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Magma 10-14-2004 02:52 PM

When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Note my question is not about an instructor ceasing to *learn*, as I know that I learn when I have to lead a class. But I think we all know of an instructor who no longer trains. The only night you see them in the dojo is on their night to teach or at a promotion.

This sort of instructor might even go to seminars but duck out after the first hour or so, disappearing for the remainder of the day.

Heck, I might be shaking the pillars of the aikido community with this question, but I want to know what others think.

Does there come a time when an instructor need not actively train?

Does there come a time when an instructor need not train at all?

If not, then what do you say about those who do not train? Not only those around us who might not train, but the noted 'pillars' of the aikido community?

kironin 10-14-2004 03:17 PM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
I don't know. I am not smart enough to figure out how I can learn without training. So for me the answer is never. Even when teaching I try to emulate some examples set by other more senior teachers who work their own training in class (be it getting some ukemi practice with beginners or pulling aside a senior student and showing them some more advanced stuff and giving them the greenlight to go at me full bore, etc.)

I know my own teacher who is 8th dan has his own personal training time. It's either solo practice or practice with a few senior students when he is not traveling.

You need to train no matter who you are IMNHO.

There may be a time when I can't train. That would truly suck.
ow man that SUCKS
:grr:
you really bummed me out!




oh yeah, I get to train tonight
:D

peace

aikidoc 10-14-2004 03:18 PM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
If you don't train, how can you grow? Of course it could be one has all the answers.

Magma 10-14-2004 03:47 PM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Realize that I am not arguing *for* this sort of instructor, but as I doubt whether any instructor is willing to go on the record in a world wide forum like this and claim to be one who does not train, I will state some of the rationalizations that I have heard or can imagine...

"You don't ever stop exercising the mind."

"At higher levels of aikido, the physical becomes less important as the training becomes more holistic, more esoteric, more advanced, and ultimately your whole life."

"Your body cannot hold out forever, and if you don't learn how to grow without training, then what good is your training to you at that point?"


...

ugh.

I dislike all of those answers as ultimately they resonate more as excuses. They seem even more self serving in that they acknowledge the need for growth but do not participate in the training that would elicit such growth. And any learning that you can gain from activities *other* than physically training, IMO, is learning that is separate from what one learns through physical training.

Just because someone *can* learn without training is no reason not to take advantage of the learning that they can have with training.

Aikiscott 10-14-2004 06:55 PM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Short Answer is Never.
I know that my own instructor, even though his teacher resides in the UK, still trains himself, either privately at home doing weapons work, or in the Dojo. He never stops pushing him self.

senshincenter 10-14-2004 09:56 PM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
What about these questions:

1. Is there a time when we should ever have solo practice and/or various forms of contemplation dominate our training?

2. Is there a time when we are either better off and/or no worse off for not regularly participating in training as uke?

3. Should our answers change to the these questions depending upon whether or not we are instructors?

My own position has all three questions being answered in the negative.

dmv

PeterR 10-14-2004 10:30 PM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Hi David;

I think we see things the same way in this regard.

I consider Budo a journey where physical training is an integral part. I can understand age modifying the demands you place on your body but to alter it because you are now an instructor raises one main problem.

It implies that you have arrived at your goal setting the stage for stagnation. The position of sensei in its literal sense is one who has gone/lived before which implies a constant movement forward to maintain that position. Leading by example.

SeiserL 10-15-2004 12:05 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
I heard it was okay to stop training 21 days after your death if you were going to be buried, and 7 days if you were cremated. In other words, IMHO, it never okay to stop training.

senshincenter 10-15-2004 01:48 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Man I thought it was only 10 days after death! :eek:

Well how about this then, with ukemi being so central to training, is it fine or when is it fine to stop taking ukemi at least 50% of the total time training? And again, does that change because one is an instructor?

Again, I would say never, and no.

How about you all?

dmv

PeterR 10-15-2004 02:00 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Is ukemi so central to training?

I believe taking ukemi from a master teaches quite a bit but is there that much to learn from taking ukemi from one of your students?

Taking ukemi for your students in a one on one situation can also help them but not much more than a reasonably trained yudansha can provide.

