Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: quickness & accuracy
This is also how I would tie this topic into the thread. For me, when I look at that video, I see people that are reduced to lower levels of technical applicability NOT because they are out of shape, not trained in the latest kick-ass martial trend, unable to do Osensei's jo trick, etc. Rather, there are mind issues demonstrated in that video that are the issues that need to be addressed if we are going to ask and answer, "What do we do in our training to be able to deal with a barrage of strikes?" That is why for me, from this perspective, it may not be enough to say, "Just irimi." Nor would it be enough to say, "We need to sharpen the edge on our Aikido techniques so that they can deal with real-world punches and not just abstracts like tsuki -- let's add ground-fighting and/or see what else Daito-Ryu has to offer." Etc.
For me, these mind issues are the heart of Budo training. To be sure, Budo is a vast beast, and it has had many hearts, and most likely will come to have many more as it survives into the future, however, for me, it is a focus upon the heart/mind that makes our practice viable in these present times. Thus, my training, our training at our dojo, is focused around this. For us, by placing the heart/mind at the center of our training, and not things like technical mastery, ki development, or martial victory, etc., we not only come to see these things through the center of the heart/mind, we come to see these potentially mundane things as being related to deeper aspects of our inner selves. We bring to them a spiritual quality -- one that comes to them via our investment of self, which is of its own accord of the Divine/spiritual.
In the end then, from this point of view, we are talking about bringing an overall depth to our training. What does that mean? That means that we can perform our technical mastery within more situations even though they may be varied by levels of intensity or by degrees of dissimilarity. That means that we cultivate ki development or ki sensitivity not only in terms of various feats we can perform under controlled conditions but more importantly within real-life encounters, such as those with our spouses, our children, our friends, etc. That means that we can grasp the rule that victory over the self is the only true victory. This is important, I feel, because it is only through depth that we have any real chance of bringing the lessons and accomplishments we may gain through Aikido training off the mat and into the real world -- be that martially or spiritually or socially, etc. For the human being, there is only one way to add such depth -- one must go inward.
For these reasons, yes, I do believe it is the role of the teacher (as leader of a dojo or as in a person in a position of authority within the dojo) to provide a training environment/situation where the quality of the heart/mind will reveal itself and thus expose itself to the risk of reconciliation. I also believe it is the teacher's role to assist in addressing the student in those times when it does. How is that done? Well, as there are infinite ways for each heart/mind to reveal itself, supported by infinite reasons for that revelation, there must also be an infinite way for a teacher to offer guidance and support. As infinite as things must remain, however, some core elements continually come up because we are ultimately all of the same inner self -- such as the great significance that must be afforded to community. In fact, it is because we all share in these core elements that spirituality can even exist.
These core elements go on to function along with other types of things that together work synergistically to produce an environment that is fertile in terms of producing the fruits of such aimed for labors. For example, in regards to the notion of community (mentioned earlier in this thread), a dojo that offers such training must have an extremely strong sense of intimacy. That is to say, intimacy issues must be both cultivated and supported by the dojo overall. Thus, things like etiquette, for example, are more geared toward addressing the revealing of the heart/mind and not just the smooth operation of a group of different people that want to exercise together. Hence, etiquette is not just a prescription for behavior but is something that actually comes to rest upon a moral code that is geared toward cultivating those things that can support heavier and heavier amounts of intimacy - that can then go on to support heavier and heavier amounts of self-revelation, etc.
In short, a dojo is a kind of body, made up of parts that must all function toward the wellness of a whole. Therefore, as a teacher seeks to address, or guide, or support, or share, etc., via the process of self-revelation, those actions will themselves have to address, be guided by, supported by, and share in the overall wellness of the dojo/community. I feel it is important to point this out because it is this sense of a total environment that really gives potency to any possible guidance a teacher might actually give his/her student. This means that one cannot simply take some of the examples I am about to offer as an explanation of what such guidance might look like without understanding that such action must take place within a specific context. In fact, we should note, the same action outside of the appropriate context would in all likelihood produce the opposite effect of the one intended.
