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AikiWeb System 09-23-2004 11:51 AM

Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
Discuss the article, "Transmission in Aikido" by George S. Ledyard here.

Article URL: http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/gledyard/2004_09.html

suren 09-23-2004 06:57 PM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
An article about a problem that I can "feel". I agree with almost everything that is said here, however one thing still bothers me - the conclusion.

Quote:

George S. Ledyard wrote:
With the thousands of practitioners doing Aikido these days it is no longer possible to rely on the old transmission model of "Master to student". There simply aren't enough "Masters" to go around. There aren't even enough Shihan level teachers to closely supervise even the various teachers functioning around the world. So it is a reality that we are at the point where most students of Aikido will be called on to do their own "transmission".

Very true. Too many practitioners to establish a close teacher-student relation. Even being lucky enaugh to practice every Saturday with Bill Witt Shihan, I doubt if I'll ever have such a relation. Shihans are very busy and in most cases they can't pay too much attention to any one student because thousands of others are waiting to be taught. And actually asking for such attention these days can be accepted as an egoims.

Quote:

George S. Ledyard wrote:
If this is to work, they need to be as strict and uncompromising as any "Master" would have been. They will have to motivate themselves, finding new directions for their training and not simply wait for someone else to give their practice direction. If this happens we will get to the place in which we are all each others "Masters" and "transmission" will not only take place vertically but horizontally. This would in itself go a long way towards realizing O-sensei's dream of Aikido uniting the world.

Those are the words I really can't accept. They appeal for self-realization or at least understanding of the art (internal part of the art) by yourself. Does anybody knows about any case when such self-realization has been achieved without sensei / guru / spiritual leader or any other form of leadership?
Sorry, but I can't find any historical fact :(
Many say that the light is already inside ourselves, but has anybody discovered it by himself ?

Best regards,
Suren.

suren 09-23-2004 08:17 PM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
To prevent references to the great teachers and saints like Christ, Buddha, Mohammed and others, please consider that in most of the cases the considerable part of their lives has not been covered in the books which mostly discuss their teachings. In Buddha's case you can find some information about his experience involving teachers in Asvaghosha's works, in the case of Ramakrishna there are at least two (documented) gurus who lead him - woman and an ascetics. As I can remember, the time before Jesus started to teach, he was absent for pretty long time and this time is not documented. I assume he could be learning and he could do it not alone... I'm not familiar with Islam, so no comments here.

George S. Ledyard 09-24-2004 02:08 AM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
Quote:

Suren Baghdasaryan wrote:
An article about a problem that I can "feel". I agree with almost everything that is said here, however one thing still bothers me - the conclusion.



Very true. Too many practitioners to establish a close teacher-student relation. Even being lucky enaugh to practice every Saturday with Bill Witt Shihan, I doubt if I'll ever have such a relation. Shihans are very busy and in most cases they can't pay too much attention to any one student because thousands of others are waiting to be taught. And actually asking for such attention these days can be accepted as an egoims.



Those are the words I really can't accept. They appeal for self-realization or at least understanding of the art (internal part of the art) by yourself. Does anybody knows about any case when such self-realization has been achieved without sensei / guru / spiritual leader or any other form of leadership?
Sorry, but I can't find any historical fact :(
Many say that the light is already inside ourselves, but has anybody discovered it by himself ?

Best regards,
Suren.

Actually, there is an allowance for this in Buddhism. A Pratyeka Buddha was one who attained Enlightenment on his own without the usual transmission. The Vimalakirti Sutra was an important text for lay Buddhists because Vimalakirti attained Enlightenment as a householder and was not a monk. So in a sense Aikido folks who can't be "uchi deshi" to the highest level teachers will in a sense have to mdel themsleves after Vimalkirti and do it themselves.

Fortunately for us, there are far more resources available to the average practitioner even if he doesn't have a high level teacher immediately to hand.

Also, just as an aside, Krishnamurti addressed the issue of not having a guru extensively in his writings.

Charles Hill 09-24-2004 02:49 AM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
In a lot of the literature describing the "transmission" type of education, the student seems to be left on his or her own to figure out what they have to do. Similarly, many of the Shihan from the days of the founder actually spent little time with him. Also, old films show many of them to have rather inferior technique compared to what they can do now. I think that they, like the founder, took what they could understand from their teacher over a short time and have spent a lifetime working on it. Also, I feel that the main master-student relationship in the founder`s life was definitely with Onisaburo Deguchi, not Sokaku Takeda. The founder studied Deguchi`s book "Reikai Monogatari" his whole life. He seems to have had left Daito Ryu and Takeda`s teachings behind rather early on. This says to me that to the founder, Aikido was not a martial art but a spiritual practice that used a martial art as its basis.

Also, if I remember correctly, Vimalakirti was a student of the Buddha, although a lay student.