I do about 50% for several reasons but not because it is central to the improvement of my Aikido.

senshincenter 10-15-2004 02:15 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Hi Peter,

Personally, I would say "yes" to your question, and I would mean that "yes" across the board - ukemi is central in terms of physical conditioning, tactical insight and martial integrity, and spiritual cultivation. But that's just my take - I was making an assumption.

Can I ask then,

Do we not learn anything worth continuing to take ukemi whenver we are taking ukemi from people less skilled than we are in the art, or with lower rank than we have? Is there a cut-off point when that happens? Or does that just happen when we are instructors - is it just when we are teachers that taking ukemi from folks that are less skilled than we are becomes unworthy of continuing its practice on a regular basis?

I think I would answer these questions differntly than your last post woud suggest you would. My reason has to do with me holding that training isn't just about learning. A huge part of training is about being, and that means its about doing, and at some level that is going to mean something akin to "repetition for its own sake". That is to say, I'm not so sure we should engage in the practice only if learning something new is deemed possible or probable. We should just engage in the practice because it is the practice. For some reason your reply makes me think about that.

What do you (all) think?

dmv

PeterR 10-15-2004 02:46 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Hi David;

Right now my ukemi is improving even though I still consider it poor. As long as that happens and it continues to be fun I'll keep at it.

It's also great for agility and all round fitness not to mention absolutely necessary if I want to partake in Shodokan Aikido randori in a safe manner. It is especially for the latter reason that ukemi training is central to my Aikido training. However, I still don't see it as central to Aikido. Perhaps semantics.

Keep in mind that I am still relatively young and junior in the scheme of things. When I go to the Honbu dojo I am not an instructor and worse the mat area is pretty restricted. At my own place there is a ton of room for the ukemi practice I do need.

philipsmith 10-15-2004 03:18 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Of course the answer to your question is never; with one proviso. Some instructors I know have had to stop "training" as a result of medical advice but that does not mean their contribution is any less valid.

There is though a lrge proportion of senior instructors who simply will not train and I think that this is either e reflection of their insecurity (are they still physically capable?) or a wish to preserve the instructor mystique (I teach but do not learn). Either way leads to stagnation.

maikerus 10-15-2004 04:35 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Tim,

What an excellent question. I'd like to think that I'm in the "after you're dead" camp, but when I think of the top instructors that I've trained under at the Yoshinkan hombu I never really saw them do a class or "training" per se and if they did any training together it was definately very secretive and nothing I was even privy to hearing about and this was when I was a part-time instructor at hombu.

The reason I mention this is because I have absolutely no doubts that they could do a class of hajime and I have done classes of 90 mins of back breakfalls with some of them and other physically improbable/impossible exercises. But they do not "train" in the way I normally define the term which includes physically bouncing around as uke.

I do know some instructors who fall into the "don't train...talk only...and don't participate in seminars" but the instructors at Hombu aren't like that.

What a dilema. I have the absolute utmost respect for these instructors and believe that they could out-train a hotshot 19 year old, but I have never seen the top 3 Yoshinkan instructors train a class.

One thing I do need to point out is that I do see these instructors still *learning* and continuing to look to expand their understanding. So, that differentiation between learning and training applies here.

Okay...so...I guess the "after your dead" part applies to us mere mortals and there are those others who actually have done all the training they need to.

Thanks for making me think...d*mn.

--Michael

ruthmc 10-15-2004 06:10 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Pesonally, I like to take ukemi for my students because then I get to 'feel' what they are doing, as well as to see and hear it. Maybe when you get to be a senior instructor you are able to pick up everything a student does by sight alone. Personally I'm not convinced, having experienced tori using large amounts of upper body muscle power that the instructor didn't seem to notice, or worse, believed was good Aikido.. <shudder>

Ruth

ps Great topic!

Dazzler 10-15-2004 06:34 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Who can say when an instructor should stop training? I think its down to every individual to set their own training goals and regulate them.

If they dont feel up to the physical side of practice no matter, it doesn't stop them from providing a platform for the development of the class. As instructors this is what they do...isn't it?

I've seen many seniors standing around and watching beginners hammer each other. I'll admit to thinking they were lazy perhaps when I was less experienced ...but put the shoe on the other foot. Do these guys with 20 - 30 years experience need to practice like beginners? not in my view.

