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OwlMatt 02-20-2013 07:54 AM

The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Nor think a joke, Crape, a disgrace,
Or to my person, or my place;
The wisest of the sons of men
Have deign'd to use them now and then.

- Charles Churchill, The Ghost

I visited my old aikido club a couple weeks ago for their annual Kagami Biraki new year celebration. It has become a tradition of sorts that I and my guitar serve as entertainment during the dinner portion of the festivities. The preceding aikido class was led by two guest instructors followed by the club's own most senior instructor, a seventy-something man who fits nicely into the C.S. Lewis "lovable old ass" category.

Understand, before I go on, that I speak of the man who first introduced me to aikido; though I am about to disagree with him, I hold him in the highest regard.

In the final segment of the class, he showed us some tanto-dori (knife defense) techniques. Before setting us loose to practice, he made a point of saying, "I don't want to see anyone smiling or laughing--this is serious. When there's a weapon involved, you don't get second chances." He told us too that the worst thing he ever heard in the dojo was his own instructor (the man who founded the club and first brought aikido to Wisconsin) saying, "You got cut!"

I kept silent, of course, but I take issue with this kind of posturing in the dojo.

The martial arts instructor's desperate exhortation, "Don't laugh; this is a matter of life and death," is wrong on two counts. First, it probably isn't a matter of life and death, and second, even if it were there would be no shame in laughing about it.

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: aikido is not realistic combat training. What I do in the dojo is practice antiquated and sometimes unnecessarily complicated techniques in stylized ways. In doing so, I become a fitter, happier, more centered, and perhaps a little tougher person. Now, that's nothing to sneeze at, but it's nothing to treat like brain surgery, either. No one is going to live or die because I have the proper palm-up hand position going into an udekiminage, and that proper positioning will be achieved or not independently of whether or not I am smiling at the time.

What's more, I'm not sure I buy into the idea that anything is too important to be undertaken in good humor. I suspect even the doctors performing the aforementioned brain surgery occasionally tell jokes.

I recently discovered on YouTube a wonderfully entertaining and enlightening lecture given by John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) on the subject of creativity, in which he underscores the futility of talking at length about creativity by repeatedly lapsing into sequences of "light bulb" jokes (How many _____ does it take to change a light bulb?).

One of the things Cleese finds most stifling to creativity is forced solemnity. He draws a clear distinction between seriousness and solemnity, asserts that seriousness does not demand solemnity, and then goes so far as to question the usefulness of solemnity at all (mind you, this is a man who used the words, "Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard," while giving the eulogy for his best friend).

I'm not sure I'd go quite so far as Cleese, but I'll go on the record saying that very, very few things are too serious to be laughed at. The Holocaust, maybe. Aikido, though--even aikido done with knife-shaped pieces of wood--isn't on the list.

Now, I'm not advocating goofing around when we should be training. Our time in the dojo is limited, and we ought to make the most of it. But anyone who's worked in a high-stress job with deadlines to meet knows that a little humor doesn't slow one down: in fact, sometimes it's the only thing that keeps one steady enough to meet those deadlines. Even if our tanto-dori were real preparation for a knife fight (which it probably isn't), there would be no reason to think smiles and even the occasional laugh would make us any worse at it.

As a case in point, ask any military veteran about the jokes he and his buddies used to play on each other. You'll discover that the men and women who really are training to put themselves in harm's way are often the biggest jokers of all.

We've established, then, that strict solemnity makes us neither safer nor more skillful, at least so long as we aren't frivolously wasting time. Why, then, do so many martial arts instructors expect their students to act like Trappist monks at Mass?

I think Cleese comes close to an answer for this question in the above lecture when he says, "The self-important always know at some level of their consciousness that their egotism is going to be punctured by humor."

Now, there are a few people in the martial arts who really are self-important. These are people I've complained about before (here, for example): people who need the ego-stroking that comes with being looked up to, being given ranks and awards, and being addressed with exotic-sounding titles, or people whose income depends on projecting a fiction-inspired image of themselves as warrior priests. These people need the martial arts to be serious business so that they can go on being important.

But my old sensei, cantankerous though he can be, is not so pompous or selfish as to demand solemnity for his own sake. What he fears will be "punctured by humor" in this case, I think, is not his own ego, but the importance of the legacy left to him by the cherished instructor who was also his best friend. His reasons, to be sure, are much more noble than those of the self-important show ponies I discuss above, but I still think he's wrong.

