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Old 06-05-2009, 11:22 AM   #1
George S. Ledyard
George S. Ledyard's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Are People Really Training to Get Better?

I taught up in Gibsons, BC last weekend. I have known their Chief Instructor since the 80's, since he was a white belt. He's always been serious about his training, trained hard, put what he could financially into it, traveled for seminars etc.

Now he has lost his sight. He's using a cane, learning braille, all the stuff that sighted folks have to do when they have to rework how they approach daily life.

What's really amazing is that he simply continues to teach and train as if nothing has happened. He's doing Aikido and Systema. The Systema training has become increasingly important because of the emphasis they place on developing the intuition. It's made his Aikido more responsive and he's actually more relaxed.

Anyway, it made me think about regular folks who don't face anything like the challenges he faces. He has no choice but to make deep level changes or quit. And he seems to be doing so. So why don't most folks do that? What prevents them from making the kind of progress that he is making? I guess the answer is that he doesn't have much choice and most folks do.

Since he is quite adequately demonstrating what kind of changes can be made if you really want to change, it begs the question why don't most folks want to do that? I think it has to do with the fundamental motivations people have for training in the first place. I actually don't think that most folks train with the thought that they will master the art. However, they clearly enjoy being associated with someone who has done so. It's also clear to me that the dojo social environment is central to waht people are looking for rather than the depth of the training taking place.

Change is actually the enemy of the kind of stability and predictability that most folks seem to crave. I have repeatedly seen, over the years, the situation in which an established teacher decides to work on something new, investigate osme different aspects of the art and their students leave. Everyone was tooling along quite happily when they knew what was expected and where they were headed and then suddenly, their teacher has shifted his focus.

This is especially true of the senior students who had established their positions as people of great importance in the dojo due to their clear ability to do what what was being taught better than the juniors. When the direction changes, now everyone is junior, everyone is a beginner again.

In a case like this, a teacher can find the seniors actively resisting the changes he is making. He often finds that it is the juniors who are the most receptive to the new direction he's taken.

Anyway, I think that Aikido practitioners should take a look at their training and ask themselves what is important to them. I have listened to my teacher, Saotome Sensei, telling people that he has seen them each year for over ten years and the training hasn't changed. They aren't really getting better. I don't think he is wrong about this. I used to blame it on the lack of good teaching methodology for much of post war Aikido. But then I met and trained with a number of teachers who could explain and teach what they were doing. And only a very small number of people took what they were showing and ran with it. Most of the folks seemed to stick with what they knew and changed little or nothing.

If people make a conscious choice to do what they have always been doing, then great. But if this resistance to change is unconscious, then it needs to be examined.

I recently worked with a student on a sophisticated principle in a certain technique. I walked him through it with very detailed, body centered instruction. At the end of the process he was successfully doing it on me. So here he was... he was successful, he had done it several times, he could repeat thye principles I had shown back to me. Yet he immediately got a puzzled look on his face as if he still didn't understand what I was teaching.

I called him on it. It was a "habit", a habit of not getting it. It was so much a part of his default setting that when he did get it, he still hung onto his habit of being confused. I asked him, now that he had done it, and I had seen him do it, what his excuse was going to be for not just doing it going forward? He could no longer claim he couldn't do it, he had done it, more than once. So what was preventing a felling of understanding? I think it is the fear of change. I see many people training who choose not to progress because that would change them in some way and they wanted to hang on to who they have been.

So folks should take a look at what they want, ask themselves if they REALLY want it or are just pretending to themselves that they do. Then, if they do really want something, they need to ask if they are doing anything about it. Have they structured their lives or their training to achieve what they have told themselves they want. I think the answer to such an investigation would yield some surprising answers for many folks.

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