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Old 05-20-2004, 10:56 PM   #26
PeterR
 
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
I used the word "contributes" to note that while such a practice do not inevitably lead to personality cults, they can be conducive to such a thing. It is the conduciveness of such things that Mr. Little and I were discussing. I do not wish to make a blanket statement on what folks do with their profile or not. My point was that I feel it more beneficial to receive and discuss all ideas on equal basis -- human to human. I find that more beneficial than applying weight one way but not another.
Just a quick aside when one person provides information and the other does not - the situation is by definition unequal.
Quote:
Again, the guidelines are not for beginners. However, it appears that there is a sense that the nage/uke dynamic is by quite a few folks considered to be a topic or issue that should be settled in one's understanding before one leaves the arena of being a beginner and enters into the intermediate stages of their training. For me, this is a falsehood. At the heart of the nage/uke dynamic is a very complex philosophical position on the nature of the universe -- one that comes to us primarily through yin/yang theory. This theory, while used by many throughout East Asian culture, has always been the area of the advanced -- not beginners.
I suppose you can look at it this way. Personally I see the relationship between two training partners only in terms of harmonious practice.
Quote:
Using your post to springboard to something I've been thinking about: I would like to remind folks that the combining of pen and sword is an ancient combination in Budo history. The idea that one can or that one should obtain anything, let alone everything, from training alone is a fairly new one -- one I believe that came into Budo when Muscular Christianity theories helped to modernize the practice. Personally, and not just out of a favoritism for things old, the idea that training alone is the solution to the ailments that face Aikido today -- mentioned throughout this web site and AikidoJournal.com -- is ridiculous. It is even more ridiculous than the idea that somehow experience is reduced by verbiage but not by silence. The guidelines to not put an end to experience -- they simply cannot do that.
I didn't say silence. The poet warrior, gentleman soldier, cuts across cultures but in each there is time and place. Yes you can write about your experience, put your ideas down on paper but in pretty much every case there is a setting aside of these tombs when practice commences. It really does not matter what you read before you enter the dojo - the relationship is defined in the dojo.

Quote:
One only has to look, and I will only mention the more well-known sources here, the Kojiki, the Heart Sutra, various chapters of the Book of Five Rings, etc., all written in a way that would also have to be described as "legalistic," have actual driven practice and not stifled it.
I wouldn't call any of the above legalistic. Do you think the Kojiki or Heart Sutra are particularly directed towards Budo training?
Quote:
The guidelines try to address a central concern of training: The problem that two-man forms training presents in regards to remaining martial and keeping Aikido's (Budo's) transformative elements potent. In other words: How to train in two-man forms without reducing the art to a cooperative dance that has no martial or transformative potency of any kind. If this problematic could be so easily solvable by training alone, or if it is so easily solvable that it could be reduced to a beginner's issue, Aikido would not be in the state it is in. What state? A state wherein when Aikidoka are confronted with the possible negative effects of two-man forms training are likely to say to each other, "Hey, if you want to fix that or see how much fixing you need to do, go and try some spontaneous training with a guy from "X" martial art -- any art but Aikido."
You see I would never say that.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 05-21-2004, 01:53 AM   #27
senshincenter
 
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Hi Peter,

Again thanks for replying.

Can only say I disagree with your take on the equality of ideas or the inequality of ideas and what contributes to that or not - but we knew that from the earlier posts we both made.

Just have to point out that I was not referring to what you said, hence, "using your post as a springboard..."

Legalistic was put in quotation marks - it was used to represent the common descriptives such as tediousness, repetition, redundancy, wordiness, specialized terminology, convolution, abstraction, complexity, etc., things many cited negatively in the stating of their stylistic preferences, etc. With that said, these texts I mentioned follow suit with all of these descriptives, and yet it would be wrong to say that these texts stifle training. In the same way then it is wrong to assume from the get go that said guidelines would stifle training and therefore should be dismiss - not even read.

If one is not reading them, then just say that, "I didn't read them because they weren't my kind of read." End of story - a good ending if you ask me. As fine as any other. But to go on to say more about what training is and is not or can be or cannot be in a way that is totally outside of experience and historical understanding is a bit too much - in my opinion. (Please understand that I am using your post to address the other posts that also made stylistic preferences a main point of consideration.)

Not sure why it is relevant to determine whether or not the Kojiki and the Heart Sutra were written specifically for Budo when my point was that texts in and of themselves do not stifle training - that history shows that they actually inspire it. The Kojiki and the Heart Sutra can be shown historically to have played these roles in Japanese martial arts though they were not written specifically for an audience of martial artists.

I understand your stylistic preferences. They are not mine. Mine are not yours. I can appreciate yours. I can appreciate mine. But there simply is no grounding, but the one found in Muscular Christianity, for the position that said guidelines would in some way innately interfere with, inhibit, stifle, prevent, curb, etc., training. The writing of guidelines is not a call for an end to training or an to the embodiment of the art, no more than a work like the Book of Five Rings, etc., is.

dmv
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Old 05-21-2004, 07:04 AM   #28
G DiPierro
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Mr. Valadez,

Although I understand that you do not have as much time as you wish for replying to additional posts on this topic, as a latecomer to this thread I would like to address some of the points Fred Little brought up along with a few of my own that are directly related. I will not be offended if you are unable to reply in detail, as my intent is simply to suggest some alternative areas of thought that you might consider regarding this subject in the future, but I would welcome and appreciate your comments, as well as those of Mr. Little and others, if you wish to post them.

