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Amassus
10-11-2004, 06:27 PM
Hello all

I've been over at koryu.com reading some of the great articles there.
As I read the articles and some of the situations experienced in Japan I began to wonder.
What does the average Japanese student think of training in a martial art? I couldn't possibly begin to know considering I'm a Westerner trying as best as I can to grasp a martial art created in a different culture.
For me, Aikido still holds some mysteries, partly due to the language and culture it developed from. Of course this would not be the case with a Japanese student would it?

Do they look at the art more practically? Is it just another physical activity like sport is to us?

Can someone enlighten me?

Bronson
10-11-2004, 07:10 PM
I'm sure this isn't what you're looking for but....

The other day I participated in a demo that also had a kendo group there. At dinner after the demo I was talking to one of the kendo guys, a Japanese student studying here. He said the only exposure he'd had in Japan to martial arts was the required kendo in high school. He went on to say that his memories of that experience made him afraid to set foot in a dojo again, apparently they were quite brutal (by our standards). It was when he agreed to go with a friend of his to a local kendo dojo and saw how they practiced there that he decided to give it a try. He said that whenever he invites other Japanese students to come try kendo they refuse because they too have memories of rough treatment and they assume it'll be the same here.

Bronson

p.s. I don't assume that all Japanese high school students have this experience, I was just relating this one persons story.

wxyzabc
10-11-2004, 08:34 PM
Hya Dean

Kind of difficult to answer as every individual is different...but very quickly I find that generally aikido over here in Japan is really no more than a hobby to most people...something to do amongst friends in a relaxed fashion (unless tests are rapidly approaching). Basically Japan is essentially very very safe compared to other countries..so I feel the "self defense" thing doesn`t really apply here much....if at all. Also people work really long hours so they dont train hard really in a lot of cases...or not "seriously" (as if their lives may depend on it)....I expect in the USA people may train a lot more seriously for reasons of self preservation if nothing else.

Hope this helps

Lee

Infamousapa
10-11-2004, 09:57 PM
I agree with the differences in mindset according to different ethnic proportions.For example after training in Aikido for about 3months I was quite skeptical of the power or the martial art in Aikido.Until i ran into a new student that I was training with,He didnt spoke english with a harsh accent.We were practicing Sankyo for the day and when it was his turn to apply,For the first time ever I felt the power of Aikido.When I was applying it to him I couldnt move him around like the instructor wanted us to and throw uke to the floor.However when i met the foreigner he made me feel the power of Sankyo and Japanese martial arts as he even said while I was tapping out helplessly :"THIS IS THE POWER OF JAPANESE MARTIAL ARTS"After I really got a grasp for Aikido and the way to apply certain locks.I guess what im trying to say is this I believe when people come from the country side or oversees they skip the simple aspect of things.Kinda of like oh you want to learn than this is how its done kind of attitude.Over here martial arts are still practical but practical for the american way.Which is not bad at all but is just the truth.It took a 280lb Philipino man that didnt speak english much to show me the real way to apply things and kept me in Aikido for this long.

senshincenter
10-11-2004, 10:09 PM
I would have to agree with what Lee Price has said - based upon my training in the Kansai area for about two years. Also noting that there are differences to all people, I would also hold that generally while there is little emphasis on self-defense issues and/or martial issues, there is also little emphasis on religious and/or spiritual issues when it comes to Aikido practice. I also have to agree with Tony Sapa in that the most lasting Aikido experience I had while training in Japan came from a foreigner - from Norway - as well. We are still in touch, though I am back in the states and he still is training in Japan, and our training relationship has done much to push our Aikido to what I believe to be higher and higher levels. Training in Japan may not be everything one might expect it to be or want it to be, but in my case, I believe it was highly significant in terms of where I am now. I imagine it is different for all folks.

dmv

kienergy1234
10-12-2004, 06:23 AM
i have been taking aikiaki aikido for only 4 months now and think that its not only a GREAT self defense,but also great for self improvement and spiritual enlightment.
as for the japanese side of the story,i dont know,never trained in japan,only in america

yours in aiki josh

Amassus
10-12-2004, 03:11 PM
Thanks for the replies so far.

Kind of difficult to answer as every individual is different...but very quickly I find that generally aikido over here in Japan is really no more than a hobby to most people...

