Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: Crazy Ki demonstration by Barrish Sensei
I also believe this is an interesting phenomena -- one not just related to Barrish and his students, but one that all instructors face or should face. Here, I am referring to that gap in skill cultivation that exists between teacher and student. The gap is always somewhat present no matter what one does or does not do. This is because at some level it has to be, as this is the very foundation of the teacher/student dichotomy. In other words, the teacher-student relationship kind of a priori assumes that a gap exists at the level of skill; the teacher knows more than the student -- hence the teacher is the teacher and the student is the student.
This is true at even a very mundane level. For example, look at the difference in body development in Barrish and in his students. Clearly, somewhere along the line, Barrish did some really hard physical training -- the kind of resistance training that would develop his body thusly. On the other hand, perhaps obviously, his students are not really being pressed in that direction. In general, I think this might be a product of a teacher/practitioner reaching a particular skill level, one from which they come to understand what is "key" to training or what simply "one cannot or should not do without."
As a result, though an instructor tended to do all kinds of things to get where they eventually got to, they end up mostly teaching on this "key" thing. For example, you get a guy that as a young man would spend hours swinging an axe or a sledgehammer, or even pulling tree trunks out of the ground, thereby reaching a point in the development of his physique where he is obviously the one capable of kicking sand in the face of others while at the beach, etc. But, a decade or two goes by, and somewhere in their training they realize that physical conditioning is not everything, that timing, or kokyu, or mushin, etc., is key -- key to applying things like a well-conditioned physique and/or anything else for that matter. As a result, rather than asking his students to girth up, he has them working on timing, or kokyu, or mushin, etc.
For some reasons, and sticking with this example, it tends not to occur to instructors that their understanding of timing, or kokyu, or mushin, even their insights into such things, is entirely dependent upon not only that well-conditioned physique but also that period of their life where having a well-conditioned physique held a more central place in their training. Elements that held primary places in their own training tend to be edited out for one reason or another when it comes to their students -- some reasons being positive, some reasons being negative. On the positive side, it could be that an instructor, in good faith, is trying to save "time" for a student by taking out what they have come to (mis)understand as wasteful or unnecessary. On the negative side, it could be that an instructor is no longer capable of such types of training (e.g. they could be old now or in poor health but still desire to be on the mat leading the way in all aspects of a given practice).
What is important to realize, in my opinion, is that art forms like Budo are about relating transformative processes to one's entire being. As a result, teaching and learning can never be so targeted. This is because being, to put it simply, refers to a whole -- not a part. As a result, if you aim for one thing, whether that is from either side of the cause and effect dialectic, you are going to miss more than you hit (if you hit it anything at all). When we are dealing with being, teaching, and learning, has to really be more of a natural process. As a result, regardless of how much our rational mind might be telling us that we can take something out, or how we over-emphasize this or that, the truth of the matter is that an instructor's skill level is a product of his being. As such, said skill level is a product of his/her entire history. Training then, in my opinion, needs to reflect that history itself as best it can.
Some instructors may understand this, such that if they have a background in a striking art, for example, since this will obviously provide a much-needed context in regards to Aikido maai, though they are doing Aikido now, they would still try to bring as much striking training into their Aikido curriculum as possible. Some instructors do not understand this, and thus if they are doing "Aikido" now -- THAT IS ALL THEY DO. When this happens, in my opinion, it is the responsibility of the student to learn what his/her teacher did all along the way, gaining that information from those little stories a teacher shares over a meal or drink, etc.
Sticking with this video, because it is a common reference point here, if you got one instructor that is obviously physically very strong, and you wish to follow his way, you might want to look into how that physical prowess was cultivated. You might want to do this NOT because you need to be as strong in general, as strong, or stronger, but because that was a part of his history, which makes up his being, which is part of the overall context for how he has come to understand and is thus able to perform things like timing, or kokyu, or mushin, etc. In other words, the true lesson might not at all be in the physical prowess, or in the timing, or the kokyu, or the mushin, but rather it is in that matrix that makes up a given being -- that matrix being a personal history.