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eyrie 01-13-2007 06:28 AM

Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

George S. Ledyard wrote:
This whole "steal the technique" thing we have in Aikido makes me crazy. I have trained in various koryu and am familiar with the training of more than I have done myself. Things are not made purposely obscure in these arts. They have an organized, step by step teaching methodology. You don't go to the next step until you have mastered the previous steps. Teachers are not purposely obscure but actually explain what is going on. I realize that one great advantage these art have is that very few people do them. So the transmission is VERY personal.

Whilst I do agree that certain arts (perhaps more accurately "systems") do have an organized, step by step teaching methodology, particularly with technique-based systems, I do believe that at some level, there is still an element of making the student "steal the technique".

Call me "old school", but.... I would go so far as to say that stealing technique is actually part of the teaching/learning paradigm itself. In order to steal, one is required to first exercise superior observation, listening and intuition skills. These basic skills are part and parcel of learning to learn a martial art. Without these basic skills, one is invariably consigned to martial mediocrity.

Call me "old school".... but I'm reminded of the story of Sakyamuni smelling a flower and why Kasyapa inherited his robe and alms bowl.

Peter Goldsbury 01-13-2007 08:14 AM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
I suppose it depends who is stealing from whom.

I think that if I were a direct student of O Sensei and he told me that the only way to progress in his art was to steal his techniques, I would be stealing away.

I once had a conversation with Hiroshi Tada Shihan and he was quite clear that O Sensei never 'taught' in the accepted 'western' sense. As a result (1), he himself had a constant problem with trying to replicate O Sensei's teaching methods with people who had no grasp of the culture wherein these methods were fashioned. He kept to the traditional method of requiring his closest students to 'steal' the knowledge he himself had acquired. As a result (2), one of Tada Sensei's own students, as a result of his own frustration, devised a different teaching method, to try to embody what Tada Shihan received from the Founder, but in a way that was teachable to westerners. The student was Masatomi Ikeda Shihan and his methods are still used by his students in Switzerland.

When O Sensei created the Kobukan, he had no clue about teaching methodology. This was before the era of training manuals etc and in the domain schools and terakoya they memorized ancient texts. Now dojos are more of a service to customers than extensions to a wider audience of a particular shihan's personal training methods, previously shown to a few students.

An added factor, of much importance nowadays, is that in the days of the Kobukan O Sensei never had to work for a living...

Mike Sigman 01-13-2007 12:09 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:
Call me "old school", but.... I would go so far as to say that stealing technique is actually part of the teaching/learning paradigm itself. In order to steal, one is required to first exercise superior observation, listening and intuition skills. These basic skills are part and parcel of learning to learn a martial art. Without these basic skills, one is invariably consigned to martial mediocrity.

I've got many years behind me and of the many teachers, some have been very good Asian teachers and very traditional. I'm firmly convinced that there is a an "IQ threshold" built into the teachings, traditionally, in Japan and China (and Okinawa, to include all my experiences). The "steal my technique" and the showing something one time and then saying "Understand?" are both ways of winnowing the wheat from the chaff. Not everyone is going to understand these things and by making someone figure things out, you purify and temper the student.

If nothing else, the totality of a martial art, the techniques, the training, the practice, etc., take more development than any teacher can give, due to the myriad details. If you're not constantly thinking, you'll never get it. You can spot the people who are doing the thinking, so those are the ones you demonstrate things to... the good ones will figure out what your're doing, aka "steal the technique."

There was an anecdote somewhere (I think in one of the AJ interviews with some student of Ueshiba's) that discussed Ueshiba going and watching other experts in other arts and their techniques.. and then describing what they were really doing. That analysing of the really good teachers (it's a waste of time, IMO, to try to figure out what mediocre teachers are doing because there's a good chance they don't have it right).... that's the heart of becoming good in any martial art, in addition to constant practice.

My Opinion.

Mike

George S. Ledyard 01-13-2007 12:38 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:

Call me "old school", but.... I would go so far as to say that stealing technique is actually part of the teaching/learning paradigm itself. In order to steal, one is required to first exercise superior observation, listening and intuition skills. These basic skills are part and parcel of learning to learn a martial art. Without these basic skills, one is invariably consigned to martial mediocrity.

Old School refers to a training environment in which a very small and select group of people trained under the Founder. They got to put their hands on him multiple times daily. They could see his technique, they could feel his technique. They directly experienced the intuitive aspect of the interaction between themselves and the Founder.

Even under those conditions, how many folks "got it"? Every single former uchi deshi I have talked to said that they only got a portion of what O-sensei knew. One can see an incredibly wide range of ability amongst the folks who were directly trained under this system.

Sure, this system turned out a Saotome Sensei. But Sensei is an intuitive genius. He had the ability to learn effectively in this manner. Most people in American Aikido have not and will never train under a Shihan level instructor. They might see someone at that level once or twice a year. Unless they are quite senior they will probably never have a chance to take ukemi and "feel" the technique more than once or twice if they are lucky. Certainly, most people are not incredibly talented; they are, by definition, average.

No matter how you teach, there will always be the one who rises higher than the others. It will be the one who has the athletic ability, the appropriate learning style, the "Will" to go the distance. It will be the one who is willing to make the sacrifices required.

My concern is for everyone else. Aikido has been allowed, really encouraged, to grow. The powers that be are more inclined to simplify the art to fit this mass of practitioners than they are to develop a training system that would have any chance at all of turning out another Saotome Sensei or Nishio Sensei much less any of the giants who trained in the thirties who we regard as the almost legendary Aikido teachers.

I think that it is quite revealing that the teachers who began their Aikido in the days when it was still Aikido and then Aiki Budo, all developed very systematic training systems. Shirata Sensei did, Mochizuki Sensei did, Tomiki and Shioda Senseis did.

