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Old 02-08-2007, 10:05 AM   #54
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
Actually, I believe that Arikawa Sensei was not so much autistic as someone trying to do what O Sensei himself did. In Hiroshima he showed waza, but did not really teach. After practice ended he was very happy to answer questions, but occasionally told us not to give students certain explanations. They should be required to find out for themselves. The shihan could guide and prevent bad waza, but should not give verbal explanations.
Hi Peter,
One is tempted to see a direct connection between this attitude and his observation of a lack of quality in the demonstrations he saw. This way of looking at Aikido teaching is very "elitist" in my own opinion. That wasn't really an issue in the old days with O-Sensei because the uchi deshi as a group formed the "elite".

But now, Aikido has been encouraged to grow into a world wide endeavor. There are tens of thousands of people in the States who give up their precious time and hard earned money to train in this art. There simply is no way for them to all get consistent and frequent exposure to a Shihan level teacher. This "figure it out for yourself" attitude favors exclusively the folks who are "visual learners". Most of the people out there will not be able to take ukemi from a Shihan level teacher more than a very few times in a year, many simply will not at all. So even the "tactile learners" are stuck if they don't have a chance to put their hands on someone at a high level.

Frankly, attending a seminar in which you will never be called up for ukemi and at which the teacher will only demonstrate and not give explanation makes that seminar about as useful as learning from a video for most of the attendees.

And the "cognitive types" are simply left out in the cold. I have many students who require an understanding in their minds of what they are trying to do before they can get their bodies to actually do it. Everything for them is a matter of understanding preceding doing. Training can EVENTUALLY get them into their bodies and out of their heads to a greater degree but they have to stay which means they have to feel like they are getting some encouragement and making some headway.

I was trained under the minimal explanation model. To the extent that I have actually started to be able to do what my teachers are doing, it was largely do to the exposure I had to teachers like Kuroda, Angier, Ushiro, Threadgill, etc who had very systematic ways of describing the princples at work in their waza. I was able to take these explanations and figure out what my own teacher had been showing us all these years.

I just can't accept that the vast majority of practitioners should be condemned to doing Aikido-lite while a very few get to the point at which they can actually do their Aikido with some real understanding of "aiki". Even with the best instruction in the world, it still takes a huge amount of work to get the principles into ones body and mind to the point at which they feel natural on some level. Most people will not make the effort to get that far. But for the ones that are putting out the effort, we owe them the best instruction we can give.

When someone with the skill and experience like Arikawa passes away without having passed on what he knows to the next generation, it is lost. it will never be replaced. People may figure out new things for themselves but they will never really understand what went before. I think that prevents Aikido from building on a strong foundation. It means that every generation has to build its own foundation all over again. We should be able to build on what has gone before and add our own experience to it. This can't happen if there is not a systematic transmission.

I remember Saotome Sensei lighting into a student who had made the grave error in judgment of referring to an certain not very accomplished Aikido instructor as an "Aikido Master". This is a big button with him and one that is best avoided. But the fact is that Aikido has grown to the point at which most of the folks practicing only have minimal exposure to folks who have any real degree of mastery. Without a systematic transmission, Aikido keeps growing the way it has but we get to the point at which folks really do not have any sense of what real mastery is and what a teacher with real mastery looks and feels like. They simply do not know.

Even worse, even if they do know, they simply feel as if that level of understanding is somehow "special"; reserved for some elite group of folks. Then they give up. They might still go through the motions of training but they do not really believe that they can get to the point where they can do what their teachers can do.

I explain when I teach. I try to isolate the principles which make this stuff work and that's what I pass on. I have found that when I go around and conduct seminars the folks out there are quite excited to actually have someone explain what they have been trying (often for some time) to do. It's like rain in the dessert, all of a sudden there is life. Folks get excited about their practice again because now they can see that they can really make some progress. I believe that as Aikido teachers, it is our job to do this.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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