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Magma
10-14-2004, 02:52 PM
Note my question is not about an instructor ceasing to *learn*, as I know that I learn when I have to lead a class. But I think we all know of an instructor who no longer trains. The only night you see them in the dojo is on their night to teach or at a promotion.

This sort of instructor might even go to seminars but duck out after the first hour or so, disappearing for the remainder of the day.

Heck, I might be shaking the pillars of the aikido community with this question, but I want to know what others think.

Does there come a time when an instructor need not actively train?

Does there come a time when an instructor need not train at all?

If not, then what do you say about those who do not train? Not only those around us who might not train, but the noted 'pillars' of the aikido community?

kironin
10-14-2004, 03:17 PM
I don't know. I am not smart enough to figure out how I can learn without training. So for me the answer is never. Even when teaching I try to emulate some examples set by other more senior teachers who work their own training in class (be it getting some ukemi practice with beginners or pulling aside a senior student and showing them some more advanced stuff and giving them the greenlight to go at me full bore, etc.)

I know my own teacher who is 8th dan has his own personal training time. It's either solo practice or practice with a few senior students when he is not traveling.

You need to train no matter who you are IMNHO.

There may be a time when I can't train. That would truly suck.
ow man that SUCKS
:grr:
you really bummed me out!




oh yeah, I get to train tonight
:D

peace

aikidoc
10-14-2004, 03:18 PM
If you don't train, how can you grow? Of course it could be one has all the answers.

Magma
10-14-2004, 03:47 PM
Realize that I am not arguing *for* this sort of instructor, but as I doubt whether any instructor is willing to go on the record in a world wide forum like this and claim to be one who does not train, I will state some of the rationalizations that I have heard or can imagine...

"You don't ever stop exercising the mind."

"At higher levels of aikido, the physical becomes less important as the training becomes more holistic, more esoteric, more advanced, and ultimately your whole life."

"Your body cannot hold out forever, and if you don't learn how to grow without training, then what good is your training to you at that point?"


...

ugh.

I dislike all of those answers as ultimately they resonate more as excuses. They seem even more self serving in that they acknowledge the need for growth but do not participate in the training that would elicit such growth. And any learning that you can gain from activities *other* than physically training, IMO, is learning that is separate from what one learns through physical training.

Just because someone *can* learn without training is no reason not to take advantage of the learning that they can have with training.

Aikiscott
10-14-2004, 06:55 PM
Short Answer is Never.
I know that my own instructor, even though his teacher resides in the UK, still trains himself, either privately at home doing weapons work, or in the Dojo. He never stops pushing him self.

senshincenter
10-14-2004, 09:56 PM
What about these questions:

1. Is there a time when we should ever have solo practice and/or various forms of contemplation dominate our training?

2. Is there a time when we are either better off and/or no worse off for not regularly participating in training as uke?

3. Should our answers change to the these questions depending upon whether or not we are instructors?

My own position has all three questions being answered in the negative.

dmv

PeterR
10-14-2004, 10:30 PM
Hi David;

I think we see things the same way in this regard.

I consider Budo a journey where physical training is an integral part. I can understand age modifying the demands you place on your body but to alter it because you are now an instructor raises one main problem.

It implies that you have arrived at your goal setting the stage for stagnation. The position of sensei in its literal sense is one who has gone/lived before which implies a constant movement forward to maintain that position. Leading by example.

SeiserL
10-15-2004, 12:05 AM
I heard it was okay to stop training 21 days after your death if you were going to be buried, and 7 days if you were cremated. In other words, IMHO, it never okay to stop training.

senshincenter
10-15-2004, 01:48 AM
Man I thought it was only 10 days after death! :eek:

Well how about this then, with ukemi being so central to training, is it fine or when is it fine to stop taking ukemi at least 50% of the total time training? And again, does that change because one is an instructor?

Again, I would say never, and no.

How about you all?

dmv

PeterR
10-15-2004, 02:00 AM
Is ukemi so central to training?

I believe taking ukemi from a master teaches quite a bit but is there that much to learn from taking ukemi from one of your students?

Taking ukemi for your students in a one on one situation can also help them but not much more than a reasonably trained yudansha can provide.

I do about 50% for several reasons but not because it is central to the improvement of my Aikido.

senshincenter
10-15-2004, 02:15 AM
Hi Peter,

Personally, I would say "yes" to your question, and I would mean that "yes" across the board - ukemi is central in terms of physical conditioning, tactical insight and martial integrity, and spiritual cultivation. But that's just my take - I was making an assumption.

Can I ask then,

Do we not learn anything worth continuing to take ukemi whenver we are taking ukemi from people less skilled than we are in the art, or with lower rank than we have? Is there a cut-off point when that happens? Or does that just happen when we are instructors - is it just when we are teachers that taking ukemi from folks that are less skilled than we are becomes unworthy of continuing its practice on a regular basis?

I think I would answer these questions differntly than your last post woud suggest you would. My reason has to do with me holding that training isn't just about learning. A huge part of training is about being, and that means its about doing, and at some level that is going to mean something akin to "repetition for its own sake". That is to say, I'm not so sure we should engage in the practice only if learning something new is deemed possible or probable. We should just engage in the practice because it is the practice. For some reason your reply makes me think about that.

What do you (all) think?

dmv

PeterR
10-15-2004, 02:46 AM
Hi David;

Right now my ukemi is improving even though I still consider it poor. As long as that happens and it continues to be fun I'll keep at it.

It's also great for agility and all round fitness not to mention absolutely necessary if I want to partake in Shodokan Aikido randori in a safe manner. It is especially for the latter reason that ukemi training is central to my Aikido training. However, I still don't see it as central to Aikido. Perhaps semantics.

Keep in mind that I am still relatively young and junior in the scheme of things. When I go to the Honbu dojo I am not an instructor and worse the mat area is pretty restricted. At my own place there is a ton of room for the ukemi practice I do need.

philipsmith
10-15-2004, 03:18 AM
Of course the answer to your question is never; with one proviso. Some instructors I know have had to stop "training" as a result of medical advice but that does not mean their contribution is any less valid.