When I talk about this issue of "stealing" the technique, I know directly what I am talking about. I have trained with Saotome Sensei for thirty years. He teaches pretty much as he learned. He demonstrates but he doesn't explain. In recent years he has attempted to break down what he is doing but he still has no vocabulary to describe it. He looks out at everyone and sees that they aren't getting a particular thing and he stops them and shows them again. Perhaps slowly, perhaps more simply but he shows them. He learned this stuff intuitively and I do not think he even thinks of what he does in a way that breaks things down into component pieces. He sees the technique holistically, I think.

This was how I was trained. I have been largely unaware, until recently, of just how much I learned on a deep intuitive level from my teacher. But I have to say that I couldn't figure out what Sensei was doing without help. I had a training opportunity that very few have had or will ever have and I couldn't "get it" without the exposure I had to other teachers, many of whom were not even Aikido teachers. Angier Sensei, Kuroda Sensei, Ushiro Sensei, Tom Read Sensei all contributed to the breakthroughs I had concerning what my own teacher had been doing. I had my hands on Sensei every day for five years. I have had prolonged and repeated exposure to him for thirty years and I still needed help getting it.

Perhaps I am a slower learner than most but I don't think so. I am pretty good on both the visual and the tactile learning styles. But I still required the conceptual framework combined with the extremely finely broken down body mechanics exercises that these teachers gave me before I understood what sensei was doing. So if I have had that much trouble, given all the incredible advantages I have had in my training, what are the average folks doing?

If you are going to have thirty or forty thousand people doing Aikido in the US, without a better training system than we've had, the vast majority are condemned to doing Aikido-lite. If you look at how most folks are training, they will never, no matter how long they train in the manner they are, get to the point at which they are doing anything like what O-Sensei and the great uchi deshi were doing.

When I say a better training system I do not mean the simplified and dumbed down Aikido that is being created to give to the masses. I am talking about a systematic way to describe and teach what is going on in really high level technique. Of course, at that point it is up to the practitioners to make the effort to get there. But at least the requisite instruction is there for those who choose to make the effort.

I am absolutely convinced that, whereas most people will never train intensively enough to get to Shihan level, everyone in Aikido is capable of mastering the principles at work in what they do, at least at some level. Everyone is capable of doing Aikido with some understanding of Aiki. People just need to train smarter. To do that they need to understand exactly what they are trying to do. Then the ones who practice the hardest will be the best.

If we are going to pass on an Aikido that has anything at all to do with what O-Sensei created, we need Aikido teachers, not just Aikido demonstrators. I do not accept that the masses out there are around simply to support the small group at the top who are taking their training to a high level. Sure I require the support of many people to be able to do what I do, my own students in my dojo and the many folks who invite me to teach at their schools. But it is my job to deliver the goods when I teach. It is my job to pass on the best Aikido I can to the largest number of folks who I possibly can. They do not exist just to support me. I exist to teach them. Making them guess for decades at a time what I am doing does not fulfill that mission. That's not teaching.

eyrie 01-13-2007 04:20 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

George S. Ledyard wrote:
When I say a better training system I do not mean the simplified and dumbed down Aikido that is being created to give to the masses. I am talking about a systematic way to describe and teach what is going on in really high level technique. Of course, at that point it is up to the practitioners to make the effort to get there. But at least the requisite instruction is there for those who choose to make the effort.

On this point I agree. As Mike has pointed out, there will be some who simply won't "get it" - even if you do spell it out for them. Add to that the myriad details and complexities, teachers can only pass on a fraction of the sum total of their life experience. It is up to the student to comprehend, apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate.

Thus my point, that part of the prerequisite training should perhaps be to facilitate an environment where students are taught to learn how to learn.

This doesn't necessarily need apply to Martial Arts per se, but learning in general. I'm merely suggesting that perhaps we need to also look at effective learning strategies, rather than solely on effective teaching strategies.

Mike Sigman 01-13-2007 04:24 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:
I'm merely suggesting that perhaps we need to also look at effective learning strategies, rather than solely on effective teaching strategies.

It's a good point, but I think it needs to be understood that a lot of westerners are into Asian martial arts as a type of harmless role play... the discussions of how best to teach or how best to learn really don't apply. ;)

Mike "Gimme a blue-denim hakama, Please" Sigman

eyrie 01-13-2007 04:39 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Mike Sigman wrote:
the discussions of how best to teach or how best to learn really don't apply.

Good point. So, is there any point in raising the teaching bar if the learning bar is going to stay where it is?

Or are you talking about raising our own bars for both teaching and (self-directed) learning?

George S. Ledyard 01-13-2007 04:54 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:

This doesn't necessarily need apply to Martial Arts per se, but learning in general. I'm merely suggesting that perhaps we need to also look at effective learning strategies, rather than solely on effective teaching strategies.

Whereas, I certainly agree that there are folks out there who simply don't want to know, are quite happy doing what they do, and who find anyone pointing out that they could be doing better a distinct challenge, it is not my experience that this is generally the case.

I travel quite a bit teaching around the country. I see people putting in a lot of hours, attending seminars and camps, recovering from training injuries, spending a lot of money on their training etc. My experience is that these people do not lack for enthusiasm or commitment. They simply have no one giving their training direction. Anyone who can help them to make some headway towards what they see their teachers doing is given an incredible welcome.

Surely, I have taught at dojos in which my presentation of the art has caused some consternation. This has never been on the part of the students, who have been uniformly receptive, but rather on the part of the teachers. Some few of these people have not wanted to be shaken out of their complacency, are very happy being the big fish in the small pond, and did not appreciate a presentation of Aikido that they understood little better than their students. Needless to say, I didn't get asked back to those dojos (although I find that the students who trained at these seminars are apt to show up at other venues where I teach).

So, I would say that, it's probably 90% - 10% in favor of the group of students that are completely open and receptive to anything which they see as helping them get better. The percentage that isn't tends to get a bit larger, the more senior we are talking about. The more investment in time one has in, the more status one has attained doing one thing in particular, the more likely it is that new ways of doing things will be unwelcome.

That's why it was so much more impressive to see someone like Ikeda Sensei at the Expos, stripping off his hakama and training in the classes of the other teachers. That's the mark of someone who is really serious about his training. He modeled that attitude for all of us to see and imitate. And it is the model I follow myself.

