View Full Version : Stealing

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08-14-2005, 08:55 AM
Walking past an Aikido dojo, I looked in as I went by. Inside an instructor was showing a kokyu-nage from yokomen. I'd never seen that particular technique before. Thinking about the kokyu-nage, I realized there could be a problem with the ma-ai (distance) as the technique was performed.

At the end of class later that week, I demonstrated the technique to my Sensei. I asked him if he had seen it, and if there was problem with the ma-ai. He had seen the technique and agreed there could be a possible problem with ma-ai, which was why the uke needed to be stretched out when the technique was executed.

Some people would describe this as stealing a technique. I've always thought of the concept of stealing as Chinese in origin. I first heard it used by Tai Chi students. However, this idea has crept into some aikido vocabularies.

I've always been uncomfortable with this expression. Whatever happened to old fashion learning? Why are we paying for instruction and then describe it as "stealing"? Even the word stealing, has many bad connotations to it.

I would describe the above incident as a trained observer seeing a technique demonstrated. Later, this observer reproduced the technique along with analysis. I wouldn't call that stealing. I would call that learning.

08-14-2005, 09:42 AM
Mitori geiko is easier to say.

Paul Smith
08-14-2005, 09:55 AM
I think this goes to the very heart of what I know of "learning" from an Eastern v. Western perspective. These are overly broad observations, and therefore undoubtedly flawed in their generality, but here goes.

In the west, we learn, typically, by gathering a set of skills, and molding these into a coherent body of acquired knowledge. We see learning as an accumulation.

In the east, this concept of "stealing" is common. "Stealing the mind" implies seizing the very mind of the instructor and making it one's own. The only way for this to be possible is if one's own cloudiness is discarded; one's ego is cast aside to draw from the deep well of a master's (and his or her masters before) experience. In a zen parable, a clean, bright, empty brass container, receiving the heart of knowledge. Not building by accumulating, but by emptying, and then seizing not skill but the principles underneath.

This is what I know of it. I rather like the idea of stealing from this vantage point.

08-14-2005, 10:24 AM
I believe O'Sensei himself told students that he would not teach them techniques; Instead, they would have to "steal" them. I don't think that the term "stealing" necessarily has the same negative connotations in Japan as it does in the West, although I am not a native speaker.

Lyle Bogin
08-14-2005, 11:56 AM
The book "Steal My Art" by Olsen has a fun portrayal of this type of culture.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is "to wait is beautiful".

08-14-2005, 02:21 PM
Most good things--and some bad ones--about Japanese culture were taken from other cultures. You can't really get bogged down in where things come from, unless the original folks are getting ripped off and uncredited.

Mark Uttech
08-15-2005, 07:26 PM
Onegaishimasu. "Stealing" comes from the sense that in the old days, techniques were not explained. The sensei would demonstrate a techniques once or twice, and then you would have to attempt to practice and find the way yourself. When you would pay close attention by observing the technique in such a way as to see how it was done, that was called 'stealing the technique'.

08-15-2005, 07:31 PM
Walking past an Aikido dojo, I looked in as I went by. ...
Sorry Ted, you lost me after that because I didn't believe you. :(

08-16-2005, 09:41 PM
Sorry Ted, you lost me after that because I didn't believe you. :(Somewhere along the line, I realized my "aikido experience" would not be an average one. So your disbelief is expected.

Training for several recent weeks in yokomen, allowed me to know the approach, I just never saw the ending technique before. It's no biggie. I'm sure you know someone who knows that and much more.

The thing I don't like about this concept of stealing, is that it throws all of the responsibility on the student and none on the instructor. It seems that more could be learned if two people were involved, instead of just one, the inexperienced one at that! I guess that's a private beef.

08-16-2005, 10:20 PM

"The thing I don't like about this concept of stealing, is that it throws all of the responsibility on the student and none on the instructor."

I can definitely see your point! But at the same time, I see the value of "stealing" techniques. I have been shown so many moves that can't remember, its not funny. For me at least, it seems the moves that I really have internalized, are the moves that caught my eye. As we are all aware there is allot of depth in Aikido, and we can only be ready to take in so much, verbally explained or not. In fact, I find too much talking distracting.