There is though a lrge proportion of senior instructors who simply will not train and I think that this is either e reflection of their insecurity (are they still physically capable?) or a wish to preserve the instructor mystique (I teach but do not learn). Either way leads to stagnation.

maikerus
10-15-2004, 04:35 AM
Tim,

What an excellent question. I'd like to think that I'm in the "after you're dead" camp, but when I think of the top instructors that I've trained under at the Yoshinkan hombu I never really saw them do a class or "training" per se and if they did any training together it was definately very secretive and nothing I was even privy to hearing about and this was when I was a part-time instructor at hombu.

The reason I mention this is because I have absolutely no doubts that they could do a class of hajime and I have done classes of 90 mins of back breakfalls with some of them and other physically improbable/impossible exercises. But they do not "train" in the way I normally define the term which includes physically bouncing around as uke.

I do know some instructors who fall into the "don't train...talk only...and don't participate in seminars" but the instructors at Hombu aren't like that.

What a dilema. I have the absolute utmost respect for these instructors and believe that they could out-train a hotshot 19 year old, but I have never seen the top 3 Yoshinkan instructors train a class.

One thing I do need to point out is that I do see these instructors still *learning* and continuing to look to expand their understanding. So, that differentiation between learning and training applies here.

Okay...so...I guess the "after your dead" part applies to us mere mortals and there are those others who actually have done all the training they need to.

Thanks for making me think...d*mn.

--Michael

ruthmc
10-15-2004, 06:10 AM
Pesonally, I like to take ukemi for my students because then I get to 'feel' what they are doing, as well as to see and hear it. Maybe when you get to be a senior instructor you are able to pick up everything a student does by sight alone. Personally I'm not convinced, having experienced tori using large amounts of upper body muscle power that the instructor didn't seem to notice, or worse, believed was good Aikido.. <shudder>

Ruth

ps Great topic!

Dazzler
10-15-2004, 06:34 AM
Who can say when an instructor should stop training? I think its down to every individual to set their own training goals and regulate them.

If they dont feel up to the physical side of practice no matter, it doesn't stop them from providing a platform for the development of the class. As instructors this is what they do...isn't it?

I've seen many seniors standing around and watching beginners hammer each other. I'll admit to thinking they were lazy perhaps when I was less experienced ...but put the shoe on the other foot. Do these guys with 20 - 30 years experience need to practice like beginners? not in my view.

Personally I like the phyical side of practice....but thats for me. My aikido is mine and mine alone and I wouldn't want to judge others for their personal choice.

If you swap training for Learning then its a different ball game. Any one that has nothing left to learn is dead. Anyone that believes they have nothing to learn is a wee bit arrogant!

Cheers

D

batemanb
10-15-2004, 06:46 AM
They can stop training whenever they want to.

Whether they cease to learn, or stagnate or not, is not for me to worry about. If they happen to be my teacher, and I feel I am no longer learning from them, then I'll address my situation as required, but they will always have something to offer someone.

I shouldn't be feeling self righteous if they stop training, it's of no relevence to me or my aikido. We spend too much time in the west worrying about everyone else when we should be focusing on ourselves.

rgds

Bryan

Magma
10-15-2004, 08:20 AM
Good responses, all, that makes one think. Now that the discussion is going, let me weigh in with an opinion or two of my own.

I agree with David that much can be learned by taking ukemi for students. The point was made by Peter that the student does not benefit to a greater degree by having the instructor take ukemi for them than they would if another yudansha took the ukemi, and while this is true I think it misses the point. That situation describes a situation of teacher as teacher and student as student, with the emphasis on what the student learns. I think it is far more beneficial to turn that paradigm around and see teacher-as-student and *everyone* and *everything* else as teacher. This, IMO is another expression of the beginner mind, where the lessons were many and myriad, and every encounter was another opportunity to grow.

So, is there something the instructor can learn from taking ukemi for others? I would say most definitely: You see and learn what you are ready to see and learn. The instructor (who is just another student) must be ready to learn to make the ukemi beneficial, but there is no reason why it cannot be. Not only is ukemi practice practice of ukemi (where learning can take place), it is also a chance to learn about the other person and how they are progressing in their aikido, something every instructor should be concerned with. Further, I think that the instructor-as-uke has a unique chance for learning by taking ukemi, for they get the learning through what we might call their meta-instruction. That is, by seeing and feeling the way the "student" responds to the "instructors" instruction, the instructor is better able to instruct him or herself on how to instruct better.

I agree with Peter and his comments regarding the way cessation of training indicates a stagnation on the part of the instructor.

Philip, you are a brave, brave man, for posting what may very well be at the heart of the dilemma, that being insecurity on the part of those who stop training. I don't know that your point will receive much discussion, because I think that there is another insecurity on the part of aikido students *about* those teachers, that we don't talk about the emperor's new clothes, if you know what I mean. I personally think that what you say is on the minds of more students than would feel comfortable admitting.

Michael and Daren, I agree that there is a difference between training and learning, and understand how you both applied that to your high ranking instructors. However, I would counter by saying that there is learning that can specifically only be gained by training, and not just by taking ukemi, but by taking part in a class. More on that in a minute, but would you agree?

Bryan - ultimately, I agree with you of course, recognizing that this is a personal journey for each of us. However, it is only through asking these sorts of questions and judging the worth of different paths that we find for ourselves the best way. So I ask the question to think about our instructors, but I also ask the question because it is a question that should be considered individually as we move up in rank and take steps toward being an instructor.

For your position that their training does not affect you, I would disagree with you. Even you allow that if you stop learning from them that you would need to move on to another teacher, so in so far as that, they *have* impacted your training. Still, if you only focus on your instructors, you, IMO, miss half of this question... the part about you. About me. About each of us individually taking stock.

*****
Now, a good portion of this thread has focused on the benefits of an instructor taking ukemi from their students, which has merit as a discussion. I have made my opinion known on that subject. But I think that there is another way of looking at the question, that there is a benefit to an instructor not only taking ukemi, but also in sitting in and participating in another's class. I think there is a great benefit to actually being a student in another's class, in dropping out of the instructor role, in training the mind to stop thinking of the training in terms of answers (that they must be ready to provide), but in terms of questions (that they must be willing to pose).

