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09-01-2002, 12:01 AM
AikiWeb Poll for the week of September 1, 2002:

Do you think aikido instructors should be in good physical condition?

I don't do aikido
Yes
No


Here are the current results (http://www.aikiweb.com/polls/results.html?poll_id=129).

DaveO
09-01-2002, 02:02 AM
'Good physical condition' is a somewhat relative term. Certainly, a couch potato isn't going to make a good instructor, but there's no need to require the svelt run-twenty-miles-every-morning type either. The ability to teach, the knowledge and love of Aikido are far more important considerations, in my opinion. :)

Dave

guest1234
09-01-2002, 06:14 AM
They need to understand the principles of Aikido, and be able to demonstrate them on their students, so the students can feel the technique. I believe O Sensei was teaching well past the prime of his youth.

Some people have difficulty learning from someone who doesn't fit the sterotype of what they want to be from taking this class (so they cannot study under eldery/overweight/female etc instructors). While I think that kind of thinking should be modified, luckily there are enough dojos around that most can find someone they like; after all, some can't learn from those who yell, some from those who talk too much, or talk too little, or use Japanese, or etc. A place for us all.

Nacho_mx
09-01-2002, 07:08 AM
Their aikido should be in good shape regardless of his/her age, weight or body type. However I wouldn´t trust to much an instructor who´s huffing and puffing all the time...

mike lee
09-01-2002, 09:42 AM
Proficiency in aikido is not a substitute for being physically fit.

Hogan
09-01-2002, 09:48 AM
Being thin is not indicative of being physically fit, or of being proficient in Aikido.

memyselfandi
09-01-2002, 11:58 AM
What exactly is "good physical condition"? Does it mean that they are fit enough to demonstrate the techniques? or does it mean that they look physically fit? Cause if it's the former then, yes definitely. But if it means the latter, then no.

Bruce Baker
09-01-2002, 01:23 PM
The more people I meet who teach Aikido, or practice Aikido, in the middleage to retirement years, the more we talk about diet, exercise, and losing those extra pounds that incur the "spare tire" or "beer belly" look.

Indeed, the better muscled you are in your youth, the easier it is to acquire that Santa Claus belly as you grow older.

Question is ... Can the instructor still perform, teach, and do a normal class with the students? If that is so, then I would say no matter what the physical looks of the instructor, then they have met the minimum requirements.

Of course, we are all attemping to flatten that belly, maintain muscle tone, and some resemblence of youth, but I begin to understand the amount of transition which occurs as I grow older, muscle mass declines, and the less than youthful physical fitness comes home to roost.

Most instructors enjoy being part of the class, and if they can do this with ease, I would say that is the only requirement of qualifying physical fitness.

Chris Li
09-01-2002, 03:48 PM
Proficiency in aikido is not a substitute for being physically fit.
That's true. I would say further, that everyone should be physically fit, whether they're in Aikido or not, whether they're instructors or not simply for reasons of personal health.

In terms of Aikido, I'm a big fan of physical fitness because of the improvement in the safety factor - people injure less and heal more quickly. Also, people can spend more time and energy training and less time sitting out or just pushing themselves to stand up. That being said, "physically fit" is a relative term that's different for everybody.

Best,

Chris

Conrad Gus
09-01-2002, 07:46 PM
I believe O Sensei was pretty sick in the year or two before he died.

You all would have turned down the chance to be taught by him?

My dojo has an older instructor that suffered a few strokes last year. He's not "physically fit" but he remains a wonderful teacher.

I was taught that, in Aikido, there is something to learn from everyone. Judgement is often competition and ego.

Conrad

Kent Enfield
09-01-2002, 09:49 PM
I voted "yes," but as others upthread have already pointed out, that depends on what "good physical condition" means. To me, in the context of aikido, they should be able to get through an entire aikido keiko as a student without having to stop to rest. That's not anything more than non-beginner students should be able to do.

ian
09-02-2002, 01:43 AM
To inspire confidence in their students instructors should have a degree of physical prowess. This may be strength, rather than fitness (Ueshiba was apparently very strong, even at an advanced age). Many people take up aikido initially as a self-defence and if the instructor appears incapable of defending themselves, then students will loose confidence in them. Physical ability is a necessary component of self-defence. Although strength, fitness, skill and reaction speed are all beneficial, some people have more of one than another. Physical fitness also shows a real dedication to aikido as a martial art, rather than as an esoteric practise.

