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Old 10-20-2006, 12:56 PM   #6
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,403
Re: Takemusu Aiki in Systematic Teaching?

Larry Camejo wrote:
Systematic methods are also quite effective at building the basic non-technical foundations that allow Takemusu Aiki to be possible. Often too much attention is placed on technique itself instead of what factors enable the individual to get into a position to execute sound, successful technique and also be able to adapt instantly and produce the right technique as determined by the situation.
I agree here on the latter. I disagree somwhat on the former, for reasons that will become clear below.

In a recent post quoting Takamura Sensei, he criticized the Japanese tendency to systematize to death, to the exclusion of a student's exploration of Aiki technique fmorre freely and more critically. An excerpt was give here:
He contrasted the similarly traditonal, but far less used paradigm of "Shu Ha Ri" that provides fro this progressive independence in learning.

Any "system" follows some logical rule. Most of the systems I have seen, such as Yoshinkan, seem to follow a very linear idea of "system." But linear logic is not the only kind of rule there is and non-linear logic may in fact be more powerful a teaching tool than is generally given credit. This is no criticism of Yoshinkan in any way (I enjoyed my brief and intermittent pracitce in it, and saw a very good point to the very serious attention to posture, form and simultaneous movements. But this is a critical observation about the function of all linear systems of learning.

I think this is, in part, is the reason behind Takamura Sensei's observation Western versus Japoanese procilivites in training. Western minds are predisposed, whether culturally or otherwise, to be inherently more chaotic and non-linear in approach.
Larry Camejo wrote:
It's sort of like developing a master key through the development of different core principles. Once you have the master key the nature of the lock is irrelevant, it will be opened. ... Of course one can do this without sysematic training, but the question becomes how long does it take, how do you gauge progress and how do you know you may not have missed something?
"Logic" is a funny thing. It proceeds from certain unquestioned asumptions. A common assumption is that progress and teaching need always to be linear. It need not be so. (It may be that it is inherently NOT so.)

For instance, there are two ways to "logically" (i.e. -- tell a computer to do it) draw a picture of a fern leaf.

One way is to build up, line by line, pixels from the bottom to the top until you have the complete picture of the fern leaf. This is a linear, cartesian, rational number process. It is a simple rule to define, mathematically, for any arbitrary shape you may choose to define.

The other way is to use a non-linear process that pixelates with (seeming) random pixels appearing scattered across the screeen, until suddenly the image of an entire fern leaf in schematic appears from the chaos. This rule for doing this is also, surprisingly, just as simple mathematically as the rule for the "linear scan" image. And perhaps more surprisingly, the rule defines the fern shape fudamentally, - i.e. -- you do not need any definitional data on how it is shaped, the rule itself generates the same essential fern shape, but never placing points in precisely the same order twice. That is to say, the fractal fern-shape is part of the fundamental fabric of reality.

See an example here:

Also here ( Press the > "play" button try the fern; then try the tree:

This second form of "logic" is closer to how humans actually think, learn and recognize patterns. It is a far faster process for pattern recognition and development. Once the schematic can be seen, the rest of the structure can be readily filled in on an intuitive basis to any arbitrary level of detail.

I sense from my arc of training and sense of technique as it continues to expand, that aikido is a fractal form of knowledge like this. The chaos at the beginning can suddenly crystallize into a form that is intuitively obvious once it is seen, and the same essential form can be seen in variations everywhere.

Approaching the subject matter from a "linear scan" perspective (brick-building, if you will) can cause one to dismiss or ignore the random "noise" on the screen in areas above or outside the area of the "foundation" that one is so assiudously focussing on. The "foundation" is conventional -- it is not inherent (beyond basic ukemi and tai sabaki for personal safety). In fact every point of "noise" is also on the map of aikido and helps to define its total shape, and it treatment as irelevant "noise" is only defined by the focus of any given convention as to what is "foundation."

My concern is that overfocus on conventional linear "systems" for learning is actually slower, because considered in isolation, the "foundational" area of a chaotically perceived picture will still seem to be utter chaos, while the picture as a whole is taking very defintive shape.

Aikido technique, if it follows a fractal rule in a mathematical sense, should be the same essential "shape" that differs only in scale, orientation, repetition and degrees of extension and folding.

That sounds about right to me for aikido as I have learned it.

I try to teach with one constant in every class, either body movement, attack or technique, generally, and then vary from that either functionally, sequentially or by some other rubric in all other respects. Like a fractal image equation -- the next point in the series is determined by the input of the last output in the series. The next technique proceeds on some mutation or alteration of the thing that just preceded it. I did not plan this initially, but after trying to "plan" a linear approach it seem the more worakable and "logical" to me to organize teaching in each class in this manner (short of run-ups for specifically tested techniques for grading).

That means in every class we have one reference point in a defined region on the map of aikido, but the remaining points are being drawn in regions arbitrarily far away from that, but are not at all idle for the teaching and need to be pointed out and noticed by the student -- even though they are not the point of orientation for that class.

An individual technique is just a pixel or arbitrary set of pixels on the screen. Without explaining it to the students in precisely this way, I try to get them to pay more attention to the shape of things as a whole (even if that seems hopelessly scattershot at the moment) because I genuinely feel from practical experience (bouncing around from system to system, myself) that it will actually make far more sense as a whole sooner, even if a student does not have the detail down yet.

I would not depair of seeming chaos; it is far more powerful than we imagine.


Erick Mead
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