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Old 01-28-2006, 07:00 PM   #121
L. Camejo
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Dojo: Ontario Martial Arts
Location: Mississauga, Ontario
Join Date: Aug 2001
Posts: 1,423
Re: Culture of Martial Mediocrity?

Wow, I didn't even know this thread resurrected itself from the archival abyss.

Michael Gallagher wrote:
Just maintaning good body mechanics during regular practice is difficult enough. I can't remember how many times I've been yelled at for letting my rear foot off the floor. (Happens in Kali, too, while throwing a jab-cross, so it's not an isolated problem.) Staying solid and stable while someone who presumeably knows what they're doing goes for your legs and does so correctly sounds pretty ADVANCED, not simple.
Many things are difficult in the beginning. However if you are doing it repeatedly and seeing no improvement then you have to ask yourself why aren't you evolving - is it something within yourself, is it the teacher or teaching method, is it something else? I can see your point, but to me one who truly seeks to evolve in the way will attempt to find, even invent ways to address one's own evolution so that what may be perceived as "advanced" will not always be beyond them and will one day become the simple.

If the way is clouded even the simple and obvious becomes hidden and advanced imho.

Michael Gallagher wrote:
What types of unarmed attacks? If they're not ones covered in the syllabus most dojo have, then you'd have to be pretty solid in the principles to pull it off. This may require mastery of the basics, but is not basic -- is porbably somewhere way beyond basic.
The question here becomes - is Aikido only the syllabus or is it something else, something more? Does the syllabus embody the totality of what you want to achieve and manifest as your Aikido or is it merely a means of ensuring you understand certain fundamental elements that need to be applied to a much broader reality? To me, mastery of the principles is the gate through which one encounters the hidden and "advanced". But how does one achieve this mastery if one takes the role of a passive student (content on receiving only what his teacher gives) instead of an active student (one who receives the teachings but does his own research, practices outside the dojo time and attempts to find the path his own way, with his teacher as a guide). No teacher can make one a master. To evolve, one has to learn the path using the teacher as a guide. The teacher and the syllabus are guides, not the path itself imho.

Michael Gallagher wrote:
I think the "choreography" is meant to help you learn principles and internalize reference points. I think that's how I wrist-locked my partner in chi sao some months ago. So it is an effective method of training but you have to be aware of what it is teaching you and how.
I never said that choreography was not effective to learn certain things. I agree fully with what you say above. However choreography is not a means whereby one can develop spontaneity, one naturally precludes the other.

Michael Gallagher wrote:
I think the real question is, how much mat time does it take to ingrain those principles? Probably a lot.
Actually mat time is what you use to see if your own exploration is on track. Like the syllabus and the teacher, mat time alone does not embody the totality of the path. The dojo is a single, controlled environment used for learning and testing certain concepts within a limited time. If one depends on this alone, evolution is guaranteed to be slow. In my dojo I encourage all my students to study their fundamentals outside of mat time, especially since we do not train every day on the mat. Experiencing the core principles does not take much mat time. Exploration and evolution of understanding of those principles depends greatly on how much time you put into conscientious, goal-oriented study and training with realistic, objective performance testing along the way. This is the only way you can detect if you're evolving over time instead of "spinning top in mud" as we say in the Caribbean.

Michael Gallagher wrote:
I've been doing martial arts for a few weeks shy of 21 years, yet coming back to Aikido, the main benefit seems to be I'm quicker at picking things up, ie I don't have the added burden of having to get my body to do soemthing specific. Even then, there are a lot of basic areas where I have problems. Forward ukemi explode to mind -- they were a challenge in Seidokan 20 years ago and while improving slowly, a challenge now. This is after plugging away once a week for a year and a half. Going from there to naturally being stable if faced with a Shoot, or evading any empty hand attack from any angle ..... It might take decades to get to that point. When you mention rnaking Yudansha, are you including 6th degree black betls with ~30 years of experiences? They'd be closer to the mark than anything.
Firstly, congratulations for sticking with the arts for so long. This requires much dedication. Regarding the Yudansha issue, to me it depends on the focus of one's training and how the student approaches training. If we only wait until Sensei does that class to learn or begin to think or understand a principle then learning and evolution will take a long time. It comes down to the approach of both teacher and student imho. For what you refer to as being the realm of Yudansha, I have kyu grades who are not yet masters of these things, but pretty skilled at it and able to maintain at least a 60% degree of success when dealing with shoots and unchoreographed multiple angle strikes. On the other side, I have had visiting Yudansha from other schools who are unable to maintain this consistency. All this means to me is that there are different approaches to learning and teaching and people focus on what they choose to focus on. My overall point is though, whatever you choose to focus on - be able to think critically and objectively gauge your development.

Michael Gallagher wrote:
Having said I have trained only three dojos and probably missed a lot of crap out there, the issue may not be that no one can get the principles you are talking about, just that it takes a long time to do it. Even with a teacher who explains everything to you, it is still long-hair stuff, somewhat tricky, and just plain difficult to get. It has nothing to do with "accepting" medicority or rejecting it -- just that in it's own way, Aikido can be difficult.
Aikido can be difficult, which is why the teaching/learning process must be conscientious and focussed on achieving what one wants to achieve if one plans on developing and not just going to class to exercise and meet people (though there is nothing wrong with taking that path if it is all you want out of training). From my experience in different arts and other things to do with teaching in other aspects of life I have found that teaching/learning is an encoding/decoding communication process that takes careful skill and conscientious application to reach certain people. In my class I admit to my students that there are certain techniques that are difficult for me to teach since a lot of what is involved requires a touch response on the part of Tori and is very difficult to be explained. This is where skill in imparting the principles come in so even with a minimum of specific instruction, as long as the student adheres to known principles and fundamentals the gap between poor technique and acceptible technique is minimized.

Michael Gallagher wrote:
If people have trouble with some basics in Aikido, it may not be that they're instruction is bad or that they've resigned to being mediocher but that to get where they want to be is longer and more difficult than you might first expect.
Practice, practice, practice. That's the key.
I never indicated that people resigned to being mediocre. Everything in life is difficult at some point, the only way we grow and things become easy is by focussed, conscious attempts to do better and finding a way even in the midst of adversity. This is part of the Budo spirit. It is not only a matter of practice, practice practice imho.

As someone else on Aikiweb said: "Practice makes permanent, perfect practice makes perfect."

Yours in Aiki.

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
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