Lynn Seiser wrote:
First learn the form, then variations of the form, then break the form.
I think this is the crux of the matter here. I think at a common sense level (i.e. the level of thought that first comes to us when we first think upon something), this makes perfect sense. That sense rightly suggests that it is impossible to learn something at the same time that you are unlearning it - that one must posit before one negates, etc.
However, does that then mean that something like Shu-Ha-Ri can or should be understood as a linear or sequential process (which is a conclusion one is likely to draw if one only stays at the level of common sense)? Can or should we really think of Shu-Ha-Ri with the word "THEN"? Additionally, does such common sense mean that a process like Shu-Ha-Ri can or should be understood in terms of binary oppositions like learning/unlearning or positing/negating?
Here, one is likely to resist the suggestion to move beyond common sense - being unwilling to go beyond the bedrock-hard fact of "one cannot learn and unlearn at the same time." Holding onto this bedrock fact, everything thereafter can appear to be overly/needlessly complex, confusing, and even filled with ignorance ("How can one say they can unlearn before they learn?!"). Yet, in my opinion, this is only possible when we attach our bedrock-hard fact to the fallacy that training methods like Shu-Ha-Ri are linear in nature and/or made up of binary oppositions.
Let us remember that methods like Shu-Ha-Ri have their technological origins in Buddhist epistemology. If one looks there, one sees more clearly that the real obstacles to understanding, to insight,to wisdom, is not the mixing of learning and unlearning but the temptation to see the world via binary contrasts like "learning/unlearning." For this reason, throughout it's history, masters of the practice have indeed been seen giving something to their disciples only to take it away soon thereafter - meaning, they give something not first and then second take it away; they give something for the sole purpose of taking it away, for the sole purpose of helping the student move beyond (what they consider to be) a state of ignorance (e.g. binary, linear), to a state of insight/wisdom (e.g. organic, co-dependent origination).
With this in mind, perhaps there is at work here two types of ways of understanding "Aikido." In one view, there is an emphasis on forms, on the cultivation of a habit that is consistent with the forms being emphasized, and a use and reproduction of a consciously designed environment wherein those forms are to be emphasized. In another view, there is an emphasis on transcending form, on a reconciliation with the impulse to react habitually (toward anything), and an attempt to move beyond the will to design one's environment. Buddhism itself has had to deal with facing these two divergent understandings - why not Aikido too? In the former view, I think it is fine to speak of reaching (what I have called) POINT X before moving on in one's training, but in the latter view, such a thing can only be understood as part of the underlying problems one is trying to address through one's practice. In the latter view, one will indeed practice Ikkyo and striking - not only for their similarities but for their differences as well. The goal with such training would not be to increase one's "effectiveness" by supplying the practitioner with an increased amount of weapons. The goal of such training would be to reconcile the student's habit of subjectively experiencing such things as "different" and/or as "more," etc., which comes up as the student is taught to do both as efficiently as possible.