Aikido, in and of itself, just isn't that important. My family is important. My home is important. My faith (confused as it is) is important. These things are all considerably more important to my life than aikido, and even they aren't too important to laugh about.

With all that in mind, I, humble fifth-kyu that I am, say laugh on.

How many aikidoka does it take to change a light bulb? Two, unless light bulbs learn how to grab our wrists.

(You can find the original post on The Young Grasshopper here.)

Mary Eastland 02-20-2013 08:27 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
I appreciate your thoughts on this.

When I am teaching a class I really appreciate students who train as I ask them to.

When I have ideas about what the instructor is teaching I keep them to myself and work hard at being a good student.

When students train with their own ideas and egos apparent, it creates disharmony and no on benefits.

sakumeikan 02-20-2013 08:37 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Matthew Story wrote: (Post 323774)
Nor think a joke, Crape, a disgrace,
Or to my person, or my place;
The wisest of the sons of men
Have deign'd to use them now and then.

- Charles Churchill, The Ghost

I visited my old aikido club a couple weeks ago for their annual Kagami Biraki new year celebration. It has become a tradition of sorts that I and my guitar serve as entertainment during the dinner portion of the festivities. The preceding aikido class was led by two guest instructors followed by the club's own most senior instructor, a seventy-something man who fits nicely into the C.S. Lewis "lovable old ass" category.

Understand, before I go on, that I speak of the man who first introduced me to aikido; though I am about to disagree with him, I hold him in the highest regard.

In the final segment of the class, he showed us some tanto-dori (knife defense) techniques. Before setting us loose to practice, he made a point of saying, "I don't want to see anyone smiling or laughing--this is serious. When there's a weapon involved, you don't get second chances." He told us too that the worst thing he ever heard in the dojo was his own instructor (the man who founded the club and first brought aikido to Wisconsin) saying, "You got cut!"

I kept silent, of course, but I take issue with this kind of posturing in the dojo.

The martial arts instructor's desperate exhortation, "Don't laugh; this is a matter of life and death," is wrong on two counts. First, it probably isn't a matter of life and death, and second, even if it were there would be no shame in laughing about it.

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: aikido is not realistic combat training. What I do in the dojo is practice antiquated and sometimes unnecessarily complicated techniques in stylized ways. In doing so, I become a fitter, happier, more centered, and perhaps a little tougher person. Now, that's nothing to sneeze at, but it's nothing to treat like brain surgery, either. No one is going to live or die because I have the proper palm-up hand position going into an udekiminage, and that proper positioning will be achieved or not independently of whether or not I am smiling at the time.

What's more, I'm not sure I buy into the idea that anything is too important to be undertaken in good humor. I suspect even the doctors performing the aforementioned brain surgery occasionally tell jokes.

I recently discovered on YouTube a wonderfully entertaining and enlightening lecture given by John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) on the subject of creativity, in which he underscores the futility of talking at length about creativity by repeatedly lapsing into sequences of "light bulb" jokes (How many _____ does it take to change a light bulb?).

One of the things Cleese finds most stifling to creativity is forced solemnity. He draws a clear distinction between seriousness and solemnity, asserts that seriousness does not demand solemnity, and then goes so far as to question the usefulness of solemnity at all (mind you, this is a man who used the words, "Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard," while giving the eulogy for his best friend).

I'm not sure I'd go quite so far as Cleese, but I'll go on the record saying that very, very few things are too serious to be laughed at. The Holocaust, maybe. Aikido, though--even aikido done with knife-shaped pieces of wood--isn't on the list.

Now, I'm not advocating goofing around when we should be training. Our time in the dojo is limited, and we ought to make the most of it. But anyone who's worked in a high-stress job with deadlines to meet knows that a little humor doesn't slow one down: in fact, sometimes it's the only thing that keeps one steady enough to meet those deadlines. Even if our tanto-dori were real preparation for a knife fight (which it probably isn't), there would be no reason to think smiles and even the occasional laugh would make us any worse at it.

As a case in point, ask any military veteran about the jokes he and his buddies used to play on each other. You'll discover that the men and women who really are training to put themselves in harm's way are often the biggest jokers of all.

We've established, then, that strict solemnity makes us neither safer nor more skillful, at least so long as we aren't frivolously wasting time. Why, then, do so many martial arts instructors expect their students to act like Trappist monks at Mass?