I would also hold that generally while there is little emphasis on self-defense issues and/or martial issues, there is also little emphasis on religious and/or spiritual issues when it comes to Aikido practice.

It is very intersting hearing from those of you who have trained in Japan as foreigners. How did you find the overall atmosphere of the classes?

senshincenter
10-12-2004, 04:42 PM
People are very nice - as everywhere in Japan. My own personal experience, in short, was that everything was very nice, just not a lot of avenues for depth as far as training in Aikido was concerned. I was a kyu rank when I trained in Japan, so it was a bit tough to get things to change all that much - especially since we had about 60 folks in class on any given day. However, over the time I was there, myself and a couple other folks got other folks to show up early and train regularly before class by ourselves, to nearly train daily by traveling all over the kansai area so that we could have a class almost every week night, and for a short time we even got some folks together to start up our own supplemental training sessions outside of the dojo. Near the end of the stay, one of our shihan liked for me to travel with him throughout the area in order to assist him as uke when he put on seminars or demonstrations or taught at camps. By the end then, my Aikido plate was pretty full, but it took a lot of work and a lot of effort to make it so. I know one might say that's how it is supposed to be, but the main difference was that my case only dealt with how it "could be". "Supposed to be" was what everyone else was doing - training two or three nights a week max, training light, keeping things more friend-based and/or exercise-based, etc.

On a side note, since my school work also has me spending time in Japan, I had made friends with the head priest of the Nikko Shrine. When I stayed at his house during one stay, his son showed me around the Nikko area of Japan. His son found out that I train in martial arts. He told me that he used to do Kendo in school. I asked him why he had stopped. He said that nowadays most Japanese like baseball, soccer, and/or even basketball (which is what he liked). He said, "Generally, today martial arts are for nerds." So there you go.

It was my stay in Japan that had me convinced to return to the states and to enter into T.K. Chiba's kenshusei program in San Diego. Once I entered that program, I felt I had gone back in time, to a Japan that no longer exists. Over the years, I have heard Chiba Sensei say this same thing when he contrasts his program with what he now sees in his native land as far as Aikido training is concerned today.

just my experience,
dmv

wxyzabc
10-12-2004, 05:40 PM
Hya

Yes I have to agree with David. Truth is the Arts really aren`t that popular in Japan...I`m an English Teacher here at a junior high school and only 2 students in the school study them in their free time. The school doesn`t offer anything other than"American" sports...baseball, soft tennis etc.
Again like David I find the training here to be good but only to a certain level. Never do we practise Randori etc....only ever 1 to 1 and single techniques. Again practise is usually limited to 2-3 days a week and the high turnover of new starters/quitters can mean you dont get to train with the high level guys but are helping the beginners....hence you never really feel your getting "real" quality of training (expect this may be the same everywhere)
p.s. I however have not trained in the big dojo`s but only in small country areas..however my Sensei`s have been ranked 6th dan or above... so on a positive note there are plenty of good teachers out here...not just the "known" ones.

Lee

maikerus
10-12-2004, 05:57 PM
I would agree that the average Japanese person thinks of Martial Arts as more of a hobby than anything else. There are, of course, those that study harder and treat it as much more. These are the ones who enter uchideshi programs and end up as top instructors.

This is in contrast to the foreigners who come to Japan (myself included) who might come with the idea of training "at the source" and who may have uprooted their life to come train here. There's a little bit more serious committment then. However, there are foreigners here who also just started because they happened to be here and there was a convenient dojo - just a hobby.

One other thing to remember is that often the dojo exists just so that the "master" of the art has some place to show his stuff and someplace to pass down teachings to a select group of students, whether they be family or uchideshi. In these dojos it is these senior students that are important because they will be carrying on the tradition. "Regular students" sometimes might only be tolerated and taught because they are needed to pay the rent. In this case the teaching is not very deep and the attempt to capture the interest and the heart and soul of a new student isn't very strong. I am not saying that this is always the case or is even happening now, but I have been told and I firmly believe that it has been the case in the past.

--Michael

rschoele
10-12-2004, 05:58 PM
The japanese kids at the university I attend know little to nothing about the martial arts (other than from movies or anime).