Along with Mr. Little, I found the implications regarding the authority of instructor and the dojo in your guidelines troubling. I agree with most of what the guidelines say with respect to kata practice, which you called kihon waza, being primarily a study of form, but I disagree with your recourse to the authority of the teacher as the ultimate determinate of proper form. This relates directly to the your concept of the “traditional dojo” that you mentioned in a later post.

By my definition, and that of most others who are familiar with classical Japanese martial arts, aikido is not a traditional art. It is a modern art. While it is true that in a “traditional” (read koryu) dojo, the word of the teacher regarding proper form is final, this is not true of aikido, and I think the misunderstanding of this point is the primary reason why so much of modern aikido is ineffective. I personally believe that aikido is clearly designed to be an art of self-expression, not an art of imitation, and while it seems from your posts that you may dispute this point, I nevertheless think that holding the position that aikido is a traditional art is untenable by any means.

Although you claim to be discussing the uke-nage dynamic in your post, in reality such an interaction is a relatively minor aspect of aikido training limited to free practice outside of the class structure. In a traditional art, it would be the primary interaction, but in such arts the role of the uke was always played by the senior person or instructor who would give an attack sufficient to challenge the student yet also enable him to do the specific technique well enough to practice the skills involved. Many of your guidelines for uke would apply. In modern arts, including aikido, this kind of direct instruction is difficult because of the larger number of people usually involved, and many teachers will avoid it even when working with smaller groups.

In aikido, partners continually switch roles under the overall guidance of the instructor, and so the function of the sempai-kohai relationship in partner practice, which was also mentioned earlier, is somewhat different than in a traditional art. The fundamental relationship in modern aikido is not actually the pairing of uke and nage, but the triad of uke, nage, and the instructor. There are several implications stemming from this change regarding the interaction of uke and nage that I feel your post ignores or else takes for granted without explanation or discussion. In fact, as Mr. Little pointed out, you make a few important assumptions regarding the role of the instructor relative to the other two without addressing these directly in your guidelines. Included among these assumptions is that the authority of the instructor with regard to proper form is absolute, which, as I indicated earlier, I find to be a fundamentally incorrect and troublesome one in aikido.

I believe that for aikido to achieve its full potential as a martial art, the criteria for correct form, which is not to say for correct practice of form, must be martial effectiveness. In a traditional art, one would simply trust that the form the teacher taught was effective. In many cases, there was no alternative, or if there was, a student might test a potential teacher by a direct challenge, only becoming a student if the teacher could defeat him. Also, given that teaching certification was much more tightly controlled in koryu than it is in aikido, there was a much greater chance that someone granted permission to teach actually was teaching effective forms since he was doing so under the personal authority of the iemoto, or headmaster, who was the owner or repository of such forms as they had been passed down through several generations starting, theoretically, from a time when the forms were actually tested in real situations.

In aikido, I find that most people who are teaching the art, even at the highest levels, are not teaching effective forms. There are many reasons for this, but the unspoken assumption that “the teacher is always right,” which you seem to accept in your guidelines, is a major part of this. So is the lack of true freestyle practice. These two things make it very easy for instructors or seniors to assume positions of authority without ever finding out if what they are teaching actually works. And when challenged on that aspect by, say, a student or junior, most get defensive because they perceive the challenge as a threat to their self-image as a “martial arts expert” rather than a challenge to a particular impersonal aspect of their form or technique. Because they have little experience testing their technique in an arena where the opponent does not always cooperate, they do not understand that their position as a senior or instructor is based upon more than the unchallenged supremacy of their technique, the concept of which is nothing more than an illusion that is the luxury of those are not constantly challenging themselves with realistic practice.

Because aikido is an art of self-expression, or because there is no guarantee that a teacher is teaching effective forms (I consider the two phenomenon to be related), the responsibility of determining correct form actually rests upon the student, not the teacher. The criteria for this should be martial effectiveness as established through realistic freestyle practice. Kata practice, in my view, should be a rehearsal of a specific form that has been proven to be effective in freestyle practice. This rehearsal involves specified roles and responsibilities for both uke and nage that are determined by what would be necessary for the technique to work with an opponent who realistically intended to continually attack the best opening rather than merely simulate some minor aspect of an attack and then cooperate with whatever nage wishes to do. This includes, as I discussed in a post on AJ a while back, that nage must begin in a correct kamae and that uke must attack that kamae in a very specific, yet still realistic, way and also respond to nage’s defense or counterattack in a certain way. Deviations from these highly specified roles make the entire situation (given a specific form) implausible and unrealistic and therefore unsuccessful at teaching martially effective habits of movement.

In my view, the role of the instructor in kata practice is, among other things that do not relate specifically to form, to provide guidance as to what makes a particular form effective. Such guidance should not be construed to mean absolute dictation of proper form as such an approach would assume that the instructor has already learned everything there is to learn about the form. I don't believe that there is a person alive today for whom this is true of the forms of aikido. In my experience, the best and most accomplished teachers are people who see themselves first as students of the art. Such people usually have a better and more open attitude towards learning than most of their own students do, even when they never get on the mat except in the role of instructor.

The instructor, in this model, is not the origin or source of correct technique, but simply another student who is a little farther along the path and can perhaps offer some insights that others cannot. The instructor should look to the students for what he can learn from them, as well as what he can teach them, as they will provide the opportunity for him to improve his own technique and understanding of the art if he is open to doing so. Sadly, few in aikido are, particularly when they stand at the front of the mat.

