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Old 01-21-2008, 12:30 PM   #44
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 5

Mark Murray wrote: View Post
I snipped the rest because I think your very first sentence is *the* major point.

Aikikai HQ allowing non-Japanese instructors to teach or mentioning them on the website? Bah, doesn't matter one whit until they change something else.

Non-Japanese having something to teach hombu? Bah, doesn't matter one whit until something else changes.

Etc, etc.

That change is in *what* they teach to others. How many non-Japanese students were taught those important skills? In Shioda's lineage, how many non-Japanese students came even close to being as good as Shioda? How many Japanese? Tohei's lineage? Tomiki's lineage? Ueshiba's lineage? In your own organization, who, out of all of Saotome sensei's long time students, has reached closest to Saotome sensei's skill level? One person of Japanese heritage or many of various heritages? (I'm not in the ASU, so I really don't have an answer to that question. But it's an important question that should be answered by every student in every organization.)

Out of 20-40 years of training, why hasn't anyone reached their teacher's level? Why aren't people asking this question more often? Why is it that in the Japanese organizations, only a sparse few ever go beyond the norm? In 20-40 years, Takeda, Ueshiba, Sagawa, Hisa, Tomiki, Shioda, Tohei, Mifune, etc, etc, were all giants. Some better than others, but all were giants.

Anyone with researching ability can dig up and find that a sparse few people have gone beyond the norm because they were *taught* how to. Not because they were special. Because they were *taught* other things. Takeda and Ueshiba rarely taught the same technique twice. When asked why, Ueshiba answered they were all the same.

Until people are actually *taught*, it won't matter one iota what the Aikikai Hombu does in regards to non-Japanese. These people will just be tokens with no real substance.

I'm starting to get the idea that the Japanese only taught these powerful basics to a very select few -- maybe even amongst themselves. Until *that* changes, nothing else will really matter.

All IMO,
Hi Mark,
I understand where you are coming from... however, I think you are starting to cross into the area of "lost" knowledge rather than dealing with a Japanese / Foreigner separation. If you ask th question who amongst the Japanese teachers have the skills which the pre-war and early post war deshi had, the answer would be very few. It's not as if this knowledge is being "kept" from us... If it were only that, the current Doshu would have dazzling skill because he'd have had access to the "secrets" which other people have had. The Honbu cadre of professional teachers would have been taught the secrets so that they would always be superior to the rest of us...

This is simply not the case. I don't debate that whole blocks of knowledge have passed out of the art.... I simply question if it's a matter of something being purposely held back. I just don't see it. I know that there are some folks who believe that Saotome Sensei purposely held back knowledge from us in order that he always seem a bit magical in his skill level.

I flat out do not believe that this is true. I think that he has passed on to us everything he has been able to. Over the years I have seen virtually all of the solo exercises of the type Mike referred us to on Tohei's YouTube clips plus more. It's simply that he never stated that these were somehow central to developing skill in some aspect of our training. It was all thrown out there as one big jumble along with obscure combat applications of the art, details of atemi waza, etc. That was the way he learned it. Frankly, I believe that Sensei learned this stuff "holistically" in a very intuitive way. I do not believe that he even conceptualizes what he knows in a way that would be very meaningful to us. So I do believe that he has done his level best to pass on 15 years of daily experience being on the mat 6 - 8 hours each day, 7 days a week to a group of students who had jobs, families, etc and who were on the mat 2 - 3 hours a day seven days a week. (Now we are trying to pass that knowledge on to a bunch of folks who are on the mat 2 hours a night, 2 - 3 days a week - do the math).

I think Dan H is correct that putting this knowledge out there is not going to change things for most of the Aikido community because it is difficult and requires commitment in terms of time and effort. Aikido is such a complex art with so many techniques and variations that the typical modern practitioner feels overwhelmed by the task of mastering even the reduced and simplified curriculum offered. After having a spouse who doesn't support your training, I think this is the main reason that we lose students. They simply do not feel that they can make the commitment in time it takes to master what we are asking of them.

