Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines
I thank you sincerely Mr. DiPierro for sharing your insights and for addressing the post in a most thoughtful manner.
Please let me also use a direct method of summarizing things and/or elaborating upon things.
I think my only points of "contention" with your first post was:
1. I held that imitation is not to be considered innately antithetical to self-expression within an application of the Shu-Ha-Ri model.
2. Your first post seemed to focus solely upon one part of the guidelines, that part on Kihon Waza, at the cost of missing how your call for spontaneity training was indeed being addressed elsewhere in the guidelines.
I believe you now understand my second point so for the most part I think we can leave that one to the side now. So I'd like to discuss the first point here.
I think I am picking up on the subtle difference you wish to be making. If I am correct, I think you are trying to say that Shu in Aikido training is not exactly like the Shu in Koryu training. In particular, I think you are suggesting that Koryu has a sense of "imitation at all costs," whereas in Aikido there is not really the sense that deviation from an over-arching institutional point of view is necessarily a determining factor in understanding "correct" or "incorrect" Shu or Kihon Waza. Let's see if I can say this differently in hopes that another perspective would bring more clarity: In Koryu, as far as Shu or Kihon Waza is concerned, you would suggest, that form for form's sake is or can be an alternative that one would or could choose even over tactical validity and martial integrity. That is to say, that it is at least theoretically possible that one could be doing a form that has no tactical validity in its architecture but nevertheless could remain considered "valid" due to the tradition's manner in which form is emphasized. While on the other hand, in Aikido, while this may happen, or while forms with tactically invalid architectures are transmitted, this can never or should never be seen as "valid" because the manner in which form is emphasized is different from in Koryu. Is this what you are suggesting? Would you say this is accurate?
If I have summed up your position correctly, and thus understand the cautions that you rested upon that position, allow me to say that while I will not comment on what Koryu is doing or not doing, I do wholeheartedly agree with what I think you to be saying on Aikido's understanding of kihon waza and shu. The guidelines are built upon this position. Indeed, Aikido as a whole must rest on a notion of martial integrity. And that martial integrity must rest itself equally on valid tactical architectures as well as on authentic (i.e. potent) means or technologies for embodying those architectures.
If this went unsaid in the guidelines it was not because I did not hold this position myself (which I think one can still pull from the sub-context of the guidelines), but rather for two different reasons: a) it was not said overtly because the topic being addressed did not in my opinion require that it be stated as such (a judgment call I made for reasons to be discussed below); and b) it was not said because it is for me an automatic given. The word "Aikido" for me means a martial art; "martial art" means martial integrity; "martial integrity" means valid tactical architectures and authentic technologies for embodying those valid tactical architectures. So I think you are right in this last post in seeing that it was not my intent to suggest otherwise to any of this via the silence I left in concerning what I consider to be an automatic given of Aikido praxis.
With that said, and without having to attribute one kind of pedagogy to Koryu, I would still hold that imitation (not in any kind of dead sense but simply defined here as "do what I do") still plays a role in Aikido training -- particularly at the level of kihon waza and shu -- even as you are defining it above (which I also hold). It is in that sense that I wrote the following in the last post:
"Both imitation and self-expression are accounted for within the Shu-Ha-Ri model. In accepting that model, one cannot posit the two as antithetical within Aikido training because the Shu-Ha-Ri model makes room for both --imitation early on, imitation for the sake of transmitting the art, imitation in terms of learning form, etc.; and self-expression at the negation of form and at the reconciliation of the false dichotomy of form and non-form."
"In dojos where teachers take an absolute approach to form but yet do not practice with their students in the traditional dyadic manner, it is too easy for them to teach forms that do not work without even realizing that this is what they are doing, leaving their students no alternative but to cooperate with each other in fake practice if they wish to do the given form. This is precisely what happens in most aikido dojos. That is not to say that it happens in yours, and these guidelines may be sufficient given the example set by the instructor in your dojo, but as I indicated in my last post, this is where the impetus to correct aikido must start. My implication, thus, was not that these guidelines, as written, will not work for your dojo, but that they may not work for other dojos where the teacher does not set the correct example with respect to form; again, in my experience, this is most aikido dojos."
