AikiWeb Aikido Forums

AikiWeb Aikido Forums (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/index.php)
-   Columns (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=75)
-   -   There Are No Shortcuts (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22759)

kewms 06-29-2013 12:30 AM

There Are No Shortcuts
 
1 Attachment(s)
This month's "The Mirror" column was written by Katherine Derbyshire 2013, all rights reserved.
I'm about six months out from my sandan test. At my dojo, that means I'm training pretty hard. A lot of classes, a lot of seminars, a good amount of mat time outside of class. Earlier this year, I went through a stretch where I trained on ten out of thirteen days, all but two of which were five or six hour seminar days, and I was feeling pretty good about myself.

Then I remembered that both O Sensei's uchi deshi and most of the top Americans in aikido trained like that for years at a time. My first teacher lived in Japan for ten years, training most of the day, every day. My current teacher trained in the US, but as one of Saotome Sensei's direct students he also trained every day for years.

Oh. Maybe that's how they got so good.

The same is true of the top people in any physical field. Professional and Olympic athletes have spent lifetimes developing their skills. Professional musicians would laugh at you if you suggested that an hour or two a week was sufficient practice.

I can't train like that long term. Putting aside the question of whether I'm physically capable of it, I have no desire to sacrifice my work or my other relationships to an exclusive focus on the aikido path. I'm not suggesting that anyone else should, either. There's plenty of room in the world for recreational athletes, hobbyist musicians, and less-than-serious aikidoka. But let's not kid ourselves. Wandering into the dojo a couple of times a week simply isn't enough to develop high level skills.

In my experience, hard training offers insights that you just can't get any other way. Fatigue helps the body learn to move more efficiently. Mental fatigue helps quiet the intellectual part of the brain in favor of intuition and feel. Whether it's months of intensive practice before a test, or just a few hard days at a seminar, stepping outside of your mental and physical comfort zone can help push your aikido up to the next level.

Discussions like this often invoke images of 20-year old athletes, gleefully pounding each other into the mat for hours on end. Which can be fun, no doubt, but that's not really what I mean. There are good and bad ways to train, and it's certainly possible to put in a lot of hours without developing any particular insight. Overtraining is as likely to cause burnout and injury as it is to develop good aikido. It's possible to work around chronic injuries, but it's even better not to develop them in the first place.

Rather, think about taking the time to really explore whatever you're studying, whether it's perfecting the body position for a successful throw or paying attention to edge angles in sword forms. I spent nearly two hours this week working on hand transitions in an especially problematic pair of techniques. A few months ago, one of my teachers devoted an entire class to variations on shomenuchi ikkyo.

That kind of exploration is difficult to justify when a teacher or student is trying to work through a large syllabus in only two or three training hours a week. More time whether in the compressed space of a seminar or the extended span of test preparation allows more depth, even if the physical intensity remains relatively low.

Beyond specific technical insights, though, training like this changes something. I've seen it change people's posture and how they carry themselves. I've felt it change my attitude toward practice and my appreciation of the art. I don't know what the end result will be ask me in six months but I can understand why some teachers say they can judge a person's ability by watching them bow onto the mat. That kind of real transformation can't be rushed.
"The Mirror" is a collaborative column written by a group of women who describe themselves as:

We comprise mothers, spouses, scientists, artists, teachers, healers, and yes, of course, writers. We range in age from 30s through 50s, we are kyu ranked and yudansha and from various parts of the United States and styles of aikido. What we have in common is a love for budo that keeps it an integral part of our busy lives, both curiosity about and a commonsense approach to life and aikido, and an inveterate tendency to write about these explorations.

