Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines
I agree, our own givens, those things that we don't say, for some, are the doorways that can lead to misreadings. And undoubtedly the voicing of the details, which you would have great right in including, would lend themselves to satisfy a great deal. There can be no doubt about any of that. It's just I'm not so sure that the potential for misreading would then be nullified or even necessarily reduced (at least not to any kind of significant difference). Why? Because as I said before, a huge part of the misreadings that one is likely to face are not so much derived from what wasn't said as they are more from what is not seen.
In most cases things will indeed be said, even said outright, but because most readers often come to a work for the sole purpose of identifying themselves (either via a contrast or via an agreement) they become blind to what they are clearly reading, seeing, or hearing, etc. Don't we experience this every day on the mat as teachers?
Not to degrade any reader, or to suggest in anyway that everyone should agree with what was said in the guidelines -- I think that would make no sense -- but to address your point on the problem of givens: I think, even out of the people that agreed to see the guidelines in a positive light, even those that are right now posting them in their own dojo or on their own web site, some would be quite surprised if they were to train at my own dojo. Meaning, at the level of training, where misreading by physical expression, I would expect a lot of "Hey, what the heck are you doing?!", and then if I were to point out the section in the guidelines that one may reference as a point of reflection in regards to the question they just asked, I then would expect them to say, "Hey, wow, I never read it like that -- but I can see that now. Oh, man, I don't agree with that at all now." Of course, the same would go for folks that opted to critique the guidelines in a negative light by saying something was not there when it really was -- some of them too would be in for quite a surprise I would imagine.
I remember one poster made a comment about how the guidelines were quite rude in suggesting that nage throw uke as hard as he/she can, etc. I think it is fair to say that this reader focused in on the phrase "as hard as you can" at the cost of everything else that was said on that topic. And most likely, if we can guess, the poster has a reserve of legitimate experiences that for him tie being thrown hard with being thrown by someone that could care less about what they were doing and/or doing to him, etc. In other words, a whole lot of relationships, a whole lot of ideas, a whole lot of experiences, are there, in one's past, and in one's current situation, to point the reading of the guidelines in one way and not another just by focusing in on the words "as hard as you can." Or, I should say, by those relationships, by those ideas, by those experiences, etc., one is both prone to lose a great deal of the overall text at the same time that one is likely to misread the part that is being focused in upon due to the losing of the overall context. In the end, what is similar and what is different, that which you are trying to address via the writing of detail, is nevertheless and almost no matter what you do, lost to the reader.
(Not wishing to address the persona of the poster, I would like to keep the idea of the post to keep addressing this point - because I think it's such a commonly held view in Aikido in general; it's as good an any other. In fact, I have never been to one dojo that did not have at least one person that did not at some level hold some version of the idea that rudeness can be equated with throwing hard. )
Again, it works like this: A person, any person, reads the guidelines as opening the door on rude behavior in the dojo because rude behavior has been at some level equated with throwing hard in their experience, and as the guidelines make it a request for kohai to throw their seniors (including sensei) as hard as they can while maintaining good form -- therefore, in circle - the guidelines are rude.
By what else did the guidelines say? Were there other things said, things that in themselves would posit a great difference from the experiences, relationships, ideas, etc., held by such a poster who is holding such a position? I would say yes. Great differences appear, but they are found elsewhere in the text, outside of the words "as hard as you can." They are there -- plain as day and easy to see. But they are not seen -- they are not visible.
These differences, I would suggest, make not only no room for rudeness, but make more room for compassion, more room for compassion than can ever come in via the guideline of "never throw your uke as hard as you can." And from these other parts, if one could see them, one could come to see how the guidelines do share a similar position (to that of the "poster") on how to take care of uke, but one would also be able to note where that position is understood slightly different.
In other words, the position, which is in the guidelines, that every nage in every situation should show awareness of the facts of human multiplicity, is indeed a position that is most likely shared by the "poster". But it is not seen -- because one is only focusing in on the words "as hard as you can." It is the same thing for folks that came from the other side. Folks that saw only the allowance for human multiplicity by having nage always show awareness of such things became blind to the "as hard as you can." So one party wanted to talk about one thing and the other party wanted to talk about something different. And each party was ignoring the other's position and the overall context of the text. And no one ended up asking what I consider to be the real question of the guidelines in regards to this matter:
"Hey, how do you get those two things to fit together? How do you address the multiplicity of human beings in light of an ideal you wish to apply to all?"
