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Old 05-19-2004, 05:54 PM   #19
Fred Little
Dojo: NJIT Budokai
Location: State Line NJ/NY
Join Date: Apr 2001
Posts: 632
Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

David Valadez wrote:
Dear Mr. Little,

Thanks for replying.

Really, it seems cultish that a dojo has a perspective and a sensei has a subjective experience of an art that he/she uses to transmit said art to others? Or is it just cultish that sensei reference the experience of others in regards to his/her own subjectivity? Is it cultish in other words to correct a student according to what a teacher believes to be "accurate" and "inaccurate" according to their own understanding of the art?

Personally, I think it takes more than that to make a cult. And I also think that is what goes on in every dojo - whether it is written or not, said or not.

And really, you read the last this line as leaving no room for individual subjectivity: "All accurate understandings of the Nage/Uke dynamic have to be determined by specific contexts. Please use these guidelines in combination with the experience and insights you gain over the years of training when it comes to determining proper action within the Nage/Uke dynamic."

Again - thanks,
Mr. Valadez:

I think we are talking past one another to such an extent that we are almost speaking different languages. Since I know nothing of your practice, my response is to your description. In that respect, my take is like that of any individual who might walk in the dojo and read such an advisory, without having a sufficiently trained eye to evaluate the practice on the mat before her.

I am most certainly not making any assertion about the quality of your practice, your dojo, or the practice of others in the dojo. It is possible that one could practice well and fruitfully within these guidelines.

To that extent, you are correct to say that it takes a lot more than what I initially tagged to make a cult. But in the short preface I initially referenced, there are qualities to the "language of the discourse" that would fit perfectly into patterns I have previously observed in a number of cults.

1. Personalization/Depersonalization

The dojo, which is a social construct, is personalized and treated like an individual holding a view. Certainly, there are shared views in groups, but use of a pronoun like "we" as opposed to a concretized construct like "the dojo" gives the sense of a group of individuals who share an approach. Use of "the dojo" in place of "we" carries a very different sense.

Similarly, use of the word "sensei" without the articles "a" or "the" preceding it, or a name following it (though there are reasonable explanations for this and you do use an "a" before "teacher" immediately thereafter) sounds very much like much of what will come after is prefaced by "Sensei says that......" This compound personalization of the dojo and depersonalization of the dojo's chief instructor reads very much like a construction of authority which, once accepted, may become less and less open to questioning.

2. Nage-Uke Dynamic/Specific Contexts/Accurate Understanding/

I would suggest less that this formulation leaves "no room for
individual subjectivity" than that it leaves a vast amount of territory for the deligitimization of "individual subjectivity" by suggesting that any subjective response which is not in accord with "the perspective of the dojo" is based on a misconstrual of the nage/uke dynamic, or on an inappropriate reading of the context, or an inaccurate understanding. With the odds at 3-1, the chances of "individual subjectivity" being respected could be very slim if just one or two things went bad.

Mind you, it isn't my purpose to critique your piece graph by graph or line by line. In general, my point is that the language of the guidelines is highly abstract and concept-driven. That which is defined may be redefined. Then the trouble begins.

My feeling is that if it is necessary to state this so explicitly and in such detail, that something is not being transmitted skin-to-skin in practice.

I have committed my own share of turgid academese to the electronic memory banks of the web, the evidence is out there, and I would be a fool to deny it. But in most of those cases, I had a fairly clear idea of who I was trying to influence. My present question is less the intention of your effort than the effects of its product.

It's clear that a number of people have found significant value in your guidelines. This is a good thing.

But.....what about diversity within the dojo?

Put yourself in the shoes of a reasonably bright person from a lower-middle class home who graduated from high school and never went to community college because economic pressure didn't allow it.

Or in the shoes of someone who speaks english as a second or third language.

You can think of eleventy-seven other different examples yourself.

There are those who will be attracted, those who will be pushed away, those who will stick, and those who will fall away.

My experience is that there is no consistent marker that presages success other than desire. And desire can be so deeply buried it is almost invisible. But I've seen the unlikeliest prospects make the greatest progress through simple perseverance.

It would sadden me greatly to think that I had unknowingly pushed them away before they got started. So, however imperfectly, I try to keep things very simple at the beginning.

I try to teach appropriate ukemi by taking appropriate ukemi.

I try to teach appropriate nagewaza by performing appropriate nage-waza.

When I get it right, or one of my students gets it right, all I have to say is: "yes, like that. remember that feeling."

Words go in one ear and out the other. But feelings remain in the flesh and the bone and do not depend on language.

Well, that's my theory anyway.

Fortunately, it's a big world and a thousand flowers are blooming, so if I'm wrong, all is not lost by any means.

Hope this helps,

Fred Little
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