I think that is a fundamental difference in the mindset of these instructors who stop training and the students that follow them.

What do you think?

Dazzler
10-15-2004, 09:06 AM
Michael and Daren, I agree that there is a difference between training and learning, and understand how you both applied that to your high ranking instructors. However, I would counter by saying that there is learning that can specifically only be gained by training, and not just by taking ukemi, but by taking part in a class. More on that in a minute, but would you agree?



I would agree of course that there is learning that can only be achieved by practice - If not then it would in theory be possible to learn aikido without ever practicing. Aikido must be experienced to absorb it.

However you are using this to counter my thoughts that it is down to the individual to set their training pattern. In this case we are talking specifically about experienced instructors. My feeling is that for them the negatives of pushing an elderly frame through a physical class may outweigh any benefits to be gained from adding a few hours to the considerable investment they have already made in terms of mat hours.

As stated previously this in no way inhibits the contribution they can make to the development of those around them which almost always outweights the benefit that they may take from classes.

There is no way I want to criticise those that give back the benefits of their experience for having the common sense to protect their own health and physical well being.

As an example ..I train with Pierre Chassang who is in his upper 80s. He has forgotten more Aikido than so many so called seniors will ever know. If he wanted to sit in a deck chair sipping a glass of chilled wine on the corner of the tatami I'd be happy to have him there. :D

His frame of mind is that he will only wear a white belt as he considers himself to still be learning.

Who on earth can suggest they are in a position to offer this man advice on how to organise his training schedule!! :)

ian
10-15-2004, 09:22 AM
I think that is a fundamental difference in the mindset of these instructors who stop training and the students that follow them.

What do you think?

I think you are wanting to get something off your chest - just come straight out with it!

Magma
10-15-2004, 09:27 AM
True, Daren, the man you describe is a good role model for the life of constant learning.

But I don't know that he is the specific focus of the question, though maybe he helps to better define the question: we are not talking about instructors who physically can't, but instructors who physically won't. And, a part of those who "can't" are actually in that camp because they for so long were in the "won't" camp, not training. Now they think their body cannot take those rigors of training - and maybe they cannot - but that, IMO, is not the aim of the martial arts.

The physical aim of MA is not to reach that baseline of physical ability, the asymptote of feebleness. It is to grow the body's ability and to stay at the highest level of ability that we can be at. Surely that level of ability declines as we get older, but i think many instructors prematurely let that ability fall away by not training as they are able.

Even in discussing this, though, I don't want to lose sight of the *other* benefits, the non-physical benefits, that befall an instructor who sits in on another's class. The exercise of being a student has many rewards, itself.

Magma
10-15-2004, 09:30 AM
I think you are wanting to get something off your chest - just come straight out with it!

Nope, just thinking about the state of aikido and hoping to get other people thinking, too. I've just noted this phenomena in the martial arts - not only in aikido.

I'm hoping, too, to be made to think by return posts, which I have found to be the case already as I read what others have written.

batemanb
10-15-2004, 09:35 AM
For your position that their training does not affect you, I would disagree with you. Even you allow that if you stop learning from them that you would need to move on to another teacher, so in so far as that, they *have* impacted your training.

I'm not sure that it would really impact me, unless I have decided to to stop learning myself. By the time I have stopped learning from said instructor, I should already be well on my own path and able move on without it really affecting me.

I think there is a great benefit to actually being a student in another's class, in dropping out of the instructor role, in training the mind to stop thinking of the training in terms of answers (that they must be ready to provide), but in terms of questions (that they must be willing to pose).

When I lived in Japan, the head of my association was 75 years old back then. He only taught once a month, and on special keiko days. Otherwise he attended class almost every day and just plain trained, being uke for anyone that asked.

It's an individual mindset, my only concern is that I maintain it :).

regards

Bryan

Dazzler
10-15-2004, 09:45 AM
Tim

What exactly do you see as the aim of martial arts? Personally it enriches my life by I don't expect everyone to have the same desires and requirements.

I choose Pierre as my example because he is for me an inspirational role model. From him I have learned to develop my mind as well as my body and to make a choice.

What I am trying to convey is that these individuals also have the right to chose how they live their lives, and how they practice.

I have a very clear picture of the type of seniors you describe. I know many and hopefully do not place myself it this bracket since I prefer to be recognized as someone constantly working to improve.

But I respect their choice...they have earned it.

I think I train pretty hard...3 sessions a week and I go for it. It used to be 6 sessions but my life re-emerged.

But I know I'm no shaolin monk conditioned to perfection - I just try to be as good as I can.

What exactly constitutes an acceptable level of physical practice?

BTW
Do you think the shaolin monks have a forum criticizing us aikido peeps for not living in monasteries and living martial training 24 by 7?

senshincenter
10-15-2004, 11:56 AM
I think raising questions over whether or not instructors should train like everyone else is undoubtedly a worthy topic for self-contemplation – not just for instructors but also for everyone. Simply because in the process of such contemplation we may “rub up against” current personal and/or socio-political relationships that carry some weight in our lives, reflecting deeply as an individual upon this topic does not become meaningless and/or without merit. If contemplation forces us, by the natural consequence of association, to reflect directly upon a person we may know, such matters are not reduced to mere matters of personal condemnation and/or personal uplifting. I think this is an important matter to consider, of course for oneself, but also for those that currently train under us and/or will one day. We do not satisfy this importance by lifting up one teacher and/or by denouncing another. Those actions are beside the point. Every teacher’s pedagogy has to have a symbiotic relationship between “what is best for oneself” and “what is best for one’s students.” Such contemplation is simply part of that whole process – it is not a personal attack upon anyone and/or a proscription upon everyone’s behavior.

Before running my own dojo, I had been a regular student (i.e. training daily) of eight teachers, with four of them shihan. Out of all of them, only three participated in training as we are all beginning to understand it. These three were shihan. They were also self-admittedly “mavericks” of sorts. That is to say, they knew that most folks of their stature did not “train” like everyone else. Such a sense of being different is, I believe, a mark of a kind of paradigmatic shift – one we may all be a part of at some level.