Charles Hill

ian 09-24-2004 05:40 AM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
Excellent article. I wish we still just had teaching certificates and nothing else i.e. if you had a teaching certificate from your instructor, it meant you had learnt all there was to learn from them. Thus the lineage of aikido training would be more important. However, I feel very lucky in the variety of instructors I have had, and feel that I've gained alot from having a varied background.

George S. Ledyard 09-24-2004 08:43 AM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
Quote:

Charles Hill wrote:
Also, if I remember correctly, Vimalakirti was a student of the Buddha, although a lay student.

Charles Hill

I believe you are right although it's been almost thirty years since I read the Sutra. Anyway, without stretching the analogy too far, Vimalakirti would be the model for most ordinary Aikido students. He managed to get "Enlightened" by taking what he was taught by his teacher and working on it as part of his daily life. He wasn't a monk and didn't have the advantage of being able to focus solely on his practice all day long (as our Aikido uchi deshi did). So he would represent an example of what I meant by having a deep relationship with a teacher without necessarily having that teacher present and overseeing every aspect of the training.

I am not saying that this model is the easiest or fastest way to master the art... in Buddhism this was always considered the hard way to go )as opposed to leaving the world and becoming a monk). Obviously, being able to train daily under a Shihan level Aikido teacher, especially one who had trained directly under the Founder, would be wonderful but as I pointed out in the article that simply isn't going to happen for most people. So we all have to be like Vimalakirti and take what we can from all the sources available and then find a way to "do our own transmission".

suren 09-24-2004 12:25 PM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
Mr. Ledyard, thanks for refering to an interesting reading.

Quote:

Vimalakirti Sutra wrote:
He lived at home, but remained aloof from the realm of desire, the realm of pure matter, and the immaterial realm. He had a son, a wife, and female attendants, yet always maintained continence. He appeared to be surrounded by servants, yet lived in solitude. He appeared to be adorned with ornaments, yet always was endowed with the auspicious signs and marks. He seemed to eat and drink, yet always took nourishment from the taste of meditation. He made his appearance at the fields of sports and in the casinos, but his aim was always to mature those people who were attached to games and gambling. He visited the fashionable heterodox teachers, yet always kept unswerving loyalty to the Buddha. He understood the mundane and transcendental sciences and esoteric practices, yet always took pleasure in the delights of the Dharma. He mixed in all crowds, yet was respected as foremost of all.

In order to be in harmony with people, he associated with elders, with those of middle age, and with the young, yet always spoke in harmony with the Dharma. He engaged in all sorts of businesses, yet had no interest in profit or possessions.

Man! He was not a monk, but did this man ever left his internal monastery?

I remember there were also some references to another person who was a kshatra and ruler (I don't remember his name), who reached self-realization.

senshincenter 09-24-2004 12:53 PM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
If I may expand one of Mr. Hill's point and/or connect it to something that Mr. Ledyard has been saying...

The idea of gaining wisdom through oneself and/or by ones own means should not be considered antithetical to the process of mastery. This, in my opinion, is the point of the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra. This is demonstrated in the contrast that Vimalakirti presents as a layperson to his esteemed company -- which is a "who's who" of Bodhisattvas. Therefore, gaining wisdom through oneself cannot be considered antithetical to the teacher/deshi dynamic either -- since it too is conducive to mastery.

To be sure, we must be cautious when the position of self-attained wisdom is used as a cover to the avoidances we may all hold in regards to engaging the Way fully, but the misuse of a position does not make that position false or invalid in its proper use. I think Mr. Ledyard has covered these misuses quite well in his article.

If I may, I would say, not as antithetical and more than merely a matter of current circumstances, more than merely a solution to a given set of logistical circumstances, like the Sutra hints, we must consider self-attained wisdom as integral to mastery. We should not guard against this type of practice for the fear we may have concerning its misuses, and we would do well, I believe, to not have to feel so pressed to justify it logistically in order to see it as valid.

The misuses will take care of themselves. Moreover, the justifications, in their unsaid, may be doing many a disservice as it subtly suggests to them that one should privilege external elements to internal ones. After all, coming to a teacher for the mere reason of being validated (as opposed to being self-validated), which is what one will be left with if self-attained wisdom is considered antithetical to the training process and to the sensei/deshi dynamic, is a type of avoidance, a type of disengagement from the true training. This may be a bigger problem, one we should more be concerned with than the misuse of self-attained wisdom. Why? As I said, the misuse of self-attained wisdom will take care of itself, as fraudulent or superficial insights cannot help but to expose themselves as such. However, for the most part, the institutional framework of Aikido politics will tend to support the deshi that comes to teachers with never wanting to think for themselves. This is the point of all institutional frameworks. In time then, as we can already see to a certain degree, that institutional framework will come to support not thinking for oneself, a turning away from self-attained wisdom, and even the absence of mastery. To me, that is a scarier option than some person that mistakenly thinks he has invented the wheel -- even when he's presented a square one.

dmv

George S. Ledyard 09-24-2004 01:13 PM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
Quote:

