No Perfect Training Method
There is no perfect training method. Every training method will require that at some point you go beyond its limitations and address the aspects of your training which did not develop to the fullest under that system.
Chiba Sensei once called Saotome Sensei a creative genius in Aikido. That would not be 100% complimentary in his mind although it contains respect. Training with Saotome Sensei is like cross training without leaving the dojo. He can manifest technique which feels like a variant on T'ai Chi and then turn around and do a class that some would say was close to Karate.
I heard Chiba Sensei say once that a particular technique should be done a certain way for fifteen years before the element of personal variation should be introduced. To my mind if you spend fifteen years pushing a square peg into a round hole it becomes round.
Saotome Sensei was precisely the opposite. I remember him telling a Shodan at the dojo "Don't do it the way I do it!" I was a white belt at the time but now I understand. Right from the start he wanted you to find what worked for you, what fit your body, what fit your personality.
At the Expo you saw four direct students of Saotome Sensei demo. Ikeda Sensei, John Messores sensei, Dennis Hooker Sensei, and myself. None of us looks like Saotome Sensei and we don't look like each other. That was intentional on the part of Saotome Sensei.
When I trained with Chiba sensei I found that there was almost no variation on the part of the senior students. They each did the techniques the same way, just as they had been taught by Chiba sensei. I am sure that that was also intentional.
Right from the start of our training Saotome Sensei wanted us to be exposed to the widest possible range of Aikido. We would do a class in which no one got what he was doing. Even the Black Belts were lost. At the end of the class he would say "This was a class that I taught to the Shihan at Hombu dojo." No wonder we didn't get it. But that training sure stretched us. It planted seeds that for those of us who perervered in our training have bourne fruit twenty years or more later. I wouldn't have traded that experience for anything. I have never met a teacher with whom I would rather haver trained. Saotome sensei and I were a perfect match.
But I do enjoy getting on the mat with a teacher like Goldsbury Sensei and getting a new take on a technique that I have been doing for twenty five years. I loved his precision and I appreciated the work that has gone in to developing the ability he has to teach his Aikido in such an organized and comprehensible way. His students are very lucky.
Just as the students trained by Saotome Sensei have always had to keep addressing the details of their basics (something he fully expected us to do) people trained in the more organized detail oriented systems at some point have to let go of what they were taught and expand their horizons. Otherwise they get stuck and can't grow. If you look at the senior teachers of the Yoshinkan they do not look like the junior folks. They have moved beyond the details in to spontaneous expression of Aikido movement. The junior folks may seem a bit stiff but if you look at the senior practitioners there is none of that. Failure to acheive that would leave one stuck at Fourth Dan level.
I would like to say that every student finds the perfect method and teacher to fit his personality and abilities. But I know that is actually rare. Most folks find their teacher simply because he had the closest dojo when they looked in the Yellow Pages. Or your friend took you to see his class and you simply signed up, not even knowing that there were different styles or differences between teachers.
The fact is that I have seen exeptional students turned out by virtually every top ranked teacher of whom I am aware. Every method has produced some folks who are truly excellent and every method has some folks for whom that style of training led to their getting stuck with some limitation or other.
Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 07-03-2002 at 10:05 AM.