George S. Ledyard
Doran Sensei told me that he had once done some training for a group of fairly senior Zen practitioners. These were folks who had a fairly deep understanding of the true nature of things from their training. Doran Sensei said that it was really funny though, because when it came to their bodies, they made all the same mistakes that any beginner makes. Their training hadn't focused on what I would call "body centered" wisdom.
As I said, I do understand this point of view, but the kink, for me, is that it kinds of lends itself to the position that once we are old, too old to train anymore, for example, that we are done practicing Aikido. I'm not sure what kind of "life practice" that would be if it was something as temporal as our physical selves. Or, is it enough that we were once able to express Aikido with our bodies? Is that what is supposed to count? If it is, for me, that re-raises the issues I raised before: On what basis could we support such a position? There seems to be something faulty with the notion that it's enough to have at least embodied it once - for example.
On another note: I too have had this experience with folks that are quite expert on the cushion, only I understood it differently. For me, as an instructor that looks to the spiritual reasons behind the physical, when I saw these "awakened" masters come to the mat and look like any other beginner, I didn't just see, for example, a lack of physical coordination, or an inability to manifest their insight physically. This was because it wasn't like they just couldn't tell their right from their left or because they had no physical conditioning or sense of balance. They had these things, of course, but when they didn't know their right from their left, or when they got pre-exhausted, or when their feet were all over the ground, they also had their breathing stop, their shoulders tense, etc. In other words, they were reacting to the fear. Thus, what I saw was not an inability to transfer an insight from the mind to the body. What I saw was a more keen view into what the cushion had not yet touched - master or no master on the zafu. In other words, from another post I made, the mat was more amplifying than the cushion, as a marriage is more amplifying than the mat, etc. The mat is more revealing and all we are seeing is the spiritual immaturity that remains unreconciled. If it was otherwise, we would not see the same habitual reactions to fear - for example - as it is possible to train without fear and to learn differently (particularly a lot faster) when we are not burdened by fear. I am thinking mostly of my kids in my children's class. For the most part, they can pick something up within fifteen minutes and train with it at level that would take my average adult member about three weeks (with 3 to 4 classes per week) to learn.