I think Cleese comes close to an answer for this question in the above lecture when he says, "The self-important always know at some level of their consciousness that their egotism is going to be punctured by humor."

Now, there are a few people in the martial arts who really are self-important. These are people I've complained about before (here, for example): people who need the ego-stroking that comes with being looked up to, being given ranks and awards, and being addressed with exotic-sounding titles, or people whose income depends on projecting a fiction-inspired image of themselves as warrior priests. These people need the martial arts to be serious business so that they can go on being important.

But my old sensei, cantankerous though he can be, is not so pompous or selfish as to demand solemnity for his own sake. What he fears will be "punctured by humor" in this case, I think, is not his own ego, but the importance of the legacy left to him by the cherished instructor who was also his best friend. His reasons, to be sure, are much more noble than those of the self-important show ponies I discuss above, but I still think he's wrong.

Aikido, in and of itself, just isn't that important. My family is important. My home is important. My faith (confused as it is) is important. These things are all considerably more important to my life than aikido, and even they aren't too important to laugh about.

With all that in mind, I, humble fifth-kyu that I am, say laugh on.

How many aikidoka does it take to change a light bulb? Two, unless light bulbs learn how to grab our wrists.

(You can find the original post on The Young Grasshopper here.)

Dear Matthew,You may be a lowly 5th Kyu but as far as I am concerned you already understand aikido.You last couple of paragraphs says it all.In the scheme of things Aikido is way down the list in my world.As far as laughing is concerned I think some of the stuff on this Forum is a hoot.Groucho Marx /Three Stooges and even John Cleese would laugh their cotton socks off when we pontificate about the meaning of Aiki/I/p/I/s and related nonsense.
Lets all have a good time, roll around the mat in our hakamas, get dressed and go for pint, have a few laughs, and then go home.Aikido , especially the politics, gives me a headache.Why can't we see Aikido in true perspective?Lets laugh out loud.The Court Jester in medieval times was possibly the wisest man in the Kings court.
By the way, who needs light bulbs when we aikidoka can extend our Energy flow ?I am sure there are Conductors [public transport bus conductors ] reading this garbage as we speak.
Cheers, Joe,

Mary Eastland 02-20-2013 08:54 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Joe, if I ever get to England I am definitly coming to one of your classes.

OwlMatt 02-20-2013 09:48 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Mary Eastland wrote: (Post 323777)
I appreciate your thoughts on this.

When I am teaching a class I really appreciate students who train as I ask them to.

When I have ideas about what the instructor is teaching I keep them to myself and work hard at being a good student.

When students train with their own ideas and egos apparent, it creates disharmony and no on benefits.

I absolutely agree. I save my dissenting opinions for the blog.

lbb 02-20-2013 10:21 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Hi Matthew,

While in general I agree with you on the subject of humor, and also on the distinction between practice and deadly situations, and while I don't agree with statements like "this is deadly serious" (said in reference to martial arts practice) as literal truth, I do agree with what many I think instructors are trying to get at when they say that. It's shorthand; you can call it sloppy use of language, if you want, and I won't disagree, but "if you can put yourself in the mindset that this is a real situation, that you have one chance to get it right and fatal consequences if you don't, your practice will improve; if, on the other hand, you clown around and treat the weapon like a toy, your chances of getting to that point are pretty damn low" is a bit cumbersome, wouldn't you say?

OwlMatt 02-20-2013 10:42 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Mary Malmros wrote: (Post 323784)
Hi Matthew,

While in general I agree with you on the subject of humor, and also on the distinction between practice and deadly situations, and while I don't agree with statements like "this is deadly serious" (said in reference to martial arts practice) as literal truth, I do agree with what many I think instructors are trying to get at when they say that. It's shorthand; you can call it sloppy use of language, if you want, and I won't disagree, but "if you can put yourself in the mindset that this is a real situation, that you have one chance to get it right and fatal consequences if you don't, your practice will improve; if, on the other hand, you clown around and treat the weapon like a toy, your chances of getting to that point are pretty damn low" is a bit cumbersome, wouldn't you say?

I think you're absolutely right. Good aikido happens when we keep a martial attitude, when we strive to perform our technique as if it were a response to a real threat, when we are mindful of the possibility that we might get reversed, and when we treat weapons like real weapons. But I don't think any of that necessitates humorlessness.

Janet Rosen 02-20-2013 10:55 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
I am reminded of a many decades old concert at which Pete Seeger gave "the schoolmarm stare of death (TM)" to Arlo Guthrie and deadpanned "Arlo, folksinging is serious business." Brought down the house....