The first time I saw aikido was in japan in Misawa while in the military and I watched a friend of mine get tossed around with nothing being said. Different from the US where dojo "chatter" is quite common.

On a different note - when the topic of 'what do the japanese think of westerners studying martial arts' came up I had a sensei once say.
"What do you think when you see a japanese guy dressed as Elvis? Well that's what they think when they see you dressed as a samurai!" :D

I think it was meant more as a humbling mindset than a literal, but pretty funny when you think about it.

ryan

senshincenter
10-12-2004, 08:17 PM
Well, here's another intersting story. While in Japan I began working for a very reputable martial arts supply house. To make some extra cash, to assist me while I was doing my language studies, etc., I helped design their product catalogs for the international market. After a while, I also became a consultant on product design, etc. Why? Because though this company had been in business for a great while already, no one there at all knew anything about martial arts and/or practiced them! lol

On another day at the office, a Japanese college student had returned home for the summer. He was studying abroad in London (university). As it turned out he also practiced Aikido. The VP, realizing that we both trained in the same martial art, made the effort to introduce us. He was a very nice guy. I asked him where he trained while in Japan. He sort of laughed out loud and said, "Are you kidding? You can't learn the martial arts here anymore! I only train in England." I said, "So you aren't going to train at all while you are here for the summer?" He said, "Nope, it would be a waste of time." I asked him if he wanted to train with our dojo. He said, "Let me grab you in morote-dori." I said, "Ok." He grabbed me. "Now do Kokyo-ho," he said. He grabbed me very tightly and I guess he wasn't expecting me to move him at all. I did the throw slowly but surely - we were in the stock room down under the office. What did he say? "Oh! You trained in Aikido before you came to Japan, didn't you?!" He was right about that. And he was right about a lot of other things he said that day concerning the state of Aikido in Japan.

dmv

wxyzabc
10-12-2004, 09:47 PM
hmm...can relate to that David...I trained at one dojo for over a year and a half and now view it as a waste of time, in which I learnt really how not to do Aikido...luckily I now have a great teacher.

I think S.Seagal once said that if your going to train for ten years...spend nine looking for a good teacher..or words to that effect. So very true...

Amassus
10-12-2004, 09:52 PM
I know this is only the opinions of a few, but it sounds very discouraging to even bother going to Japan to train in Aikido. Surely there are still some good dojos there?

xuzen
10-12-2004, 10:35 PM
I know this is only the opinions of a few, but it sounds very discouraging to even bother going to Japan to train in Aikido. Surely there are still some good dojos there?

This is the same context with good chinese cuisine cooks. Many emigrated to the west and now, you will probably get better dim sum and chinese cooking in Aust, NYC or London. Sigh... My opinion though.

Boon.

wxyzabc
10-13-2004, 12:13 AM
Dean

Of course there are some very good dojo`s here...and some very very skilled practioners....but the question really, is whether whats here is that much better than whats available, say in the States?....maybe not. It`s a long way to come solely for the reason of Aikido...and if you did so after a while you maybe a little dissapointed that`s all.

To live here..enjoy the mountains etc...i.e. to be able to put Aikido into a balanced life perspective, will make you very happy....but if your only interest is aikido...well, maybe you might find more gold closer to home :)

PeterR
10-13-2004, 01:01 AM
but if your only interest is aikido...well, maybe you might find more gold closer to home
I'm convinced that if you really want to know Aikido than you must spend some time in Japan.

However, I agree that good dojos and bad can be found in and outside of Japan.

Have a very good idea with whom you want to study.

Go for two or three months, hell even two weeks, vacation and see if that's the person you want to study for a longer term.

Good Aikido study is grounded in reality not fantasy. Enter with eyes wide open.

Best Aikido I've ever seen was in Japan its why I'm here.

maikerus
10-13-2004, 02:02 AM
Best Aikido I've ever seen was in Japan its why I'm here.

Totally, 100%, absolutely agree.

--Michael

akiy
10-13-2004, 10:08 AM
I think it's too broad a brush to say that <country X>'s aikido training is better than what <country Y> has to offer.

In the case of Japan, I've known people who have trained there for five years and come back a very strong, knowledgeable practitioner whose aikido progression far outpaced mine.