David Valadez wrote:
However, for the most part, the institutional framework of Aikido politics will tend to support the deshi that comes to teachers with never wanting to think for themselves. This is the point of all institutional frameworks. In time then, as we can already see to a certain degree, that institutional framework will come to support not thinking for oneself, a turning away from self-attained wisdom, and even the absence of mastery. dmv

I agree, David. That is why I made the point in my article that Organizations (or styles) don't do transmission. When the point becomes slavish adherence to certain ways of outer forms or stylistic details rather than individual attainment of internal insights O-Sensei's vision of Aikido can't be realized. The Founder was quite clear that each individual had to find his own Aikido once the original transmission of the essential principles had taken place.

senshincenter 09-24-2004 02:47 PM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
Hi George,

Thanks for replying. Yes, you did say that quite nicely in the article. Just felt a bit of expansion couldn't hurt, since I thought your piece in no way lent itself, but by the furthest stretch of a misapplied imagination, to supporting a misuse of self-attained wisdom.

How about this, what are your thoughts (and of course the thoughts of others are also appreciated):

On the one hand, we can clearly note that the true transmission of the art cannot take place within, because of, or via the institutional framework. On the other hand, we can note that the institutional framework will, through mechanism that are natural to it, tone down the significance of this inability as it tirelessly works to give significance to what it can achieve, support, and produce. Or abstractly speaking, the institutional framework of Aikido cannot do "x," so it tones down or reduces the significance of not doing "x," while at the same time it holds up "y," which it can do and which it tries not to distinguish too clearly from "x." This is what we seem to be working with, and this I think is somewhere in what you have been saying -- at least as an inference.

If I may say, I think this dilemma, which is what I consider it to be, is something that just goes with the territory whenever you are dealing with art, and/or a "mind to mind" transmission, and an institutional framework. I think history will reflect this as well. This is why we see many "founders" or masters making simultaneous moves in their self-validation and in their rejection of pre-established institutions. The two seem to have to always be together because of the intrinsic nature of institutions and self-validation. Many have actually spoken of this outright -- one already mentioned, Krishnamurti, Ikkyu, Jesus, the Buddha, Osensei, etc.

My question is this: How do we reconcile all of this in our own training (assuming mastery is our goal)?

My concerns is this: (Putting aside the obvious misuses of self-attained wisdom) "Simply shut up and train (more)" may not be the cure-all mantra we all wish it could be. It may turn out to be the very voice of the institution; the voice that speaks to us in a sort of Jedi-mind-trick manner; the voice preventing us from ever achieving mastery over anything but being satisfied just the same.

david

suren 09-24-2004 03:24 PM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
Quote:

George S. Ledyard wrote:
The Founder was quite clear that each individual had to find his own Aikido once the original transmission of the essential principles had taken place.

I think that idea is and always was a part of teacher-student relationship before and now. At some point student always was encouraged to search his own path, to improvise around the core of the teaching he learned.
The problem I think is that now we have little time to spend with high-quality (if I may say that way) teachers due to great number of students. That's the price we pay. Quantity-quality law.
On the other hand in the old times these ways have been a privilege of very few people and by publishing them humanity as overall gained opportunities to learn more.
Anyway, the only way I can see is to concentrate as much as possible on the teaching during those short periods we have to spend with our teachers and try to absorb every drop of knowledge they are willing to pass.

Right now my teachers avoid any spiritual discussions. Therefore I also avoid questioning about it. Hopefully they start talking when we are ready.

suren 09-24-2004 03:29 PM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
BTW, Mr. Ledyard (or other experienced teachers), how do you decide when the time is right to leave your students on their own? Is that some internal feeling or the rank or maybe something else?

Chuck Clark 10-04-2004 11:42 AM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
Hi George,

I just re-read this article again after reading it the first day it was available. The points you make, as usual, are right on the mark.

As budo practice takes root more deeply in modern culture it's important that the transmission of the ura does happen and then manifest the essence of the inner values appropriately in our modern culture. We can not just do the "techniques" efficiently and reach the full flower of budo. As you say, we can take part in a true "master/apprentice" relationship with someone that has IT or we can search out several teachers that may have bits of IT because the student/searcher also has the seeds of IT in themself and will not abandon the search and the process. Both ways work and probably, in truth, are the same thing at some point. The important thing is that IT gets transmitted.

Each of us must do our best in our own way and be patient because it takes a long time for the seeds to become native instead of imported. The history of the spread of Buddhisim is a good example.

Thanks for your article, you show your heart, as usual.

suren 10-04-2004 12:05 PM

Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido by George S. Ledyard
 
Quote:

Suren Baghdasaryan wrote:
Shihans are very busy and in most cases they can't pay too much attention to any one student because thousands of others are waiting to be taught.

To disprove my own words and for some information, I'm just back from Saito Hitohiro Sensei's seminar and I'm sure a lot of people may already know that, but Saito Sensei has uchi deshi program and currently there is one person there. So there is place for more people if they can go to Iwama. I'm so sorry not to be able to do that :(


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