Although I applaud your efforts to establish clear guidelines for ukes and nages, I feel that the role of the instructor in the uke-nage-sensei triad must also be addressed if one hopes to develop truly effective kata practice in aikido. No set of guidelines for uke and nage will be successful in creating the type of practice necessary to develop effective aikido technique in the modern aikido pedagogical structure without the instructor first assuming the correct role with regard to teaching and learning form. Personally, I feel that the instructor should establish the guidelines for roles of uke and nage primarily through example and direct instruction on the mat, but in a larger organization a more formal set of rules may also be of assistance in clearly communicating the intent to all students. In any case, without the instructor first setting the correct example through his own actions of how to approach the art in way that develops the skills and techniques that will be effective in freestyle situations, the students will be severely limited in their ability to discover the importance of this on their own.

-Giancarlo DiPierro

Last edited by G DiPierro : 05-21-2004 at 07:12 AM.
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Old 05-21-2004, 11:10 AM   #29
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Mr. DiPierro,

Thank you very much for your reply and also for understanding the brevity of my reply in light of the great consideration you have shown my original post with your own post.

Perhaps you mean to make a distinction between "koryu" and "gendai"? Not necessarily the English "traditional" and "modern"?

Working with your distinction as used: I would like to say, while one may wish to make a distinction between the "traditional" and the "modern", as you have done in your post, when it comes to Aikido (disregarding for now that many aikidoka around the world would take position against that), Aikido as a martial art falls firmly within those arts that still make use of several traditional pedagogy models and/or training tools. The most specific, relevant to the elements you raise, is the Shu-Ha-Ri model. Now if you would like to say openly and upfront that Aikido is a martial art that makes NO USE of the Shu-Ha-Ri model then what you say about kihon waza (i.e. the teacher is not the determining factor for correct and incorrect form) can be reasonably considered as an alternative way of viewing the art in comparison to my own view. But if you say that Aikido does include within its underlying structures the Shu-Ha-Ri model then you will have to allow for the position that training in forms (as determined by the subjectivity of a teacher, as grounded in lineage, as rule-governed behavior, as the experience of various but specific tactics and strategies, etc.) does not inevitably lead to a lack of self-expression.

In short, if you hold that the Shu-Ha-Ri model is still relative to Aikido training then you cannot say, "I personally believe that aikido is clearly designed to be an art of self-expression, not an art of imitation." This is a false dichotomy according to the Shu-Ha-Ri model. Both imitation and self-expression are accounted for within the Shu-Ha-Ri model. In accepting that model, one cannot posit the two as antithetical within Aikido training because the Shu-Ha-Ri model makes room for both --imitation early on, imitation for the sake of transmitting the art, imitation in terms of learning form, etc.; and self-expression at the negation of form and at the reconciliation of the false dichotomy of form and non-form.

My view of Aikido, and the guidelines themselves, assumes that the Shu-Ha-Ri model is still a part of training in Aikido -- which is why I can agree with you when you say, "The fundamental relationship in modern aikido is not actually the pairing of uke and nage, but the triad of uke, nage, and the instructor. " Where you stand on the importance of the Shu-Ha-Ri model in Aikido is not always clear to me, because what you say in the preceding paragraph is elsewhere countered by things such as the following (emphasis added):

"Kata practice, in my view, should be A REHEARSAL OF A SPECIFIC FORM that has been proven to be effective in freestyle practice. THIS REHEARSAL INVOLVES SPECIFIED ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES FOR BOTH UKE AND NAGE THAT ARE DETERMINED BY WHAT WOULD BE NECESSARY FOR THE TECHNIQUE TO WORK with an opponent who realistically intended to continually attack the best opening rather than merely simulate some minor aspect of an attack and then cooperate with whatever nage wishes to do. This includes, as I discussed in a post on AJ a while back, that NAGE MUST BEGIN IN A CORRECT KAMAE and that UKE MUST ATTACK THAT KAMAE IN A VERY SPECIFIC, YET STILL REALISTIC, WAY and also respond to nage' defense or counterattack in A CERTAIN WAY. DEVIATIONS FROM THESE HIGHLY SPECIFIED ROLES make the entire situation (GIVEN A SPECIFIC FORM) implausible and unrealistic and therefore unsuccessful at teaching martially effective habits of movement. "

But for a few qualifications you make this sounds very similar to the position the guidelines hold on kihon waza -- and thus this sounds very contrary to your first suggestion that somehow imitation and self-expression are antithetical to each other. As for those qualifications you do make in the above paragraph, please note what was said in the guideline sections dealing with particular types of training:

- In other forms of training that have a an element of spontaneity contained therein, such as in Kaeshi Waza, Henka Waza, Jiyu Waza, etc., Nage must seek to reconcile the ultimately false Nage/Uke dialectic. Nage primarily does this by exposing "suki" (trans. "openings") in Uke's training, by amplifying weaknesses in Uke's body, and by reflecting the maturity (or immaturity) level of Uke's spirit. Nage can do any of these things by capitalizing upon any and all openings Uke may have in any and all manner of ways, and/or by showing greater spirit than Uke during the prescribed training at hand.

- In other forms of training that have a an element of spontaneity contained therein, such as in Kaeshi Waza, Henka Waza, Jiyu Waza, etc., Uke must seek to reconcile the ultimately false Nage/Uke dialectic. Uke primarily does this by exposing "suki" (trans. "openings") in Nage's technique, by amplifying weaknesses in Nage's body, and by reflecting the maturity (or immaturity) level of Nage's spirit. Uke can do any of these things by countering Nage, by resisting Nage, by intimidating Nage, etc., as prescribed by the nature of the training at hand.