Ian

guest1234
09-02-2002, 07:59 AM
A lot of students have no desire whatsoever to use Aikido as self defense, and personally, I would rather have soeone who understands its principles and can demo them on me teach me than someone who looks like a Marine, but has at best a rudimentry knowledge of the principles, rather just knows (vaguely)the steps in a technique.

I saw a woman in a wheelchair do a great demo at the Aiki Expo, and was lucky enough to train with her during one of the classes. Someone else mentioned a sensei they had who had a stroke. I can think of at least one 7th Dan who rubs his hip and back repeatedly during classes; most of us wouldn't turn down a chance to take classes from him.

Those who need their instuctor to look fit, what ever that is in their mind, fine for them. As I said, some need (especially those doing it for self defense) to see in their instructor what they wish they saw in themselves. They will find some big, tough, fit guy. I've had several instructors like that, and they were great.

Others may be just as happy (or happier) with someone who looks like they do, whether it is older, or smaller, or with that 'sensei belly' that holds a hakama in place so nicely. I don't care if they can't make it through a class as a student; some of the older ones who've smoked a lot may not be able to, but who cares? (I care about their health, of course, but if they've smoked themselves into COPD, the damage is done) Can they teach me what they know, that is the important question.

memyselfandi
09-02-2002, 08:03 AM
Actually, I would be much more impressed if I saw someone who was clearly out of shape pull off a technique flawlessly than if I saw some buffed up "Arnold Schwarzenegger" do it ;)

mike lee
09-02-2002, 08:30 AM
Young female college students in Japan are usually small in stature, not very strong, but quite fit and able to perform aikido waza very well. (They regularly grind my old butt right into the ground.)

Fit does not necessarily equal big muscles.

P.S. When I ask these girls why they do aikido they usually give me one or all of these reasons: No.1 is fitness; No.2 is self defense; No.3 is they wanted to learn something "cultural."

deepsoup
09-02-2002, 10:05 AM
There's an editorial by Stanley Pranin over on Aikido Journal (http://www.aikidojournal.com/articles/_article.asp?ArticleID=945) that I think is relevant here.

I voted yes. Mr Pranin is critical of a certain kind of instructor of long experience in this article, and I agree with his point of view. I dont expect a teacher to be Arnold Swarzenegger, and I dont expect them always to be in the best of health, but I do expect them to set an example. You can't blame a person for their own ill health, especially in their later years, often its just a matter of luck. But a person whose lack of practice or obesity exacerbates their state of health is hardly setting a great example to those who look up to them.

Recently I was lucky enough to attend a seminar in my home town taught by Mr Senta Yamada. Yamada sensei is quite an elderly gentleman these days, but his practice is still both joyful and vigorous. So much so that when he talks of the benefits to body and mind of long practice (this is a man who's been practicing judo for 70 years, and aikido for almost as long) there is no doubt that he himself is an excellent example of what he's talking about. Inspiring.

Sean

x

guest1234
09-02-2002, 10:29 AM
Lack of practice affects one's skill, not one's fitness, and all would agree an instructor should have a certain level of skill. As for your opinion on obesity, does it apply to those whose use of medication, or underlying health conditions result in obesity? Well, you say, that is not their 'fault' and so OK? That's like those who say abortion is wrong unless it follows rape. Or, you say, well that is wrong to be obese regardless (so in a wheel chair due to health is OK, but obese is not?)

Again, an instructors weight doesn't mean they do or do not know the principles of Aikido and can or cannot transmit those principles to their students.