So far, in this thread, two common types of disengagement have been mentioned: laughing and alienating and/or distancing oneself from one's attacker. Please allow me to speak generally in regards to these things -- mainly using laughing as my example. In addressing these actions, a teacher must understand the "urge" to disengage. A teacher should be able to understand this because the "urge" is shared between them. It is located in the nature of our humanity, which is precisely why anyone who does these drills, anywhere, anytime, comes up against these various types of disengagement and the core urge that supports them. In addressing this urge, at its simplest, a teacher will make use of two primary elements: truth and the student's commitment to his/her training. Thus, a dojo that approaches this training must have ways of cultivating and of giving value to both truth and commitment. If in the dojo there is no value placed upon truth and/or commitment, or if in the dojo there are no means of cultivating higher degrees of truth and/or commitment, a teacher is at a great disadvantage then, as is the student as well.
When a student laughs through such a drill, it is because they are inspired to not take it seriously. They are inspired to not take it seriously because of the delusion that supports their reality. That is to say, there is some sense within them that what is happening is not really real -- because it does not jive with their (deluded) sense of reality. In other words, as in any type of humor, there is a distance present between what is happening and what is expected. What is happening is that they are being pummeled. What is supposed to be happening, what is expected, what is their "reality," is that they are not supposed to be pummeled. If they are a black belt -- that is supposed to be proof that they should not be getting hit. If they have been training for many years (whatever they think is "many years") -- that is supposed to be proof that they should not be getting hit. If they are working out with a partner that they are senior to -- that is supposed to be proof that they should not be getting hit. If they are stronger than their partner -- that is supposed to be proof that they should not be getting hit. If they are male and their partner is female -- that is supposed to be proof that they should not be getting hit. If they do yoga or practice zazen -- that is supposed to be proof that they are not supposed to be getting hit. If they have "won" many street fights -- that is supposed to be proof that they should not be getting hit. Etc. However, they are getting hit! Moreover, they are getting hit multiple times, at will almost (or perhaps so), and they are getting hit by smaller folks with less rank and with less experience, etc.
At this point, for some, an instructor can point out the truth by simply saying, "You are getting hit." The deshi more committed to the truth and that have more self-responsibility in their commitment to their training will respond by not only not laughing, by not only no longer seeking to disengage themselves from the drill, but by also coming to shine a bright light on their delusion. Thus, they will come to question the very foolish notions that were making such a drill humorous (i.e. distant from a "reality"). That is to say, folks will gain more truth concerning what a black belt means (or does not mean), what "senior" means, what "stronger" means, what "gender" means, what "winning" means, what "yoga" and "zazen" mean, etc.
Other deshi, those not yet as cultivated in truth and commitment may perhaps wish to support such humor, such distance from "reality," such delusion, with rationalizations. Again, this is a universal mark of our humanity. Why? Because delusions are never experienced as fantasy -- they can only be experienced as real and therefore they are often supported with those things that mark anything that is real -- such a reason. However, because these realities are of delusion, such reason is always plagued by internal contradiction and/or inconsistency. The delusion feels and can sound real because it is blind to its own contradictions and/or inconsistencies in reason. Therefore, a teacher must find the contradiction and/or the inconsistency and bring it to the light of the deshi's mind. For example, some deshi will say that the drill cannot be done -- that too much advantage is given to the attacker to not make this drill humorous/silly. The simplest way of exposing this rationalization as false is to put forth the example of it being done as a teacher. It is very hard to say it cannot be done when your teacher is doing it right in front of you -- with you. Toward this same end, a teacher might alter the drill when working with this deshi so that even more advantage is given to the deshi as attacker -- to show that even then the attacker cannot find his/her mark as the student is claiming he/she would. Alternately, or additionally, a teacher might seek to re-orient the deshi's rationalizations. This can be done by demonstrating and/or explaining how the structures of the drill do and/or can resemble various aspects of what the deshi feels is relevant to combat reality. For example, a teacher can ask, "So you are getting hit, should you lose your metsuke because you are getting hit? Isn't metsuke important in your reality?" Or, "So you are getting hit, should you be chasing fakes and feints all over the place like you are? Isn't it important to not have a mind that chases fakes and feints in your reality?" Or, "What if your attacker had a knife -- what would all those hits to your body/head mean then? Etc.