Can you explain why these passages do not account for self-expression and/or the solution of discovering the eternally immediate and always subjective present in one's training? Are these passages NOT saying that one's own subjective experience is the primary teaching element here -- not the subjective experience of the instructor? I think so -- but as you can see we have left the realm of Kihon Waza and Shu training in my understanding. Are these passages not addressing the issue of martial effectiveness -- both in terms of tactical architecture and in terms of personal skill acquisition within a spontaneous training environment? I would say, "Yes, of course, obviously." Do not these passages include, REQUIRE, the presence of (as you say) "true spontaneity training" in their understanding of Nage, of Uke, and of the art as a whole? Again, I would say, "Yes, of course, obviously." Do not these passages allow for (as you say) the experience of testing technique in an arena where the opponent does not always cooperate? Again, I would say, "Yes, of course, obviously." Are these passages not suggesting that (as you say) the criteria for martial effectiveness have to be established through realistic freestyle practice? Again, I would say, "Yes, of course, obviously." In summary then, I would have to say that your post in many places is misapplied. Or perhaps I am hugely missing something in what you say. Perhaps you can clarify more.

In closing, I think you should note that the guidelines assume that the instructor is a regular participant in class and/or training sessions. He/she is not the person that only enters a class to stop it so as to show a technique or make a correction or to discuss a fine point, etc. Thus, said teacher must balance their own subjective experience against the subjective experience of every other person ON THE MAT and not just in forms training but also within spontaneity training. In this way the teacher's own subjective experience truly remains as such and as such in front of everyone. In this way it does not have the opportunity to become the false objective "truth" you are rightly warning us all of, while it nevertheless can be used as a determining factor in distinguishing the "correct" from the "incorrect" in kihon waza and Shu level training.

Sincerely, thank you for your post and for your understanding regarding mine,
Yours,
dmv
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Old 05-22-2004, 03:09 AM   #30
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Mr. Valadez,

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. If you will allow me to be direct, I think the crux of your post is contained within the fourth paragraph, specifically in your assertion that my statement about aikido being an art of self-expression rather than imitation is incompatible with the shu-ha-ri model because the model holds within it that the dichotomy between form and non-form is a false one that must eventually be reconciled by the practitioner. I do not disagree with your definition of that model, nor do I think it is incompatible with my statement.

When I said that aikido is an art of self-expression rather than imitation, I meant this in reference to its way of defining form. In other words, aikido allows for self-expression through the definition of the forms of the techniques, which is a fundamentally different approach from that of koryu. In koryu, the forms of the techniques are, for most purposes, absolutely fixed according to tradition. That is not to say that koryu does not allow for self-expression or even for the reconciliation of form and non-form according to the shu-ha-ri model, but it is to say that neither of these involve changing the forms that are practiced in the way that aikido does. Rather, they could be said to manifest themselves in other ways, although a full discussion of how koryu employs these mechanisms in the shu-ha-ri model is beyond the scope of this post. It suffices to establish that they do not result in changing the forms themselves as a means of individual self-expression as they do in aikido.

In my opinion, the fact that aikido’s approach to form is fundamentally different from that of koryu is closely linked to the fact that aikido employs the triadic model of uke-nage-sensei instruction rather than the traditional dyad of uke-nage in which the uke is also the sensei or a senior acting in that role by proxy. As I said in my initial post, I mostly agree with your definition of the roles of uke and nage in kata practice and also of those of the forms of freestyle practice that you quoted in your last post. My main criticism of your guidelines was that they did not specifically take into account the external role of the instructor with regard to form, or to the extent that they did, it was through a number of assumptions that were not addressed directly and which seemed to me to reflect an approach to form that is inconsistent with aikido philosophy. While an instructor must take some role in defining the forms to be practiced, my reading of your guidelines suggested that this should be construed to be akin to the absolute role of a koryu instructor, which I feel is an inappropriate and detrimental, albeit common, model in aikido. Perhaps this was not your intent, but it is difficult to tell whether this is the case based on your discussion of the shu-ha-ri model in your last post.

In dojos where teachers take an absolute approach to form but yet do not practice with their students in the traditional dyadic manner, it is too easy for them to teach forms that do not work without even realizing that this is what they are doing, leaving their students no alternative but to cooperate with each other in fake practice if they wish to do the given form. This is precisely what happens in most aikido dojos. That is not to say that it happens in yours, and these guidelines may be sufficient given the example set by the instructor in your dojo, but as I indicated in my last post, this is where the impetus to correct aikido must start. My implication, thus, was not that these guidelines, as written, will not work for your dojo, but that they may not work for other dojos where the teacher does not set the correct example with respect to form; again, in my experience, this is most aikido dojos.

I will say again, and I think we agree on this point, that true spontaneous practice is essential for verifying correct forms in aikido, and I will also say that I use the dyadic method of instruction a great deal myself and find it to be very useful, particularly in kata practice but also in freestyle practice. In my experience, the dyadic model is the best one for teaching form, however as the size of a dojo grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to use this as the primary method of kata instruction, and this is why modern arts have largely done away with it. One of the difficult and still unanswered questions for aikido is how to use the practice of form in the triadic model to build effective habits of movement. I believe that any viable answer to this question will involve a fundamental rethinking of the role of the instructor with respect to form as well as a rethinking of the role of form as it relates to the art. As I indicated in my last post, my intent is not to answer these kinds of questions conclusively in this thread, only to suggest that you might consider some of the issues I addressed for future thought on the subject.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts in this thread.
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Old 05-22-2004, 05:16 AM   #31
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

I thank you sincerely Mr. DiPierro for sharing your insights and for addressing the post in a most thoughtful manner.

Please let me also use a direct method of summarizing things and/or elaborating upon things.

I think my only points of "contention" with your first post was:

1. I held that imitation is not to be considered innately antithetical to self-expression within an application of the Shu-Ha-Ri model.