20th century martial arts training, in Japan and especially as it traveled abroad, was heavily influenced by types of thinking that supported the practice of teachers not training like everyone else. To be sure, there were all kinds of practical reasons for such a course of action, but there were also discourses like Neo-Confucianism that did a lot for making “not training” appear to be perfectly okay. Consequently, questions for contemplation such as these were not really considered at that time, and instructors that did train as everyone else were not considered mavericks, either by themselves or by others.

Things have changed over the last century and into the current one. In particular, training in Japan, especially Aikido, have come to steer away from discourses like Neo-Confucianism, and training is more and more becoming akin to exercise than it is to other forms of spiritual practice. As “exercise,” the moving and not moving of oneself comes to take on a different meaning than when such things were directly relevant to one’s position in institutional hierarchies (e.g. a martial ryu). In Japan, increasingly, you are either exercising or you are not, you are either training or you are not. It is my opinion that this is one reason why you see more older and higher ranked aikidoka (men and women) simply doing class like everyone else in Japan, versus a place like the United States.

Something else has occurred, in my opinion, in the areas that arts like Aikido spread to. The general practicing population of these countries, while tending not to see the art as mere exercise, also tend not favor the original discourses that supported the action of instructors not training. Hence, 20th century reasons of practicality for instructors not training are raising more questions than they are settling in these areas as well. 20th century rationales, whether they were correctly understood and/or misunderstood, are being replaced by notions that stress and equate moving with doing, doing with being, and being with legitimate practice. Such rationales come to the general training public via things as mundane as Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It,” but also through things as profound as accurate understandings of Budo, Buddhist, and other spiritual traditions relevant to martial arts training – which is finally disseminating properly to areas outside of Japan – and that are combining with modern notions of social equality. The combination of these properly understood ideas and social egalitarianism are making it increasingly difficult for instructors of today to say they train when they are not training like everyone else. This occurs in the same way that folks in Japan find it difficult to say they do Aikido when they are not exercising with Aikido like everyone else. In other words, there is a growing social and cultural pressure to not excuse oneself from the mat.

To be sure, trends are never complete. Moreover, trends are never without their competing trends. Therefore, what is important to note is how there was once a time when questions for contemplation such as this one wouldn’t have been possible – how we have traveled to a time when they are not only possible to ask but also to a time when it is most probable that they will be asked. Personally, I think that is a good thing. I think that is just one more step in the right direction. After all, moving is doing, doing is being, being is having a legitimate practice – but this is just my time speaking. ;)

dmv

Magma
10-15-2004, 12:28 PM
In response to leaving an instructor, Bryan wrote:

I'm not sure that it would really impact me, unless I have decided to to stop learning myself. By the time I have stopped learning from said instructor, I should already be well on my own path and able move on without it really affecting me.


I think we are into the realm of semantics now, Bryan. I would argue that by having to leave your instructor, your training is affected in that it is not the same as it was before. I am saying nothing of your desire to learn or your desire to train, but only point out that the decisions your instructor makes about his/her own training *do* impact you in some form.

The 75 yr. old instructor that you mention is, indeed, a great example of continuing to train.

Daren, you ask what I think the purpose of the martial arts is. I would say that the simplest way that I could phrase that answer is that the arts are a vehicle for self improvement, though there is obviously much more a blowhard like myself could say about it. Until I understand better where you intended to take the conversation, I will leave it at that.

You also questioned whether Shaolin Monks have forums where they talk about how we aikidoists are lazy for only going to the dojo x number of times a week. My first answer would be yes. Not that they have these forums, but that they have answered for themselves that simply going to the dojo 3 or 4 times a week was not enough for them, else they would not have chosen such an immersive life of training.

However, that misses the point. The matter at hand is not *how much* one should train. Such a line is inherently arbitrary and nebulous, with 10 different practitioners having 10 different levels of acceptability. No, the matter at hand is whether or not an instructor must continue to train at all. Now, the amount of training is very quantifiable, and the question becomes emminently more simple.

I suppose that my personal position on that question is that a person who instructs *must* continue to train. Once a week, once a month... but done so that when that instructor steps on the mat as a student, the student mindset is at the fore. They might very well be the *senior* student on the mat, but they put themselves in the hands of the instructor of the day.

I have known dojos to say that if you teach at all during the week, you must train in at least one class during the week. I do not think that is asking too much, though, as I said, this is more nebulous and individual. I don't think that the question was worried about how much the person trains in a week or month, just that they *do*.

David, very interesting take on questions in general, and on this one in particular. Do you see non-Japanese dojos and instructors now catching up with regard to not using some neo-confucian excuse to limit their training?

senshincenter
10-15-2004, 06:28 PM
Hi Tim,

Thanks for replying.

I should state that it is my opinion that the displacement of such discourses as Neo-Confucianism from martial arts sub-cultures do not cause things to happen. Rather, such displacements allow for things to happen. Actual driving forces are quite numerous and most likely can never be known in their totality. Most likely, only local-specific studies could determine true driving forces and this it will do at the cost of not being able to say much about the overall general trends that are determining the art as a whole.

As I said before, a mixture made up of viewpoints that equate doing and being with a general tendency for egalitarian worldviews is one possible driving force that is finding a voice in the silence of doctrines like Neo-Confucianism. I also think that another driving force is the fact that folks are being “squished” at the top now. The ranks are swelling. Ten years ago, in the States for example, the rank of sixth dan was probably as rare as something like an eighth dan in Japan at that time. However, today, the rank of sixth dan, because of its growing commonality in the States, is like the fourth dan of a decade earlier. More folks are holding that rank and more folks are holding that rank at a younger age. As a social consequence, when the ranks swell like this, it is hard to justify the growing singularity of a person that watches training from the sidelines and/or only from the viewpoint of nage. In an editorial, Stanley Pranin of Aikido Journal made this exact critique after he said he had been holding his tongue on the matter for a great while. I think Mr. Pranin’s critique is an example of this energy finally finding its voice.