How ever a teacher wishes to shine a light in that place where reason breaks of its own accord due to its attachment to delusion, it is important for a teacher to note that they cannot make themselves fall outside of what is reasonable. That is to say, deshi that are more resistant to accepting the truth and/or toward cultivating more self-responsibility in their commitment to their training, and that use rationalization to support such lack of (directed) effort, often find a way of placing one's teacher outside of what is rational. This often takes the shape of hero-worship, etc. -- things that make the teacher extraordinary. For this reason, it is very important that a teacher remain ordinary. Everything in the dojo must work to keep the teacher just a human -- like anyone else, like everyone else. This is key! I cannot stress enough how counter productive it may be for a teacher to posit oneself as extraordinary -- as Enlightened, as Awakened, as in possession of some fantastic power, as possessed by some great spirit, as a barer of a secret teaching, as the heir of some noble lineage, etc. In the quest to purify the spirit, it is vital that we as teachers seek to be no ones of particular interest. We must remain, not only in our own minds, but also in the minds of our deshi, men and women like any other. In the dojo, we must be the cook, the servant, the one that scrubs on our hands and knees, the one that holds and cares for everyone's children, that gives of our time and our resources off of the mat, etc. We cannot stand above the dojo, and to make sure that such a thing never occurs it is best to seek to stand below everyone else -- holding everyone else up. This is the context that supports us as we entertain the various rationalizations of our deshi.
Now some students will awake to the openings in their own rationalizations. Some will not, some will hold out, some will continue to laugh -- to disengage from the drill for fear of what it is revealing about their "reality." At this point, for the most part, a teacher will have to rely on the constructs of the drill to mark both the truth and the deshi's commitment to his/her own training. The drill was about staying aware and about putting that awareness to a martial use. The drill is proclaiming that an intimate relationship exists between awareness and martial capacity. Laughing, disengaging, is a lack of awareness. The drill can still serve its purpose by presenting itself negatively and/or by its contrast. That is to say, as the student laughs (disengages) more, the student becomes more unaware of what is happening, becomes more incapable of martially addressing the situation. This was the point of the drill -- the student is learning this inversely, not regardless of the laughing but through the laughing. An instructor can also play with the intensity of the drill to make this more obvious (harder to deny) to the student. For example, an instructor can ask students to pick up the pace and/or to now perform the drill while the defender has his/her back to a wall (restricting all movement). Additionally, an instructor can place a line between the student and his/her urge to laugh/disengage -- such that the student is not only laughing, he/she has to cross a line to laugh. The instructor places this line before the student by saying, "Stop laughing, you are losing awareness."
At this point, should the student continue to resist what is being revealed, the drill's efficacy must remain within two other aspects. These two aspects are: the mundane elements of the drill (i.e. having a more free-for-all experience in one's practice, seeing and/or feeling strikes coming in at various angles and at various timings, etc.) and the overall context (i.e. the dojo environment) in which the drill is taking place. It is through the overall dojo environment, that context of the drill, one that is geared toward valuing and cultivating truth and commitment to one's training, that the deshi comes to this drill again, later, but not in the same way -- having more chance, for having done the drill and for participating in the rest of the dojo environment - to accept and reconcile what is being revealed.
I have chosen to deal here mainly with "laughing," and only very generally, but the structures I have mentioned here are universal to this entire process. As things alter, as different types of disengagement arise, as different delusions come to be supported by different rationalizations, as different emotions capture us, the ways that these things can be addressed by a teacher will remain but variations on these universals. If you were to pull them out of this reply here, they would be: context, commonality, servitude, consistency, humanity, community, truth, and commitment.
Thank you, and please forgive the delay in my reply to your question,