Janet Rosen 06-29-2013 02:09 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Darn good column, Katherine. I wish I could be there for your test.

phitruong 06-29-2013 08:17 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Sheesh Katherine! i was looking for some shortcuts and now you have crushed one man's dream for quick and easy greatness! that's just not right!

i found that if you use daily life movement as practice, then you practice all the time. i believed this is the "do" part. now i just need to find the "re" and "mi" parts and i would be good, very good in fact.

and Janet, stop encouraging her! :)

Janet Rosen 06-29-2013 11:39 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Phi Truong wrote: (Post 327712)
Sheesh Katherine! i was looking for some shortcuts and now you have crushed one man's dream for quick and easy greatness! that's just not right!

i found that if you use daily life movement as practice, then you practice all the time. i believed this is the "do" part. now i just need to find the "re" and "mi" parts and i would be good, very good in fact.

and Janet, stop encouraging her! :)

Aw, Phi, you just want to look buff and glamorous while you gleefully pound 20-somethings into the mat!:D

Susan Dalton 06-30-2013 08:03 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
I really enjoyed this column, Katherine. It's so sensible!

JP3 07-01-2013 06:29 PM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
I enjoyed that read, though I do have to confess, with the title I thought you were going to quote the Kodokan's Kyuzo Mifune's statement:

"There are no shortcuts, because there is no end."

Carry on with the training, and enjoy the training which you can make "fit" into a busy life. it seems you've already learned that lesson.

Mario Tobias 07-02-2013 03:45 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
It may surprise you when I say this but there is a shortcut. I kid you not.

Although it took me 20+ years to figure it out. The shortcut is to apply the basic laws of physics and apply it to every movement, every technique, every principle. The thing is 99% don't understand physics but if you do, most of the movements relate to how you apply the concept of the physical laws to the principles. If you understand this then the rate of learning can be multiplied vs the traditional learning of just muscle memory.

For example. The concept of zero work (in physics lingo) can explain why you can be able to use minimal energy in applying a technique. or leverage (which you can apply from the smallest joint such as the thumb to the largest parts such as the shoulder) to offbalance uke. aikiage is such a technique to use the thumb as a lever. changing speed relates to a transition from potential to kinetic energy. there are many others. This was a theory of mine several years back and it was quite successful when I tested it in the dojo since I can prove time and time again that it works with most techniques. I'm not saying I am good but it has helped my understanding considerably such that it has given me a path to start my understanding.

I believe that in every journey there is a long way and there is a short one as well. It maybe just that 99% the majority of us, takes the long one and only a lucky few are just lucky or gifted that they can take the short route. By striving to understand the truth, even those of us who take the long route initially may soon find our own shortcuts which to me is the most exciting part of the journey.

lbb 07-02-2013 08:11 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Mario Tobias wrote: (Post 327810)
Although it took me 20+ years to figure it out. The shortcut is to apply the basic laws of physics and apply it to every movement, every technique, every principle.

I can see that as an optimal way to proceed (if probably not ever 100% achievable in real life) - but in what way is it a shortcut?

Lee Salzman 07-02-2013 08:57 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Mary Malmros wrote: (Post 327816)
I can see that as an optimal way to proceed (if probably not ever 100% achievable in real life) - but in what way is it a shortcut?

Let us assume, in the most benevolent sense, that for him it is a shortcut by virtue of this principle helping to better maximize the usage of his time, and that to not focus on such principles is a sub-optimal use of his time.

This is perfectly legitimate as an answer in that you can block out a certain amount of time for training, but within that period of time the actual amount of accumulated training time on the thing you are trying to train may really be shockingly small - you could describe this as frequency. And on the other hand, you can increase the actual training stimulus that occurred in that moment - you could describe this as intensity. Now, if you are not even sure about what is the most optimal use of that time in the first place, then may Flying Spaghetti Monster help you.

A good example of this as regards martial training is standing (a.k.a. "zhan zhuang" or "post standing" or "santi shi" or...). If you are doing, say, a form, then by the time you realize you did something wrong, the moment is already in the past, and you have both physically moved somewhere else and your mind is also doing something else. So the training effect of a form may be really small, because both the frequency with which you were able to work that moment in a given circuit of the form, and the intensity with which it allowed you to focus on it, is not great. So now if you were to stand still at that one moment, and work it for the entire block of time minus breaks for rest, well, you're suddenly getting both a higher frequency of that moment, and at the same time since extraneous elements have been removed you can devote better focus to it and thus also address the intensity aspect.