As I said, there are many of these types of energies at work, energies I feel are making it okay to say that no one should disengage from the training simply because of the status they have been afforded by time or by institution. These same energies are working across the globe to “pressure” all aikidoka to continue their training as fully as they can for as long as they can. For example, I train as a regular member of our dojo though I am the instructor. After demonstrating a technique, I partner-up like everyone else. We rotate two to three times per technique so I can instruct several folks directly as nage and as uke. This is also an integral part of my own practice. When a common point in need of correction is coming to the surface, I will stop the class to demonstrate a point meant for all. After that, it is back to partnering-up. That is what my students are used to.

One day, I overheard one of our lower ranks talking about Aikido with a friend that trained at a dojo in the next city. In their conversation, the friend was talking about training with her teacher. She was talking about how great it was, how much she learns from it, etc. Through the course of the conversation, my student was able to deduce that his friend was talking about a “special” occurrence. My student was shocked and could not focus in on anything other that this assumed “specialness.” He was at a loss for words. When the friend realized that my friend was shocked that her teacher only trained on “special” occasions, she too was at a loss for words. Of the words she did say, they were all about trying to show how her teacher did train on a more regular basis than she first implied.

When that matter was elaborated upon, it became clear to my student that his friend’s idea of “training with” did not include taking ukemi. Again, they were both at a loss of words, as they could not find the right way of saying it is better that a teacher not train with his/her students and/or it is better when a teacher does not take ukemi from his/her students on a regular basis. When I was a full-time deshi, what this girl was describing was the norm. No one thought it strange or odd or lacking in any way back then. Now it seems different. Now this is just our little part of the world, but I think in some very subtle ways it is related to energies like the editorial offered by Aikido Journal (mentioned above). So I would say yes to your question. Yes, dojo not in Japan are beginning to have less and less folks that do not participate in the training for reasons of “knowing it all” or “for having done it all,” etc.

dmv

vanstretch
10-15-2004, 07:16 PM
Well,...uh..The Shihans I have trained under didnt fall much, didnt have to, I think those guys paid their dues and we should be grateful for their teachings,regardless of their current physical condition. Lots of em' have pot bellies(Good strong Hara!), and yet,can pitch us young bucks around like toys. And also, has anyone who has posted thus far ,gone up to a Shihan and directly asked him/her the question stated at the onset of this thread? Has anyone dared "shake the pillars of the aikido community?"

maikerus
10-16-2004, 02:57 AM
Hi Tim,

Thanks for the thoughts and the replies. It certainly seems that you've been thinking about this for awhile.

Michael and Daren, I agree that there is a difference between training and learning, and understand how you both applied that to your high ranking instructors. However, I would counter by saying that there is learning that can specifically only be gained by training, and not just by taking ukemi, but by taking part in a class. More on that in a minute, but would you agree?

*I* would agree. My response, however, was that I had the highest respect for a few, top teachers who do not train in classes. They do take part, sometimes being the second or third instructor on the mat under anothers class, but they do not train as a regular student.

I also stated that I firmly believed that they could take part in a class and out-do anyone on the mat in terms of physical stamina, ukemi and basically anything else you could throw at them.

Bryan - ultimately, I agree with you of course, recognizing that this is a personal journey for each of us. However, it is only through asking these sorts of questions and judging the worth of different paths that we find for ourselves the best way. So I ask the question to think about our instructors, but I also ask the question because it is a question that should be considered individually as we move up in rank and take steps toward being an instructor.

Perhaps the question as one becomes an instructor is two-fold.

1. What can we do during our mat time (I purposely don't say training here) to improve our own Aikido

2. What can we do during our mat time to improve the Aikido of our students.

I personally have found that I learn more, and my Aikido improves when I am instructing or even perceived as an instructor while on the mats. This might be more a solidifying of existing ideas and concepts while instructing rather than learning something new. Or it might be finding new things based on questions from people who have different thoughts and backgrounds.

For my own training and while training with my students (under another instructor) I am probably looking for different things in the techniques than they are. This is true when a 3rd kyu trains with a white belt or a black belt trains with a third kyu.

This isn't neccessarily a bad thing, but just something to point out. At my level, it probably isn't important because there are tons of things I can learn by working with these other various levels.

With this idea in mind, however, training with peers or people of higher levels would seem to give the most opportunity for focused training on things that I am working on right now. For me, training in seminars and under other people who have the same or greater experience as me would be valuable.

In my example of the top Yoshinkan instructors...well...they have no one better than them and I don't know how the work out the peer thing. Maybe this is why they stopped "training" but continue learning from observation and teaching and questions.

But I think that there is another way of looking at the question, that there is a benefit to an instructor not only taking ukemi, but also in sitting in and participating in another's class. I think there is a great benefit to actually being a student in another's class, in dropping out of the instructor role, in training the mind to stop thinking of the training in terms of answers (that they must be ready to provide), but in terms of questions (that they must be willing to pose).

I think that is a fundamental difference in the mindset of these instructors who stop training and the students that follow them.

I'm going to refer this back to my previous comment about training in another class of someone who is a peer or ranked above me.

The matter at hand is not *how much* one should train. Such a line is inherently arbitrary and nebulous, with 10 different practitioners having 10 different levels of acceptability. No, the matter at hand is whether or not an instructor must continue to train at all. Now, the amount of training is very quantifiable, and the question becomes emminently more simple.

This is a cop-out. I've been told by many instructors that it is better to do a technique once, properly with total focus than to do it 100 times without commitment and spirit.

If this is true, then teaching a technique that *one* time is training and there is no longer a discussion.


I suppose that my personal position on that question is that a person who instructs *must* continue to train. Once a week, once a month... but done so that when that instructor steps on the mat as a student, the student mindset is at the fore. They might very well be the *senior* student on the mat, but they put themselves in the hands of the instructor of the day.


Hmm...I'm think I'm seeing the difference between learning and training, which you were very right in differentiating, being blurred here.

I don't believe that an instructor necessarily loses the mindset of the student. In fact, I believe that the better instructors are those who are always looking forward for what's around that next technique and helping you to see it too. That isn't necessarily done through training.

One of the instructors I was talking about sometimes had classes where he would throw out questions to the students asking what they thought of this or that, or how that came about or what made this technique effective. Invariably he would throw something out there that he didn't have a firm answer to himself. We'd give him different thoughts and he refute them pretty solidly. When no one had any more ideas we'd ask for the answer. His response was sometimes "I don't know. I haven't figured that one out myself yet".