I strongly feel that far more of the responsibility for passing on the art rests with the teachers than with the students. If the students aren't training hard enough or smart enough, well whose fault is that? It is their teachers who bear the responsibility for not teaching them how to train. But in modern Aikido how many of the teachers themselves had proper training? There are literally hundreds and hundreds of dojos out there run by shodans, nidans and sandans who have never trained directly under a Shihan level teacher or even with someone who did.

Look at the commitment of these people who spend their hard earned money building dojos in towns that cannot possibly supply enough students to ever make the dojo a paying propostion. Look at how many folks there are who spend their limited vacation time each year going off to Aikido Camp, rather than some resort somewhere. These people love Aikido. It is an art that they have devoted themselves to. They deserve better than they are getting. If they are given better direction they will run with it on their own and the level of Aikido will be collectively raised. We are part of a huge pyramid effort with a small number of high level people at the top. If only a few of them begin to pass on what they know in an effective fashion, the makeup of the whole pyramid will change. In this endeavor, the efforts of a small group of people at the top can make a huge difference.

George S. Ledyard 01-13-2007 05:16 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Mike Sigman wrote:
It's a good point, but I think it needs to be understood that a lot of westerners are into Asian martial arts as a type of harmless role play... the discussions of how best to teach or how best to learn really don't apply.Sigman

Part of teaching is to impart a sense of what an art could and should be. I can't imagine that someone, having been exposed to your level of skill and ability to teach, for instance, could be satisfied with something less. I think that most Westerners do the "harmless role play" in place of something more substantial because they have not been exposed in any consistent fashion to something better.

The problem with the various principles at work in "aiki" arts is that there aren't many gradations of performance. It's not like you can almost get it. It's very unforgiving in many ways. Much of what we try to do either works or it doesn't. It usually doesn't "sort of" work. Not if we are talking about "aiki". Once you start to grasp what is going on, then there are certainly levels of skill after that. But it is rather like riding a bike... it seems impossible right up until the instant at which you "get it". Once you can ride, then there are certainly levels of skill that can be attained through diligant practice. But it required a quantum breakthrough to get to the point at which one was riding at all.

It's true that many people do not want to admit that they have put so much time into something and they still cannot "ride the bike". So they redefine the art to fit their own attainment. But that only works until the folks around them see someone who is actually performing on a different level. Then it's impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. That's why many senior folks are so reluctant to go out and train out there in the big bad world... they might have to admit to themselves that there are realms of knowledge that they don't know.

But that trap is really for the seniors, the ones with an investment. I generally find the less senior folks to be quite open to anything that they see as helping them be better. It's our job as teachers to set the standards, to show what our art should be and could be. People see that and they do respond.

Mike Sigman 01-13-2007 05:36 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

George S. Ledyard wrote:
It's true that many people do not want to admit that they have put so much time into something and they still cannot "ride the bike". So they redefine the art to fit their own attainment. But that only works until the folks around them see someone who is actually performing on a different level. Then it's impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. That's why many senior folks are so reluctant to go out and train out there in the big bad world... they might have to admit to themselves that there are realms of knowledge that they don't know.

But that trap is really for the seniors, the ones with an investment. I generally find the less senior folks to be quite open to anything that they see as helping them be better. It's our job as teachers to set the standards, to show what our art should be and could be. People see that and they do respond.

I think those are good and accurate points, George. The standards are already changing, I think, so I'm curious to watch how a lot of this falls out.

Oddly enough, I'm in the middle of trying to sort my feelings about exactly how much of a change I'm really pulling for. Ultimately, I want to see enough of a change so that Aikido, Taiji, and other arts done by westerners clear a threshold where they are "viable as martial arts, for sure", but I'm not sure how much more I wish for. For the record, I think that level is now assured. Some people are already getting it, which means that others must follow.

But it's worth pointing out that to really get the level of skills that would be appreciated in the old traditional world of martial arts probably takes more effort than most people will ever put out, so getting beyond this first step will be hard for most. Secondly, there are viable reasons for limiting information in the way that O-Sensei and others (in many different arts) have done.

Regardless, maybe the real point to make is that "stealing a technique" actually is a poor term in the sense that it implies you can get something by subterfuge, etc., without having to work so hard. The counterpoint I'd make is that even if you "steal it", you're going to be in for a lot of work to perfect it. ;)

Best.

Mike

eyrie 01-13-2007 05:47 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

George S. Ledyard wrote:
I strongly feel that far more of the responsibility for passing on the art rests with the teachers than with the students. If the students aren't training hard enough or smart enough, well whose fault is that? It is their teachers who bear the responsibility for not teaching them how to train. ...

My question is, do arts which have a more systematized teaching methodology tend to create more and better quality students? Or is it par for course?

I don't think the issue is limited to Aikido. I'm pretty certain that this problem runs across a broad spectrum of (modern) martial arts. I agree, it is a teaching issue, and responsibility lies solely with the teacher.

And then there is the question: Are we passing on an "art", i.e. a modality of expression, or a systematized method of training, i.e. the "craft"?

Quote:

They deserve better than they are getting. If they are given better direction they will run with it on their own and the level of Aikido will be collectively raised. We are part of a huge pyramid effort with a small number of high level people at the top. If only a few of them begin to pass on what they know in an effective fashion, the makeup of the whole pyramid will change. In this endeavor, the efforts of a small group of people at the top can make a huge difference.
I don't disagree that we all deserve better, considering the time, effort and money we have all sunk into something we love doing. But I'm of the opinion that enhanced observation, listening and intuition skills is the precursor to developing better martial artists.

Otherwise, all we're doing is flushing money down the toilet. And yes, I agree, that effective teaching is also a necessary part of the equation for raising the collective level. I'm not disagreeing the point, but it works both ways.

Mike alluded to this earlier on... "that analysing of the really good teachers... is the heart of becoming good in any martial art". I believe it is not just aikido - but ANY martial art. I.e. learning how to steal techniques is prerequisite to being able to merely watch another MA performer and be able to analyze their movements and gauge both the level of ability and subtlety.