Another person, who was very critical of the style in which the guidelines were written, attempted to show that they could be simplified and amount to still saying the same thing. In reference to this same section, or related to this section at least (i.e. how to take or understand ukemi; what is expected by nage of uke in relation to how "hard" one is to be thrown, etc.), this poster used an idea akin to "uke should do his/her best to take ukemi". But all of these positions -- the idea that it is rude to throw uke as hard as you can; that it is not Budo to not put uke in a level of discomfort outside of the particulars of human multiplicity; that uke should just do the best that he/she can -- are in themselves a, and lead to a, misreading of the text. Here's why:
Rudeness, in this situation, can only occur as a result of a few things. For example, rudeness has to be about something that is unexpected, outside of an agreement, egocentric, beyond comprehension, etc. In other words, it's rude to throw someone hard when they can get hurt by such actions; it's rude to throw someone hard when they are expecting to be thrown easy; it's rude to throw someone hard when you doing so demonstrates a total lack of awareness of their person; it's rude to throw someone hard when it's just a manifestation of your own will to power; and it's rude to throw someone hard when an understanding of being thrown hard is completely impossible on the part of uke; etc.
But the guidelines address all of these things, and more. By the guidelines it's impossible to throw someone hard and be rude. Why? Because every particular of every uke has to be accounted for by every nage in every case; because every uke can verbally, and with every right, control the pace and intensity of his/her ukemi with a simple request that nage must fully recognize and honor; because the chance to throw uke hard is a act of compassion given to nage by every uke that is senior to them; etc. All of these things are in the guidelines. In the end, the "hard" in the guidelines is very different from the "hard" in original contrary position -- this is because every above-mentioned sense of rudeness is not present. And because the "hard" is different, the "rude" comes to be misapplied.
In the guidelines, people are not throwing folks as hard as they can just to throw hard- just to feel strong and invincible, etc. Throwing hard is made a part of the pedagogy. Through throwing hard, just on the edge of one's performance envelope, nage learns something more about themselves, and the form, etc., than they would learn by having to or choosing to throw easy, slowly, gently, etc. By being thrown hard uke too comes to learn more about ukemi, themselves, etc. But because "hard" throws are a part of the pedagogy, throwing hard too has to account for learning curves -- hence, for example, why kohai throw senpai hard (rather than the usual other way around -- see my earlier post in this thread on how senpai usually understand their presence on the mat and how these guidelines suggest something totally different). And this is also why the sensei has to be on the mat taking ukemi at all times -- for his/her senior students to have more than themselves to throw hard.
The chance to throw someone hard is a chance that each person gives to his/her fellow member -- it is an act of giving and an act of social responsibility. Thus, within this environment it is hardly the egocentric action it is in most places. But is this just a mater of uke doing the best they can (as one poster suggested)? I don't think so because when you make something an act of compassion, when you make ukemi a social responsibility that you hold for another person, when you give freely to someone that chance to train harder in order to learn more, to experience more, etc., doing your best is sometimes not good enough -- sometimes it's not even close at all. Sometimes doing your best as related to this type of social responsibility is like comparing apples and oranges.
Doing your best is a personal thing; having a social responsibility is something more. If I say to a student, "Look you are only giving nage the choices of injuring you, of stopping his/her technique, or going slow and light, and I need you to take on the social responsibility of giving nage another option, one where they can train as hard as they can without you getting injured.," I mean something different than "just do your best". Here's another way of looking at it -- this at the level of the dojo and of the teacher:
If I expect this social responsibility of my student, then I must invest in it myself as a teacher. I must hold it up for them but I must also fully provide all of the tools necessary for them to hold it up for themselves from the very beginning. This stuff per se was not in the guidelines, but it is a subtext of the guidelines and it is definitely relative to answering the question of "how do you go from the particulars of human multiplicity to the ideal of an uke that can always be thrown hard" -- which no one raised. For example, I must teach them about the physiology of the body; I must address old injuries that they have neglected and old emotions that they have attached to them; I must teach them how to stretch; I must do yoga with them until they are disciplined enough to do it on their own; I must supply them with yoga materials if they don't have any of their own or if they cannot afford them; I must get them discounts (passing on wholesale savings rather than marking everything up) on such materials; I must teach them how injuries work and how to heal them; I must teach them how to weight train and I must weight train with them if they so require it and I must make sure they have access to the necessary equipment if they so need it; and I must have doctors, sports therapists, massage therapists, and acupuncturists, and medical supplies that will address their physical needs, that will take their insurance or that will see them for free if they have no means of affording such things; and I must have concise practical models on teaching and learning ukemi, where one step leads right into the next step, where ground principles are easy to understand and easy to build upon, etc.; and I must have daily training open to all -- morning and night; and I must go in for extra hours to spend private time with them so they can learn more and have more time dedicated to them if needed; and I must monitor their understanding of such things and address them so as to bring them more understanding in a way that their person requires; and I must understand the psychology of motivation, frustration, and depression so as to proactively address the engines of commitment and of quitting; and I must give each student all the time they need to achieve this responsibility while I nevertheless hold it out before them without compromise as one they should adopt as their own; etc.
