen training.Rather than generalise, why not seek information before making the comments?
Cheers, Joe.

Well Joe,
I was merely referring to an impression that I had from reading aikiweb. As I said, it was from reading certain folks posting and I actually said I assumed it wasn't a general trait as I had been invited to teach over there next year. I doubt I would have been had my generalization really applied widely.

My mis-perception could be easily corrected... I have no particular investment in it... You list all sorts of areas you guys are pursuing related to your practice. Without anyone writing about that, how would I know?

Anyway, I sincerely apologize to any and all folks who felt that I was unfairly referring to them. I understand that the folks I am exposed to via Aikiweb are a tiny subsection of the Aikido public and I would be wrong to draw any broad conclusions from the posts of the few. Too heavy a dose of Waggstaffism, it made me irrational.

So, no more over generalizations.... not fair to the folks who they shouldn't apply to. I will direct my frustrations individually as they occur to me.

Se really, I am sorry to whomever I offended. I have trained with some very nice folks from the UK and I am sure most of the folks who post here would actually find we had a lot in common if we could actually train together rather than talk about it. I think folks end up with opinions about people that are sometimes wide of the mark when you actually get to meet them.

Nicholas Eschenbruch
08-14-2011, 05:07 AM
To be fair, and without implying judgement, I think it can safely be said that a lot of aikido in Britain is somewhat more hands-on and attracts a different audience then in other places I have trained (Germany, France, Switzerland, a little US and Italy).

Also, it is my experience from two two years intensive training in Britain in two different organisations that the crowd somehow seems to be more muscular, have more tatoos, more previous judo and more bar room brawl experience than at least over here in Germany. Great people though! (Or maybe it was just because I was in the North East...)

I remember getting a coaching certificate over there from a gentleman who had his wrist broken testing Chiba Sensei, twice: apparently he believed the first time was a one-off and tried testing him again... and from what I hear from my British friends, stories like that are not unusual at all for the early days of Chiba Sensei in England.

So I can see where George's statement comes from...

Joe, you were probably there, weren't you? Maybe what was the norm for you people was not the norm elsewhere... but as I said, no value judgement intended, I throughly enjoyed my training in England.

Mark Freeman
08-14-2011, 05:42 AM
Graham being a major exception, I am quite amazed at how many of the folks from Britain seem to treat Aikido as some sort of street fighting art. What happened over there? The almost intentional lack of thoughfulness I see in many of the posts is really fascinating. Or is it just the folks who have chosen to post?


Hi George,

Most likely, the folks who choose to post.

I train with one of the largest federations in the UK (separate from all other governing bodies) under the first Brit to be taught aikdo here. The focus of all of our practice is based on ki development, co-ordination and technical profficiency. The reason for doing this is to develop the self and to apply the principles we learn on the mat to our daily lives. In all the years and people I have practiced with, none have been there to improve their fighting skills or see aikido as a street fighting art.

So maybe, you have unfairly focussed on a few vocal Brits and tainted the rest of us. My reading of things here are that those in the UK are similar to elsewhere, some at the extremeties and most from the centre ground.

I am interested to see that you may be coming here next year, where and when will you be?

regards,

Mark

Nicholas Eschenbruch
08-14-2011, 06:18 AM
I am interested to see that you may be coming here next year, where and when will you be?

Thanks for pointing that out Mark - I just checked George's diary on his website, it says Coventry, May 4t-6th. George, that would be awesome, will it be a public event?

Nicholas

graham christian
08-14-2011, 07:06 AM
Credit to George. Showing a touch of class and humility.

Regards.G.

Mark Freeman
08-14-2011, 10:31 AM
There again maybe he thinks I'm not British and am an alien. Yeah, that would make sense.



Well Graham? are you? and if so, which planet do you hail from?;) :D

regards,

Mark
p.s I've just returned from a week on Notuchthro, nice place but the twin suns played havock with my sleep patterns:)

Cliff Judge
08-14-2011, 10:39 AM
I remember getting a coaching certificate over there from a gentleman who had his wrist broken testing Chiba Sensei, twice: apparently he believed the first time was a one-off and tried testing him again... and from what I hear from my British friends, stories like that are not unusual at all for the early days of Chiba Sensei in England.