I'm talking about raising the bar from the learning side as well, by giving students the skills to learn how to learn... not just from aikido teachers, but from other MAs.

I have trained with many high-ranking teachers across a broad spectrum of martial arts. These are teachers that take the time to demonstrate and explain the finer points of high-level technique. Yet, on many occasions, I will catch the teacher overtly showing something very subtle, which will inevitably be glossed over by most others in the same room - even by their own students. And they know who gets it and who doesn't, because when understanding is mutually acknowledged, such things need not be said.

eyrie 01-13-2007 08:35 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Mike Sigman wrote:
Secondly, there are viable reasons for limiting information in the way that O-Sensei and others (in many different arts) have done.

Regardless, maybe the real point to make is that "stealing a technique" actually is a poor term in the sense that it implies you can get something by subterfuge, etc., without having to work so hard. The counterpoint I'd make is that even if you "steal it", you're going to be in for a lot of work to perfect it. ;)

Why would it be necessary to limit the information? Why not simply explain clearly the direction that the student should be working towards? If you could "steal" it, it almost seems pointless to hide or limit the information to begin with. What viable reasons could possibly exist that would warrant such subterfuge? After all, it might take someone twice as long to figure it out, if they have to steal it first. I believe this is the point George is making.

Whilst "stealing" might connotate a fraudulent, felonious or clandestine act, I think it is generally understood in the sense of gleaning something in an unobtrusive manner, by means of gradual and imperceptible appropriation - merely by being more vigilant in the way we observe, listen and intuit - which I believe is (an integral) part of the training itself. I believe it is what gave Ueshiba his uncanny and seemingly extra-sensory abilities. I also believe that the sort of 24/7 vigilance required by the uchideshi to Sensei's every needs is part of this development approach.

This goes back to what was said earlier about teachers only being able to convey a fraction of their knowledge. I believe that "stealing" or allow the student to steal, is a far more expedient means of conveying subtlety of meaning without overly lengthy explanations.

I like to think that most people generally aren't martially challenged... but clearly some need more explanation (or hands-on demonstration for the visual-kinesthetics), than others.

Mike Sigman 01-13-2007 08:54 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:
Why would it be necessary to limit the information? Why not simply explain clearly the direction that the student should be working towards? If you could "steal" it, it almost seems pointless to hide or limit the information to begin with. What viable reasons could possibly exist that would warrant such subterfuge? After all, it might take someone twice as long to figure it out, if they have to steal it first. I believe this is the point George is making.

Well, when I said that I was thinking more of the idea that... after a certain basic level has been taught to all students... a teacher can rightfully reserve his own knowledge of "advanced techniques" as a gift to those who he feels deserves it. In other words, most of what we've argued back and forth about for many months and many threads has been about missing and necessary *basic* information. The information I was thinking about as rightfully limited would be above that.

From a traditional standpoint, there was also the recognized necessity of keeping your art as viable as possible by limiting the "secret knowledge" to as few people as possibility. That necessity, or tangents to that necessity, might justify limiting some pieces of information.

I enjoy these discussions about basics and I would be happy to see more of the ki-type body mechanics become widely known to Aikido students, but there are areas of things I don't even publicly hint at (even on QiJing) because I want to be able to choose who I give things to.... it's just human nature to do things like that, I think.
Quote:

Whilst "stealing" might connotate a fraudulent, felonious or clandestine act, I think it is generally understood in the sense of gleaning something in an unobtrusive manner, by means of gradual and imperceptible appropriation - merely by being more vigilant in the way we observe, listen and intuit - which I believe is (an integral) part of the training itself.
Well, I was talking about something else, in terms of my comment about "stealing a technique". What I meant was that "stealing a technique" was really "figuring out how to do something". I have used the same analogy that George used, the one about "learning how to ride a bicycle", as an example of how the body skills can be viewed. It's a good analogy because it indicates pretty clearly how these things aren't that hard to do, even though it's difficult as hell to describe how to do them in writing. However, it's not a complete analogy, so let me attach a second analogy by saying that these skills are like "doing the splits.... you may know how to do them after someone explains and shows you how, but until your body is conditioned to do them, you'll never do them." Howzat? ;)

What I mean is that even if you "steal a technique", knowing how and doing it will often require a lot of work to condition your body, your hara, your "connection", whatever, to the point of doing it. :)

Best.

Mike

Lan Powers 01-13-2007 09:02 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
< Thus my point, that part of the prerequisite training should perhaps be to facilitate an environment where students are taught to learn how to learn. >

Fortunately, my Sensei has said many times that the most important thing he teaches or can teach is to learn how to learn.

It is very encouraging to hear that others have given this aspect of training the same weight.
Lan

Jorge Garcia 01-14-2007 04:17 AM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

George S. Ledyard wrote:
If we are going to pass on an Aikido that has anything at all to do with what O-Sensei created, we need Aikido teachers, not just Aikido demonstrators.

In this discussion, this is one of the key components and I am afraid I don't have any good news to share. I have been a professional educator for some time both in the school system, in Aikido and in church venues. What you have out there are gifted teachers, gifted learners and then there's all the rest.

1) A gifted teacher is one that has the ability to sense the need of the student and who can create a paradigm or method that will help that individual to understand by means of an external communication. The "gift" is the ability to sense the need and then the ability to know the learners capacity and construct a bridge of communication. I do that in my school classes and it is on the spot work that is very individualized. I am a non conformist in that sense in that I throw everything the class is doing out the window to do that. My peers are more concerned about moving the entire class forward thus sacrificing those "teaching moments". I call that "group" or "mass education". In that past, I have also been known to refer to that as "forced education". It's the "just do it" or the "I have to do it" mentality.
By this definition, I have had very poor teachers in my life.There are so many people who are teaching that have no gift for teaching. I see my own instructors teaching and making mistake after mistake not realizing or seeing who they have in their class. They make no adjustments. It is a gift to be able to see, sense, and act appropriately. The rank is not the issue. I know a 6th dan and an 8th dan who are great practitioners but poor communicators of what what they are doing on any level.

