Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)
I was thinking about that myself as well. There was a lot going on here in the event. I imagine then that one has to come to it from many angles in order to make sure we are being mindful of all of the things that George was kind enough to spell out for us. For the record, however, I was suggesting that one should demonstrate the technique on the big man -- not the female nage.
I actually have this kind of thing come up quite a bit in our dojo. We have a 39/40 year old woman that is just over five feet. She's been with me for a long time and she trains daily. Folks, men, especially new men, often make the mistake of (habitually) underestimating her -- which is really a habitual form of over-estimating oneself. If they bother her enough, she is very likely to just give it to them. She's at that stage in her training where she can generate the power to manipulate uke's body but is now looking to not have speed, momentum, or surprise (and definitely not choreography) play such a significant role in that manipulation. She is only about three or four weeks into this type of training now. And she really only came to it via a shoulder injury -- which took her a while to understand that she got it as a result of poor body mechanics and a habitual tendency to muscle/push at uke via fear, pride, and/or ignorance (the two things feeding each other). When she was just about to realize, as George said in a recent blog entry over at Aikido Journal, that she was practicing false self-defense, she was still sure that she was muscling only the huge guys -- most of the guys in our dojo are up over 200 pounds. She was convinced that she was doing the only thing that could be done -- particularly within the spontaneous training environments she was finding herself within at this same time.
I did all the stuff to show her that muscling was not the only option, even before one develops decent kokyu skills. I did the pinky techniques, I did the one leg versions, the up on the toes and on one leg versions, etc. I had her push on me as hard as she could. I had her and two other folks push against me as hard as they could, etc. I did the techniques on her ukes in this way, etc. It didn't really work. She was stuck on muscling. More accurately, she was stuck on not seeing the gap in the logic of her thinking. She was not able to see that her habitual response to fear, pride, or ignorance, her habitual tendency to push against (to be the second energy necessary for resistance to make itself present) was not the same thing as using our muscles as Aikido requires/prescribes. Instead, she defended her actions to herself by a priori defining her tendency to resist against uke as the normal muscle use of any physical activity. She's moved past this now -- in a tremendous way. What worked? I started to help her see that she not only acted thusly with the big boys -- like she thought -- like she needed to think in order to think what she was thinking. I showed her that she did the same thing against everyone -- even the new women that come in and that are smaller than her. In the "contrast," she was able to see the common denominator: The habitual tendency to force and/or resist things. This is very much in line with something Pauliina said once -- about how a singer that strains his/her voice when he/she sings, also strains the voice even when they are whispering.
So, for me, nage, my student, and the nage in your relationship, just has to learn this lesson: that forcing technique is resisting against uke. In my dojo, you want to know that a bit well before you get into spontaneous environments. Why? Not so that you can stop resisting uke. That won't happen with a mere intellectual understanding. However, by realizing this when you do practice it within spontaneous training environments, and you get your ass kicked because of it, you have some way of understanding that beating a bit more constructively. Hence, things will not be so demoralizing and/or prone to make you quit.
But what about uke? That is really your question if I understand you correctly. I think uke has to also be addressed at the same level of body/mind. As teachers, we cannot just talk to them about their technique. We have to address why they are doing what they are doing, why they aren't doing what they should be doing, why they can't do what they should be doing, and what they need in order to do what they should be doing. This is how you approximate the ideal architecture more closely. These questions are as much physical as they are psychological or spiritual. However, there is a lot that can go wrong. For example: When we demonstrate anything as teachers in a hierarchical society we have to realize that many people come to such a system with a great need for social verticality. This goes right along with Nietzsche's herd mentality and his will to power concept. This is also related to the cycles of abuse that Ellis Amdur often points out and also the passing on of violence that George spoke about in his post above. This is why in many places dojo resemble more a dysfunctional family than anything else -- where cycles of abuse are passed along in an almost genetic-like fashion and where it is all accepted as something benevolent and/or worth the cost. That means that while I may be trying to make a point for the welfare of my senpai nage, my huge new man kohai uke might take things a bit differently -- might see it like you are suggesting. He might dismiss the point that is being made for nage by putting me as sensei above it all (since I am at the top of the social hierarchy) -- such that the female nage might simply remain weak in appearance (which was his point he was trying to make to himself).
This is why the point has to be made slightly differently for uke. Aside from the technical matters, when I notice such inconsistency in uke's following of the dojo's protocols regarding the uke/nage dynamic in kihon waza training, I am sure to point it out. "Hey, you practiced your ukemi for me, but now you aren't for her? What's with that? You need to realize how important it is to get your basics down. There are other places and times for the resistance you want to provide here. Believe me, if you don't learn how to flow here in kihon waza, you are not going to be doing much of anything under spontaneous conditions. More than likely you are simply going to get hurt -- over and over again until you can figure this out. So it is better to use every nage you have to practice your side of the technique. Do not be caught up in this temporary pairing -- the technique is beyond that. You and her are the finger -- don't forget the moon! Practice your ukemi. Don't kid yourself that you are fighting here. You are here to do a form -- do the form."
Then let's say he doesn't come in line -- which I've had happen once: "Hey, I think you have a problem with women training. Your pride comes out too much when you are training with them. Do you realize that? It's getting in the way of you learning ukemi more fully -- because you are reducing your time spent practicing ukemi by 50%. There is more however: With such attachment to pride, how can you help these partners to grow in the art? How can you be a senpai to future female kohai? Do you not owe the dojo and your fellow members that you will work to reconcile your attachment to pride -- so you can actually be a senpai, actually be capable of practicing compassion in the face of their respect? With such attachment to pride, how can you develop spiritually? Will you not only be spiritually mature when conditions are prime for you to ACT humbly? Isn't that a false humility -- and won't that simply lead to the danger of having pride in one's humility? Martially, how can such attachment to pride not fetter your body/mind? Can you really believe that it is only women practitioners that trigger your attachment to pride? If not, then will not your pride come up in anything and in everything you do? This is your chance, your female fellow deshi are helping you here, by giving you the opportunity to see yourself more clearly AND to do something about it. If anything and/or anyone will make you progress in the art, it is the very people you now feel you are above training with. As I said with the technical side of ukemi, do not waste these opportunities to improve. Get to work -- the job is right there, right there before you. You only have to reach for it now. Do the job."
After that, if the person doesn't fall in line (with things being repeated many times and in many different ways), the person is subject to both rejecting the dojo's protocols and de-investing from the training. At our dojo, such action is subject to demotion, a lack of promotion, and even expulsion (if it becomes dangerous and/or if it causes too much disruption on the dojo's society). In this regards, the dojo cannot lose since it either gets a person that is working on what should be worked on, or it loses one that will not do any such thing.
just my take on things,