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Old 10-29-2010, 04:30 PM   #108
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Is two Days a week enough?

Mary Eastland wrote: View Post
I have noticed that people who train 2 times a week tend to stay longer than people who train 4 times a week right away. People who burn bright usually seem to burn fast, in my experience.
Not surprising... it takes more effort to do the four than the two. The question is, is there some inherent benefit in making the commitment that doesn't necessarily result in higher level skill, over deciding that what it takes to be good is too much and using ones time elsewhere? I am not saying that I have the answer to this... I know how I feel about it for myself, but then my priorities are askew...

Maybe, it really is the purpose of all the hobbyists to provide the support for the dojos and the hard core students out there and that is their function... I have resisted thinking that way over the years although I have had a number of folks express it that way to me. It is still my belief that EVERYONE is capable of doing his or her Aikido with "aiki". That each person training is quite capable of doing what teachers like Endo Sensei, Saotome Sensei, and Ikeda Sensei are doing. It isn't hard to do. It does require a certain amount of reprogramming and that takes a critical amount of time committed to accomplish as well as better training methodology than we have generally had. Anyone can do it, but it takes the aforementioned 10,000 hours of hard training to make it your "default setting".

I don't want to buy into the notion that most of my students, all these folks that attend the seminars I teach, the people who buy my videos, are all just there to support me in my getting better. I have been told by Japanese Shihan that my job is to up the mountain as high as I can... and to show my students what I am doing. There was no sense at all that I would be concerned whether about whether they could follow the path I had blazed. That is their problem not mine.

I have chosen not to buy in to that. I think it is a distinctly Japanese viewpoint, and lucky for my students, oh! I am not Japanese. I care whether people get it. I really want people to succeed and get good at the art. In doing so, the real "goodies" start to be revealed. It just gets more and more fascinating. But folks insist on telling themselves that they will get the goodies making a commitment that will not allow that to happen. When I state my view on what it takes, people tell me that they can get what they want on less.

As a teacher, I REALLY want people to get it. But think what it is like to stand up in front being asked to pass on what one knows to a group of folks that you know, right then and there, won't train enough to ever get it, no matter how good your instruction. Do you have any idea how hard it is to not get jaded, to stop caring about all practitioners and just put my effort into the folks that have a chance of getting what I am teaching. I make a simple statement about what I think it takes to be good at this art. Then folks turn around and tell me why they cannot will not, or don't actually need to do that. What is one supposed to do with that? I could say, you're right.. I was too hard, too judgmental, too demanding.. You really can get good at this art while putting family, career, etc ahead of it.

EVERYTHING I have read by by O-Sensei, Kisshomaru, any of the other senior Aikido people talks about daily training. Not to be a Shihan, not to be a teacher, but just to really do Aikido. At Hombu Dojo there is an entire group of folks who have been doing Aikido every morning for decades. They do the Dohu's class each am before work. These guys have killer jobs, I'm sure most have families, although that doesn't mean the same thing there as here. But Aikido is simply built into their lives.

I'm not even talking about that... I said THREE times a week, out of the seven available, is what it takes to be good at this. I didn't even talk about daily training or five nights a week... And folks are going to debate that with me. It doesn't matter as long as everyone understands that you really need more practice to be competent. If you don't care if you are competent, then fine. If you don't care if you get your black belt or ever teach class, great. But that isn't what happens...

What happens is the when the majority of folks see two times a week as enough, pretty soon the standard for getting a black belt is dumbed down to allow them to succeed. Eventually, by virtue of hanging in there with that twice a week for a long time, they'll get promoted again and again. They'll end up teaching, for sure. When the yudansha-kai are made up primarily of folks who believe that they represent the proper standard for the rank they have, which I assume most folks would, otherwise you should give your belt back, then in no time at all, people don't even remember what the standard used to be. That the standard used to be much higher. It used to be much harder to get that rank. Give this twenty years and you'll have these folks running dojos. They will be responsible for the training of other students of Aikido but simply will not be able to take them to any level higher than mediocrity because they have never excelled themselves.

Looking around, could anyone honesty maintain that what you see of the community of dojo cho represents a group of people who have excelled at the art? Someone earlier asked how these folks got promoted and ended up in these positions? Well, it started way, way back when they first took their kyu tests and weren't held to a high enough standard then. With each promotion it gets harder to hold them back, to tell someone he is substandard. It's like work where you have had nothing but good reviews and then they fire you. How do you tell a person that is a San Dan that they are pretty bad? That should have been taken care of years ago. Maybe they would have quit, or maybe they would have changed their training. But you wouldn't have a San Dan who sucks.

But that doesn't happen any where near enough. Typically the student tells the teacher that he can only commit two times a week to his Aikido. The teacher says ok. Then, since the teacher will not simply state that twice isn't enough, he or she will let this person rise up the ranks anyway. By San Dan, they'll look just like someone who has done Aikido twice a week for twenty years.

So, I let people know right up front. If you want to get rank, to move up towards getting a Shodan from me, to progress at all beyond 3rd kyu, you have to train, not every day, not an amount that calls for ending your career or neglecting your family but three nights a week or two nights and something on the weekend when we run all our events. It's fine if they don't want to do that. I give them the same effort as everyone else gets when they show up. I give them every bit the same instruction that rare five or six day a week person gets. But I have a standard for what I think constitutes a black belt. I am not dropping that standard. And I have yet to see anyone who could meet that standard training twice a week. So folks can make their choices.

I have a very small dojo, in part because of this. It would be great to have a lot of students but it is more important to me that the students I have get a chance to be great themselves. They won't get that if I am lying to them about what is required or telling them all training is ok. It's not.

Aikido may be a modern martial art but what makes it a great art, and a traditional art despite its youth, is that it is a vehicle for "old wisdom". There is stuff going on in this art that it took thousands of years of practice for people to develop and pass on to each generation. This "old knowledge" is like an endangered species. It can only survive in the proper environment. That environment is provided when people really take their practice seriously. That they accept the responsibility of being part of the survival of this art. When too many people put everything in their lives ahead of Aikido, the environment gets degraded and this old knowledge is lost because this is not hobbyist knowledge, it is deep knowledge. It will not be rediscovered once it is lost, any more than an an animal that goes extinct will reappear out of thin air. When its gone, its gone.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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