2) The gifted learner is one who seems to have an innate ability to see, internalize,and improve on what they look at. In my life, I have had two students like this. One in the school where I work and one in Aikido. They were truly amazing but I knew it wasn't me, it was a gift inside of them that very few have. I might suggest that Saotome Shihan is a person like that. My own teacher is that way as well. This is something a "system" cannot give. It comes from God.

3) Then there's all the rest. We are believers in systems. I am not opposed to them but having been heavily involved in the educational systems, I am convinced they hinder learning more than they help it. They are impersonal, they work toward group education which tends to bypass and minimize the individual. The system has no place for gifted teachers or gifted learners in the long run. Look at the hard time most geniuses had in school, even in the area of their genius. Most people don't know that the more we have certified and reformed our educational institutions, the lower our test scores have dropped over the last 50 years. The companies that make the exams who work for the institutions have dumbed down the standard achievement tests every year so the drop in test scores wouldn't be so noticeable. Yet, in the colonial times and even during the medieval period, the great minds were nurtured in systems that catered to in the individual and not to the group. Their methods were completely different than what we do today. I am hopelessly at a loss for words here. It would take volumes to explain what I am trying to say. I just have little faith in our modern systems.

What can we do?
Nothing I'm afraid. As Aikido or any learning endeavor grows and has more adherents that want to learn, it will become more difficult to sense and act on the needs of the individuals. Eventually, the massive needs will cause a collapse of the system as it falls under it's own weight and then decentralization will occur and things will build up naturally through that process. When nature takes things down, things are restored for a time, until we get too large and massive to feel and sense the needs. Movements of all kinds, be they religions, philosophies or social groups rise up in response to felt needs and gifted people arise and have the freedom to use their giftings and there is blessing and growth. Then as larger numbers of people want to experience the gifting of the gifted person , they organize things to be able to spread it to larger numbers of people. Then the movement begins to lose the personal touch and leadership of the gifted person. Disciples arise claiming closeness to the source and are respected for that but the gifting had already started to divide itself. Gradually, new layers are created and as we get further from the source, more diffusion occurs as those who never saw or felt the original gifted one mispercieve, change or adapt things so that the original structure starts to veer off course. Now and then, there are new gifted ones but as the new organizations are arising (seeking to preserve their version of "the gift'), they reject new gifted ones and they end up starting new groups and more diffusion occurs. It is all heading in the wrong direction until we have to start anew.

Aikido lite is what we let the students do when we can't get them to understand or do what we are doing as instructors.

That's it in a nutshell.
Jorge

eyrie 01-14-2007 04:34 AM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Mike Sigman wrote:
In other words, most of what we've argued back and forth about for many months and many threads has been about missing and necessary *basic* information.... I enjoy these discussions about basics and I would be happy to see more of the ki-type body mechanics become widely known to Aikido students, but there are areas of things I don't even publicly hint at (even on QiJing) because I want to be able to choose who I give things to.... it's just human nature to do things like that, I think.

Which is the point I'm making, that some element of having to figure it out for yourself still remains. But I do get your point, one shouldn't be required to steal what is basic and necessary... The issue is - what is the *basic* and *necessary* information that's missing.... if you don't know what's missing (or that anything is missing) how would you know what you're missing?

You've mentioned this several times before, where we might be discussing some point regarding some aspect of the "basics", and even though some of us may respond "oh yeah, we do that too", it is not necessarily representative of any real understanding of what the "basics" are.

So, what needs to happen here? Do we need to go "outside" to "get it"... knowing full well that we may have to resort to "stealing" from someone else as well? Or do we stay and figure it out in the hope that sensei favors us enough to divulge the necessary information?

Quote:

What I mean is that even if you "steal a technique", knowing how and doing it will often require a lot of work to condition your body, your hara, your "connection", whatever, to the point of doing it. :)
Not disputing this. Usually, those that are able to steal techniques, are usually the ones that already do so. Yang Cheng Fu comes to mind... Helio Gracie spent 6 years watching his brother teach...

On the flip side, "perfect" practice makes perfect... half knowing something or not knowing it at all and having that practice ingrained is a complete waste of time and effort.

Kevin Leavitt 01-14-2007 07:24 AM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Good discussion, I have read through much of the discussion between you guys, George, Ignatius, and Mike.

One thing that comes to my mind constantly reading through this is :

Accountability.

The teachers do have a responsibility to teach correct and relevant lessons.

Students have the responsibility to come to class, pay attention and apply themselves.

But what happens when we are teaching the wrong things? (George Ledyard talks about this above, when discussing Shodans and the like teaching classes, with little or no guidance and development).

So, I see the core is Accountability.

There is only one way to have accountability.

1. Develop a set of measureable standards upon which all are measured.
2. Then restrict the ability to teach to only those who can teach it correctly.

The problem is this:

How do you develop accountability in aikido? by the nature of it being a DO art, this becomes inherently illusive.

It is professed to be based on a martial art, so do we build standards of effectiveness based on physical martial skill? I think at some level you need to do this.

How do you do it without freely opening yourself up? (Open source foundation much like in the software world)

Using a competitive model? It does work successfully for other arts, but then it is professed in aikido doctrine to take away from the understanding of the basic goals.

It would certainly blow the world of aikido away as we know it if our Shihan had to present senior students in a competitive enviornment to face others to demonstrate the effectiveness of our teachers. We might just get down to who was martially effective or not.

That aside, lets take the argument the other way. Physical Martial Effectiveness is not primary, nor important, but only an aide to help you develop along the path of aiki.

Now how do you hold someone accountable for what they are teaching?

Do you say that they "get it" when they reach a certain level of understanding, which seems to inherently imply that they could be skillfull in someway that could now manifest itself in the unification of mental, physical, and spiritual?

How do you measure this?

At some level be able to demonstrate the mastery of this synthesis of mind, body, and spirit.

Don't give me the cop out, I could show you, but i'd have to kill you in order to do it, or it is much too dangerous to do this. Bull Crap! Someone with mastery should be able to control the situation adequately.