I think those who know me would put me in a 'not obese' category, and (hopefully) in a 'fit' category...but I don't care if my instructor is in either of those. I here to learn Aikido from him, not nutrition or body sculpting.

deepsoup
09-02-2002, 04:33 PM
As for your opinion on obesity, does it apply to those whose use of medication, or underlying health conditions result in obesity? Well, you say, that is not their 'fault' and so OK? That's like those who say abortion is wrong unless it follows rape.
Your analagy seems rather harsh, but then maybe it was foolish of me to introduce the concept of 'fault'. I certainly do not attach blame to an unwanted pregnancy as you imply I might, but I accept your point that its also wrong of me to attach blame to, say, the ill effects of gluttony and/or sloth.

However, I am not trying to pass judgement over someone whose state of ill-health I regard as self-inflicted. (I can see why you might be sensitive to such an attitude; it would certainly be unethical for a doctor to adopt such an attitude towards a patient.)

Rather I am deciding to what degree I want to accept that person as an exemplar of what I feel an aikidoka should be like. That is my decision to make, and it has consequences entirely for myself, so forgive me if I dont think the same ethical constraints apply.

Of course I accept that I dont need an instructor to be super-fit (or even entirely able-bodied) in order to learn from them.

It is my prejudice that I would prefer an aikido instructor who doesn't just teach, but also practices aikido. Furthermore, I would prefer my instructor to be one who takes budo seriously, and practices diligently.

Since I do believe the old cliche that 'the body is the temple of the spirit', I dont think certain life choices are compatible with diligent budo practice (specifically I'm talking about gluttony and sloth here, but I guess you could include certain other deadly sins too) and that is why I prefer my instructor not to be a couch potato.

Is it correct that 'sensei' literally means 'one who has gone before'? If that is the case, I make no apology for preferring a sensei in whose footsteps I would wish to follow.

Sean
x

guest1234
09-02-2002, 05:37 PM
Oh. Then you also object to those who drink alcohol, smoke (legal and illegal things), have had a sexually transmitted disease, don't wear helmets/seatbelts, eat high cholesterol foods, eat smoked meats, drink coffee/tea (except green tea), eat less than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, etc.

That would make sense, I guess, if he must uphold his body as a temple...some would add in extramarital sex and eating meat as violations, but that is more religious than medical, so we should just make sure the senseis just stay away from the things in the first paragraph.

You're right. Everyone is entitled to their own prejudice. And I don't care that some want a thin sensei, or a male sensei, or a white sensei, as long as they don't say any of those things are NECESSARY for teaching, or they recognise the prejudice for what it is.

deepsoup
09-02-2002, 07:55 PM
Oh. Then you also object to those who drink alcohol, smoke (legal and illegal things), have had a sexually transmitted disease, don't wear helmets/seatbelts, eat high cholesterol foods, eat smoked meats, drink coffee/tea (except green tea), eat less than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, etc.
No, I dont object to such people.

I do think an aikido instructor should eat, drink and indulge in recreational drugs with a certain degree of moderation, because I dont think over indulgence in these things is compatible with diligent budo practice, and I would prefer my instructor to be one who practices budo diligently. This is where we came in, isn't it?

Actually, I will go a little further: I think as far as possible everyone should be in good physical shape, and consequently I think everyone should take these things in moderation.

Is this really an attitude deserving of such a stinging rebuke from a medical doctor?

I'm pretty sure I never mentioned STD's or crash helmets, but just for the record: I dont care if my instructor has had an STD, although if he/she has one currently I'd prefer him/her to seek treatment. I dont personally believe that crash helmets should be compulsory for motorcyclists, but lets not get into the Fred Hill debate here.
That would make sense, I guess, if he must uphold his body as a temple...some would add in extramarital sex and eating meat as violations, but that is more religious than medical, so we should just make sure the senseis just stay away from the things in the first paragraph.
Okay, okay, you're hurting me already. :freaky:

For the record again: I am not religious and I dont approve of blank theosophical dogma. It so happens I dont eat meat, but I dont expect a sensei to be vegetarian. I have no problem with extramarital sex (except that I can't seem to get any), although I dont generally approve of adultery. (But that last isn't to do with sex, its the deceit and the betrayal of trust that I have a problem with.)
You're right. Everyone is entitled to their own prejudice.
I never said that. There are some kinds of prejudice that nobody is entitled to.
And I don't care that some want a thin sensei, or a male sensei, or a white sensei, as long as they don't say any of those things are NECESSARY for teaching, or they recognise the prejudice for what it is.