2. Your first post seemed to focus solely upon one part of the guidelines, that part on Kihon Waza, at the cost of missing how your call for spontaneity training was indeed being addressed elsewhere in the guidelines.

I believe you now understand my second point so for the most part I think we can leave that one to the side now. So I'd like to discuss the first point here.

I think I am picking up on the subtle difference you wish to be making. If I am correct, I think you are trying to say that Shu in Aikido training is not exactly like the Shu in Koryu training. In particular, I think you are suggesting that Koryu has a sense of "imitation at all costs," whereas in Aikido there is not really the sense that deviation from an over-arching institutional point of view is necessarily a determining factor in understanding "correct" or "incorrect" Shu or Kihon Waza. Let's see if I can say this differently in hopes that another perspective would bring more clarity: In Koryu, as far as Shu or Kihon Waza is concerned, you would suggest, that form for form's sake is or can be an alternative that one would or could choose even over tactical validity and martial integrity. That is to say, that it is at least theoretically possible that one could be doing a form that has no tactical validity in its architecture but nevertheless could remain considered "valid" due to the tradition's manner in which form is emphasized. While on the other hand, in Aikido, while this may happen, or while forms with tactically invalid architectures are transmitted, this can never or should never be seen as "valid" because the manner in which form is emphasized is different from in Koryu. Is this what you are suggesting? Would you say this is accurate?

If I have summed up your position correctly, and thus understand the cautions that you rested upon that position, allow me to say that while I will not comment on what Koryu is doing or not doing, I do wholeheartedly agree with what I think you to be saying on Aikido's understanding of kihon waza and shu. The guidelines are built upon this position. Indeed, Aikido as a whole must rest on a notion of martial integrity. And that martial integrity must rest itself equally on valid tactical architectures as well as on authentic (i.e. potent) means or technologies for embodying those architectures.

If this went unsaid in the guidelines it was not because I did not hold this position myself (which I think one can still pull from the sub-context of the guidelines), but rather for two different reasons: a) it was not said overtly because the topic being addressed did not in my opinion require that it be stated as such (a judgment call I made for reasons to be discussed below); and b) it was not said because it is for me an automatic given. The word "Aikido" for me means a martial art; "martial art" means martial integrity; "martial integrity" means valid tactical architectures and authentic technologies for embodying those valid tactical architectures. So I think you are right in this last post in seeing that it was not my intent to suggest otherwise to any of this via the silence I left in concerning what I consider to be an automatic given of Aikido praxis.

With that said, and without having to attribute one kind of pedagogy to Koryu, I would still hold that imitation (not in any kind of dead sense but simply defined here as "do what I do") still plays a role in Aikido training -- particularly at the level of kihon waza and shu -- even as you are defining it above (which I also hold). It is in that sense that I wrote the following in the last post:

"Both imitation and self-expression are accounted for within the Shu-Ha-Ri model. In accepting that model, one cannot posit the two as antithetical within Aikido training because the Shu-Ha-Ri model makes room for both --imitation early on, imitation for the sake of transmitting the art, imitation in terms of learning form, etc.; and self-expression at the negation of form and at the reconciliation of the false dichotomy of form and non-form."


Another point


You wrote:

"In dojos where teachers take an absolute approach to form but yet do not practice with their students in the traditional dyadic manner, it is too easy for them to teach forms that do not work without even realizing that this is what they are doing, leaving their students no alternative but to cooperate with each other in fake practice if they wish to do the given form. This is precisely what happens in most aikido dojos. That is not to say that it happens in yours, and these guidelines may be sufficient given the example set by the instructor in your dojo, but as I indicated in my last post, this is where the impetus to correct aikido must start. My implication, thus, was not that these guidelines, as written, will not work for your dojo, but that they may not work for other dojos where the teacher does not set the correct example with respect to form; again, in my experience, this is most aikido dojos."

I agree with what you say. What you are describing is very common. In fact that commonality is one of the reasons behind the guidelines being written up, and, I imagine, being placed on the Blog title page by Mr. Pranin at Aikido Journal. And I would also suggest that it is one of the reasons that some folks are completely unable to thoughtfully address the guidelines in a manner similar to yours (and some others like you). At some level, as Mr. Ledyard pointed out in this same thread at AikidoJournal.com, and as was nicely summed up by Usagi over there as well, folks are threatened by things that reveal this commonality that you are addressing here in your posts. It is true that some to justify the exact kind of travesty you are describing could use my section on kihon waza, but it can only be used thusly if one ignores the rest of the guidelines.

Your points are well taken -- including your points on clarifying the role of the instructor in regards to transmitting form, etc. - but I cannot account for the reader who simply chooses to misread. There is only so much "heading off at the pass" that you can do as the author of any text. Some readers are focusing in on the first part (kihon waza) only, some folks are focusing in on the second part (spontaneous training) only, some folks are focusing in on the ramifications of burdening oneself with the responsibility to acquire skill in ukemi to the degree of which I speak, some folks are focusing in being thrown hard, some folks are focusing in on their favorite clichs regarding Budo training, and some folks are just focusing in on their own cultural preferences when they give objective weight to their stylistic likes and dislikes, etc. Folks are looking for themselves in the guidelines by either agreeing with some part or objecting to others. Folks are reading what they want to read or even not reading what they don't want to read, and no amount of heading off is going to address everyone's misreading. I am reminded of quote by Michel Foucault, the French philosopher. He was addressing the same issue. Paraphrasing, he said something like, "Sometimes you just have to start writing what you want to write, without addressing how what everyone else wants you to write is different from what you are writing." Please see the guidelines in this way concerning the silences you suggest should be otherwise. The overall context, and even the sub-text, I feel, address your points.