Personally I think there are very few people that can adequately do this without the props and norms that they are used to surrounding themselves with.

A noble idea, but if we did honestly try and hold the accountable, the world of aiki would be turned upside down.

However, I don't think the responsibilty lay solely within the instructors, but also with the student. We as students must demand accountability of our instructors. We must take charge and responsibilty for our own instruction...and NOT adopt a victim mentality and allow excuses such as, "I'am too old, too far away, too uncoordinated, I will put my faith in sensei."

It is a shared responsibility and we must question and hold our teachers and ourselves accountable.

Mike Sigman 01-14-2007 08:49 AM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Good post, Kevin. The one factor that should be acknowledged and understood is that many more instructors would know a lot more of the things worth knowing if that knowledge had been freely given to them. I.e., While I flog a lot of the instructor populace in order to light a fire under their butts, I recognize that at the base of it, it's not really their fault.

On the other hand, some people just don't get things, even in day-to-day Aikido, etc., so "learning" can be a complex discussion in itself.

Best.

Mike

Mike Sigman 01-14-2007 09:44 AM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:
Which is the point I'm making, that some element of having to figure it out for yourself still remains.

I absolutely agree. However, part of my point is that I personally see a certain beauty to the idea of "you figure it out"... it's a method of conferring a "degree" on the guy who can show he can do the stuff which is supposed to be reserved for the best and smartest anyway. Cute, isn't it?
Quote:

But I do get your point, one shouldn't be required to steal what is basic and necessary... The issue is - what is the *basic* and *necessary* information that's missing.... if you don't know what's missing (or that anything is missing) how would you know what you're missing?
Some of that's going to be open to interpretation, but I think the Ki-Society basic-movement stuff I saw (by some, not all) at the Shaner workshop should be like a given at every Aikido dojo, regardless of style. As I've said, I think their stuff can be taught quicker, more directly, a little more sophisticated in upper ability, etc., but that's just an opinion and quibble.... the point is that Tohei was more or less laying out an acceptable ground level for these skills. That Shaner-workshop-level-stuff would be my recommendation for a baseline of skills that are a "must" in any Aikido dojo.
Quote:

So, what needs to happen here? Do we need to go "outside" to "get it"... knowing full well that we may have to resort to "stealing" from someone else as well? Or do we stay and figure it out in the hope that sensei favors us enough to divulge the necessary information?
It's already happening. Look at what's been happening the in the last couple of years:

People in many different arts are beginning to realize that the basic mechanisms for doing a lot of the ki/kokyu stuff are in other arts, too.... so they're already out there looking for information and getting some. A sterling example would be Ikeda Sensei getting information from Ushiro. Now the important thing to note about Ushiro Sensei is that while he's certainly got some ki/kokyu skills, he does a variation of them that is not the same as Ueshiba or some of the early Aikido people did. The other *very* important thing to note is that just because someone in one art knows how to do these skills, you can't rightfully expect everyone who does that art to have those skills. For instance, even though Ushiro uses these skills in his karate, most karate people (particularly in the West) don't have a clue what these skills are. Just like some people in Aikido have these skills... but if you go down to Joe Blow's Dojo you'll find he's clueless, even if he can "talk the talk".

Some people are going to see Akuzawa. Some people are going to see Dan. Some people are going to see Shaner. Some people are going to see Abe, Inaba, etc., etc. The cat's already out of the bag.

The point is that people in Aikido proper are already sourcing this information, so the process is starting. There's not much anyone can do to stop it. Fairly soon, some dojo's and groups are going to have these skills and some dojo's and groups will not. I.e., there will be some further factionalization of Aikido. Ultimately, not only in Aikido but in other arts where this is happening, the "not-have" lines will die out or be relegated to backwater areas.

The idea of "going outside", while I understand it, is sort of alien to my way of thinking. For me to "go outside" of the Asian martial arts would mean that I would have to go to Greco-Roman wrestling, Jogo do Pau, or something..... i.e., I tend to see the Chinese-Japanese-Indonesian-Korean arts as all being pretty much based on the same things, so it's not really "outside". When Ueshiba studied his other arts, I think that while he recognized them as separate arts in their own right, he also still saw them as being part of the general martial arts grouping which he was interested in... he didn't see those arts as "outside", if you see what I mean. Aikido is only a closed-world to many of the people inside of it.... any reasonably knowledgeable 'outsider' sees it as just part of the family.

What would I do? I'd go where the information was, IF the information was not only there but also available to learn. Going someplace to have someone lord their skills over you is longterm not worthwhile. Personally, I went and learned from a lot of people until I felt like they were at the limit of what they would show me. Then I worked by myself and looked for the next guy. I relied on the "One Upmanship Principle". I would be nice, work hard, and show them what I could already do.... and of course if they could one-up me, they just had to, in order to keep the pecking order straight. ;) But, to get back on topic, you can't figure this stuff out totally on your own and you can't just learn it in a month.

So I'd suggest people go see Ushiro, go see what Rob John and Akuzawa can do, go see what Dan can do, go see Abe Sensei, Tohei, go see Shaner Sensei. Steal wherever you can. The instructors are the ones who should be moving the fastest on this, because it's already happening around them.

On a side note, I posted a comparison of 2 videos the other day on QiJing which I think is worth mulling over. It's a brief look at a small part of the overall skills included in the ki/kokyu area (by no means is it meant to represent all there is). The first video is of Ueshiba showing a few bits of bouncing Uke's away using kokyu and ki (he's over 80 years old, so his level is not up for discussion. Period). The second video is someone skilled in Yiquan (I-chuan) doing some of the same things. These are Asia-wide demonstrations of the same power and you'll find them in Ueshiba, Yiquan, Taiji, Japanese sword experts, Xingyi, you name it. Understanding that these skills are common to Asian arts is a big step forward:

Ueshiba Sensei demo:
http://www.neijia.com/UeshibaKokyu.wmv

Master Sum demo:
http://homepage.mac.com/thewayofyiqu...Theater24.html

Regards,

Mike

George S. Ledyard 01-14-2007 04:14 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Kevin Leavitt wrote:

But what happens when we are teaching the wrong things? (George Ledyard talks about this above, when discussing Shodans and the like teaching classes, with little or no guidance and development).

