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Old 01-12-2011, 07:41 PM   #34
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post

So I would turn the question round and ask from the instructor's point of view: For a given seminar, what are your primary motivations for attending ( = teaching at the seminar)?
First of all, it's what I do for a living. Years ago I had a family, a demanding job, and my Aikido. I realized that I could only really do a good job at two of those. So I combined my work and practice and started to teach. I opened my dojo in 1989.

Now, the real reason was that I ALWAYS knew I would teach. Sensei told us when we were white belts that he was training professional instructors. In his mid that was the American equivalent of the Honbu Shihan.

Sensei always emphasized the "transmission" from O-Sensei to himself and on to us. Our own students are part of that.

Why do teachers can keep giving seminars when the people attending do not try to practice what the teacher is showing?
I'm sure that for some, it's partly financial, as it is for me. But I also think that the vast majority of teachers I have trained with genuinely love Aikido, as they understand it, and want to pass it along.

For me, it's a love of teaching. I was born to do this. It's the best thing I have ever done in my life. I am at my very best when I am out on the mat with a group of folks who are "hungry".

Also, I feel that I was given this huge gift. I feel a bit like Gurdjieff with his "Meetings with Remarkable Men". I have never trained with a single teacher who was even mediocre. They have all been incredibly generous with what they have given me, and continue to do so whenever I see them. Most folks don't have the luxury of doing what I have done. So I feel a certain responsibility to pass on what has been given to me, perhaps predigest it for folks without the same background.. This stuff is what I call "old knowledge". It's developed over thousands of years. Now, I think that much of this is endangered. There are fewer and fewer folks who seem to want to train seriously enough to master these things. So anyone who has any inkling, should be passing on whatever he or she knows to as many people as possible.

Finally, because of the quality of the training I have had, I have a concern for the art in that I feel it is in danger of becoming just a nice hobby for middle class Americans (or whatever country you want to plug in). Aikido as a study with both technical and spiritual depth and breadth is vanishing. I am just egotistical enough to feel like I can effect the whole. If I can develop myself as a recognized instructor, I can get "access" to a far broader spectrum of the Aikido public than just the half dozen or so folks I can take to the top level at my own dojo. I see my role as a bridge to my teachers for the folks out there who haven't had the foundation to understand what they are doing.

Teachers like Saotome Sensei are passing away. They will all be gone shortly. We should be taking advantage of every second on the mat we can get with them. I don't care about the folks that aren't trying. But I care deeply about the folks that are showing up at these camps and seminars, spending their vacations training, really making the effort but getting little in return.

No one ever taught them how to train in a way that would result in higher level skills. No one ever gave them a principle based understanding of what is happening and why the whole thing works. So they go year after year to these events and they just don't get it. I have literally sat with a friend in tears after another class with a particular teacher in which he once again dazzled us with his ability and utterly failed to get folks to do it. She was so frustrated that she was saying she was going to stop even attending his classes because she got nothing out of them except seeing him do cool stuff and no one else could do it. This is a serious practitioner with a 4th Dan, not some newbie.

Anyway, I have been able to work with people like this, in seminars I teach or by training with them in seminars taught by other teachers, and I have been able to give them enough of a framework that they've started to be able to learn again from these teachers. It's very gratifying.

So for me it's searching for those folks who are "hungry", finding the ones who want help, and mentoring them. I feel that's the only real way I can repay my own teachers for what they have given me.

I gave you Tada Shihan's answer in a previous post. He has a very clear idea of what he has to do, which is to show people important segments of the aikido he does, since this is what he thinks people need to learn. I think Doshu's view is similar.

Of course, a smaller, workshop-type, seminar is quite different and is closer to the type of training in the early Kobukan or the Tokyo Hombu directly after the war, when numbers were far fewer than they are now.

Best wishes,

My only objection to what has happened with the spread of the art far and wide is that the teacher student relationship has been entirely screwed up. Most folks have no idea that, for most of these teachers, what they teach when they are doing their international travel, teaching their soto deshi can be quite different from what they are teaching their own seniors at their own dojos.

Someone like Tada Sensei or the Dojo decides could reasonably be expected of a bunch of folks all over the world, maybe even the non-uchi deshi in Japan. They created a simplified art and developed a training program to create instructors who teach that curriculum. At a certain point, folks start thinking that this simplified thing now called Aikido, is the art and not the "Cliff Notes" of something that these same teachers are doing with their personal students. Very few people will admit to wanting to do Aikido-lite, yet that is what they are being offered, often without knowing it.

Of course it's not much better when the teachers have not gone this route and have genuinely tried to show folks the "full meal deal" and then failed to organize a method of transmission geared to helping people succeed in getting there.

So, for me, I believe that I personally can do both... within the limits of my skill and understanding. If I understand it, I can teach it. I am now at the point at which I understand most of what my teachers are doing and I can pass it on. If I do so to a wide enough audience, then a generation of students still have time to benefit from thee amazing teachers before they are gone forever.

That's why I get so upset with the folks that simply aren't trying... There are folks who are really trying. They need help. But the folks who don't want to make the effort are wasting everyone's time. I have started holding seminars to which I only invite the people whom I know to be serious and students recommended by other teachers of my personal acquaintance. I have no interest in holding big schmooze fests so that un-serious people can feel good by hanging with people who are serious. Anyway, that's my take on it and I'm sticking with it. There are plenty of other alternatives for folks who think I am too snooty about this. Only twenty dojos in the immediate Seattle area to choose from.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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