Training smarter is rarely a bad idea.

Krystal Locke 07-02-2013 11:37 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Careful. Trying to bring physics and biomechanics into the discussion can get a person in trouble......

Quote:

Mario Tobias wrote: (Post 327810)
It may surprise you when I say this but there is a shortcut. I kid you not.

Although it took me 20+ years to figure it out. The shortcut is to apply the basic laws of physics and apply it to every movement, every technique, every principle. The thing is 99% don't understand physics but if you do, most of the movements relate to how you apply the concept of the physical laws to the principles. If you understand this then the rate of learning can be multiplied vs the traditional learning of just muscle memory.

For example. The concept of zero work (in physics lingo) can explain why you can be able to use minimal energy in applying a technique. or leverage (which you can apply from the smallest joint such as the thumb to the largest parts such as the shoulder) to offbalance uke. aikiage is such a technique to use the thumb as a lever. changing speed relates to a transition from potential to kinetic energy. there are many others. This was a theory of mine several years back and it was quite successful when I tested it in the dojo since I can prove time and time again that it works with most techniques. I'm not saying I am good but it has helped my understanding considerably such that it has given me a path to start my understanding.

I believe that in every journey there is a long way and there is a short one as well. It maybe just that 99% the majority of us, takes the long one and only a lucky few are just lucky or gifted that they can take the short route. By striving to understand the truth, even those of us who take the long route initially may soon find our own shortcuts which to me is the most exciting part of the journey.


Mario Tobias 07-02-2013 01:47 PM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Mary Malmros wrote: (Post 327816)
I can see that as an optimal way to proceed (if probably not ever 100% achievable in real life) - but in what way is it a shortcut?

If I had only known what I know today, I would have cut that 20 let's say by 10-15 years less and arrive with the same result. I teach beginners what I know and their learning curve is very fast.

Mario Tobias 07-02-2013 02:13 PM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Krystal Locke wrote: (Post 327820)
Careful. Trying to bring physics and biomechanics into the discussion can get a person in trouble......

sure, but these principles can be explained in laymans terms, no equations, no greeks. I'm just throwing the idea that it is possible to cut down the learning time several fold although at the same time I am also in agreement with the OP. It is up to each one to find their own shortcut since I believe it is possible. I don't believe aikido has something magicky that it cannot be explained.

A lot of people also say that "there are no secrets in Aikido, keiko is the secret". I believe there are "some" secrets to aikido and understanding these basic physics principles is part of the secret. It is a secret until you know otherwise. I don't expect to convince people about so they can either believe/accept or not but this is coming from someone who's experienced struggle and pains to really understand the art.

lbb 07-03-2013 10:49 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Lee Salzman wrote: (Post 327817)
Let us assume, in the most benevolent sense, that for him it is a shortcut by virtue of this principle helping to better maximize the usage of his time, and that to not focus on such principles is a sub-optimal use of his time...

Training smarter is rarely a bad idea.

That's fine. We're just using the terminology differently, that's all.

JP3 07-04-2013 12:09 PM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Krystal Locke wrote: (Post 327820)
Careful. Trying to bring physics and biomechanics into the discussion can get a person in trouble......

That's subtle and funny....

I had the luck to join a Tomiki Aikido dojo where the 2 2nd highest dan grades were rocket scientists, literally. A couple of Ph. D. physicists at NASA here in Houston. Our head instructor, Raymond Williams, was told by one of them that he had the most instinctive grasp of physical mechanics he'd ever known. So, I've been talking about the physics of everything we do for quite a long time now, and it's natural. And, we also got great gems from the engineering world as well, such as "It's hard to push a rope," "Rocks roll downhill, nd they are hard to push back up that hill," things like that,.

They make you scratch your head when stated out of context like I just did above, but we use them all the time in discussions of how kuzushi is affected, posture gets broken, or not, by tori's movement/pressure, whatever.

Then, in the past 5 years or so I started working with Nick, who has brought great people like Howard Popkin and George Ledyard to OKC, and the biomechanics side of things (sometimes clothed in the Asian medical terminology) has showed up. Neat stuff. I just wish I understood it! Ha!