The real problem is the popularity of the art. Everyone wants to train. If they move somewhere there is no Aikido, they start a dojo. It doesn't matter what their level is... they open a place so that they can continue to train.

Ostensibly they belong to an organization which is happy to have another school, happy to have more members. I have never heard of anyone saying, no, you are not ready yet, go train with someone else until you are ready. It's always, go ahead and start your own place. You can go to these dinky little towns and there will be a Federation dojo and an ASU dojo or perhaps a Ki Society dojo. The important thing is the connection to the organization... There's absolutely no way some Sensei from another organization would tell a student to come train with me rather than open his own place.

So we have thousands of dojos out there. They are run by well-meaning folks who genuinely love the art. Their students know less than they do so it seems fine. But pretty soon the lack of development on the part of the teacher begins to hold back the students. He doesn't say in his Yellow Page ad, train with me, I can take you up to 1st kyu but then you'll have to move somewhere else... He's a Sensei. He is the authority.

But he can't actually do what his teacher is doing... so how does he square that? What he does is say "Saotome Sensei is amazing". His teacher is an uchi deshi, is especially talented, had special attention from the Founder etc. I can't do what he does because there is no one else who can do what he does. This is how he lives with himself. It's not that he doesn't know what he should know to be able to teach, it's that Sensei is special and none of us can aspire to his level. So it's ok that we don't get it because we are mere mortals.

Affording some kind of mystical status to ones teacher is the biggest excuse for not progressing that there is. There was a time when you didn't open a dojo without attaining a certain rank. That rank actually meant something. This is not true any more. Anyone can teach. It's totally "caveat emptor" out there.

These dojos and teachers are not going away. There is no authority that will say, "You need to close up, you have no idea what you are doing." It's a free country. If there are students, they are free to train with someone who is incompetent if they wish. So the only solution I can see is for the folks who genuinely do have some idea what they are doing to get out there and establish mentoring relationships with these folks and bring them along.

The Shihan have all been over here for thirty years or more. They have trained their deshi, the ones that they see as their "direct students". Just being a member of an organization that has a Shihan presiding doesn't make you that Shihan's student in his mind. You are just a member. You can progress or not and that Shihan will not lose one iota of sleep over it. What needs to happen is that a network of relationships between the mid and low level instructors and the few senior teachers get established. They must mentor these folks out in the hinterlands.

At the same time, these seniors need to be training and progressing on their own. They need to get out and experience what is out there. Every Rokudan should be seeking out new experiences for his training. The moment they stop progressing, the whole system is doomed. They are the only resouce for the folks underneath them. if they don't get better, the art will not get better, in fact it will degenerate.

The kiss of death is the idea that the seniors are supposed to represent some organization or style. They start to see looking beyond as some sort of disloyalty. That is complete BS. The folks who have that attitude will be left behind by those who don't cripple themselves by tying themselves to some model that is supposed to be written in stone and unchanging.

At the same time, they have to stay within the organizations as they progress because the organizations are the mechanism by which the experience of the few will be passed to the many. I am talking about total subversion of the system. As seniors we need to bring into our own groups what they will never receive from within. Otherwise we are all prisoner to the limitations of our own teachers.

This requires people who are willing to go outside their comfort levels and try things at which they are not expert. They must be willing to weather the displeasure of teachers and seniors who will be threatened by their new knowledege. They must develop themselves to the point at which their skill simply is unquestionable. If they can demonstrate this skill there will be those from within their group who will not content themselves unless they too can get it. Others will reject what they see no matter how good it is because it will be "different". But the ones who go after it will progress and the ones who don't will not.

I am talking about the death of styles here... Get rid of any notion of styles. It's about getting better at Aikido. Anything which will help you get better, to understand more should be part of your program. Anything which doesn't should be discarded. Since each teacher will have a different set of experiences it will make sense to train widely. Perhaps, although this is a bit much to hope for, the teachers themselves will look to each other for new ideas.

I am of the opinion that the system as it stands is largely failing the students. Those who have made it have done so almost despite the system rather than because of it.

People need to seek out the teachers who can and will show them what they need to know. If a teacher isn't doing this, find other people to train with. To paraphrase an old anti-war slogun from my youth, "What if they gave a seminar and nobody came." Don't keep supporting teachers that do not deliver. There are folks out there who know what you want to know. Do not accept leadership which limits you. Find and support those teachers who deliver the goods and the will suppport you.

eyrie 01-14-2007 04:52 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Mike Sigman wrote:
The idea of "going outside", while I understand it, is sort of alien to my way of thinking. For me to "go outside" of the Asian martial arts would mean that I would have to go to Greco-Roman wrestling, Jogo do Pau, or something..... i.e., I tend to see the Chinese-Japanese-Indonesian-Korean arts as all being pretty much based on the same things, so it's not really "outside".

I meant going outside of one's current teacher/school/style/system.... but I see your point. Going outside of ethnocentrically related systems would be going too far outside... say from Aikido to Capoiera - there *may* be *some* similarities, but I think it would be more than a bit of a stretch...

Quote:

When Ueshiba studied his other arts, I think that while he recognized them as separate arts in their own right, he also still saw them as being part of the general martial arts grouping which he was interested in... he didn't see those arts as "outside", if you see what I mean. Aikido is only a closed-world to many of the people inside of it.... any reasonably knowledgeable 'outsider' sees it as just part of the family.
Essentially, what you're saying is that even though these arts might be "separate", there are some threads of commonality (part of the "family")? So it would behove people to seek out the commonalities (of ethnocentrically-related MAs) rather than highlight the differences, in order to steal....er... I mean seek out the "missing" information?