Whoa!

My preference for a sensei who looks after herself/himself (I never said 'thin' btw) is morally equivalent to sexism and/or racism?

Now that really hurts. :(

Sean
x


PS: Aaah! I see now where the sex thing came from, it was my reference to the 7 deadly sins wasn't it? You thought I meant lust! Actually, the quality I think is especially undesirable in an aikido instructor, though not relevant to this thread, is WRATH.

peteswann
09-03-2002, 05:29 AM
Our Association Head has had both hips replaced AND bypass surgery AND suffered an aneurism last year but he still teaches and is still very good!! I guess some people might come to the club and see him and think, hmm not what I wanted to see, but I think they are pretty small minded if they do!! The age old adage of 'don't judge a book by it's cover' seems to be quite apt! Perhaps more so for Aikido teachers than any other MA?

mike lee
09-03-2002, 07:05 AM
I think the question in this poll assumes that the aikido instructor hasn't recently been in a major car wreck or is suffering from some kind of serious medical problem.

I don't think people are being overly judgemental regarding a normal, healthy person who just keeps getting fatter and fatter for no apparent reason.

I don't think students are expecting a perfect model of physical fitness -- just a decent example of someone to follow.

However, there are some people who are just naturally fat. I think that those people should be accepted for who they are, but those individuals should probably be making some kind of effort to keep their size down in an effort to reduce undue strain on the heart, especially as they get older. Aikido training may very well be a part of that effort.

memyselfandi
09-03-2002, 08:14 AM
I'm just curious (seriously), how might one tell the difference between those naturally fat poeples and the ones who just indulge too much? Are you supposed to ask before you join a dojo?

And what about those instructers who don't "live" Aikido every moment of their lives? (I'm sure there are some out there ;))I understand that some of you feel that "everyone" should accept the "Aiki way" in order to make the world a better place, but that just doesn't work for everybody. If someone knows Aikido well, and wants to teach it, who are you to judge him and his lifestyle. It's just none of your darn business what he eats, or does for extracurricular activities. Now if you're really concerned about the persons health, it might be appropriate to express your concerns in private. But they don't have to listen. It's their life.

Now if you don't want to be trained by such a person (and remember, he's just teaching you Aikido, he's not telling you how to eat or live (if he is thats something else)) that's fine. But I think that there are plenty of people out there who just want to learn the martial aspects of Aikido, without changing their lifestyles, who could really learn something from such a person.

Now I agree, there are some people who really want their sensei to be the perfect person (I used to be one of those people). To be someone to be looked up to as a role model. But not everyone is perfect, and we should all accept that.

Just my $.02 :D

PS - no offense to those of you who want the perfect sensei ;) . It's perfectly understandable :) .

mike lee
09-03-2002, 08:44 AM
there are some people who really want their sensei to be the perfect person

I don't recall anyone ever saying this or expecting this. But I do recall hearing some say that they felt that being fit was an important part of learning and teaching aikido for numerous reasons already mentioned repeatedly in this thread and others.

Alfonso
09-03-2002, 11:21 AM
I'd much rather learn from someone who knows what he/she's doing than someone who is healthy and fit and doesn't.

My instructors have their health issues but they can teach and perform Aikido around their health problems.

My sensei is an older man ( I can't call him old with a straight face, though he's in his mid 60's), who can manhandle me with complete ease.

There was a period a few years ago where he was recovering from a stroke. His classes dwindled in size , and I'm not entirely sure it wasn't because students were turned off at his evident physical deterioration.

It ended up being mostly me going to his classes. During that time I learnt a ton, more than a ton. I learnt that in spite of his problem he could teach AND deliver, and protect himself and me.

He eventually recovered back to normal, though for a while people acted as if they did not believe that was possible.

It's good to know that Aikido still works.

I even heard that there was an Aikido demonstration from a wheelchair during the last expo, and people have practiced with blind students before.

Janet Rosen
09-03-2002, 03:19 PM
I voted no.