But know also this: In our dojo, where these guidelines are NOT posted but where they are referenced in sensei/deshi discussions held for contemplative purposes via experience and insights gained through experience, the clarifications you suggest are made in other ways. They are made, relevant to your posts, in the fact that about half of the training week is dedicated to one type of true spontaneous training or another -- for higher ranks even more. And they are made, relevant to your post, in the fact that the teacher's, mine, own subjectivity is constantly rubbed against the subjectivity of those I train and train with (they are the same people) -- as a full participant in all classes, training sessions, and drills. These things were discussed in the guidelines -- at least as sub-text.

Your views on the tridactic and didactic learning models are very interesting. And indeed I can see how the size of a dojo may play a role in how things are understood and even transmitted ultimately. And, to be sure, we are a dojo on the smaller side of things -- geared more toward the training of law enforcement agents in advanced arrest and control techniques than toward growing in numbers. So it could very well be that a rethinking of my thought constructs could one day be in order. Like you, I have no answer for such things at this point, as I have not come near crossing that bridge yet. Undoubtedly I will keep your thoughts to heart and find them again in my mind when I come nearer to the things you speak.

As of now, if I can some of some of our mutual points: I think you are saying that because martial integrity can very well be something outside of an instructor's own point of view it is more important to give prominence to marital integrity than to the instructor's point of view. I can see that now -- whew! -- sorry it took me so long. lol Yes, I agree. I could not see this earlier because it is an asusmed given for me. Only, as I hope you can surmise, by what I said above, my position goes one further: a sensei should also have this position in heart. In this way, the dangerous distance that can exist between martial integrity and subjective preferences or institutional prescriptions becomes nearly void and or impotent -- or at least enough so that the sensei's own subjective experience can indeed act as a model for form without said form being absent of martial integrity. It is in this precise way that I am using the word "sensei" and "dojo" in the guidelines. The sensei's subjective experience of the art does not fall outside of the prioritizing of martial integrity. As I said, this is a given for me, a given the sensei must fall firmly within -- hence why I posit in the guidelines that a sensei trains fully as an equal participant in all types of training and studying.

Hmmm -- I think we can say we agree on a great deal if not on every point.

Well, Mr. DiPierro, I have to thank you immensely. Your post, especially this last one, was quite enjoyable to consider and reflect upon. I am in your debt.

Yours,
dmv
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Old 05-23-2004, 04:10 AM   #32
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Mr. Valadez,

I must say that you are too kind in your praise. I have read your posts on the various aikido forums and learned a great deal from them, so if I was able to repay the favor in some small way in this thread then I consider it in an honor. As I feel that we know each other somewhat now, I would appreciate it if you would call me by first name, as everyone else I know through aikido does.

Your point that you cannot prevent people from reading the guidelines (or anything else) in a way that advances their own agenda is well taken, though I think that what we each assume as a given and therefore do not state also leaves our words more open to misinterpretation than we might like. For example, I did not address the parts of your guidelines on spontaneous practice partly because I agree with them and take it as a given that this should be part of aikido training. I also would have gone much further in a specification of spontaneous practice and how it relates to kata practice if I had written such guidelines myself.

Briefly, I see aikido practice as a continuum from form to spontaneity, and I do not see why we must limit ourselves to only those two poles. I often situate a class somewhere in the middle, perhaps starting out with a form and then moving into how that form changes into other forms based on slight differences in the attack or in uke’s reaction to the initial movement of the technique. Or perhaps I will start out with spontaneous practice and then identify a particular situation or movement where there is some confusion or difficulty and examine it in more detail with the study of the corresponding form. By constantly moving along this continuum, I integrate kata practice and freestyle into one coherent whole so that each informs the other. Too often in aikido, would-be freestyle practice is seen as an entirely different entity with little connection to forms practice other than perhaps through stilted attempts to find a way to “spontaneously” employ a technique learned in forms practice. There is no deeper connection between the two, and hence the forms remain dead while the freestyle is ineffective at applying aikido principles and movements to novel situations.

The main reason I did not address that aspect of your guidelines, though, was that I was more interested in the question of what role the instructor should play with respect to kata practice because I wanted to find an answer for this question myself, so I hope you will forgive my selfishness in focusing upon that issue. I personally find it very easy to engage in freestyle practice or to let my students do so, perhaps because we all approach it with a beginner’s mind, but I find that kata practice brings with it the baggage of all the hours I have spent on the mat in mainstream aikido classes. It is still too easy for me to slip into copying some pedagogical pattern that I have seen before without thinking about whether I can justify doing so according to the principles of the art as I now understand them. I find that I have to constantly reevaluate my approach to teaching kata in order avoid perpetuating the bad habits and ineffective methods that I learned earlier. My ultimate goal is to develop a completely new framework, to replace the one I have learned from mainstream aikido, for this kind of instruction that is consistent with the principles of the art as I see them.

As I have been discussing, I think that comparing aikido to koryu is very instructive here because koryu offers a complete, proven method of kata instruction that can form a point of reference for developing a similar method for aikido. To do this, we must take into account the many structural differences between koryu and aikido and the pedagogical implications of these differences. Perhaps the most significant of these is the fact that in koryu, fixed forms are passed down in a tightly controlled manner from the leader of the art to the students via direct transmission (through instruction in the uke-nage dyad) from himself or his delegated representatives. Because the headmaster personally verifies all of the forms (which is also to say those who are permitted to teach them; the two are equivalent in koryu), one must simply trust his judgment that they are valid within the context of the overall system; just as the forms and those permitted to teach them are functionally equivalent, the headmaster is also equivalent to the system itself. While we can still establish objective standards for evaluating koryu and look at a specific form according to such criteria as whether it has immediate tactical relevance, we cannot question the validity of a form itself from within the system unless we have been granted the authority to do so by the system (which is to say by the leader of the system).