Personally I like the phyical side of practice....but thats for me. My aikido is mine and mine alone and I wouldn't want to judge others for their personal choice.

If you swap training for Learning then its a different ball game. Any one that has nothing left to learn is dead. Anyone that believes they have nothing to learn is a wee bit arrogant!

Cheers

D

batemanb 10-15-2004 06:46 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
They can stop training whenever they want to.

Whether they cease to learn, or stagnate or not, is not for me to worry about. If they happen to be my teacher, and I feel I am no longer learning from them, then I'll address my situation as required, but they will always have something to offer someone.

I shouldn't be feeling self righteous if they stop training, it's of no relevence to me or my aikido. We spend too much time in the west worrying about everyone else when we should be focusing on ourselves.

rgds

Bryan

Magma 10-15-2004 08:20 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Good responses, all, that makes one think. Now that the discussion is going, let me weigh in with an opinion or two of my own.

I agree with David that much can be learned by taking ukemi for students. The point was made by Peter that the student does not benefit to a greater degree by having the instructor take ukemi for them than they would if another yudansha took the ukemi, and while this is true I think it misses the point. That situation describes a situation of teacher as teacher and student as student, with the emphasis on what the student learns. I think it is far more beneficial to turn that paradigm around and see teacher-as-student and *everyone* and *everything* else as teacher. This, IMO is another expression of the beginner mind, where the lessons were many and myriad, and every encounter was another opportunity to grow.

So, is there something the instructor can learn from taking ukemi for others? I would say most definitely: You see and learn what you are ready to see and learn. The instructor (who is just another student) must be ready to learn to make the ukemi beneficial, but there is no reason why it cannot be. Not only is ukemi practice practice of ukemi (where learning can take place), it is also a chance to learn about the other person and how they are progressing in their aikido, something every instructor should be concerned with. Further, I think that the instructor-as-uke has a unique chance for learning by taking ukemi, for they get the learning through what we might call their meta-instruction. That is, by seeing and feeling the way the "student" responds to the "instructors" instruction, the instructor is better able to instruct him or herself on how to instruct better.

I agree with Peter and his comments regarding the way cessation of training indicates a stagnation on the part of the instructor.

Philip, you are a brave, brave man, for posting what may very well be at the heart of the dilemma, that being insecurity on the part of those who stop training. I don't know that your point will receive much discussion, because I think that there is another insecurity on the part of aikido students *about* those teachers, that we don't talk about the emperor's new clothes, if you know what I mean. I personally think that what you say is on the minds of more students than would feel comfortable admitting.

Michael and Daren, I agree that there is a difference between training and learning, and understand how you both applied that to your high ranking instructors. However, I would counter by saying that there is learning that can specifically only be gained by training, and not just by taking ukemi, but by taking part in a class. More on that in a minute, but would you agree?

Bryan - ultimately, I agree with you of course, recognizing that this is a personal journey for each of us. However, it is only through asking these sorts of questions and judging the worth of different paths that we find for ourselves the best way. So I ask the question to think about our instructors, but I also ask the question because it is a question that should be considered individually as we move up in rank and take steps toward being an instructor.

For your position that their training does not affect you, I would disagree with you. Even you allow that if you stop learning from them that you would need to move on to another teacher, so in so far as that, they *have* impacted your training. Still, if you only focus on your instructors, you, IMO, miss half of this question... the part about you. About me. About each of us individually taking stock.

*****
Now, a good portion of this thread has focused on the benefits of an instructor taking ukemi from their students, which has merit as a discussion. I have made my opinion known on that subject. But I think that there is another way of looking at the question, that there is a benefit to an instructor not only taking ukemi, but also in sitting in and participating in another's class. I think there is a great benefit to actually being a student in another's class, in dropping out of the instructor role, in training the mind to stop thinking of the training in terms of answers (that they must be ready to provide), but in terms of questions (that they must be willing to pose).

I think that is a fundamental difference in the mindset of these instructors who stop training and the students that follow them.

What do you think?

Dazzler 10-15-2004 09:06 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Quote:

Tim Rohr wrote:
Michael and Daren, I agree that there is a difference between training and learning, and understand how you both applied that to your high ranking instructors. However, I would counter by saying that there is learning that can specifically only be gained by training, and not just by taking ukemi, but by taking part in a class. More on that in a minute, but would you agree?

