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Old 10-20-2006, 04:54 PM   #9
Erick Mead
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Dojo: Big Green Drum (W. Florida Aikikai)
Location: West Florida
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 2,568
Re: Takemusu Aiki in Systematic Teaching?

Re: Takamura's criticism of "self-directed" learning by personal prefernce: What he is speaking of is very differnt from what I am talking about. Takamura Sensei is criticizing the "cafeteria" approach that results in too much pizza and sweets, and not enough fiber and veggies. I very much believe that training, like diet, must be directed by proper needs not prefernces. Like sound diet it must be directed early on for it to be effective and healthy over time. There are right ways and wrong ways to do anything that need critique and correction. I have had periods of long deployment where I had no option but to work thought self-directed means, but it was the discipline and adherence to form that kept it real, though it was only shadow-boxing.

I distinguish instead between linear and non-linear forms of organizing that teaching direction, not directed versus self-directed, or preference driven learning. "Moods are a thing for cattle and loveplay..." (probably the best line from Dune). .

Aikido has a certain shape, in my mind, The question is how best to sketch it for the student. Some of that depends on the student, some on the teacher, and some on the art itself.

Larry Camejo wrote:
This is very interesting since by your own admissions you have not spent much time under Yoshinkan training methods.
Which I freely admit, as my experience was hardly adequate to gain a sense of the arc of the curriculum. It was not meant as any kind of criticism, it is an approach that many valuable and respected instutions follow [preferentially, and some people learn better in such modes, without a doubt].

What struck me as admirable in the Yoshinkan training was its near-military precision, disciplinary correction and attention to detail and consistency of model form. No one should deem that any criticism -- I was a Navy pilot at the time. It is also exactly what I would expect from an art with such a high number of practitioners among the Japanese police ranks.

I trained far more extensively in an Iwama style dojo under an uchi deshi of Morihiro Saito. The attention to precision of technical form was at least as high. However the posture and manner of technique and the prgress of curriculum was more relaxed, as compared to Yoshinkan which was more -- "stiff" is the wrong word, and inappropriately negative -- let's say "taut," instead.

The prescribed forms of basic tai sabaki movement (such as tai no henko and others) were done in precisely the same order and manner in each Yoshinkan class that I attended. From what I have read, in addition, here and elsewhere, I gather the same degree of relative prescription in training methodology runs throughout the program. If my general perception in this regard is inaccurate, as opposed to merely less well-informed than your own, please correct me.

Larry Camejo wrote:
The same trap that he alludes to above regarding gaping holes in the basics I have found to be extremely prevalent in those who practice entirely from a "chaotic" model for lack of a better word. .... However in the systematic methods I have experienced, this way of training is just the beginning and is developed upon in randori training to evolve out of the rigid structure of the system towards a more spontaneous expression of one's Aikido.
Takamura's point seems to be that the observance of specific detail for its own sake deprives the art of life, while the ignorance of fundamental form deprives it of useable structure. One approach may become rigid to the point of brittle failure, the other may become shapeless to the point of lacking any means of support.
Larry Camejo wrote:
My personal belief is that too much of either approach has flaws.
No argument here. I was simply making the case for the demonstrable advantages of the other side of the coin -- Neither approach is without its respective disadvantages or vulnerabilities. Neither approach can be successfuly without developing a both discipline and sensitivity. Each approach suffers from its own particular vlunerability on each of those dimensions of performance.
Larry Camejo wrote:
The best approach is found in a balance betwen the extremes. I think Ueshiba M. had a pretty chaotic approach to instruction from what I've read, i.e. there may have been no real logical process to what was being taught, he merely expressed himself based on how his spirit guided him.
And yet here we all are...
Larry Camejo wrote:
What made things easier for him however was that all of his students already had most if not all of the basics inherent in Japanese Budo covered, being Dan grades in other Budo before coming to study with him.
The funny thing is that so many of them ultimately drew upon their particular, (and often divergent) earlier background in developing their own teaching further. It is in the second and third generations of teaching where aikido teaching is beginning to find a life of its own, less bound in the competing (and yes, feudal) traditions that remain in place in Japan, and have seen similar fractures casued in an art even as young as Aikido. That problem remains in the "politics" and partisan issues that too often make Westerners simply scratch their heads and then shake them in wonder. This, too, is part of what Takamura Sensei was speaking of, and part of what forums like Aikiweb help to obviate.

Larry Camejo wrote:
This thread reminds me of when Bruce Lee spoke about systems and how they limit the individual's expressive ability.
I am not interested in individual creativity. As I said above, my point is about directed learning, not self-directed or student centered "cafeteria" approaches. I teach -- they learn; conversely, when someone else teaches -- I learn what they have to teach me.

Creativity is an individual gift, wisdom is a collective inheritance. Aikido is physical and mental/spiritual wisdom. Neither, I nor any one else can just " make it up as we go along." We have to teach proper movement and technique.

We must be true to the shape of the art handed to us. We must teach the art as it is, but the art as it is --- is takemusu, a spontaneous culmination of the moment of contact.

It is as inappropriate to be sloppy as it is to be rigid. Both of these would be an unfair characterization of the respective differing approaches to teaching. The question for me is how to best to illustrate that fundamental form in a manner that I can teach and in which it can most easily and most effectively be seen and learned.

The spontaneous expression of that universal form in its circumstantial aspect is the ultimate goal.


Erick Mead
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