Aikido is based upon a completely different structure, and among the differences in structure is that there is no person in aikido who has authority over all of the forms in the system. This is because aikido is not primarily a system of forms, as koryu are. Validity, as such, is a very personal measure that has little to do with adherence to canonical form. My criteria for a correct form may be very different from another person’s, and it may even be very different from my own at another stage of my progress in the art, but in some sense, all have a certain validity, which is not to say effectiveness, within aikido. While I may have been suggesting in earlier posts that effectiveness should be the criterion of validity even when it is outside the experience of a particular instructor (and I find it troubling that this is so often the case), I can no longer support that position. Instead, I must acknowledge that each is free to pursue the art according to his own personal criteria, even if effectiveness is not among them.

The stipulation that many different approaches to aikido have validity does not apply only to teachers, but equally to students as well, so the implication of this for instructors is that they must allow their students the freedom to pursue their own criteria, even in kata practice. The role of the instructor should be to facilitate the students' study of the art through interaction with himself and their partners in the triadic model. Because of the natural imbalance of power between instructors and students on the mat, the priorities or criteria of the instructors can easily subsume those of the students, so it is incumbent upon instructors to be sensitive to the goals of the students and to attempt to adapt the practice to meet their needs. The added power of that role to advance one’s understanding of the art at the expense of others also comes with a corresponding responsibility to rectify that understanding with those of one’s students. To use a description from the popular lingo of the art, an aikido teacher should be able to blend with a student’s mindset or understanding of the art and come out on the other end having influenced that understanding with his own and thereby changed, but not wholly replaced, it.

Note that the way I have described this process is almost the exact opposite of what is normally taken to be the accepted method of instruction in aikido (and other martial arts), wherein the student must rectify his understanding of the art to that of the teacher. My criticism, then, is not so much of your guidelines as it is of the accepted method of kata instruction in aikido generally, which your guidelines only obtusely reflect, so I apologize for hijacking your thread and using your otherwise accurate guidelines as a springboard to expound upon this topic. Thank you for challenging me with your questions and comments and forcing me to clarify my thoughts on this subject. I have enjoyed this exchange and I look forward to continuing our dialogue on this or other subjects as time permits.
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Old 05-24-2004, 04:37 PM   #33
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Giancarlo,

By all means please return the favor and call me Dave.

Then we have honored each other, and in that way we have honored ourselves, and we have done so by taking our own views, using them to see another's view, and thereby through the intimacy of sincere discussion come to reach better understandings concerning both our own views, the view of another's, and even possibly some view that is still on the horizon for each of us.

I have been trying to write you since the late the night you posted your reply. It's just taking me a bit of time to find the time to reply properly. Again, I enjoyed your post a great deal. Thank you. I hope to be able to finish my response soon and post it here but if not perhaps we can continue this discussion in private, etc.

Hope to post soon,
david
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Old 05-26-2004, 12:28 PM   #34
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Giancarlo,

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.
dmv
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Old 05-28-2004, 06:07 PM   #35
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Giancarlo,

Your thoughts on the issue of spontaneity are very interesting and I will definitely reflect upon them more. I agree -- there are not two poles in regards to training. However, I would go one further and say that there is not even a continuum between forms and spontaneity. I imagine in practice we are doing something very similar but here we are saying something that appears to be different. Therefore, I would say that I can agree with you but would suggest that dropping even the word "continuum" might be more accurate for what we are trying to address.

For me, the Shu-Ha-Ri model is not linear in shape. It is much more dynamic than that. That is to say, one does not travel from one type of training, to the other, to the next, in a consecutive fashion. The "path" to spontaneity, if we want to keep that metaphor, is not narrative-like in its construction or in its application. We are not dealing here with a beginning, middle, and an end per se. As a person enters Shu, or Ha, or Ri, they never really leave any other aspect of the model in its entirety -- particularly in training. Each aspect, as you said, is constantly "informing" the others. By that understanding, it is perfectly valid to suggest that forms and spontaneous expression of an art do not have to relate to each other as extremes.

In that case, of course, forms training can, and should, include elements of spontaneity, and vice versa, etc. We can say this without suggesting that there is no place for pure form and/or for suggesting that there are not degrees of spontaneity (some that have nothing to do with form at all). Both of these things still exist. Nevertheless, the issue of achieving spontaneity is no small issue. In our dojo, actually, it is the most central and most significant issue as far as pedagogy is concerned. It is the cultivation of spontaneity that marks every interpersonal relationship, every protocol, every training session, every technical assumptions, every intellectual perspective, etc. It is not one easily solved either, as I am sure you know. So complex is the issue that even discussion is often impossible - words are often very hard to find. This is not to say that spontaneity or the process of cultivating spontaneity is anti-rational. It is not. It may be supra-rational -- but it is not anti-rational.

In a perfect world, dojo, like Ch'an temples of old, could be distinguished and/or related to each other according to what devices, techniques, drills, practices, etc., a given dojo uses to bring its members to a capacity for the spontaneous expression of the art. More telling that would be than the silly distinctions we often make between tactical architectures and/or technical styles (which while greatly deficient a far cry from the more commonly and more poorly used "federation" distinctions that most use). Since each dojo comes to terms with spontaneity in its own way (or not at all), and since each dojo can verify its own processes in the capacity of its members to follow through, I think we have to allow for there to be many ways of saying the same thing. I want to note that here because I think we have a very good chance of talking past one another here even though we may be all along trying to point to the same thing. So, your idea of starting out with a form and then moving into how that form changes into another form based upon differences in the attack or in uke's reaction, etc., is indeed a type of training that we use as well. It is because of drills like this that the guidelines are constructed in the way that they are -- most importantly concerning the section on "particular guidelines."

