Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines
Thank you all for replying.
By all means, Ahmad, please consider the guidelines yours.
Drew, I wasn't being disingenuous in noting that some of the things you said are now cliché. And I certainly wasn't being dismissive -- as one can clearly see by the length of my post in addressing your points. I was using the word "cliché" in its proper use -- as a truism that has lost its originality or force through overuse. I meant no disrespect by it and feel its usage was fully warranted. I also didn't mean to make assumptions about your training, only inferences from how you are suggesting folks should train based upon what you were saying and the underlying philosophical structures that were supporting what you were saying. The one time I made no inference and entered into the realm of assumption was when I openly asked you what place spontaneity training plays in your weekly training schedule -- a question you did not answer. I still think how you answer that question is relative to the disagreements we are having with each other's positions.
I realize you made no mention of scenario-based self-defense training. I did not say you did. I simply said that your understanding of form is more akin to that of scenario-based self-defense training than it is to the Budo understanding of kihon waza. You repeat this position here, again, and I would still hold that my summary of your ideas is accurate.
Kihon waza training, especially as an element of Shu, does not need to include the learning element of amplifying mistakes via the process of noting failure in attaining the ideal. I gave a lengthy reply to why this is so and how kihon waza can indeed achieve all it needs to achieve without heading down the slippery slope you are hinting at in your response. Including the amplifying of mistakes via the process of noting failure in attaining the ideal is a learning element better left to other types of training. This is mainly because the chances of reifying the technique become slimmer in other areas of training than they do at kihon waza or shu. This very same problem of a tendency to reify technique is one of the things I suggest your position shares with the scenario-based self-defense training models -- which also assumes that the attacker should not do anything that the defender does not get to "work".
If you say to me, "forms need to be alive," and you don't want to merely utter a truism that has lost its force because it has been overused, I think you will have to clearly demonstrate how kihon waza are killed by not including the amplifying of mistakes via the process of noting failure in attaining the ideal (e.g. via uke pulling out of a technique). A big problem I can see you having with your position is the need to account for single man forms. Aikido, and other Budo arts, practice sole exercises and forms, etc., and they are also burdened with the ideal of being "alive," but according to what you are saying, because there is no partner to "pull out" during moments of failure to meet the ideal, said forms are by (your) "truism" dead. This is a sad state then for arts like Iaido -- which always make references to keeping things alive but have no partner whatsoever by which to define or determine such things as you suggest.
If you say uke needs to expose every opening and/or not go with anything that does not "work" in order for a form to remain alive, you also need to either say that all solo man forms are dead (hence, much of Karate is dead, all of Iaido is dead, etc.), or you need to explain why Iaido and much of Karate falls outside of your delineation, or you are going to have to concede that two man forms can indeed remain alive as I described. Whether you can do that or not, I also believe that you will have to determine and delineate how your understanding of "alive" plays itself out according to the totality of one's training -- particularly the shu-ha-ri model. That is to say you will have to explain how your sense of "alive" does not interfere with the ideal of becoming spontaneous (i.e. being able to do one's art for real, in the heat of combat, and with having little to no known elements present). Again, "forms needing to be alive" is a position that I agree with. It is a truism. But it can quickly turn into cliché if it is offered as the end of a reflection process that never takes place - instead of the beginning of one that should. Throwing it out there without addressing the obvious or even the apparent possible contradictions or the logistical difficulties that one will face along the way is one sure way of ending up with cliché.
I did miss your joke -- sorry. But I still think I am saying something different. I understood you to be saying that nage and uke are responsible for uke's safety. Is this not accurate? (If so) The guidelines offer a different position. Nage is not responsible for uke's safety. Nage's considerations for uke have come only in the form of being aware of the fact of human multiplicity and for allowing a particular learning curve to take place. From the very beginning, that human multiplicity is addressed by a will to shape uke, all uke, into the same type of person -- a person able to withstand high levels of intensity and energy safely. This is quite different from saying that Nage has uke's safety in mind.
In the guidelines, by accounting for human multiplicity and learning curves, nage is no more concerned with uke's safety than uke is when he/she goes with a technical application of nage's that does not truly necessitate ukemi. As a contrast, one key difference in our positions concerning Nage's role in uke's safety is this: In a dojo where nage plays a (any) role in uke's safety, an uke who never reaches, or does not reach, say within five years time, a skill level in ukemi capable of taking on high levels of intensity and energy, is still considered in a somewhat positive light. In a dojo where nage plays no role in uke's safety (such as in mine), said uke would fall completely outside of the dojo's will, the teacher's efforts, the art's requirements, and would in the end be "labeled" as "wrong" or as "inefficient" -- just as any nage that could not get the basic mechanics of ikkyo in that same time would. So I still thing there are major differences between your position and mine in this regards.