I would agree of course that there is learning that can only be achieved by practice - If not then it would in theory be possible to learn aikido without ever practicing. Aikido must be experienced to absorb it.

However you are using this to counter my thoughts that it is down to the individual to set their training pattern. In this case we are talking specifically about experienced instructors. My feeling is that for them the negatives of pushing an elderly frame through a physical class may outweigh any benefits to be gained from adding a few hours to the considerable investment they have already made in terms of mat hours.

As stated previously this in no way inhibits the contribution they can make to the development of those around them which almost always outweights the benefit that they may take from classes.

There is no way I want to criticise those that give back the benefits of their experience for having the common sense to protect their own health and physical well being.

As an example ..I train with Pierre Chassang who is in his upper 80s. He has forgotten more Aikido than so many so called seniors will ever know. If he wanted to sit in a deck chair sipping a glass of chilled wine on the corner of the tatami I'd be happy to have him there. :D

His frame of mind is that he will only wear a white belt as he considers himself to still be learning.

Who on earth can suggest they are in a position to offer this man advice on how to organise his training schedule!! :)

ian 10-15-2004 09:22 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Quote:

Tim Rohr wrote:
I think that is a fundamental difference in the mindset of these instructors who stop training and the students that follow them.

What do you think?

I think you are wanting to get something off your chest - just come straight out with it!

Magma 10-15-2004 09:27 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
True, Daren, the man you describe is a good role model for the life of constant learning.

But I don't know that he is the specific focus of the question, though maybe he helps to better define the question: we are not talking about instructors who physically can't, but instructors who physically won't. And, a part of those who "can't" are actually in that camp because they for so long were in the "won't" camp, not training. Now they think their body cannot take those rigors of training - and maybe they cannot - but that, IMO, is not the aim of the martial arts.

The physical aim of MA is not to reach that baseline of physical ability, the asymptote of feebleness. It is to grow the body's ability and to stay at the highest level of ability that we can be at. Surely that level of ability declines as we get older, but i think many instructors prematurely let that ability fall away by not training as they are able.

Even in discussing this, though, I don't want to lose sight of the *other* benefits, the non-physical benefits, that befall an instructor who sits in on another's class. The exercise of being a student has many rewards, itself.

Magma 10-15-2004 09:30 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Quote:

Ian Dodkins wrote:
I think you are wanting to get something off your chest - just come straight out with it!

Nope, just thinking about the state of aikido and hoping to get other people thinking, too. I've just noted this phenomena in the martial arts - not only in aikido.

I'm hoping, too, to be made to think by return posts, which I have found to be the case already as I read what others have written.

batemanb 10-15-2004 09:35 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Quote:

Tim Rohr wrote:
For your position that their training does not affect you, I would disagree with you. Even you allow that if you stop learning from them that you would need to move on to another teacher, so in so far as that, they *have* impacted your training.

I'm not sure that it would really impact me, unless I have decided to to stop learning myself. By the time I have stopped learning from said instructor, I should already be well on my own path and able move on without it really affecting me.

Quote:

Tim Rohr wrote:
I think there is a great benefit to actually being a student in another's class, in dropping out of the instructor role, in training the mind to stop thinking of the training in terms of answers (that they must be ready to provide), but in terms of questions (that they must be willing to pose).

When I lived in Japan, the head of my association was 75 years old back then. He only taught once a month, and on special keiko days. Otherwise he attended class almost every day and just plain trained, being uke for anyone that asked.

It's an individual mindset, my only concern is that I maintain it :).

regards

Bryan

Dazzler 10-15-2004 09:45 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
Tim

What exactly do you see as the aim of martial arts? Personally it enriches my life by I don't expect everyone to have the same desires and requirements.

I choose Pierre as my example because he is for me an inspirational role model. From him I have learned to develop my mind as well as my body and to make a choice.

What I am trying to convey is that these individuals also have the right to chose how they live their lives, and how they practice.

I have a very clear picture of the type of seniors you describe. I know many and hopefully do not place myself it this bracket since I prefer to be recognized as someone constantly working to improve.

But I respect their choice...they have earned it.

I think I train pretty hard...3 sessions a week and I go for it. It used to be 6 sessions but my life re-emerged.