Anyway...another long post. In thinking this over and reviewing the answers and discussions that have come up I would have to say that you stop training when training as a regular student when that training doesn't benefit you or your students anymore.

However, you shouldn't stop looking for answers and you definately shouldn't stop finding interesting and new things in hopefully every class you are part of.

For most of us...this will probably be a few days after we're dead.

--Michael

Charles Hill
10-16-2004, 11:18 PM
One of the instructors I was talking about sometimes had classes where he would throw out questions to the students asking what they thought of this or that, or how that came about or what made this technique effective. Invariably he would throw something out there that he didn't have a firm answer to himself. We'd give him different thoughts and he refute them pretty solidly. When no one had any more ideas we'd ask for the answer. His response was sometimes "I don't know. I haven't figured that one out myself yet".


Hi Micheal,

Was this a Japanese teacher? If it was, as I`ve said before, Yoshinkan is in some ways so ahead of the rest of us!

As for the topic, I think that Aikido is so complex and deep that there is no way to answer the question unless you yourself (me, myself) hit that level. Until then, it is just guesswork.

Charles Hill

maikerus
10-17-2004, 10:15 PM
Hi Micheal,

Was this a Japanese teacher? If it was, as I`ve said before, Yoshinkan is in some ways so ahead of the rest of us!


Hi Charles,

It was a Japanese teacher who did this. I saw him do it many times (well...many might be a stretch) but at least once, maybe twice a year.

cheers,

--Michael

Dazzler
10-18-2004, 06:38 AM
Daren, you ask what I think the purpose of the martial arts is. I would say that the simplest way that I could phrase that answer is that the arts are a vehicle for self improvement, though there is obviously much more a blowhard like myself could say about it. Until I understand better where you intended to take the conversation, I will leave it at that.

Tim...not too concerned in taking the conversation much further. Purpose of question was to see where you set your threshold of acceptability. You've dodged this by focussing on those that just teach and never train.

As others have pointed out, you may lead a class but still have a student mindset and still be training. It isn't necessary to get physical to sharpen the mind.

You also questioned whether Shaolin Monks have forums where they talk about how we aikidoists are lazy for only going to the dojo x number of times a week. My first answer would be yes. Not that they have these forums, but that they have answered for themselves that simply going to the dojo 3 or 4 times a week was not enough for them, else they would not have chosen such an immersive life of training.

However, that misses the point. The matter at hand is not *how much* one should train. Such a line is inherently arbitrary and nebulous, with 10 different practitioners having 10 different levels of acceptability. No, the matter at hand is whether or not an instructor must continue to train at all. Now, the amount of training is very quantifiable, and the question becomes emminently more simple.

I suppose that my personal position on that question is that a person who instructs *must* continue to train. Once a week, once a month... but done so that when that instructor steps on the mat as a student, the student mindset is at the fore. They might very well be the *senior* student on the mat, but they put themselves in the hands of the instructor of the day.

I have known dojos to say that if you teach at all during the week, you must train in at least one class during the week. I do not think that is asking too much, though, as I said, this is more nebulous and individual. I don't think that the question was worried about how much the person trains in a week or month, just that they *do*.



Tim...this was actually a joke! perhaps I should have made it more blatant with a :D . My point (that you seem to have missed ;) )in using shaolin monks is that they represent an extreme end of the martial arts spectrum. What they do or don't do doesn't necessarily set a standard for the rest of us normal MAs. Lets see how many of these guys can juggle wives, kids, injuries, jobs, poor weather, writing lucid and meaningful posts when working and life in general and maintain their rigid training schedule...suddenly spinning back kicks on poles is nothing compared to the above list.

The point of it was to highlight that setting any level of acceptable training is indeed 'arbitrary and nebulous'. We agree on this it seems. Further to this...everyone is different, one mans training goals may differ to anothers. You've made the point that we are talking about 'experienced' aikidoka. Let them be the judge of what is right for them.

I tend to agree that if you continue to instruct you should be open. I don't think this means you have to go to someone elses classes - just that you keep thinking about aikido in your everyday life and don't roll up weekly to trot out your formulaic lesson.

For me my instructor mindset goes as far as ensuring that the training environment is conducive to learning and that a lesson plan is present. Every week I teach a seniors class where the majority are dan grades, many have experience of other arts and we are all learning together.

I am not the instructor who must be obeyed ..I just happen to be the most senior student present and leading the others so we progress together. again using my standard role model Pierre Chassang...while working with groups of instructors he often requests us not to continually kneel in breaks. His reasoning is that this is unnecessary for his old knees, but as he views us all as equal in being students of aikido who instruct, if we kneel then politeness forces him to do the same.

I have been taught to used Aikido as a vehicle in pursuit of spiritual development as well as physical. As such I feel that achievement of this does not sit with being told that I must attend x lessons in a given period.

I'll train when I want to train. Anyone that doesn't agree is of no matter to me personally.

Personally I'd train every day - I often go to classes with other instructors, some are several grades below me, some are much higher...I welcome the chance to just practice without having to consider the audience but study of Tore / Uke shows me others may have their own opinion which is valid for them.

My aikido is my aikido. Yours is yours.


Respectfully

D

Magma
10-18-2004, 09:29 AM
The Shihans I have trained under didnt fall much, didnt have to, I think those guys paid their dues and we should be grateful for their teachings,regardless of their current physical condition.

Whatever dues they have paid are dues that they paid to better themselves, are dues that they paid to become a leader in the aikido community, are dues that they paid to be the one to instruct. Those dues, however, have nothing to do with their own training. You set up a false dichotomy of training vs. instructing, as if one can (or need) only be in one camp or the other. The dues shihan have paid mean that they can lead others, that is all, IMO (in terms of the scope of this question).

BTW, "pot belly = good hara" is a joke I've never really bought into. YMMV.

1. What can we do during our mat time (I purposely don't say training here) to improve our own Aikido

2. What can we do during our mat time to improve the Aikido of our students.

Michael, thank you for the discussion, however, I disagree with you. Your first point, quoted above, makes me ask, 'When do these 'other' things an instructor does on the mat (not necessarily training) become a substitute for the whole of training?' When can training be written off totally? Again, I understand that there is learning that can be done without training, but my point is that I believe training is an integral part to aikido, and that there is particular learning that one only come upon by training. Yes, I hold that true even for shihan.