As in any business school, or organizational setting, people in Aikido tend to put their attention specifically on what they have to do to get ahead i.e. "what am I responsible for on the test?" Typically, focusing on extraneous elements has no perceivable payback for most folks since, because of the relative infrequency of their training, if they focus on one thing, then they are not focusing on another. That will typically not be rewarded behavior within the group.

I think this is where Tohei's split into Ki development and technical is brilliant. It so accords with human nature. By creating a separate block of instruction focusing on the Ki development aspect and actually going all the way to having separate ranking in these skills, he sets up an organizational structure which rewards focus on these elements. Without that, the mere knowledge that this knowledge is out there won't change much because folks already feel overwhelmed by what they are asked to do.

Take a look at the successful McDojos; we have a local chain that consistently has 1000 people training between their various locations, for instance. How do they do that? They drastically simplify what is expected of the students so that the curriculum is master-able by the average person making the average commitment in time and effort. Then they reward the heck out of the students for each block of that curriculum they work through.

So what happens if we decide that some set of solo exercises is crucial in developing skills in Aikido. Every hour we devote to that practice is an hour we don't devote to some other aspect. People simply do not want to know there needs to be more because they don't feel they have time to do what they are already trying to master.

I think that this is the main reason these skills have not been incorporated here or in Japan to any large degree. It's not some conspiracy to hold back this knowledge. It's that most folks simply will not train enough to make it worthwhile adding in more elements for them to master. The art is rapidly being simplified to fit the lifestyles and predispositions of the "market" to whom the art is being "sold".

If merely developing a practice with focus on ki development exercises a la Tohei was the answer to our problems, the Ki Society would be famous as the organization turning out the most capable Aikido teachers. Not only is this not the case but I think that the general perception is much the opposite. By creating a track devoted to ki development, it becomes possible to focus on that and perhaps not put the emphasis on technical application. That would be my take on what has happened with their group. The old guys like Imaizumi Sensei are another matter entirely, but I don't see people of that caliber coming out of their system now despite their focus on Ki development.

I agree that there are elements that have dropped out of Aikido that need to be in there if it will ever be possible to create students of the caliber we once saw. I think that it will be the Aikido being developed in foreign countries that will be the most likely to re-incorporate these elements (although it's quite possible there are out of the way dojos in Japan where they have never disappeared). But I remain unclear what shape the art will take as we go through this process due to the inherent limitations imposed by the commitment which the larger community will make to their training.

The Japanese have always readily accepted that there are levels and levels of revelation in their arts. They have always seemed comfortable with the idea that only those at the very top get "all the goods". If only one or two people in each generation get "all the goods", it is impossible from the start to have an expansion of the art on the scale Aikido has expanded.

It is pretty clear that even the teachers who have spread the art so widely were not of the caliber of that small group of pre-war students. What we see now is that the people at the very top of the Aikido pyramid are not amongst those who "got all the goods". It's not that some thing's being held back, it's that folks simply don't know any more. One can still train with the remaining "old masters" who have at least some of this juice but they will soon be all gone.

When you couple the belief that our art is transmitted outward from a central hub in Japan with the fact that the folks at that hub are not those who seem to be possessed of the knowledge and ability of these "old masters" you can see the problem for Aikido. The solution will be a continuation of what is already happening, namely, a horizontal sharing of knowledge with Daito Ryu, Aunkai, Systema, Yanagi Ryu, Kuroda, Ushiro, Okamoto (Popkin), Threadgill, Chinese internal arts, etc. The people who are serious about their training will seek out these elements and the teachers who can show them. This is going to result in Aikido going in many individual directions. The folks who bring in knowledge they got from Dan Hardin will be different than the folks who have been heavily influenced by the Systema folks. Ushiro Sensei will have a different effect on those within his circle than those who seek out Mike Sigman.

It's all in the process of changing now. In 20 years we won't recognize the art for what it's been. Honbu's efforts to simplify and standardize will be to no avail because I do not see the real "happening" teachers being interested in that direction. I see the art becoming even more individual than it has been due to the many different streams flowing into what has been our art. The result will be an increasing branching off from the mainstream rather than some sort of unification or standardization. The seeds are being planted right now and we will be here to see the result...

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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