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-   -   Stages in Training (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2919)

akiy 11-13-2002 02:34 PM

Stages in Training
 
The following question was asked by Opher Donchin for the people here in the Voices of Experience forum:

One question I've had when I think about my next 20 years in AiKiDo is about the rhythms that I've noticed in my first ten years. I'm really curious if, looking back, people notice any particular 'stages' that they feel that they (and others that they know) have gone through, or multi-year ups and downs that start to seem familiar with time. This is meant to be an open question so any ruminations on the subject would be interesting to hear.

Peter Goldsbury 11-14-2002 06:15 AM

Stages in Training (1)
 
Quote:

Jun Akiyama (akiy) wrote:
The following question was asked by Opher Donchin for the people here in the Voices of Experience forum:

One question I've had when I think about my next 20 years in AiKiDo is about the rhythms that I've noticed in my first ten years. I'm really curious if, looking back, people notice any particular 'stages' that they feel that they (and others that they know) have gone through, or multi-year ups and downs that start to seem familiar with time. This is meant to be an open question so any ruminations on the subject would be interesting to hear.

Well, I also would be very interested to see what others like Chuck, George, Dan Linden and Dennis Hooker have to say about this. And Opher does not say anything about the rhythms of the first ten years. It would be good to hear about these rhythms, also.

I can divide my own aikido experience in several different ways:

(1) pre-shodan vs. post-shodan;

(2) pre-teaching vs. post-teaching;

(3) pre-Japan vs. post-Japan.

(1) Pre-shodan vs. Post-shodan

It took me almost ten years to obtain shodan rank. The reason for this is that my academic commitments took me from place to place and this meant that, as a kyu grade, I had to rebuild my aikido training from scratch, so to speak. Each new teacher represented a clean sheet, so to speak. The teachers were: a young, tough instructor from the Shiseikan, Chiba, Kanai, Kanetsuka. Two of these were direct deshi of the Founder. so I was somewhat bemused by the recent thread on a 'Bill of Rights' for aikido practitioners. With teachers like Chiba or Kanai, the concept of rights never entered my head. I was conscious of being in the presence of people whose training had been very special. Anything they taught me was a gift. I paid the dojo dues, of course, but this never represented a contract between myself and the instructor. The dojo dues, set by whoever (I had no idea), were to enable the teacher to survive till the next class.

My shodan test was totally unexpected and I myself thought it was an unmitigated disaster. Yamada Yoshimitsu Sensei was taking a seminar and I was told on the final day of the seminar that I would have to test for shodan "this afternoon". I passed and then things happened after I put on the hakama. (For a start, I disgraced myself by falling over it once or twice when getting up from seiza and ukemi.) But the attitude of the teachers changed. The input from the teachers became more severe, in the sense that they expected me to see what they were doing and to do what they were doing. So I was chastised much more as a yudansha than as a mudansha. The corrections changed from, "Peter, do it this way." to "Peter, what on earth do you think you're doing? Have I ever taught you that?" But they also went the extra mile, and more.

Now, I have stated all this because I have been an aikido gypsy. I have gone from teacher to teacher by force of circumstances. Thus I would like to hear from the other "Voice of Experience" members, including Jun, who have had only one teacher throughout their aikido lives, how their relationship changed after reaching shodan, or dan rank. Am I right in thinking that George Ledyard, Dennis Hooker and Dan Linden, and Jun, also, have been taught by Saotome Sensei up to shodan and well beyond this?

This is a large subject and I have raised a number of questions to be going on with. So I will end here and add more posts later.

Best regards,

Peter Goldsbury 11-23-2002 11:55 PM

(1) Pre-shodan vs. post-shodan;

I have one or two more things to add here. The concept of time, and stages, in aikido training is a very interesting one. On the one hand people do go through a linear learning process; on the other hand the learning process is also cyclic, especially with the core techniques. As the years progress your repertoire of techniques increases; on the other hand you gain new and deeper insights into the basics: irimi nage is just as difficult at 6th dan as it was at 1st dan, or 5th kyu, but for different reasons.

(2) Pre-teaching vs. post-teaching;

I am pretty sure that one of the reasons I was promoted to shodan was that Mr Kanetsuka needed some junior instructors to teach in the main dojo when he was away giving seminars. But I was also taught how to teach. This was done by the instructor actually practicing when his junior instructors were teaching and giving feedback, either at the time or afterwards. There was a diary kept in the dojo and when Kanetsuka Sensei was away, the diary became especially important. Each technique had to be noted, each sword and jo kata, with space for comments (which we had to fill in: if there were no comments, there was clearly something wrong...). I have never forgotten this training I received.