This part I don't understand:
You wrote: "Part of what keeps kata training alive is having integrity in uke's attack and nage's response. If nage makes a mistake -- even a very basic, first-day-of-class nage -- uke shoud never, ‘continue on with the form even if nage messes' up."
But you also wrote: "Contrary to your concept of how we practice at my dojo, we actually let our beginners complete the techniques every time."
As is, this appears to be an obvious contradiction in thought. Your second passage seems to be allowing for learning curves, which is another way of saying what I am saying. Undoubtedly you mean something different than you are suggesting here. I mean to say, I think you are trying to say something different from what is coming out here and if you could elaborate I think you could offer a more sound position. Right now, as it seems to stand, you are agreeing with my position and you are also you are begging the question; "Are all your waza dead when you are letting beginners complete their techniques every time? " That answer seems to be "yes," because of the restrictions you have placed upon yourself concerning the truism of forms having to remain alive, but I imagine you would not like to concede that affirmation.
I also think you will have to tell me how having a "first-day-of-class" nage face an attack with "integrity" (using your understanding of the word) fares at your dojo. In our dojo that would never fare well. At our dojo, if an attack loaded with full integrity was thrown by a senior against a newbie, and that newbie was even close to being able to defend against it, that attack would be considered worthless, as would the training behind it, as would the practitioner delivering it. So I'm not at all sure what you mean in what you are saying between these two passages I quoted. Please explain.
Here's another part I don't understand:
You wrote: "Too much emphasis on being a kohei or sempai while actually practicing can lead to big egos on the part of sempai."
But you also wrote: "I stated that you're overemphasizing the sempai/kohei relationship. I never stated that such a thing inevitably leads to big egos. I agree with your further clarification of what you meant."
Perhaps you could elaborate on the above as well -- please/thanks. Or are you merely making the distinction between the words "can" and "inevitably"? If so: When I used the word "inevitably" I was using it philosophically. That is to say that if we cannot say that the senpai/kohai model inevitably leads in and of itself to the ego abuses you mention, then the origin of said abuses have to be located somewhere else. And if it is somewhere else, then "emphasizing" (as you say) will not (not ever) be the reason why such abuses take place. My reply on this section makes it clear that this is how I was using the word "inevitably". I am not out to contradict anything you say. Rather I am out to accept everything you say as true and see if it plays out well or not -- does it remain consistent with itself and/or with the realm of common experience.
If you agree with my following points on the matter, as you say above, then you must also see that the senpai/kohai model is not the problem, nor can its emphasizing be since I am emphasizing it in such a way that the abuses you mention are actually curtailed. This is what I was doing: I was wishing to make discursive space for the position that it is not the emphasizing of the senpai/kohai model that leads to the ego abuses you referred to -- that it is the ego itself that is the problem. If you still contest that idea, I have to ask you outright: Do you truly believe that it's the utilizing (or the "emphasizing"- using your word) of the senpai/kohai model that is the source of the problem you mentioned? And, is that source and/or problem really addressed by partitioning the model to off the mat areas in the dojo experience? My position is that it is not.
Bronson, Ahmad, (thanks for replying)
Again, I have to repeat that they are not guidelines for beginners only. I am not of the position that one can finally solve the role of the nage/uke dynamic once and for all and especially after a couple of decades of training with it (or for however long). Like with all things Budo, the dynamic is a matter of the mind and body, and as such we must struggle with it for length by which we utilize it to transform ourselves. The guidelines, here, in this thread, are doing exactly what they are supposed to do -- get one thinking on the matter. The dynamic's underlying position on the nature of the universe, the nature of training, the nature of the body/mind, etc., are things to consider for as long as one trains. This is not a beginner topic, and I am perplexed as to why you would think it is. Though many folks are reading the guidelines as such, seniors are to read them as a check list, where one reads down the list and says, "Ah yes, that one is fine." "Ah yes, that one I agree with." "Ah yes, I get that one." They are points for reflection, for consideration, for contemplation, etc. I do not think the beginner is even ready for such things -- generally speaking. It would be a mistake to write such a piece and aim it at some sort of personality we put up as contrast to ourselves. It is curious though, and you may find this humorous (or not), it is not the beginner aikidoka that is saying, "It's too difficult for me to grasp because of the style in which it is written." It's the senior practitioner writing in and saying it's too difficult (for beginners).
The guidelines are the current state of a reflection process that is now two decades in existence. Though, generally speaking, a person with that much training or more almost never opens up their mind (unless to decree) to the general public and asks, "What do you think?," this is precisely what I am doing. I'm not trying to reach out for approval and/or to bring an end to any type of reflection process -- whether that be mine, yours, or the beginner's. Perhaps it might have been better to say NOT what do you think, but rather "What are you thinking?"
The guidelines are a tool. They are not a solution. That is clear from the very first paragraph. In an earlier post I gave my position on why the tool is formulated in the way it is and not in the way you are suggesting. I guess we just have to disagree.
Thanks so much all of you for replying,