Your second point dealt more with the notion of what an instructor does during the time that they instruct, while I wish to focus on the time outside of their role as instructor, so I will leave that comment alone.

For my own training and while training with my students (under another instructor) I am probably looking for different things in the techniques than they are. This is true when a 3rd kyu trains with a white belt or a black belt trains with a third kyu.

Just because you're looking for different things in the technique does not mean that you cannot both find those different things by training together.

This isn't neccessarily a bad thing, but just something to point out. At my level, it probably isn't important because there are tons of things I can learn by working with these other various levels.

I hold this true for all levels.

Without this being true for all levels, you have stagnation. More, stellar examples of senior students (ie, shihan still training) would not be possible if this were untrue.

With this idea in mind, however, training with peers or people of higher levels would seem to give the most opportunity for focused training on things that I am working on right now. For me, training in seminars and under other people who have the same or greater experience as me would be valuable.

It seems here you are referring to personal goals in your trianing, but that you cloud who you train with and who you train under. As I said above, there is no reason that in working with a lower rank you cannot find what you're looking for in the technique. Perhaps you can find it better or easier with someone of equal or greater rank/experience than you, but what does this do to the sempai/kohai relationship? If everyone thought this way to the point of never training with a rank below them, aikido would soon lose membership and proficiency.

As for whom you train under, you can still train toward your particular goals (considering that these goals are principle oriented and not "get-this-one-particular-technique-down") if you're taking a class from a more senior rank or a rank below you. You can still learn because (1) everyone presents the information differently, and (2) you are still *training* and can shape your movements/mind/expression/etc.

Now, what is good for the goose must be good for the instructor. Or the shihan.

In my example of the top Yoshinkan instructors...well...they have no one better than them and I don't know how the work out the peer thing. Maybe this is why they stopped "training" but continue learning from observation and teaching and questions.

Again, I am not denying that they can learn through observation and mental acuity, but this still rings to me as an excuse on par with, "aikido becomes much more mental and holistic as you get up in rank." In fact, it is this sort of situation that I think you find as you begin to dig into the reasoning of people who defend an instructor not training. I believe that behind the defense of the idea that an instructor need not train you find a set of instructors that the person feels the need to defend or protect since these are the instructors that that person looks up to and respects.

Tim Rohr wrote:
The matter at hand is not *how much* one should train. Such a line is inherently arbitrary and nebulous, with 10 different practitioners having 10 different levels of acceptability. No, the matter at hand is whether or not an instructor must continue to train at all. Now, the amount of training is very quantifiable, and the question becomes emminently more simple.


This is a cop-out. I've been told by many instructors that it is better to do a technique once, properly with total focus than to do it 100 times without commitment and spirit.

If this is true, then teaching a technique that *one* time is training and there is no longer a discussion.

Except that you have missed the point, IMO. If, as a student, you properly do the technique *one* time and do it with focus... should you then stop? The complete focus that you talk about is the mindset that I think shihan and instructors the world over would tell you is the mindset that should permeate our training. *All* of our training. All of this one hour class, that two hour class, or the weekend seminar. You do it once properly and then you go back and do it again and again, properly.

Does the one technique done with focus somehow qualify the instructor for an exemption at being a student? I say no, and *that* - using a technique done with focus as an excuse to not train as a student - is what I call the cop out.

Most importantly, I think you shorten the scope of what I am calling training. Training is not just being nage, is not just being uke, IMO. Training involves a beginner's mind and a willingness to learn what one can when and where one can. If an instructor had all the answers, there would be no divisions in aikido. Why not much more so many different people? Why can't one instructor learn from what another instructor has to say?

Again, I say that when you dig deeper with the people who defend not-training, you find an instructor of theirs that they are protecting.

Ron Tisdale
10-18-2004, 12:12 PM
In fact, it is this sort of situation that I think you find as you begin to dig into the reasoning of people who defend an instructor not training.

Why should I defend it? Surely you know instructors who do just this...why not go and ask them yourself?

Ron (why the heck would they need *me* to defend them)

Magma
10-18-2004, 12:38 PM
Ron,

No one is asking you or expecting you to defend anything. Where did you get such a notion? My point was that for those who *do* defend this sort of behavior, you will normally find behind such protestations an instructor that the defender respects and feels the need to defend.

And this thread *is* aimed at those instructors as much as to everyone else. This is my posing of the question to them, and I await their response.

Ron Tisdale
10-18-2004, 12:49 PM
Where did I get such a notion? From this thread...perhaps even your posts. Of course, I was being a bit facetious as well. :)

Frankly, I would pose such a question in person, if I had a mind to pose it at all...but that's just me.

Ron

Magma
10-18-2004, 03:11 PM
Ron,

Neh. I posed the question to see what response there would be. People neither need defend nor argue against this practice of non-practice.

It is simply an observation, then, that those who do choose to defend the non-training tend to have an instructor that they are defending. Is that the reason why they choose to defend it? Perhaps. They could believe that their sensei can do no wrong. Or they could have been brought up that this sort of approach was the way things should be. Or they could believe that the non-training is right and good for other reasons of their own. There is no way that I can prove any of these, so I just stick to my observation.

Yokaze
10-19-2004, 12:35 AM
I don't know about anyone else, but to me, ukemi is the most fun part of training, especially when you get someone who's really advanced and quick so you can keep fluidly attacking.

THat's also the part where I get the most exercise. All that getting up. ;)

maikerus
10-19-2004, 12:39 AM
Tim,

I'm getting confused. I understood that you had separated Training and Learning for the basis of this discussion. I guess your definition of training and mine in this context is different, so I figure I'll go through what my thoughts are. Its quite possible that we are saying the same thing in different ways...but just don't know it.

In my view, there are many ways to learn. As an instructor I learn and grow within my Aikido using the following methods:

1. Training - physically taking uke and being shite and not being involved in the teaching of the class except perhaps answering questions from current partner. This works when working both with people of the same rank or people of different ranks. The focus of training might change depending on partner but I will always be able to learn something with my training partner.