But I know I'm no shaolin monk conditioned to perfection - I just try to be as good as I can.

What exactly constitutes an acceptable level of physical practice?

BTW
Do you think the shaolin monks have a forum criticizing us aikido peeps for not living in monasteries and living martial training 24 by 7?

senshincenter 10-15-2004 11:56 AM

Re: When Can an Instructor Stop Training?
 
I think raising questions over whether or not instructors should train like everyone else is undoubtedly a worthy topic for self-contemplation -- not just for instructors but also for everyone. Simply because in the process of such contemplation we may "rub up against" current personal and/or socio-political relationships that carry some weight in our lives, reflecting deeply as an individual upon this topic does not become meaningless and/or without merit. If contemplation forces us, by the natural consequence of association, to reflect directly upon a person we may know, such matters are not reduced to mere matters of personal condemnation and/or personal uplifting. I think this is an important matter to consider, of course for oneself, but also for those that currently train under us and/or will one day. We do not satisfy this importance by lifting up one teacher and/or by denouncing another. Those actions are beside the point. Every teacher's pedagogy has to have a symbiotic relationship between "what is best for oneself" and "what is best for one's students." Such contemplation is simply part of that whole process -- it is not a personal attack upon anyone and/or a proscription upon everyone's behavior.

Before running my own dojo, I had been a regular student (i.e. training daily) of eight teachers, with four of them shihan. Out of all of them, only three participated in training as we are all beginning to understand it. These three were shihan. They were also self-admittedly "mavericks" of sorts. That is to say, they knew that most folks of their stature did not "train" like everyone else. Such a sense of being different is, I believe, a mark of a kind of paradigmatic shift -- one we may all be a part of at some level.

20th century martial arts training, in Japan and especially as it traveled abroad, was heavily influenced by types of thinking that supported the practice of teachers not training like everyone else. To be sure, there were all kinds of practical reasons for such a course of action, but there were also discourses like Neo-Confucianism that did a lot for making "not training" appear to be perfectly okay. Consequently, questions for contemplation such as these were not really considered at that time, and instructors that did train as everyone else were not considered mavericks, either by themselves or by others.

Things have changed over the last century and into the current one. In particular, training in Japan, especially Aikido, have come to steer away from discourses like Neo-Confucianism, and training is more and more becoming akin to exercise than it is to other forms of spiritual practice. As "exercise," the moving and not moving of oneself comes to take on a different meaning than when such things were directly relevant to one's position in institutional hierarchies (e.g. a martial ryu). In Japan, increasingly, you are either exercising or you are not, you are either training or you are not. It is my opinion that this is one reason why you see more older and higher ranked aikidoka (men and women) simply doing class like everyone else in Japan, versus a place like the United States.

Something else has occurred, in my opinion, in the areas that arts like Aikido spread to. The general practicing population of these countries, while tending not to see the art as mere exercise, also tend not favor the original discourses that supported the action of instructors not training. Hence, 20th century reasons of practicality for instructors not training are raising more questions than they are settling in these areas as well. 20th century rationales, whether they were correctly understood and/or misunderstood, are being replaced by notions that stress and equate moving with doing, doing with being, and being with legitimate practice. Such rationales come to the general training public via things as mundane as Nike's slogan, "Just Do It," but also through things as profound as accurate understandings of Budo, Buddhist, and other spiritual traditions relevant to martial arts training -- which is finally disseminating properly to areas outside of Japan -- and that are combining with modern notions of social equality. The combination of these properly understood ideas and social egalitarianism are making it increasingly difficult for instructors of today to say they train when they are not training like everyone else. This occurs in the same way that folks in Japan find it difficult to say they do Aikido when they are not exercising with Aikido like everyone else. In other words, there is a growing social and cultural pressure to not excuse oneself from the mat.

To be sure, trends are never complete. Moreover, trends are never without their competing trends. Therefore, what is important to note is how there was once a time when questions for contemplation such as this one wouldn't have been possible -- how we have traveled to a time when they are not only possible to ask but also to a time when it is most probable that they will be asked. Personally, I think that is a good thing. I think that is just one more step in the right direction. After all, moving is doing, doing is being, being is having a legitimate practice -- but this is just my time speaking. ;)

dmv


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