(3) Pre-Japan vs. post-Japan.

When I was a student in the US, we had regular visits to the dojo from other senior instructors and in 1974 Kisshomaru Doshu visited the US. Actually this was my first introduction to aikido 'politics', for the purpose of Doshu's visit was a trip to Hawaii for a make-or-break meeting with Koichi Tohei Sensei. But I became much more aware of aikido as an organization centred in Japan, with a man at the top who was the son of the man we bowed to before and after every practice. John Stevens had not written his books yet, so information was rather sketchy. Anyway, 1974 marked the stage when I began seriously thinking about going to Japan. However, the Ph.D. had to be finished first...

I arrived here in 1980 and went to live in a smaller provincial city, but one with a very famous name. It came as something of a shock to realize (a) the 'politics' surrounding Hiroshima's promotion of itself as the first A-bombed city and therefore in a unique position to promote world peace and (b) the fact that very few ordinary citizens took all this very seriously, including my own aikido instructor (who also lost family and friends in the bombing). The three main areas of change in my 'aikido life' were:

(i) The way we practiced. There was no verbal explanation. Each technique was simply shown four times: migi, hidari, omote, ura (here are the kanji for those who can read it:@E,,\,);

(ii) I stopped teaching and simply trained. I did not teach aikido again until I became 5th dan and even now train more than I teach, even in my own dojo (there are two other instructors and we have a rule that at least two of us are present every class).

(iii) My aikido instructor (who was 7th dan) did not feel responsible for my continuing aikido education. This was my job, to be pursued as I wished. Of course the techniques had to work, regardless of the attack or the size of uke, and he was very quick to point out errors. But sometimes I was made to feel that my own way of training was as authentic as his.

Best regards to all,

DGLinden 12-11-2002 02:39 PM

My training has had many frequent ups and downs and some periods I would like to forget.

Interesting. Last night one of my senior students asked how I was doing and I said that I was currently going through a phase of only going through the motions. I had only just used him to demonstate some hard technique and he dutifully laughed and said the obvious things. I interupted him and told him I was serious, that I was not 'feeling' anything currently and going through the motions of Aikido. I felt it was okay for him to hear this, he is a sandan after all, but I could tell it disturbed him.

I went on to say that I knew that it was only a phase and that it meant something was happening in me, on my way to a new learning experience. He mentioned that it might be the season, or that I was emptying the mind for Shihan training next month with Saotome Sensei. I don't know, but it is a real void. A sense of emptyness and lack of caring that is quite disturbing brings a certain introspection that is always good, but it can't be denied.

Opher, this has happened to me regularly. Let me think about this some more before I get into a decent retrospective.

Dennis Hooker 12-30-2002 08:22 AM

I believe that anyone doing something passionately day in and day out for years will experience hills and valleys. This is only natural. Sometimes we will stay on a plateau for a long period of time moving nowhere, just trying to get unstuck. This is the most discouraging stage for me. The stage of not moving forward and fighting that feeling of regression, simply plodding along day after day because I am to lazy to get my mind in gear. I have found personally over the years that these periods of deepest drudgery foreshadow a breakthrough of some sort. Either a physical or spiritual one. Sometimes the nature of the breakthrough seemingly has nothing to do with my Aikido training but is none the less a catalyst for getting me off that damn plateau.

I don't know about the rest of you but I have a propensity for procrastination and the attention span of a six month old puppy if I let my mind run free. My body also likes to take control when it can to partake of gluttonous feasting and debauchery. So I must always be diligent in my management of them. Given the slightest chance they will run off separately or together and I pay the price latter. Knowing myself by having to examining in detail my physical and mental health because of chronic illness (Myasthenia Gravis) I know the danger sings of complacency and where that feeling leads if left unchecked. I use meditation or contemplation to help brake me through these stagnate and unproductive times. Because of my own proclivity toward things spiritual I use prayer a lot. I can not avoid the Aikido doldrums, I only whish I could. They come to me with my full knowledge. There is not a darn thing I can do to stop them I can only recognize them and use the tools I have to get past them.

Dennis Hooker

www.shindai.com


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