As always, I think it really depends on the practitioner, where exactly they train, and how they train. There are good dojo in Japan, just as there are pretty much anywhere else these days. The same goes for the original question; it really depends on the person. I have met practitioners and instructors from Japan whose sole purpose in aikido was to work the physical; I've also met the same who infused the philosophical and the spiritual into their practice as well.

-- Jun

senshincenter
10-13-2004, 11:17 AM
Yes, I think that is an important element not to forget: that all places and people are both the same and different. My experiences should by no means be taken as any kind of universal experience. I think we are all offering generalizations based upon personal exposures, so everything has to be taken as solely that. The point is sharing, not to make rules or laws.

That's why I like what Lee had to say a great deal. Going to Japan solely for the purposes of training "at or near the source" seems a bit out of date nowadays. But one must qualify this by saying, "unless you can find that source taking place in Japan."

My thing - if I were to give advice: Whatever main reasons you have for going to Japan, make sure those reasons include, "For the food!" I can add that to Lee's mention of the mountains, which are beautiful indeed.

dmv

Beholder
10-13-2004, 11:19 AM
Further to having expectations about aikido in Japan, here was my experience... my first class in a dojo in Japan was in a moderately large dojo, nice wooden panelling, about 30+ students, a very accomplished sensei (6th or 7th dan I think). I had the benefit of a local friend who trained in the dojo, together with a personal letter of introduction from my 7th dan Japanese sensei (this helps!). I was made to feel very welcome, and, yes, it was a great feeling to think that, after all these years, now I was really doing aikido in Japan. Wow. We get through the warm-ups, sensei shows a technique, and we pair up... "Here I am, doing aikido in Japan! Ooh!"

I get the one guy in a tracksuit, no keikogi, who has come to his very first class. :freaky: Not exactly the poetic moment I had been expecting, but a good wake-up call that, of course, aikido is just aikido, even in Japan.

My experience of training in Japan (two visits) has been very positive, and personally I have always got more out of practicing at the local dojo than training at the "big" ones. As discussed above, you get people who are just doing it casually, but you also find some astonishing and unassuming talent there. I suspect that a key factor is that nobody in a Japanese dojo is wasting their time pretending to be Japanese, which is something a lot of people outside Japan seem to like doing.

My experience has been that, wherever you go, home or abroad, you'll find people practicing for all sorts of reasons, many (most?) of which might not lead to the most committed or serious of students. However, in Japan, again and again I trained with someone who was so good, that were they to be outside of Japan, they would probably be feted as a master, but in Japan they were just another member on the mat. That to me was one of the pleasures, and differences, of going to Japan to practice.

Of course different people will have different experiences and it depends hugely on the dojo and the teacher that you find when you're over there.

Dave

PS I second "for the food" ;-)

Charles Hill
10-13-2004, 05:55 PM
In addressing the original question, I think that Japanese have a bit of a head start on the rest of us by not having to get over the feeling of "foriegnness." Of course, this gives them their own unique challenge (read: problem) to work on. In my opinion, the fact that we are doing something "Japanese" sets up the mindset that this is not natural. To truly own our Aikido, I think we need to feel that we are doing something that pertains directly to us. IMHO, Aikido needs to be "translated" into each practitioner`s culture. Aikido was developed in response to needs in the average Japanese`s psychology, again IMHO. This is why I, as an American, hold a lot of respect for those Americans who have struggled for many years in Aikido to make it their own. It is because of them that it is easier for the rest of us.

Charles Hill

senshincenter
10-13-2004, 06:37 PM
I can second what Mr. Hill just said. Yet, part of what makes Aikido "foreign" is not only actual cultural differences. More and more, temporal differences are starting to play a role. Perhaps the cultural differences still dominate, but more and more what is separating folks from Budo and/or Aikido is Modernity. When you go and train in Japan, this is something that you will see quite clearly, since I think it is more clearly visible there because the cultural differences aren't so prevalent.

dmv

wxyzabc
10-13-2004, 07:13 PM
Thanks David....come to Japan for the food???..dont know about that :D although there are some very good "Bamiyans"... ;) ....the women are pretty fine too :cool:

To echo Peter R though it is very true that the greatest Aikido I have witnessed has also been in Japan...I have watched a tiny, frail 46kg Shihan in some small backwater city, easily handle five substantially larger attackers with a grace and finesse I wouldn`t have thought possible :confused: . So yes I still believe Japan has it`s treasures and it`s well worth coming here..it would be a great experience. :)

Just to help the initial poster...I`ll post a few things that have surprised me about Aikido in Japan...