There are times one trains with total focus and intent. But there are also times when sticking out one's tongue at one's partner is the right thing to do, times when laughing is the right thing to do.

Last night I was working with several newbies in my low impact aikido class (folks w/ pain and/or mobility issues) - it was their third class and they are still getting used to the idea of attacking and of being attacked. When I am about to deliver a munetsuki, and I see the person is really tense, I might cheerfully bellow, "I'm gonna get you now!" or let out a huge growl - the person laughs and immediately relaxes - and as I follow through with the attack that relaxation lets the person actually move freely. We have been having a ball, and you know what? They are seriously learning.

Having said that, yes, if the instructor on the mat calls for silent practice or for deadpan intent and focus, I totally do my best during that session to train in that way. If my training partner does not look like a person receptive to levity, I don't step over that line.

jonreading 02-20-2013 11:52 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
I have a couple thoughts here, in seemingly random order...

1. Enjoyment does not require laughter. I believe in training because [on the whole] aikido is something we enjoy.
2. Laughter is a mixture of emotions and can present itself in a variety of emotional states. Laughter is not necessarily enjoyment.

Quote:

The martial arts instructor's desperate exhortation, "Don't laugh; this is a matter of life and death," is wrong on two counts. First, it probably isn't a matter of life and death, and second, even if it were there would be no shame in laughing about it.
While training, we [often] laugh for a variety of reasons, unexpected accomplishment, simplicity of our stupidity, humor, frustration or enjoyment to say a few. In aikido, we sometimes also use silliness to hide our inabilities. Ever train with the goofball that couldn't do anything right? Is he really so inept that he trips over his feet or is he simply struggling with waza and wishes to hide his problems? Often, I think instructors are trying to solicit an earnest response from students by simplifying the communication and interaction between partners. This is one of the better arguments I have heard for silence during training. More importantly, he may be implying that the particular waza should require sufficient focus and attention as to curtail non-related behavior.

Remember your first date, when you kissed after a nervous laugh? The anxious chuckle when the doctor frowns while looking at your MRI? What about the hysterical laugh at the funeral? We laugh as much during anxious or nervous situations and during other situations. Know why those vets are joking? They are coping with an incredibly anxious state of being, often one civs cannot comprehend. I believe a lot of laughter on the mat is the outward expression of anxiety and nervousness. The inability to stop such behavior may be more telling than you think...

Quote:

We've established, then, that strict solemnity makes us neither safer nor more skillful, at least so long as we aren't frivolously wasting time. Why, then, do so many martial arts instructors expect their students to act like Trappist monks at Mass?
Well, not really. You have made a case that solemnity makes training less enjoyable. This may be so for some, not for others. I expect my students to get it right. If they can do it with a joke and a smile, great. If they need to hunker down for a few minutes to get it right that's great, too.

The social nature of aikido makes for a tough spot here. We are intimate because we give our bodies to each other and that creates a social bond. Sometimes we forget that what we are doing on the mat is more important than the punchline of a joke. In a way, this reminds me of a seminar I attended during which the students were practicing a very common waza shown by the instructor, but they were practicing it as they knew it (not the way sensei showed). He stopped class and said, "you people just paid me money to teach aikido. We have spend x minutes on this technique and you are still not doing what I am doing. If you want to do this the way you do it, don't come to the seminar and save yourself money."

Matt- know I came across as a grumpy old guy in this post. Please dial down the harsh meter for me because I appreciate the honesty of the post

OwlMatt 02-20-2013 12:29 PM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Jon Reading wrote: (Post 323792)
1. Enjoyment does not require laughter. I believe in training because [on the whole] aikido is something we enjoy.

Granted.
Quote:

2. Laughter is a mixture of emotions and can present itself in a variety of emotional states. Laughter is not necessarily enjoyment.
Also granted. But it's the enjoyment kind of laughter I'm talking about here.

Quote:

While training, we [often] laugh for a variety of reasons, unexpected accomplishment, simplicity of our stupidity, humor, frustration or enjoyment to say a few. In aikido, we sometimes also use silliness to hide our inabilities. Ever train with the goofball that couldn't do anything right? Is he really so inept that he trips over his feet or is he simply struggling with waza and wishes to hide his problems? Often, I think instructors are trying to solicit an earnest response from students by simplifying the communication and interaction between partners. This is one of the better arguments I have heard for silence during training. More importantly, he may be implying that the particular waza should require sufficient focus and attention as to curtail non-related behavior.
Well, I did say in the piece that we shouldn't be wasting time in the dojo. I do not think levity and effective use of time are mutually exclusive.