Good stuff for study for the next 10 to 20 years, eh?

Krystal Locke 07-04-2013 04:44 PM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
How dare you call me subtle. I am so offended.

When I would visit home (Galveston), I'd sometimes train at the dojo in Dickenson, just off of 3. Also full of rocket scientists. Nice place, and they said good things about my sensei (the sensei there said I obviously had good instruction at my home dojo) even though their school is in a different association/style. No offense, but I was glad to find a non-Tomiki dojo to sweat in, I was such a noob that the Tomiki stuff and class structure was too different for me at the time.

Yup, having a few physicists and engineers in the room certainly changes the structure of the teaching. And aikido has informed my engineeringness, as well. Here's a pic of the most awesome ukemi I have ever taken, courtesy of NASA and Smith College. The box of tech wipes is taped to the floor of the airplane, for a bit of oreintation.
https://zerog.jsc.nasa.gov/photos/22...2006e09860.jpg

Another, to provide a wider perspective. Yes, I know I have a giant ass. I am hard to throw. I hear that can be a good thing.
https://zerog.jsc.nasa.gov/photos/22...2006e09861.jpg

Quote:

John Powell wrote: (Post 327879)
That's subtle and funny....

I had the luck to join a Tomiki Aikido dojo where the 2 2nd highest dan grades were rocket scientists, literally. A couple of Ph. D. physicists at NASA here in Houston. Our head instructor, Raymond Williams, was told by one of them that he had the most instinctive grasp of physical mechanics he'd ever known. So, I've been talking about the physics of everything we do for quite a long time now, and it's natural. And, we also got great gems from the engineering world as well, such as "It's hard to push a rope," "Rocks roll downhill, nd they are hard to push back up that hill," things like that,.

They make you scratch your head when stated out of context like I just did above, but we use them all the time in discussions of how kuzushi is affected, posture gets broken, or not, by tori's movement/pressure, whatever.

Then, in the past 5 years or so I started working with Nick, who has brought great people like Howard Popkin and George Ledyard to OKC, and the biomechanics side of things (sometimes clothed in the Asian medical terminology) has showed up. Neat stuff. I just wish I understood it! Ha!

Good stuff for study for the next 10 to 20 years, eh?


R.A. Robertson 07-12-2013 03:56 PM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
All my teachers urged me to train every day. It took me a few years, but I finally realized they weren't telling me to show up to the dojo every day. Only that I should train every day.

Now I've been training every day for decades. Such "soto" work is never to be considered a substitute for the work done inside the dojo, but it too is essential.

And for the record, I agree with Mario on this one.

Fair wishes for your sandan, and we'll look forward to the report.

Ross
(and video!)

Mario Tobias 07-15-2013 04:42 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
I told you so ;)

http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/...nalyzing-aiki/

Alex Megann 07-15-2013 08:26 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Mario Tobias wrote: (Post 327810)
Although it took me 20+ years to figure it out. The shortcut is to apply the basic laws of physics and apply it to every movement, every technique, every principle. The thing is 99% don't understand physics but if you do, most of the movements relate to how you apply the concept of the physical laws to the principles. If you understand this then the rate of learning can be multiplied vs the traditional learning of just muscle memory.

Yes and no. :)

In an obvious sense the laws of physics are just there, whether you know what they are or not. Of course, on a basic level you can try to fight them - the obvious examples are when you try to use force to resist force, or if you try to block an attack from a much stronger and bigger person.

My teacher keeps asking me to explain his aikido in terms of physics - "Alex, you doctor of physics, you MUST understand this!". I have been struggling with this for years, to his evident frustration. I have come to the conclusion that on a basic level, the best way to comply with the laws of physics is to relax, and keep a comfortable and stable posture. Oh, and move at a right angle to your partner's strongest direction. But he says all these things already...