So maybe that's why, or at least part of the reason.

graham christian
08-14-2011, 01:13 PM
Well Graham? are you? and if so, which planet do you hail from?;) :D

regards,

Mark
p.s I've just returned from a week on Notuchthro, nice place but the twin suns played havock with my sleep patterns:)

I thought I knew you from somewhere, of course now I remember. Yeah I remember it was a bit mind blowing for you but I didn't see you again after you went off with those green ladies.

Good to know you recovered.

Regards.G.

graham christian
08-14-2011, 01:17 PM
So maybe that's why, or at least part of the reason.

Think I've heard many stories similar from all over Cliff. I recall some dude running into Georges 'immovable leg' and ending up in a state.

Regards.G.

George S. Ledyard
08-15-2011, 02:17 AM
Thanks for pointing that out Mark - I just checked George's diary on his website, it says Coventry, May 4t-6th. George, that would be awesome, will it be a public event?

Nicholas

Hi Guys,
My understanding is that my hosts will basically fill the event from within their own dojo, so it won't get widely publicized. My wife and I will have some flexibility though about when we arrive and when we leave. So if anyone else wants to play while I am over there, I am certain something could be arranged. I am leaving the weekend before and the weekend after open on my schedule to allow for some touristing...

- George

richardlowc
08-15-2011, 05:21 AM
George,

I have to be very careful in what I say because I know there are two groups of Aikido and a lot of students like the Harry Potter style. It is one of the many reasons I don’t post anymore on Aiki forums. My friend who gave up Aikido did tell me not to bother posting and not to get involved in something we saw coming 10 years ago. I guess he was right. I think it’s got worse than we predicted. This will be my final post before I close my account.

Bjj is not a sport. You are misinformed. Helio Gracie NEVER invented it for that. No martial art in the world can train you to deal with multiple attackers. It’s not the movies. So you say Aikido was designed for multiple attackers but hold on a second you say you don’t think it’s a method of self defence. So you are teaching spirituality to defend against multiple attackers? No wonder people have left. They don’t know what they are doing. They don’t know what it is.

When I compared your videos to Seagal style I never said you were making action movies. I’m talking about the clips of Seagal teaching Aikido. They are available for anyone to see.

You may think my statement about Seagal and what the students said about him came out of a public relations ad but it’s true. I bet that surprised you. I bet if you ran a seminar and Seagal ran one I know who I would put my money on to get the biggest turn out. Have you looked at the real reasons why people didn’t turn up to your last one and why you felt you had to send your “open letter. You said it yourself, “membership is at an all time low”. I have given you some of the most pertinent ones but your arrogance is beyond belief.

Janet said “Umm no” they went to see his action films. You are right Janet but a lot wanted to see him do his Aikido in his films.

You do know it’s perfectly ok for an American, Englishman, Australian etc to be on the same level or better than a Japanese Shihan. Just because they were with the founder doesn’t mean they are always going to be better or someone can’t improve on what they have done. Have you ever heard of the term emulate success? Seagals instructor was ranked 8th Dan by O’sensei at age 42, so he is pretty close to Osensei don’t you think George?

The people you quote I have never even heard of. To say he isn’t influential in the Aikido community is complete and utter nonsense in my opinion. He just has other endeavours he wants to pursue. He would still get a huge turn out if he put on a seminar right now. I for one would fly from the other side of the world and so would friends of mine who gave up Aikido.

When you said “O-Sensei's presentation of Aikido was almost entirely as a spiritual practice” I knew then it was time for me to leave this forum. I have never once heard O’sensei say Aikido was not a martial art or Budo. I have no idea where you have got this from. I think you have completely misunderstood what he said. Next you’ll be quoting books from fancy text written by his students. Oh dear. Have you read the book by Koichi Tohei which was the first book published with the approval of the founder I think? There is no reference in there to Osensei saying Aikido was not a martial art for self defence. Was he not the highest ranked student of Osensei?