Quote:

Remember your first date, when you kissed after a nervous laugh? The anxious chuckle when the doctor frowns while looking at your MRI? What about the hysterical laugh at the funeral? We laugh as much during anxious or nervous situations and during other situations. Know why those vets are joking? They are coping with an incredibly anxious state of being, often one civs cannot comprehend. I believe a lot of laughter on the mat is the outward expression of anxiety and nervousness. The inability to stop such behavior may be more telling than you think...
I guess that's a fair point, but I don't think that's really what I'm talking about here.

Quote:

Well, not really. You have made a case that solemnity makes training less enjoyable. This may be so for some, not for others. I expect my students to get it right. If they can do it with a joke and a smile, great. If they need to hunker down for a few minutes to get it right that's great, too.
I don't think solemnity and hunkering down for a few minutes to get something right are the same thing.

Quote:

The social nature of aikido makes for a tough spot here. We are intimate because we give our bodies to each other and that creates a social bond. Sometimes we forget that what we are doing on the mat is more important than the punchline of a joke. In a way, this reminds me of a seminar I attended during which the students were practicing a very common waza shown by the instructor, but they were practicing it as they knew it (not the way sensei showed). He stopped class and said, "you people just paid me money to teach aikido. We have spend x minutes on this technique and you are still not doing what I am doing. If you want to do this the way you do it, don't come to the seminar and save yourself money."
Again, I'm not advocating goofing around or wasting time. I think a little levity can be achieved without wasting time, and forced solemnity often results in something much more comical than the occasional joke.
Quote:

Matt- know I came across as a grumpy old guy in this post. Please dial down the harsh meter for me because I appreciate the honesty of the post
I have a tendency to come across as harsher than I mean to be in text form. If that happens, I apologize.

lbb 02-20-2013 02:20 PM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Matthew Story wrote: (Post 323793)
I don't think solemnity and hunkering down for a few minutes to get something right are the same thing.

They're not. But it seems like "solemnity" is a dirty word for you, which strikes me as odd -- I'm not used to it having such a negative connotation.

OwlMatt 02-20-2013 03:59 PM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Mary Malmros wrote: (Post 323802)
They're not. But it seems like "solemnity" is a dirty word for you, which strikes me as odd -- I'm not used to it having such a negative connotation.

I think solemnity, more often than not, is misplaced and misused, especially by martial artists. I don't think that necessarily makes solemnity a bad thing in and of itself.

mrlizard123 02-20-2013 04:22 PM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Mary Malmros wrote: (Post 323784)
Hi Matthew,

While in general I agree with you on the subject of humor, and also on the distinction between practice and deadly situations, and while I don't agree with statements like "this is deadly serious" (said in reference to martial arts practice) as literal truth, I do agree with what many I think instructors are trying to get at when they say that. It's shorthand; you can call it sloppy use of language, if you want, and I won't disagree, but "if you can put yourself in the mindset that this is a real situation, that you have one chance to get it right and fatal consequences if you don't, your practice will improve; if, on the other hand, you clown around and treat the weapon like a toy, your chances of getting to that point are pretty damn low" is a bit cumbersome, wouldn't you say?

Agreed.

The longer speech also cuts unnecessarily into instruction and training time.

Training as if you have one chance at living or dying in each technique is approximately how I would interpret it. I've heard variations of the phrase from various instructors and see it as simply an exhortation to apply oneself to the training with commitment.

OwlMatt 02-20-2013 04:39 PM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Rich Hobbs wrote: (Post 323808)
Agreed.

The longer speech also cuts unnecessarily into instruction and training time.

Training as if you have one chance at living or dying in each technique is approximately how I would interpret it. I've heard variations of the phrase from various instructors and see it as simply an exhortation to apply oneself to the training with commitment.

And that's all well and good, but I still don't think that and levity are mutually exclusive.

Janet Rosen 02-20-2013 04:43 PM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Having trained with folks I later described as having come from the "grunt and scowl school of martial arts" I agree w/ Matt that one can be focused, deadly serious ABOUT one's training, have intent, etc...and still be openhearted enough to allow levity rather than insist on training with a face like Buster Keaton all the time.

sakumeikan 02-20-2013 05:12 PM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Mary Eastland wrote: (Post 323779)
Joe, if I ever get to England I am definitly coming to one of your classes.