- There are in fact very very few professional dojos...most are run as clubs out of sport centres

- I have never heard the term "O-Sensei" used..not once...in fact he is never mentioned....the only time he was mentioned was when comparing his techniques with Nishio`s....then he was called "Ueshiba"....that said every dojo I have attended has his picture... so there is obviously great respect for the founder.

- Nothing about spiritual matters has ever been mentioned. One highly ranked Sensei once told me "this is not dancing...Budo is life or death"...a very fair point imho..

- The Japanese really love thir rules and regulations and like to "control" everything as much as they can :) . So you will find great emphasis put on Dojo etiquette...for example often you will not be allowed to start practise if you do not bow to O-Sensei`s picture prior to commencing.

regards

Lee

PeterR
10-13-2004, 07:59 PM
Thanks David....come to Japan for the food???..dont know about that :D although there are some very good "Bamiyans"... ;) ....the women are pretty fine too :cool:

I think its telling that my favorite Japanese food has a foreign source. Ramen and goyza (sp?). Ok sushi is pretty good but the Japanese can't cook fish if their life depended on it. Every Sunday I go to Royal Host and play my once weekly round of Mad Cow Roulette. Women? Well I'm happily married but still manage to visually appreciate a level of style and grace.

- There are in fact very very few professional dojos...most are run as clubs out of sport centres

Yes but most (almost all) sports centers have tatami either laid down or easily laid down. Certain Shihan will teach the majority of nights per week - you just might have to follow them around. The question is not do they have a dedicated dojo but how often they teach.

- I have never heard the term "O-Sensei" used..not once...in fact he is never mentioned....the only time he was mentioned was when comparing his techniques with Nishio`s....then he was called "Ueshiba"....that said every dojo I have attended has his picture... so there is obviously great respect for the founder.

Ueshiba M. sensei is mentioned during lectures as is my teachers teacher (Tomiki K.) but always in the role of teacher of Aikido (we don't bow to Ueshiba M.'s picture). I also have never heard the term O'sensei in the dojo.

- Nothing about spiritual matters has ever been mentioned. One highly ranked Sensei once told me "this is not dancing...Budo is life or death"...a very fair point imho..

Also not discussed in any dojo I've visited - but I understand there are a few that do. I think dojo time is really geared toward physical and technical improvement - the spiritual side grows from that.

- The Japanese really love thir rules and regulations and like to "control" everything as much as they can :) . So you will find great emphasis put on Dojo etiquette...
Yea this can be tough some times but you are never asked to do anything horrible and most things you should be familiar with anyway. Just watch what occurs around you and if in doubt take the middle road. For example if you wear a black belt don't sit in the most senior position in the dojo or the most junior.

Peter Goldsbury
10-13-2004, 08:05 PM
I think the issue of modernity raised by Mr Valadez is very important\far more important than is realised, both for Japan and aikido as a whole.

As I have written elsewhere, I think World War II was a major turning point and there are those who argue that by comparison postwar Japan has become spiritually bankrupt. Some of those who thus argue point to prewar Japan as a high point or golden age and the issue then is distinguish and clarify the relevant poles of the comparison.

In aikido, I knew/know some elderly shihans who told with some authority that such and such techniques or methods were "prewar" and I myself have encountered some of these\and never saw them practised outside Japan, in the period I trained before I came here. I have just finished reading "Budo-Ron", by Kenji Tomiki. Along with "Aikido Ichiro", by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the book is some indication of just how much has changed since the days of the Kobukan.

Of course, it is very good for people to come and visit and many of those who attended the training courses at the last IAF Congress were very happy with the training and their general experience of Japan. However, this was virtually all 'omote'. There are 'ura' aspects also and, as we know, these aspects, too, are an essential part of the whole.

Finally, when I decided to come here, I was strongy advised by an aikido teacher of mine not to come here solely for aikido: it was much better to come for another purpose\koryu bujutsu, food culture, archeology, whatever and graft one's aikido training on to this. In retrospect, I agree that this was excellent advice.

Best regards,