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Old 11-12-2013, 04:49 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 64
United Kingdom
Smile DH Bristol Nov 2013 - A newbie's perspective

I don't suppose this will be especially illuminating for anyone who has already trained with Dan Harden or has set ideas about what they think about IP/Aiki, Dan or his methods, but I guess there's a possibility that it might be useful to someone coming at this subject as a newbie without many preconceptions (as I was).

So my wife and I were at the seminar in Bristol last weekend and I thought I'd share my thoughts about it on here. Prior to the seminar this was my take - I'll revisit my evaluation criteria to see where I'm at now...

efficacy - check, in cart loads, I felt tiny amounts of change and improvement in myself pretty quickly thanks to some great help from experienced guys

what I can see - check, doesn't tell you everything but seeing it in person is a whole lot different from seeing it on youtube

what I can feel - check, an early request was to "get in my face if I haven't got sufficiently hands on with you and you feel you're not getting value" which I did on the second afternoon. Suffice to say I experienced some very weird shit at an extremely high level of skill.

whether it can be articulated by its chief practitioners in terms that make sense to me (without lots of metaphysical hyperbole) - yep, western rationalist/empirical/scientific model from the outset, lots of use of CMA/JMA terms but whenever a definition and explanation was requested (lots of Q&A throughout, very helpful) a cogent one was given. I don't pretend to understand it all nor to be sufficiently well versed in anatomy, physiology, sports science, etc. to have an expert opinion but there's clearly a really solid model and a lot of profound skills that go with it. If anything the testimony and skills of the longer term students is the most convincing evidence since this suggests the stuff can be taught and lead to improvements in one's chosen art(s) in time-scales measured in months/years rather than decades.

but [in terms] that aren't exclusive (my way is the only way that works) - we were actively encouraged to go out and find other people doing this stuff and make up our own minds, some suggestions as to who we could check out were freely offered. There were lots of references to where the principles come from and how old and cross-cultural a lot of the stuff is.

or proprietorial (my way requires at least minimum attendance at x seminars at y cost) - no hard sell, and a strong emphasis on taking the cult of personality out of things, it's about the material not about creating guru figures. Sure, the material is guarded, and that's fair enough, people are entitled to earn money for their time and skill. Actually it's not so much the material since it's all out there if you have the time and understanding to know where to look and how to put it all together, just as you could teach yourself to play the guitar from youtube and books rather than go to a good teacher. I guess the point is a teacher brings a method, curriculum, insight based on experience, etc. and therefore gets you progressing more rapidly without developing bad habits, etc.

I feel I should mention that Dan clearly has a deep love of budo first and foremost as well as a lot of knowledge of Chinese arts and teachings. His respect for aikido, its founder and his methods comes across very strongly throughout. He exhorted everyone "not to be a dick" as uke by using IP to lock people up and block them but to practice with a sound and proper attitude. I didn't come away feeling that my aikido or taiji practice were in anyway invalidated, more that they could both be enhanced through application of drills and further study.

The style of delivery is informal but intense, sometimes irreverent, always interesting and fortunately I like it when people take the piss out of me.

From everything we saw during the sessions and subsequent socialising Dan has very sound values and we liked him a lot in spite of our British reserve (I tend not to make a habit of liking people) and his American gregariousness. Whether we go back and train with him again depends on a lot of things, whether we can fit it in with family commitments, our other practice, our finances, etc. but I hope we get the chance as we both really enjoyed the weekend and met a lot of nice people.
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