When you make comments about “their is seldom consideration for the spiritual side” what the heck do you base that on? Have you ever considered the fact that those people who don’t agree with that side of Aikido are on a different spiritual level. Maybe they are on a more advanced level spiritually.

We have some excellent Aikidoka in the UK. In fact my teacher’s Dan certificate was signed by Osensei and he started in the early 1950’s. He was incredible, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I wish you the best of luck George. I sincerely hope you get your membership of Aikido students back up one day.

Mark Freeman
08-15-2011, 05:47 AM
We have some excellent Aikidoka in the UK. In fact my teacher’s Dan certificate was signed by Osensei and he started in the early 1950’s. He was incredible, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.


Hi Richard,

who is/was your teacher? Aikido was introduced into the UK in 1955. My own teacher (Ken Williams), was the first to receive a Dan grade at some point after that. All other teachers in the UK received their grades after that.

Unless you know something I don't, I think you may have your facts a bit skewed.

As you refer to 'Harry Potter' aikido I'm assuming you may be connected with Sensei Ellis, as far as I understand things, he arrived at the Hut Dojo in 56/57 and would have trained for some time before receiving his dan grade.

regards,

Mark
p.s. what is Harry Potter aikido anyway?

richardlowc
08-15-2011, 07:05 AM
The late Shihan Ralph Reynolds.

He was an incredible Aikidoka, absolutely sensational.

graham christian
08-15-2011, 07:30 AM
The late Shihan Ralph Reynolds.

He was an incredible Aikidoka, absolutely sensational.

Hi Richard.
I think you'll find on the seagal thread that I quoted how I admire his Aikido. I find he is very able and good at demonstrating many aspects of Aikido. I would say he focusses a lot on irimi and centreline. There are many plus points I could acknowledge in his Aikido.

May I also add that he speaks much about the spiritual side of the art and can relate much to what he does. Thus he has a greater understanding.

He himself has said where he is at in his own opinion and explained how he understands the square and the triangle and there application in Aikido. He then states how he knows the uses of circle but the higher level to do with love he may someday get a better understanding of. He says he learns everyday.

An excellent Aikidoka in my mind. Very aware of the spiritual side of the art. In fact I would say he holds a lot back on that side for he knows the western press let alone the western mind will ridicule it.

Regards.G.

graham christian
08-15-2011, 07:51 AM
Richard. Just to add that if Seagal did hold a seminar over here it would no doubt be a sell out. His fame and world recognition far outstrips most in the Aikido world.

However, using that to put another down is a bit below the belt no?

I suggest it's not others you should be looking at. If we take these opportunities we can learn much about ourselves.

Regards.G.

Richard Stevens
08-15-2011, 08:33 AM
P.S I was out last Friday and got talking to someone in a restaurant. He was interested in martial arts. When I told him I practice BJJ and Aikido, he said Aikido, why do you do that for? "It's just based on silly cooperation. The only good thing about Aikido was Steven Seagal". And now you wonder why the numbers are dropping.

Inaccurate hyperbole, now logical fallacy... very entertaining.

richardlowc
08-15-2011, 09:11 AM
Richard. Just to add that if Seagal did hold a seminar over here it would no doubt be a sell out. His fame and world recognition far outstrips most in the Aikido world.

However, using that to put another down is a bit below the belt no?

I suggest it's not others you should be looking at. If we take these opportunities we can learn much about ourselves.

Regards.G.

Well quite frankly Graham I don't like his comment about us Brit Aikidoka. I find it quite offensive. I can tell he is arrogant from his first reply back to me.

The last reply he gave back was almost laughable in my opinion.

I bet he doesn't know that when Seagal held a seminar in Paris back in 1999, Seagal came over to the Brit Aikidoka group and said we were the only ones doing what he had asked for correctly. I wasn't there but several people told me.

From the videos I've seen of George and the amount of dislikes his video's get his style is not for me anyway.

I hope he doesn't take it personally but I think he is out of touch with reality and I was just giving him my insight based on why I think his memberships in Aikido are at an all time low.

