Re: Aikido Transmission and Class Size
Most of my taijutsu training has been relatively unstructured. That isn't to say that it wasn't or isn't specific or targeted, but it hasn't been based on a repeatable pattern of instruction. Where I train now doesn't accept rank beginners and everyone has at least some experience in one or more arts, most of us hold one or more yudansha ranks. One of the choices we as students will have to make if and when we transition into teachers is to continue that tradition or to devise a syllabus that provides a path from day one to year 10. I forget the specifics, but Toby Threadgill has talked about meeting Takamura Sensei the first time and being asked to do some ukemi to show that he already knew enough to be teachable. Takamura basically considered what he was teaching to be a Masters or PhD program rather than elementary school. I enjoy working with new people, so at some point I'll have to start thinking about that more. One of our guys is teaching a small group down in Olympia and is focusing almost exclusively on basic judo kihon, something which I am also very inclined to do myself. Judo seems to have a much better methodology for teaching ukemi and kuzushi. I can safely throw just about anybody in Osoto Gari but to really do kotegaeshi requires a bit more skill in ukemi before one gets to feel how it actually goes. Chuck, I'm wondering if you've found anything similar since, if my memory serves, the Jyushinkai also incorporates elements of Judo into your waza?
In stark contrast to my taijutsu experience, the sword line that I study follows a very specific training order. Everyone learns the kihon in the same order and it is repeated at the beginning of every class. Then the kata are all learned in a set order. When you can do a kata with reasonable proficiency, you learn the next one. As you look back over the kata, you find lessons that you may have missed earlier. Kata A which you learned 5 years ago becomes the uchitachi side of kata Z that you only just learned. Body skills that are repeated over and over in the soto no kata develop the muscles and understanding required to do more complicated movements in the uchi no kata. Further, the kata teach lessons of heiho in addition to specific movements. The first kata one learns, for example, starts with a seated draw to the left with an exaggerated twisting motion between the upper and lower body. This might seem like an odd way to introduce one to the kata, but every time you draw, you are reminded that this is your weakest point. Every class you feel how hard it is to turn-draw-cut to this direction until you don't just intellectually know that this is your weakest line of attack, you feel it intuitively. As an added bonus, it is very easy to measure a student's progress. My teacher has had some health issues over the years, so some of us have taught in his absence, sometimes for months at a time. When he returned, he simply needed to ask one of the junior students, "What kata are you up to?" to know where to pick up, and what they had learned since he saw them last. I know that some lines of Aikido attempt a similar level of structure, so I wonder how successful those who study these lines feel this is.