I have had the priviledge of training at seminars with gifted instructors who continued to teach DESPITE overwhelming physical ailments that resulted in them looking terribly "out of shape" .

Could they "keep up with what a beginner could" in terms of stamina, as one poster here suggested? Of course not. But:

could they drop anybody in the dojo with their aiki? YES

are they two of the best teachers I've ever experienced? YES

was their mere presence on the mat, with dignity and good humor despite physical disability/discomfort an inspiration? Hell YES

Maybe what we think an instructor should be is a reflection of our own values. YMMV

deepsoup
09-03-2002, 04:49 PM
I'd much rather learn from someone who knows what he/she's doing than someone who is healthy and fit and doesn't.
Me too. There is nobody contributing to this thread who disagrees with you on this point, Alfonso.
I'm just curious (seriously), how might one tell the difference between those naturally fat poeples and the ones who just indulge too much? Are you supposed to ask before you join a dojo?
You cant tell the difference, Ari, and I'm not suggesting you should try. I'm not suggesting you should quiz your sensei about their diet before you agree to grace their class with your presence. Nothing of the sort.

The question wasn't "do you think fitness is ESSENTIAL in a sensei", it wasn't "do you think it is impossible for someone with a disability to be a good teacher", and it wasn't "do you think fitness is more important than skill". None of those questions would lead to a debate because we all agree (I think) that the answers are no, no and an emphatic no.

There is a world of difference between expressing an opinion on what the ideal sensei would be like, and disparaging, disrespecting or otherwise slagging off the teachers who, for whatever reason, dont fit that ideal. Some of us on this thread are doing the former, nobody is doing the latter. I think its unfair to suggest otherwise.

Yes, there are many people who would like to have the 'perfect sensei'. Guess what, nobody has the perfect sensei, and we're all still training. (Including the 83% of us so far who voted 'yes' in this poll so far.)

Sean

x

MaylandL
09-03-2002, 08:54 PM
IMHO I think that an instructor needs to know and how to teach aikido and can do that for a duration of the class. As along as those conditions are met and they have something of value to teach then I am happy with it regardless of body shape etc.

On the point of physical fitness, the term is ambiguous. I regularly workout in a gym (cardio, abdominals and weights). My last fitness test indicated that I was above average fitness based on various indicators including resting heart rate, blood pressure, recovery time after vigourous exercise (time taken to return to resting heart rate from pulse rate of 146), body weight to height ratio (body mass index), percentage of body fat, weight lifted vs my weight and flexibility (on the -1, 0 and +1 scale of selected stretches). This level of physical fitness helps my ability to go through class and the mechanics of the movements and techniques but its little value in terms of understanding the principles and concepts of aikido and how to apply them.

So I think its important to be clear about what constitutes "physically fit" if this is an important consideration. What is the measurement standard and why is this appropriate or desirable.

...Maybe what we think an instructor should be is a reflection of our own values. ...

Absolutely.

All the best for training :)

ian
09-04-2002, 05:16 AM
I think maybe I was wrong - you don't need to be physically fit do teach aikido. However I do believe that students need to be confident of its effectiveness and in the dedication of the instructor. I think you can learn some things, even from relatively poor instructors. However until you are in the position to critically evaluate the martial art, we initially have to take a lot on trust when we train under an instructor. Dedication can be inferred through physical conidtioning but also by training after a stroke, or whilst having a physical difficulty.

Ian

Alfonso
09-04-2002, 12:23 PM
I believe the problem is that there's denial about old age health and infirmity. Being fit and healthy is a good thing but it also can be temporary.

I'm not inspired by training in spite of health problems so much as inspired by 40 something years of training, and the reflection of that training in his Aikido. I mean I stopped playing rugby after 15 years because it was destroying my body..

I know my sensei was in much better shape when he was younger. He claims his Aikido has improved with age. Since I wasn't around back when he was a "young turk" I can't compare, but what he has right now is enough to be overwhelming to me and most other people I've trained with.

hell he still dominates in ne-waza against people a third his age, chuckling as he applies the lot of dirty tricks in his bag.

the health issues, well, they're there, but they're not a huge problem. As all of you say, no one's perfect. I can still learn a lot.