2. Physical Exercise - push-ups, sit-ups, solo ukemi, bunny hops, duck walks...anything that makes you sweat and improve your physical stamina that is not done by doing a technique. Stamina is good. I can do more Aikido.

3. Teaching/Demonstrating Technique - Running the class or part of a class where I use an uke to demonstrate different parts of the technique or a particular part of the technique while everyone else stops and pays attention to what is being taught. I have to really focus and think of the points I'm explaining and my Aikido improves because of this.

4. Visualization - a form of solo training where I try and remember not only the different steps in the technique, but how my balance feels while doing and receiving the technique. This is best practiced when trying to fall asleep or when bored on the train.

5. Planning a class - everything from warm-ups to the final seiza can be planned to flow together. How different techniques are similar and how similar techniques are different is a challenge to explain and makes me think alot about Aikido. Putting together a class with a different focus a few times a week is a challenge I really like because it makes me compare and contrast all the Aikido I know and find a way to try and explain it and make it fit together.

6. Listening to questions - Learn what people are thinking by what they ask. This is usually technique related, but also expands to more general Aikido questions. By thinking about the answer, or if you don't have an answer to the question you can always find someone else to ask. My Aikido grows in either case.

7. Watching the class practice - getting an overall feel for the pace, safety and general mental attitude of a class and finding a way to use that attitude or change it to something else. It is very interesting to watch the dynamic of a class and to see what flows and what is a little outside of the dynamic. I learn something about the way people move from this.

8. Watching a single shite/uke practice - getting a feel for what they are seeing/doing in the technique and finding a way to improve that feeling, or conversely, learning from something that you see them do that you hadn't thought about even if you do it.

9. Taking ukemi from students - a way to feel what they are doing and sense their Aikido. This is not training as in #1, but a way of teaching. To describe how I feel and what I feel makes me think about Aikido and the technique. This challenge is to determine the students ability and to try and teach just above that so that the goal you set for them is within their grasp. My Aikido gets better as I think of this.

10. Doing a technique with a student as uke - also not training as in #1 or teaching as in #2 but a way of showing a student what you want to feel when they throw you. The challenge here is not to do an amazing technique that uke doesn't understand, but to do the technique with emphasis on something that the student can feel and understand. I want to show them what the next step towards the technique as I currently understand it is, not just show how good I am.

11. Discussing Aikido with people - gives me a chance to think upon what I learn and formulate my ideas to a stronger degree and to listen to others and their views and incorporate them (or not) into my gestalt. It gives me lots to think about and is much like having to write a university paper with a thesis I am actually interested in. Go Aikiweb! <g>.

So...all I am saying is that for three people who I have studied under, I have not seen them training as in #1 and I think that that is fine <i>for them</i> because they have passed the point where training the technique repetitively would benefit them or me (as a student). It is possible - I just don't know - that they do train as in #1 with each other, but I haven't seen it.

For me and for other instructors who I have had the pleasure to train with, *not* doing point #1 would be a mistake. I agree with you that it is an important part of training and in particular of *my training*.

Instructors other than the three I mention who I have seen stop training as in #1 I feel have made a mistake and their Aikido has suffered. The Aikido of their students has probably suffered as well, which is tragic.

I understand how someone might think I am defending something about these three instructors I mention, but I don't think that is the case here. I had never considered the question before with respect to them before this thread came up. With others...yes. They should train. With these instructors I didn't notice they weren't until I had to think about it and realized that I hadn't actually seen them "just train".

Anyway...that's a long post (again). I'm enjoying this thinking about it and asking what else you might get from time on the mat was a good thing to help put it in perspective for me.

cheers,

--Michael

Magma
10-19-2004, 08:45 AM
Michael,

I guess that I am specifically referring to training as in your #1 example above. The rest are methods of learning, to be sure, but are not specific to the role of being a student (as opposed to being an instructor).

I think we have a great deal of agreement on this subject now that I understand better what you are saying. We both do not want to allow ourselves to use instructor-level or instructor-roles as an excuse to end our training, and we both recognize in instructors that have stopped training that their aikido has suffered. That is their decision, true, but that doesn't mean that we cannot look at their choices and form our own judgment about those choices, and it is from that feeling that thoughts and threads like this one grow... trying to understand why they might have made the choice to stop training.

I know that some of the instructors that I am aware of who have stopped training would say - if confronted or asked about it - that they haven't stopped training at all. That they apply the other situations you list (other than #1) and that they are therefore - nearly pompously - training all the time. I don't buy that, and I think you and I have hit on why, coming at it from two different directions. As I said, I think it comes down to being willing to ask a question regarding our aikido, and only #1 is aimed at asking a question. The rest seem aimed at providing an answer. And while #1 might provide answers, I think it is unique in the cases you presented that it is focused on the question, and on acknowledging that there are answers that will come from outside of us. That's a lot of talking around and about the subject without just naming it what it is: a beginner's mind.

Too many instructors forget that there questions to be asked. Too many others get wrapped up in themselves as the only valid poser of questions, and in so doing, become wrapped up in providing the "answer." They have lost focus on the question.

Eh... thoughts running through my head... the focus of my training recently. Sorry if they are not completely coherent.

maikerus
10-19-2004, 07:46 PM
Hi Tim,

As I said before, I am enjoying this discussion. One of the main things that came out of it for me is that it made me quantify what it is that I am learning/doing/enjoying every time I think of Aikido whether it be here on the forums, training really hard without thinking and just being "in the zone", teaching or just thinking during brief bouts of insomnia.

It's also good that you raised the point because it seems that both you and I don't want to fall into that category of instructors that stop their physical training. The posts that talk about older instructors participating in classes and taking ukemi are very heartening.

I suppose we should always be vigilant about this :-)

cheers,

--Michael

GaiaM
10-19-2004, 08:14 PM
Michael,
I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate your list of ways that you learn in aikido. I have copied it into a word document for future inspiration on the day when I begin regularly teaching aikido (a while off yet).
Gaia

maikerus
10-20-2004, 02:51 AM
Thanks Gaia. I appreciate the vote of confidence :)

--Michael