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Old 10-27-2010, 08:47 AM   #51
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,996
Re: Is two Days a week enough?

Hi George,

I don't want to give an impression that I totally disagree with you. I don't. And more often than not, when I do disagree, it's usually fractions instead of large amounts. For the most part and in regards to Modern Aikido, I agree with your post. I just wanted to look at specific parts in more detail.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Without exception, every senior teacher of Aikido with whom I am familiar spent some significant period of time during which they trained virtually every day, often more than one class each day. Ikeda Sensei told me that, remembering Mary Heiny Sensei when she was at Hombu Dojo, she not only trained every day, she trained in every class every day. Hardly anyone trains in all the classes... they start in the early am and go til the late evening.
From what I can gather, so please correct me where I get things wrong:

There were three to four classes per day at Hombu for most of the Aikido seniors out there. Class time was an hour to an hour and a half? Don't have my notes here.

But, from around 1945-1955, classes at Hombu were uncommon and not well attended. And during those years, Ueshiba Morihei didn't spend a whole lot of time at Hombu. If he did, it was lecturing most of an hour for one class (the early class).

Even from 1955 to his death, Ueshiba Morihei really only had one official class (that is when he was at Hombu and did actively teach) and that was the early morning one.

We are left with Ueshiba Kisshomaru, Tohei Koichi and a few other senior teachers to instruct. This is the first critical area to address in regards to training. Is two days a week enough? Consider that a lot of the Modern Aikido Seniors only had access to Ueshiba Morihei for at most 5 hours a week. If current Modern Aikido practice is 1.5 hours a day, then two days a week is 3 hours. Certainly an equal amount of hands-on time that a lot of Modern Aikido Seniors had.

But, let's take a look at Modern Aikido's creators: Kisshomaru and Tohei. If we look to them and the amount of time Seniors had training ... we can see quite a lot more time spent per week. So, in this regard, yes, two days a week won't hold up very well.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
So, if Mary Heiny Sensei is someone we are striving to model our training after, does anyone think they can become as good as that by training a fraction of the amount she trained? One could make the same argument about virtually any of our teachers.
The dedication some of the Modern Aikido Seniors had (and have) is certainly very exemplary. I think Mary Heiny has shown that. I think she held herself to a standard very few of us will ever reach. And I think that's it is also very sad that she was at Hombu at a time when Ueshiba Morihei wasn't teaching the secrets of aiki, wasn't there often to teach, and didn't care if anyone surpassed him. Had Ueshiba Morihei actively taught what he knew ...

Certainly the case for other people, too.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Everyone wants to feel good about what they are doing. Everyone makes the commitment he or she feels fits into their life as they currently live it. But what must it be like to be a teacher looking out at the student population knowing that very few of them are even trying to be excellent at the art, much less master what that teacher is capable of passing on.

Every year I go to big events at which my own teacher is instructing. This man trained with the Founder and the other post war giants of Aikido for 15 years. I watch as he tries to teach something more advanced and cannot because so many of the people are simply not training hard enough to come back each year better than the year before. So each year he tells them the same things are wrong and they go home and come back the next year with the same things wrong. So he can't teach what he'd like to teach because the majority of the folks aren't ready for it. And they won't be ready for it the way they are training.

So, what happens is that the art begins to adjust to the capacities of the folks doing it. Rather than have a standard that is too high for most people, which would certainly be demoralizing and cause large numbers to quit, the standard changes so that folks can get a win, feel included, pay the rent on the dojo, etc. This changes the whole culture of Aikido. If the standard is now set by the hobbyist, rather than the seriously committed student, then you end up with lots of dojos but none at which one could become excellent. I travel a lot and see lots of dojos around with all sorts of folks. But at very few would I honestly say one could become really excellent at the art.

The fact of the matter is that, if they decided that they really wanted the standard to be excellence, if they were to insist that the dojo be geared towards taking people to a true high level of skills in the art, there would be so few people willing to train that way that the dojo would probably close.

So, we end up with "market forces" determining the character of the art which started as an amazing, complex, and deep practice. It becomes not an art that is hard to comprehend, that is pursued by practitioners who strive each day for mastery but one that the average person understands and can do, with the kind of commitment that average person is willing to make. You end up with the larger dojo paradigm making it impossible for that small number of people who would and could do more to actually do so. You see students who could be great and want to train towards that goal held back by the fact that the majority won't or can't.

I am not really quite sure what the answer is to this quandary.
I have an answer. Most don't like it. Most don't even want to hear it. The answer comes from the shift between Ueshiba Morihei's aikido and Modern Aikido created by Kisshomaru and Tohei.

There is a profound and fundamental reason why Ueshiba's aikido techniques do not look like other Japanese jujutsu. The "aiki no jutsu" of aikido creates that profound and fundamental difference.

Without the changed body that is aiki (Ueshiba's statement of "I am aiki" is one of the more important things he has said), one must use 100% jujutsu to complete aikido techniques. Things like timing, small body movement, body placement, etc all become very important.

With aiki, the profound physical effects upon a person alter the encounter in ways most Japanese jujutsu would not have. With aiki, the training environment is different than most jujutsu.

If you remove aiki and attempt to train aikido techniques to become good at jujutsu, you find that the time frame is astronomically increased. That is why judo, BJJ, and other jutsu approaches can become proficient in usage in far, far less time than someone in aikido.

And yes, the square peg will fit in the round hole ... because after many hours per week, many weeks per year, and 20-40 years, one will become proficient in some very good jujutsu that relies on timing, body placement, etc. We have a whole world of aikido where some have gotten a bit of structure and a bit of internal power through aikido training. Most of those people have taken 20+ years to accomplish that.

It only takes a small bit of research to find out that the Aikido Greats accomplished far more in 5 years.

When you spread out the improvements over such a large time frame (20-40 years) amidst such large groups, you introduce impediments, which then creates the conditions you elaborated on in your above quote.

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I am fairly sure that most folks, if you asked them, wouldn't wish to believe that what they are spending so much time and effort on is just "Aikido-lite" yet without a critical mass of really serious students striving to match their own teachers, that's what the art becomes.
The problem is in Modern Aikido itself. A time frame of 20-40 years is fairly standard to become good in the art. And people know this. They are told it in no uncertain terms. "This is a 20 year technique", etc. Who really wants to face those facts that you have to spend that much time per week (more than 2 days) over a period of 20 years? Modern Aikido has perfected the training to create "Aikido-lite" people.
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