Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?
Could you elaborate upon what was incredible with Yamada's visit and also how it is related to a notion of "excellence." - please/thanks.
I'm asking, because while I agree that "mediocrity" is a transient phenomenon relative to the individual, I would say that we are also dealing with a culture of mediocrity - which is not so transient, even if it if fluctuates between a will to exist and an actual manifestation.
In my opinion, seminars are a huge part of that culture. Why? Because they are by design only capable of providing superficial elements that are central to the cultivation of Aiki as a martial tactic that one can employ spontaneously. Moreover, for federations (especially the larger ones), seminars are part of a cultural capital that "exchanges" the superficiality of what is gained for a sense of broadening one's understanding. In other words, there's this whole "switch" that takes place regarding seminars - where depth is impossible but where breadth is upheld and valued over depth. As a result, today, when we hear of folks that have trained at lots of seminars we tend to see someone that is training "seriously" and not someone that is failing to penetrate the depth of his/her art. This switch, because it is so supported by a lot of other aspects relative to things like federations, to me, represents a culture - not just an individual tendency.
To be sure, there are things that one can learn from a seminar, but because these things are taking place in a larger cultural trend, they are often wrongly held up as being much more than they are. For example, one often learns what have to be considered small little intellectual insights pertaining to various architectural aspects of a given waza. However, while these things may very much allow one to perform a given waza more efficiently (even more correctly) inside of forms training, such "tricks" of the trade do very little in terms of cultivating Aiki at a spontaneous level. In the given culture, we tend to forget this, and/or we are distracted from this truth, and as a result we stop thinking about Aiki at spontaneous levels and become more preoccupied with the small tricks that make forms more easily to reproduce within our controlled environments. As I said above, the cultural part is that we come to think of these small, mediocre, achievements as something grand and excellent.