Peace

Russ Q
08-15-2011, 09:18 AM
So much for making that your last post....

richardlowc
08-15-2011, 09:29 AM
Well quite frankly Graham I don't like his comment about us Brit Aikidoka. I find it quite offensive. I can tell he is arrogant from his first reply back to me.

You are right; it would be a sell out. He fails to realize, acknowledge or give some credit that Seagal was responsible for the surge in new Aikido students throughout the late 1980s early 1990'. Just like the karate kid was influential in the amount of kids taking up Karate. We just had two people start not long ago because of guess who? Seagal.

The last reply he gave back was almost laughable in my opinion.

I bet he doesn't know that when Seagal held a seminar in Paris back in 1999, he came over to the Brit Aikidoka group and said we were the only ones doing what he had asked for correctly. I wasn't there but several people told me.

Just because the Japanese invented it doesn’t mean to say a westerner can’t become better. It’s like with football, the English invented it but the Brazilians took it away, mastered it, cultivated it and took it to a whole new level. They are only human beings for goodness sake. I have been to Japan and I have seen it. The Japanese used to come over to see Shihan Reynolds.

I hope he doesn't take it personally but I think he is out of touch with reality and I was just giving him my insight based on why I think his memberships in Aikido are at an all time low.

Peace

richardlowc
08-15-2011, 09:30 AM
So much for making that your last post....

Yeah Russ,

I must stop now.

Aikido sure does give you plenty to discuss.

NagaBaba
08-15-2011, 10:12 AM
I bet he doesn't know that when Seagal held a seminar in Paris back in 1999, he came over to the Brit Aikidoka group and said we were the only ones doing what he had asked for correctly. I wasn't there but several people told me.

When this fat poor actor Seagal was in Paris, he came with plenty of body guards, where were standing all time around tatami. Is that mean he can’t defend himself LOL

What was more funny, there was a chair close to tatami, so every time he was sitting there, a very nice girl was putting pink slippers on his feet. Every tulku must have his own girl slave?

But the nicest part was his jiu waza, when he felt down badly and the attackers were all on him, pink color was a bad luck hahahaha - that telling me a LOT about his supposed "skills"....

Basia Halliop
08-15-2011, 10:29 AM
I bet if you ran a seminar and Seagal ran one I know who I would put my money on to get the biggest turn out

OK, this is so obvious that I can't understand why anyone would take it to mean anything. If ANY movie star ran an aikido seminar it would sell out, regardless if the actor (or the attendees) had even heard of aikido the day before the event. That's what being a movie star means; it's in the job description. It just has nothing to do with anything. It's neither a sign of being good nor of being bad, nor of being taken seriously or not taken seriously. It's simply a sign of being a movie star.

For my part, I didn't know Steven Seagal did Aikido until after I was in Aikido, and most non-Aikido people I've ever mentioned that fact to didn't know either. They knew he did action movies but didn't know that in real life he actually studied a martial art called Aikido.... It's a fact that seems in my own experience to be of interest mostly just to people who are already in Aikido.

mathewjgano
08-15-2011, 12:05 PM
I have to be very careful in what I say because I know there are two groups of Aikido and a lot of students like the Harry Potter style.

Only 2? That simplifies things a bit.

Just because the Japanese invented it doesn’t mean to say a westerner can’t become better.

I missed the point of this. Where was the opposite of this ever expressed? This seems like a strawman to me, although I admit to being a bit sleep deprived.

To be as frank as I perceive you to be, I find it hard to take your posts very seriously. I think you have a few valid points mixed in with a bunch of something, well, less so.
Sorry to see you won't be continuing to refine the discussion.
Good luck in your training.
Matt

graham christian
08-15-2011, 12:51 PM
Well quite frankly Graham I don't like his comment about us Brit Aikidoka. I find it quite offensive. I can tell he is arrogant from his first reply back to me.

You are right; it would be a sell out. He fails to realize, acknowledge or give some credit that Seagal was responsible for the surge in new Aikido students throughout the late 1980s early 1990'. Just like the karate kid was influential in the amount of kids taking up Karate. We just had two people start not long ago because of guess who? Seagal.