Dear Mary,
Lets just sit a enjoy a good natter together if we by chance met each other..Share a few laughs , tall tales, battles fought -mostly lost . Mary , I would also like to meet you someday. Pity we cannot get a group of guys from the forum and have a good time. I am a great believer in meeting other people and having a good time.As I said earlier Aikido is just a game, no big deal.Cheers, Joe.

OwlMatt 02-20-2013 07:24 PM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Joe Curran wrote: (Post 323812)
Dear Mary,
Lets just sit a enjoy a good natter together if we by chance met each other..Share a few laughs , tall tales, battles fought -mostly lost . Mary , I would also like to meet you someday. Pity we cannot get a group of guys from the forum and have a good time. I am a great believer in meeting other people and having a good time.As I said earlier Aikido is just a game, no big deal.Cheers, Joe.

We should totally make an AikiWeb meetup happen.

phitruong 02-20-2013 07:28 PM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
when i have a blade in my hand, i am deadly serious. i usually tell my opponent (with raspy accent) ... "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!"

years ago, i was doing hips throw with one of my sempai. the harder i threw him, the more he laughed. i was used to fear and terror, but all the laughing and giggling were just so wrong. this is martial arts. it's a serious business, damn it! there is nothing more frightening to students than when you said "don't make me go back there and start to tell bad jokes!"

i have been wondering, if you do aikido grab to a ventriloquist, would that be an attack on the person or his character?

Janet Rosen 02-20-2013 10:15 PM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Phi Truong wrote: (Post 323817)
i have been wondering, if you do aikido grab to a ventriloquist, would that be an attack on the person or his character?

Do he throw you or his voice?
(Phi, I have a feeling if you and I were ever to meet on the mat, there would be much mirth)

lbb 02-21-2013 07:09 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Matthew Story wrote: (Post 323809)
And that's all well and good, but I still don't think that and levity are mutually exclusive.

They're not in general, although I think that levity, like solemnity, may have negative connotations for some people (for example, one of goofing off). It all depends on context, and also on history. Surely you've encountered people who use the expression "lighten up" inappropriately, dismissively, as a way of saying that a person or their ideas don't deserve to be taken seriously. But that's a digression, at least I hope so.

Walter Martindale 02-21-2013 07:55 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
This training/martial arts stuff can be/is about very serious stuff because we need to learn things that may save us from serious harm, possibly do serious harm to our friends/training partners if we're not careful, but if you do it from a grumpy, pissy position with a foul attitude, you interfere with your ability to learn.
You learn more from making mistakes and learning how to not make mistakes - and if you can laugh at mistakes, I believe that you can remember their lessons better.

When I'm coaching, I structure exercises that cause people to mess up, on purpose, so that they can learn how to remedy the problem they create, on the fly, and possibly regain their chance to win. A-priori, they're coached that "today is learn-to-recover-from-mistakes-day".

Cheers,
Walter

Joe Bowen 02-21-2013 08:00 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
To paraphrase the great tome of wisdom from the Fudebakudo,"Martial Arts training is serious business, one mistake and you are dead.......we can only learn from our mistakes..."

OwlMatt 02-24-2013 10:24 PM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Joseph Bowen wrote: (Post 323832)
To paraphrase the great tome of wisdom from the Fudebakudo,"Martial Arts training is serious business, one mistake and you are dead.......we can only learn from our mistakes..."

I think the "one mistake and you're dead" attitude only makes sense under the assumption that aikido is realistic combat training, which it usually isn't. And anyway, I think serious business can be laughed at.

Janet Rosen 02-25-2013 09:06 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Matthew Story wrote: (Post 323934)
I think the "one mistake and you're dead" attitude only makes sense under the assumption that aikido is realistic combat training, which it usually isn't. And anyway, I think serious business can be laughed at.

[discreet cough] ahem....the quote...is from one of the notable aikihumor websites...reread the full quote for the joke.... :)

OwlMatt 02-26-2013 09:04 AM

Re: The Harmlessness of Humor
 
Quote:

Janet Rosen wrote: (Post 323950)
[discreet cough] ahem....the quote...is from one of the notable aikihumor websites...reread the full quote for the joke.... :)

Ah, thanks Janet. I confess to complete ignorance about Fudebakudo.


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