Alex

sakumeikan 07-15-2013 12:51 PM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Alex Megann wrote: (Post 328149)
Yes and no. :)

In an obvious sense the laws of physics are just there, whether you know what they are or not. Of course, on a basic level you can try to fight them - the obvious examples are when you try to use force to resist force, or if you try to block an attack from a much stronger and bigger person.

My teacher keeps asking me to explain his aikido in terms of physics - "Alex, you doctor of physics, you MUST understand this!". I have been struggling with this for years, to his evident frustration. I have come to the conclusion that on a basic level, the best way to comply with the laws of physics is to relax, and keep a comfortable and stable posture. Oh, and move at a right angle to your partner's strongest direction. But he says all these things already...

Alex

Dear Alex, ,
From the garbled text quoting your instructor
can I take it it is Mr K? Cheers, Joe.

Alex Megann 07-15-2013 01:39 PM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Joe Curran wrote: (Post 328153)
Dear Alex, ,
From the garbled text quoting your instructor
can I take it it is Mr K? Cheers, Joe.

You got it, Joe...

sakumeikan 07-15-2013 05:54 PM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Hi All,
If one simply thinks that training longer, harder is the method of improving this i.m.o is a foolish notion.
Training smarter is the answer, not spending you life solely doing aikido 24 /7.
A balance between aikido and doing other things other than aikido makes life more interesting.Cheers, Joe,

Lee Salzman 07-15-2013 08:11 PM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

John Powell wrote: (Post 327879)
That's subtle and funny....

I had the luck to join a Tomiki Aikido dojo where the 2 2nd highest dan grades were rocket scientists, literally. A couple of Ph. D. physicists at NASA here in Houston. Our head instructor, Raymond Williams, was told by one of them that he had the most instinctive grasp of physical mechanics he'd ever known. So, I've been talking about the physics of everything we do for quite a long time now, and it's natural. And, we also got great gems from the engineering world as well, such as "It's hard to push a rope," "Rocks roll downhill, nd they are hard to push back up that hill," things like that,.

They make you scratch your head when stated out of context like I just did above, but we use them all the time in discussions of how kuzushi is affected, posture gets broken, or not, by tori's movement/pressure, whatever.

Then, in the past 5 years or so I started working with Nick, who has brought great people like Howard Popkin and George Ledyard to OKC, and the biomechanics side of things (sometimes clothed in the Asian medical terminology) has showed up. Neat stuff. I just wish I understood it! Ha!

Good stuff for study for the next 10 to 20 years, eh?

I think there is an inherent danger in that it leads to "if X, then Y" type of thinking where you're a robotic set of special cases to apply under varying circumstances. The underlying insights into many martial arts can be very low brow stuff, just ruthlessly applied over the entire body which is what makes it hard, not understanding the principles intellectually. So instead it rather just becomes "I am the living embodiment of X" and the "Y"s don't matter much anymore.

For example, the structural principles of one art (that is not aikido), they boil down to essentially one quote: "triangles between all the joints". You would need to understand no more or no less than this idea, and it's as simple as it sounds conceptually - physics PhDs will not avail you in helping you train it into the body. You could probably tell this to a preschooler and he'll understand the idea faster than the physics PhD would who would probably just overcomplicate it and look for some secret. Training it into the body will still take a decade, and it will all be about feel and intuition, not intellect.

Maybe overrationalizing things can shed some light on why it works, but what to do has pretty much been well mapped out by our predecessors, and just sorting through all the misinformation - probably much of it provided ever so innocently by people trying to think too hard about the subject - for the gems that are already there is probably the bigger issue.

danielajames 07-18-2013 02:40 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Mario Tobias wrote: (Post 327829)
If I had only known what I know today, I would have cut that 20 let's say by 10-15 years less and arrive with the same result. I teach beginners what I know and their learning curve is very fast.

+0.9 err... +1
I think its definitely a window into understanding and insights. Factoring in the time to learn physics and then translating/integrating it into the art (at least internally) is what takes the time though, I think maybe not a shortcut for everyone?

