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Old 11-19-2010, 06:19 PM   #101
Keith Larman
Dojo: AIA, Los Angeles, CA
Location: California
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,604
Re: Mindful Modeling and Mentoring

Really I don't disagree that some things (obviously) require simply doing. My profession and the number of hours spent just getting to where I am (total beginner) is a testament to that. There is a catch-22 in these things -- you need both understanding and experience. And heck, at this last seminar Dan H was correcting my posture and alignment in tiny increments. That is of course something that has to be hands-on.

The problem facing the top instructors today is whether they can find ways to improve instruction to ensure transmission in today's world. In my world the Japanese are concerned that many arts and crafts will die out as so few are willing to devote the time, energy and backbreaking work to get there. And they may be right. In the martial arts we have the same problem. And one thing I've long said is that the popularity of Aikido is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness.

But over the last few years compelling arguments have been made that there needs to be a focus on skills lost in part in some groups, and maybe lost completely in others. We will never be successful getting those things back into our beloved art unless we come up with a means of transmission that transcends poorly defined mystical terminology. We use words like "ki" and "connection" and "intent" like everyone knows what we're talking about. But try to get a solid, clean, and objective definition and you will be in for a really long night. Most using the terms really have no idea what they're doing. And when you go to seminars and see the incredible variety of what people are doing, well, sometimes I wonder if maybe I should just focus on my sword crafts...

We need better models of what these things are. We need a richer, more evolved vocabulary to better express the sort of things Toby so carefully described above in anatomical terms. How do these things work? How to develop them? And so on. Is the martial body fundamentally different? Does it require specific training to the body to get there? I think so. So now the question is *what* is it we're developing? What structures? How do they work.

I remember years ago a top teacher of mine demonstrating something with me. He'd ask "there, did you feel me take your center?" My honest answer was no. So he'd throw me and yup, he had it. This repeated over and over. Then he'd grab me. And he'd say "No, no, no. That's not right. Grab me. Just relax and feel my center." Of course it didn't happen. But years later I started to feel something. And more. I've still got a long way to go but I now find myself saying the same damned thing to people I'm training.

I am quite compelled by the idea that we build a body that can do these things. So the reason a new student can't do what his sensei is demonstrating is that he simply doesn't have the parts in place. It's not a question of position. It's not a question of posture. It's development of something fundamental and physical. The sensei with 30 years of hard training develops the ability to feel things. The problem is that without any understanding of this they have no idea why the student can't feel what they feel. So they say "come on, just relax. Extend. It's simple..." Yes, for them it is, but they aren't really telling the student anything that will help them because they lack the physical structures to do what he is doing. Sure, after 20 years of hard training it comes about. But even those 20 years don't guarantee that if the training wasn't right (we've all met those guys, neh?). So... what is that development? What is being "built" or "conditioned". Each of these guys teaching the IS stuff seems to have slightly different answers.

There are some out there giving us exercises and training tips. We need to run with those things, learn them, implement them, and do a better job of carefully describing what they are. Then we can better communicate exactly what it is we're trying to model to our students. Or maybe better first better understand ourselves what it is we're trying to do so we can get better. And hopefully maybe even start to understand how someone can link their body up in the amazing ways some demonstrate.

On the IHTBF idea... My concern with it isn't that many things require being felt. There is no question of that. My problem is that all too often it becomes a simple way to wave away any responsibility. If we cannot express what we are doing, maybe we should take a long, hard look at whether we actually understand it to begin with. Then while we may still say IHTBF, we can at least do a better job of beginning the process of transmission without using poorly defined, ambiguous and often meaningless terms.

Sorry if this is a bit fuzzy, but the back is seized up at the moment and the Soma really does make me fuzzy...

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