Quote:

Some of that's going to be open to interpretation, but I think the Ki-Society basic-movement stuff I saw (by some, not all) at the Shaner workshop should be like a given at every Aikido dojo, regardless of style. As I've said, I think their stuff can be taught quicker, more directly, a little more sophisticated in upper ability, etc., but that's just an opinion and quibble.... the point is that Tohei was more or less laying out an acceptable ground level for these skills. That Shaner-workshop-level-stuff would be my recommendation for a baseline of skills that are a "must" in any Aikido dojo.
Whilst I understand what you mean by baseline skills, I think part of the problem of going "outside" (my meaning), is that most people are generally unaware of what they are looking for. They feel like they're not getting something or missing something, but they don't yet know what it is. And their current teacher is not giving it to them. So what invariably happens is a kind of itinerant dojo-hopping... in search of the elusive - until one "works it out".

I agree, establishing a "baseline" is a positive step forward, BUT... WHAT is the baseline? And by WHOSE standards? Especially if such *basic* and *necessary* information is "open to interpretation"...

Quote:

People in many different arts are beginning to realize that the basic mechanisms for doing a lot of the ki/kokyu stuff are in other arts, too.... so they're already out there looking for information and getting some..... These are Asia-wide demonstrations of the same power and you'll find them in Ueshiba, Yiquan, Taiji, Japanese sword experts, Xingyi, you name it. Understanding that these skills are common to Asian arts is a big step forward:
This goes back to my other point... even if you can start to understand that these skills are common to Asian MA, if you don't know what you're looking for, how do you know what to look for?

Perhaps analysing what the similarities are between Ueshiba and Master Sum, would be a start?

Mike Sigman 01-14-2007 05:12 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:
I I agree, establishing a "baseline" is a positive step forward, BUT... WHAT is the baseline? And by WHOSE standards? Especially if such *basic* and *necessary* information is "open to interpretation"...

I think the baseline is any degree of kokyu/ki forces, no matter what terminology you use for them. In my way of defining things (which I use because in my opinion it makes things easier to explain), there are the "jin" forces and the body-development of the "qi" which is a complex issue, but I mainly mean the myofascial coordination part of it. The Ki Society calls both things together the "Ki", but in reality we're talking about the same thing. There are other variations of the ki and kokyu terminology, in addition, but they all refer to the same basic skills.

Regardless of the broad spectrum of ability in the Ki Society people I have seen (some have it OK or even good, some are totally missing it or are missing a portion of it), they are within the baseline, as a style, more so than any other Aikido group that I've seen, although they seem to have a sort of self-imposed ceiling on how high they can go.

There are some other groups I've seen that have a few people developing skills to some limited degree, but it doesn't qualify as an achieve baseline (IMO) for the whole style. I think there needs to be some sort of gathering where the idea of a baseline is discussed, demonstrated, and so forth. Whether there is ever such an agreement or not, some groups are already pulling ahead on their own initiative, so ultimately (but at a much more distant time) a lot of this will come to pass anyway, I think.
Quote:

This goes back to my other point... even if you can start to understand that these skills are common to Asian MA, if you don't know what you're looking for, how do you know what to look for?
I think you have to be shown the odd feel of this stuff in enough variations to get a clear idea of the total of what you're looking for. So you're right, that part needs some help.
Quote:

Perhaps analysing what the similarities are between Ueshiba and Master Sum, would be a start?
Interestingly enough, what they did is simple, on one level... on another level the differences in what they did are fairly complex. I don't want to get into the complex part because it would be a complete waste of time on this forum, but the simple part is interesting because it's a good window into the whole set. However, it's probably a topic for a different thread, rather than for this one on thievery. ;)

Regards,

Mike

eyrie 01-14-2007 05:39 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

the simple part is interesting because it's a good window into the whole set. However, it's probably a topic for a different thread, rather than for this one on thievery. ;)
Agreed. But I wasn't really talking about thievery... :D I think one needs a certain (baseline? :p ) level of observation skills in order to steal... er... I mean... see "beyond technique". ;)

Mike Sigman 01-14-2007 06:40 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Quote:

Ignatius Teo wrote:
I think one needs a certain (baseline? :p ) level of observation skills in order to steal... er... I mean... see "beyond technique". ;)

Yeah, although, I really was only offering the videos to show the same thing that Ueshiba did is easy to find in other arts, implying that the information is available more than would be supposed by the average Aikidoist. In terms of "stealing" those bounce techniques, you're right... it's not that simple if you don't already have the baseline knowledge. In fact, if you have the baseline knowledge you may or may not be able to spot all that went into O-Sensei's version of it and it would be just about impossible to understand (even with baseline knowledge) what Master Sum had in his version, unless someone showed you those types of add-ons.

Hmmmmmm.... this gets more complicated than I thought. I would probably still have to tell the average Ki-Society person how to do the same bounce that Ueshiba Sensei did because I doubt they know how to use that particular facet of the baseline information. Hmmmm. Yet even the complex methods still rely on the baseline information and we could generalize by saying that both Ueshiba and Sum used the kokyu/jin force coming from the ground to accept and then reply at an advantageous angle to the incoming force.

The problem with an ordinary observer just watching and trying to "steal" the technique is that you can't see the manipulation of the force angles... all you can see is the external movement of the body. Also, you can't see the conditioning of the body and what is going on inside the body's connective structure.

Gernot mentioned once about Abe Sensei and getting the "hardness" in the abdominal area out to the hands.... no one can actually "see" what Abe Sensei is doing when he demonstrates these things, so as a result not many people actually get it. You can't steal the technique easily if you can't see the invisible parts. ;)

Regards,

Mike

eyrie 01-14-2007 07:18 PM

Re: Stealing techniques
 
Ah... so it wouldn't help either if we all frolicked around in our underpants? :p

So how do we steal what we can't see? Intuition? Kinesthetic awareness? Or do we have to be one of the gifted few as Jorge suggests - in which case, what need is there to steal? When all you need is an equally gifted teacher and have this "given" to you - because such things, as you say, are "reserved for the best and brightest".

So if the rest of us untalented mob have to resort to stealing anything in order to progress, what hope is there for any meaningful sort of baseline, if all we have is a partial frame of reference based on visible externalities?


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