I agree with what you say. What you are describing is very common. In fact that commonality is one of the reasons behind the guidelines being written up, and, I imagine, being placed on the Blog title page by Mr. Pranin at Aikido Journal. And I would also suggest that it is one of the reasons that some folks are completely unable to thoughtfully address the guidelines in a manner similar to yours (and some others like you). At some level, as Mr. Ledyard pointed out in this same thread at AikidoJournal.com, and as was nicely summed up by Usagi over there as well, folks are threatened by things that reveal this commonality that you are addressing here in your posts. It is true that some to justify the exact kind of travesty you are describing could use my section on kihon waza, but it can only be used thusly if one ignores the rest of the guidelines.
Your points are well taken -- including your points on clarifying the role of the instructor in regards to transmitting form, etc. - but I cannot account for the reader who simply chooses to misread. There is only so much "heading off at the pass" that you can do as the author of any text. Some readers are focusing in on the first part (kihon waza) only, some folks are focusing in on the second part (spontaneous training) only, some folks are focusing in on the ramifications of burdening oneself with the responsibility to acquire skill in ukemi to the degree of which I speak, some folks are focusing in being thrown hard, some folks are focusing in on their favorite clichés regarding Budo training, and some folks are just focusing in on their own cultural preferences when they give objective weight to their stylistic likes and dislikes, etc. Folks are looking for themselves in the guidelines by either agreeing with some part or objecting to others. Folks are reading what they want to read or even not reading what they don't want to read, and no amount of heading off is going to address everyone's misreading. I am reminded of quote by Michel Foucault, the French philosopher. He was addressing the same issue. Paraphrasing, he said something like, "Sometimes you just have to start writing what you want to write, without addressing how what everyone else wants you to write is different from what you are writing." Please see the guidelines in this way concerning the silences you suggest should be otherwise. The overall context, and even the sub-text, I feel, address your points.
But know also this: In our dojo, where these guidelines are NOT posted but where they are referenced in sensei/deshi discussions held for contemplative purposes via experience and insights gained through experience, the clarifications you suggest are made in other ways. They are made, relevant to your posts, in the fact that about half of the training week is dedicated to one type of true spontaneous training or another -- for higher ranks even more. And they are made, relevant to your post, in the fact that the teacher's, mine, own subjectivity is constantly rubbed against the subjectivity of those I train and train with (they are the same people) -- as a full participant in all classes, training sessions, and drills. These things were discussed in the guidelines -- at least as sub-text.
Your views on the tridactic and didactic learning models are very interesting. And indeed I can see how the size of a dojo may play a role in how things are understood and even transmitted ultimately. And, to be sure, we are a dojo on the smaller side of things -- geared more toward the training of law enforcement agents in advanced arrest and control techniques than toward growing in numbers. So it could very well be that a rethinking of my thought constructs could one day be in order. Like you, I have no answer for such things at this point, as I have not come near crossing that bridge yet. Undoubtedly I will keep your thoughts to heart and find them again in my mind when I come nearer to the things you speak.
As of now, if I can some of some of our mutual points: I think you are saying that because martial integrity can very well be something outside of an instructor's own point of view it is more important to give prominence to marital integrity than to the instructor's point of view. I can see that now -- whew! -- sorry it took me so long. lol Yes, I agree. I could not see this earlier because it is an asusmed given for me. Only, as I hope you can surmise, by what I said above, my position goes one further: a sensei should also have this position in heart. In this way, the dangerous distance that can exist between martial integrity and subjective preferences or institutional prescriptions becomes nearly void and or impotent -- or at least enough so that the sensei's own subjective experience can indeed act as a model for form without said form being absent of martial integrity. It is in this precise way that I am using the word "sensei" and "dojo" in the guidelines. The sensei's subjective experience of the art does not fall outside of the prioritizing of martial integrity. As I said, this is a given for me, a given the sensei must fall firmly within -- hence why I posit in the guidelines that a sensei trains fully as an equal participant in all types of training and studying.
Hmmm -- I think we can say we agree on a great deal if not on every point.
Well, Mr. DiPierro, I have to thank you immensely. Your post, especially this last one, was quite enjoyable to consider and reflect upon. I am in your debt.