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Old 12-06-2006, 03:43 PM   #66
Dojo: TNBBC (Icho Ryu Aiki Budo), Shinto Ryu IaiBattojutsu
Location: Seattle, WA
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 927
Re: Practical internal training ?

Mark Gibbons wrote:
Summarizing again:
Mark, you bring up some excellent questions in this thread and did a great job summarizing what's being said and implied (and pointing out just how obtuse this issue really is). So, here goes…

Mark Gibbons wrote:
Could learn this stuff via:
o Maybe Ki Aikido, might not be the same stuff.
o Maybe some external art but would probably get involved with something useless left to my own devices.
o Maybe my own dojo, if the senior people are working on this.
o Ask sempai. More experienced folks may have some clues.
I'd say that most people will never learn ‘this stuff' in the typical Aikido environment as I've seen it. This might lead one to question if it really has a place in Aikido then, but I'll get to that in a bit… A few will either just do it naturally or will stumble onto something similar. I think Aikido has a long history as a ‘gateway drug' to other arts for this very reason. People who aren't satisfied with good enough start looking elsewhere with the hope of adding new skills or understanding to their Aikido practice, but by the time they're deep enough into whatever external (meaning not Aikido) system that they're studying to enhance that understanding enough to bring something back, they're already deeply entrenched in a new study. I compare it to the "Brain Drain" they talk about in the inner cities or in some countries.

Mark Gibbons wrote:
Importance: I don't have enough experience to evaluate this. Nothing that I've read on the web seems convincing that the internal stuff is a serious loss. Many of the comments assume background I just don't have which may explain my not being convinced. Excerpted quotes tend to be able to prove anything, so I trust them almost not at all. No comparisons with my favorite alternate theories of why aikido works.
My question is, are you disappointed with what you're learning or how you are progressing? Are you getting what you want from your experience of studying Aikido? For most people, the answers are emphatically, "Yes." They love what they are studying, the changes it makes in them and being part of a community that's different than most other aspects of our Western society. If your answer is, "Yes," then I'd say it wasn't very important. I'm not being dismissive or making light of the subject either, I honestly believe what I just wrote there. If Aikido wasn't filling a valuable place in peoples' lives AS IS, it wouldn't be as popular as it is today. End of story.

Personally, I experienced a sea change at the first Aikido Journal Expo in Vegas. I was struck simultaneously by how generally disappointed I found myself with the level of skill in the literally hundreds of aikidoka present and awed by how good the non-aikido guest instructors and their students were (namely: Don Angier, Toby Threadgill, Kondo Sensei and Ushiro Sensei). Further, I was impressed with the methodology and clarity of their teaching. Angier would do something incredible and then show you what you needed to do to achieve it. You might not get it right away, but you had a sense for what you were working on. The aikido teachers would then show some techniques and let people practice, or if they were explaining things, would offer some medaphors or mental imagery. I realize both of these are valid tools in teaching, but in my mind, they should fill gaps of understanding rather than form the base of that understanding. Let me preface this next comment with the following disclaimer: I love Ikeda Sensei, I think he's one of the best Aikidoka in the US. His waza is clean, his throws efficient and if he was any kinder I don't think people could stand it. BUT, I don't know how many seminars I've been to with him where he was working his wrist twist thing and ‘teaching' by saying, "See? Working. Not working. Working! Not-working… Ok you try." I've read his guidelines for teachers and they basically say, "Don't." The old "you must steal the technique" teaching paradigm worked in small groups where teachers took the traditional role as uke. I do not believe that it works in larger organizations or perhaps at all in the West. We simply aren't taught to learn that way. After training with Neil for a fairly brief period of time, I could see what Ikeda was doing and replicate it to a large degree. Same with some of the other senior teachers that I've trained with since. The context that I've gotten from outside of Aikido lets me see what's going on with a clarity that I never got from someone in Aikido. I've had multiple experiences where a senior aikido teacher was demonstrating something and sayng, "I don't understand why this works…" and found myself thinking, "I do. Why don't you know why it works?"

So to tie this back into "this stuff" ie internal skills/training and its importance: What I have felt from those who do this stuff (Ark, Don, Neil…) is so similar to what I've felt from the really good aikido teachers (Ikeda, Takeda Yoshinobu, Anno Motomichi…) that it's hard not to make the comparison. Further, their students can replicate these skills to a very large extent and after no where near the length of time that would be expected in aikido. I know when I train with someone and I can't make them budge and I can feel that they're not just messing with me I'm impressed. The first time I trained with Rich Elias was at that same Expo (in Ikeda Sensei's class no less!). I bowed into him about ˝ way through class after training with a lot of people and thinking, "Man what is wrong with these people, they suck…" After a few attempted throws and then getting tossed about like I was a 3 year old (hi David!) I was forced to think, "Man what is wrong with me, I suck!" If you've felt people who really have these skills and then look back on the videos of OSensei or read the accounts of taking ukemi from him you are struck by the similarity. Or maybe it's just me. Ask Robert Chang or Brian Concle about some of the stuff we did where I showed how some of the stuff I've been working on relates to what Ikeda Sensei teaches (and that was before meeting Ark!).

Mark Gibbons wrote:
Criteria for judging the real thing:
Little new. Ask more experienced folks. No reliable way for the uninitiated to evaluate this stuff or the people that may be able to do it. For instance, I've seen many videos that some say exhibit great internal skills. I can see more than a year ago, but not enough to tell what's really going on. As an amature magician let's say I know how easy it is to fool folks.
Man this is really a hard one. When I visited Rob, we talked about the "Oh yeah, we do that too…" thing. It gets really hard to explain or even demonstrate something similar but different to someone without their brain shaping it into something they already know. I was guilty of the same thing with him and Akuzawa. What they were doing looked similar to what we were studying. It was a LOT more different than I expected. But then after working with it for a while, it feels like while it was different, it fills gaps and solves problems that I've been struggling with for years, and even with the very little exposure that I've had to it, I can see real and significant results in my waza. So I guess the criteria comes down to actually feeling it. That sucks, but there ya go. But then you also have to go back to my earlier comments about really looking at what you're getting from your training and what your expectations are. I could very easily imagine someone meeting Ark and thinking, "That's cool, but it has nothing to do with Aikido," the same way lots of people have met Don and had the same reaction. Who knows they could very well be right. After all, most of the detractors on this forum who go on and on about what Aikido's missing are outside of Aikido, looking in. At this point, I'm guilty of that as much as anyone. I suppose I still love Aikido for what it could be, rather than what it is today, I don't know what Dan and Mike's reasons for posting here are. Perhaps, like me, they just like arguing on th3 int3rw3bs…

Mark Gibbons wrote:
Again I hope this passes as a fair summary. Like so much in life someone wanting to learn this stuff will have to dig, know people and work hard. And that's for something they won't know if it's any good or not. My opinion is that there's something useful and amazing out there in the internal area. But my opinion is based on some very shakey grounds. I really need to get out more.

Thanks and best wishes,
Thanks Mark.

PS: you can ask Nat about his take on what the "push out" exercise felt like, I showed him on Saturday. He probably thought it was a bunch of crap.

Chris Moses
TNBBC, "Putting the ME in MEdiocre!"
Budo Tanren at Seattle School of Aikido
Shinto Ryu Iai-Battojutsu
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