The last reply he gave back was almost laughable in my opinion.

I bet he doesn't know that when Seagal held a seminar in Paris back in 1999, he came over to the Brit Aikidoka group and said we were the only ones doing what he had asked for correctly. I wasn't there but several people told me.

Just because the Japanese invented it doesn’t mean to say a westerner can’t become better. It’s like with football, the English invented it but the Brazilians took it away, mastered it, cultivated it and took it to a whole new level. They are only human beings for goodness sake. I have been to Japan and I have seen it. The Japanese used to come over to see Shihan Reynolds.

I hope he doesn't take it personally but I think he is out of touch with reality and I was just giving him my insight based on why I think his memberships in Aikido are at an all time low.

Peace

Hi Richard.
He has already apologised for the Brit statement and all credit to him. If you are offended by his first comment back to you then either send him a pm and sort it out or let it go. It's not worth holding onto things to use as an excuse to attack others in my opinion.

Your view on the Japanese not being the best just because they invented it may be shared by George or not but I would say if the standard over there generally better it's not for that reason.

Shihan Reynolds was no doubt a great teacher, I believe Donovan Waite was one of his students no?

As usual it's not so much what is said that upsets people it's usually how it's said. If Georges reply to you sounded arrogant to you then I'm sure that your comments to him sounded arrogant also.

We all make mistakes.

Regards.G.

richardlowc
08-16-2011, 02:18 AM
Graham,

I think Donovan was one of Shihan Reynolds students. I'm not sure when it was though.

R

richardlowc
08-16-2011, 02:22 AM
Only 2? That simplifies things a bit.

I missed the point of this. Where was the opposite of this ever expressed? This seems like a strawman to me, although I admit to being a bit sleep deprived.

To be as frank as I perceive you to be, I find it hard to take your posts very seriously. I think you have a few valid points mixed in with a bunch of something, well, less so.
Sorry to see you won't be continuing to refine the discussion.
Good luck in your training.
Matt

Matthew,

Of course my points are valid. It's common sense.

My friend and I predicted it 10 years ago.

R

richardlowc
08-16-2011, 02:48 AM
Matthew,

Oh dear. Look all I was simply saying was two new students started because of him. If that is happening at our class in a local area I think that number multiplies nationally over the year.

Of course my points are valid. It's common sense. My friend and I predicted it 10 years ago.

Disregard what you want from my comments. I couldn't care less. The bottom line was "Membership is at an all time low"

Game over, thanks for playing.

R

dps
08-16-2011, 04:48 AM
From;

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/arrogant

ar·ro·gant
   [ar-uh-guhnt] Show IPA
adjective
1.
making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; insolently proud: an arrogant public official.
2.
characterized by or proceeding from arrogance: arrogant claims.

and

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/arrogance

ar·ro·gance
   [ar-uh-guhns] Show IPA
noun
offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.

Would proclaiming oneself as an 'Elite Professional" and those that don't meet his standards of time at the dojo as "hobbyist" fall within these definitions?

And lets not forget the students who are afraid of approaching him because they fear "The Wrath Of God".

dps

Cliff Judge
08-16-2011, 08:41 AM
From;

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/arrogant

ar·ro·gant
   [ar-uh-guhnt] Show IPA
adjective
1.
making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; insolently proud: an arrogant public official.
2.
characterized by or proceeding from arrogance: arrogant claims.

and

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/arrogance

ar·ro·gance
   [ar-uh-guhns] Show IPA
noun
offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.

Would proclaiming oneself as an 'Elite Professional" and those that don't meet his standards of time at the dojo as "hobbyist" fall within these definitions?


David,

No.

George is a rokudan, and he earned his rank from Saotome Sensei. Therefore, he doesn't need to proclaim himself as "Elite" because he has been certified as such by a student of Osensei. And "Professional" is a matter of fact.

As far as these definitions go, I was more thinking along the lines of:

Of course my points are valid. It's common sense.

Mary Eastland
08-16-2011, 08:43 AM
Dear Dick Lowcock:
Are you Tony?