In other words, a great deal must happen, must change, must be in place when a dojo says that it is a social responsibility of uke to be thrown as hard as nage can put forth. And while some of these things can be in place in nearly any dojo, none of them HAVE TO be in place in a dojo where uke is simply told, "Just do your best." And through these things, and countless others you have to make up on the spot as sensei, as keeper of this social responsibility, and as provider for all that assists in the holding of this responsibility for those that train under you, you, as sensei, become not lord, emperor, or ruler. You become servant -- and in this way you can address your own will to power by reconciling it through servitude, patience, compassion, and humility. Finally, though these things and through the studying and training in universal strategies and tactics, which includes those particular to the art of Aikido, in the long run you come to have an uke that can be thrown hard, can be thrown while uncomfortable, but that cannot ever be thrown rudely.
Misreadings are inevitable, in other words. In a forum like this you try and address them through discussion, through open minds meeting, through exchanging ideas, asking questions, and above all holding oneself and another to the virtue of consistency of thought. In the dojo, I think you do the same thing, but in the dojo as a teacher you also have at your disposal various practices, various drills, various devices for measuring and determining understanding, etc., and you need to make use of all of these things in order to address the human tendency to emotionally attach to the self, to thereby lose awareness, and to thereby miss the new (and different) information that is right there in front for all to see.
In the forums, one can take advantage of this maintaining of awareness by practicing non-attachment to self-identity and thereby come to actually engage another in an intimate discussion, or of course one cannot. I think the choice is up to each person. In the dojo, I think, the choice is again up to each person, but there is something so inherently inconsistent with the overall practice if one opts not to engage in this cultivating of awareness that sooner or later one is going to ask of oneself, at least in a healthy dojo, "What am I doing here?" That is to say, in a dojo, the tendency to practice attachment to one's own self-identity is the very practice by which we come to cultivate non-attachment, and greater forms of awareness, understanding, compassion and wisdom. In the dojo, through a whole set of other practices, etc., the attachment to the small self becomes the opening, the vessel, through which reconciliation with the small self become possible. The guidelines are meant to function in this way -- which is clear from the first paragraph.
Again, this is not to invalidate your position at all, nor especially the material you would use to fill in my silences, or even your own. In fact, I am greatly interested in hearing of such things, and sharing my own with you as well. So I would definitely like to continue our discussion here, and privately, and even send you some material I've been working with that I feel is relative to some of the silences we are currently addressing. But ultimately I have to say, because it's all I can say, I made a judgment call, one that is totally subjective and personal, but one that it totally related to how much I can address through alternate but relative teaching tools within my own dojo, on how much to include and/or not include in the guidelines.
Mr. Ledyard, who was the first person to ask if he could share the guidelines with his students, was wise enough to see this whole thread, and the one at AikidoJounal.com, in light of his previous article on being judgmental. I think one can definitely hold this thread up as an example of what he was talking about -- looking at it from a god's-eye point of view -- and thereby also come to address your point on misreadings (since many folks who were being judgmental were in fact misreading the text -- there was some overlap in that regards). And maybe this adds to it, my own personal judgment on what to include, what to say outright, and what not to say outright but to merely silently hold as given. Yes, you are most likely right. But if someone truly wanted to see what was there in the guidelines and what was not, they could have done it just as it is -- whether they agreed with them or not. The potential to read the text accurately was always there.
Sorry -- had to stop here -- will soon post on your reply concerning spontaneity and the other issues you raised relevant to that in your last post.
Again -- thank you so much.