Yes, here's hoping it helps pass on the art that little bit quicker

best and lovely post OP and thoughtful dialogue by all,
dan

Mario Tobias 07-18-2013 06:47 PM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Daniel James wrote: (Post 328236)
+0.9 err... +1
I think its definitely a window into understanding and insights. Factoring in the time to learn physics and then translating/integrating it into the art (at least internally) is what takes the time though, I think maybe not a shortcut for everyone?

Yes, here's hoping it helps pass on the art that little bit quicker

best and lovely post OP and thoughtful dialogue by all,
dan

Endo Sensei I think is the closest embodiment to what I was saying. He is always saying "Do not grab, it is possible". It is because he is not relying only on HIS body to manipulate uke but rather maximizes the use of basic physics laws and entities like gravity (although I'm pretty sure he doesn't know he knows that he's using these.)

What's amazing with the human body and psyche is that you can be an expert with a body of science either through formal education through an institution or by years of repetition and countless trial and error. In this case, Endo-sensei and O-sensei are both "physicists" but they don't know they are.

Another famous name that comes to mind is Thomas Edison. He wasn't an "engineer" but he was a master engineer through his inventions. There are numerous others: Efren Bata Reyes was totally unschooled yet he is a master of geometry through his art in billiards and pool.

We need to gain insight into these examples and learn that in any endeavor, there are several approaches to achieve the same result. We need to thank them because they took the long path, and it is our duty to study them and create our own theories and validate them. What it would have probably taken Endo-sensei decades to perfect a principle, it would have several minutes to explain through scientific principles. The tricky thing then is what principles do we study and apply. But at least that part of the search has already begun.

Lee Salzman 07-19-2013 03:02 AM

Re: There Are No Shortcuts
 
Quote:

Mario Tobias wrote: (Post 328261)
Endo Sensei I think is the closest embodiment to what I was saying. He is always saying "Do not grab, it is possible". It is because he is not relying only on HIS body to manipulate uke but rather maximizes the use of basic physics laws and entities like gravity (although I'm pretty sure he doesn't know he knows that he's using these.)

What's amazing with the human body and psyche is that you can be an expert with a body of science either through formal education through an institution or by years of repetition and countless trial and error. In this case, Endo-sensei and O-sensei are both "physicists" but they don't know they are.

Another famous name that comes to mind is Thomas Edison. He wasn't an "engineer" but he was a master engineer through his inventions. There are numerous others: Efren Bata Reyes was totally unschooled yet he is a master of geometry through his art in billiards and pool.

We need to gain insight into these examples and learn that in any endeavor, there are several approaches to achieve the same result. We need to thank them because they took the long path, and it is our duty to study them and create our own theories and validate them. What it would have probably taken Endo-sensei decades to perfect a principle, it would have several minutes to explain through scientific principles. The tricky thing then is what principles do we study and apply. But at least that part of the search has already begun.

I'm not sure I buy the whole noble savage take on O-Sensei. The more I learn I feel that it's rather the reverse, we're the barbarians playing with sticks and rocks while he was far more refined in his internal workings than we Aikidoka (largely) conceive of. Through a failure of transmission we're left to worship the totems he left behind, but with no decipherable explanations of their significance, that's all they remain while we are mucking about in the dirt.

O-Sensei learned the essence of what he did from explicit teaching, which he later developed on his own, but the foundation he got was not inspired genius, it was transmitted. If inspired genius was applied, it was applied later, after he got his foundation.

This is no different than many pretty much all other established endeavors. There is still a rote foundation that has to be in place, whether it comes via emulation of those who already have it or via explicit instruction. Otherwise most of the time spent in practice is just rediscovering the foundation our betters already had when they started rather than going beyond it, so to get to the peak they attained becomes the stuff of legend.

Why is it only in Aikido that we somehow cling to this "many paths" idea and we're expected to figure out everything ourselves, when in pretty much everything else - and most importantly, Aikido's predecessor art - it is expected that you first get the foundation of instruction and then only after you put in the work to automate that foundation do you go off to make it your own if at all?


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 03:22 PM.

Powered by: vBulletin
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.

Column powered by GARS 2.1.5 ©2005-2006