So what can we say? It seems that we can still say a lot. For example: We can say that we should indeed seek to solve the riddle of spontaneous expression. We can note that something of great value is lost to us when we turn our backs on this central aspect of traditional Budo praxis. We can say that doing forms repeatedly will not ever lead to it. We can say that such a capacity must rest firmly within the ground of daily training. We can say that such training must be balanced against a practice of self-reflection that is grounded in theoretical reflexivity. We can say that it will not come to us without a reconciliation of subject and object and/or a cultivation of non-attachment. We can say that we cannot truly understand forms outside of being able to fully express them spontaneously. We can say that the majority of the Aikido world is not truly interested in spontaneous expression. We can say that the actual means for achieving it are today rarely understood or even known, and thus poor substitutes are popping up in its place. We can say that there is a close relationship between spontaneous expression of the art and the martial integrity of the art. We can say that spontaneous expression of the art is the ontological bedrock for all of the warrior virtues that are still relevant in today's world. Etc. However, how you cultivate it in your dojo, I think, will inevitably be different from how we cultivated in our dojo. That is why I think we, you and I, should take this discussion to a private arena in order to cover this issue more thoroughly. In particular, I am very interested in sharing with you our own practices, drills, and technologies that we employ regularly to mark the "path" between form and spontaneous expression and seeing them through your eyes. I would also like to discuss the reasons why we do one thing in this regards and not another, etc. The reverse would also be greatly helpful -- I imagine.

You wrote:

"Too often in aikido, would-be freestyle practice is seen as an entirely different entity with little connection to forms practice other than perhaps through stilted attempts to find a way to spontaneously' employ a technique []. There is no deeper connection between the two, and hence the forms remain dead while the freestyle is ineffective at applying aikido principles and movements to novel situations."

I think this is a wonderful synopsis of the issue at hand. Yes, too often, there is no deeper connection, or perhaps we should say, there is NO connection, between spontaneous expression of THE ART and forms training. It is like learning to swim on a chalkboard and then being thrown in the middle of the ocean and being asked to swim to shore. Meaning, there is no relationship being fostered or cultivated in daily training that can lead to a full-reconciliation of form and non-form. Most often, there are no actual practices or technologies by which one travels from form to a spontaneity that is still flavored by the art's strategic and tactical positions, and that mark and are marked by the whole of a dojo's pedagogy. Aikido is not alone in this however. Other arts, for example, those arts that use open sparring as one of the land bases for a bridge that is not there, are in the same exact boat. As a result, the attempts to employ a technique "spontaneously" produce what can only be called "that universal system of kick-boxing'" that makes it hard to tell what type of training a person had -- if at all. It is ironic that in the attempt to preserve forms, to transmit them, to use them as markers of skill and of seniority, etc., which today has all been emphasized at the cost of these "bridges" or technologies, what one has produced at the level of spontaneous expression is not the preservation of the art but a universal desperation that marks any subjective expression grounded in the inability to tap into one's training fully. In other words, the forms specialist in Aikido, the person who does not (or cannot) invest fully in these technologies, in the end, fights just like the forms specialist of Tae Kwon Do. Thus, Aikido is lost in the commonality that marks every system that emphasizes forms training at the cost of spontaneous expression -- or that does the vice versa -- because the "bridges" between the two have been lost.

Sorry -- having to stop here and will address your last point on teaching models as they are relative to what I just discussed here concerning the nature of spontaneity training, etc.

Kindest regards,
david
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Old 06-02-2004, 02:05 PM   #36
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

I must again apologize Giancarlo for this reply taking me so long to complete. I think you have raised some very complicated issues -- ones that most folks believe they can simply dismiss as irrelevant and/or feel they can simply gloss over them with one clich or another or even the usual slogan of "just practice." It is clear from your thoughts that you are a very reflective teacher, and if you will allow me to say - that can only be a great benefit to your students, no matter how one likes to discuss these matters (or not).

No need to qualify what you say in this last part of your post -- I think it, along with everything else you have written, is very relative to what one sees in the guidelines. That you are keen-sighted enough to pull this out says a lot. I agree with you when you say that freestyle practice has the potential to reveal to us the habits -- some good, some bad -- that come with us, through us, and to us, via our training. Moreover, we can indeed consider those habits "baggage" when much of that training has taken place and/or was transmitted in a way that the issue of spontaneity was understood as an irrelevant element (or an easily solvable problem) of training. Constant re-evaluation, as you suggest, is then in order. I think Mr. Threadgill, in his latest contribution to Aikido Journal, is making a similar point when he says the following:

"Without the dynamics experienced in actual conflict there is simply no impetus to adapt or improve. The status quo seems fine because the status quo is never challenged. Some budo conservatives may disagree with this view, but Takamura Sensei believed that any budo system that never encouraged a direct challenge to its core principles was ultimately no more than calisthenics. He felt that the core principles of a ryu must be tested if it is to remain true to its origins. A challenge to the effectiveness of the ryu if made within the proper context of its goals can be an opportunity for self-examination, learning and potential growth. Properly managed, a challenge is the spark that keeps a martial art martial.'"

Yes, I am also of the position that some completely new teaching frameworks are in order -- particularly when old frameworks are obviously ignoring the issue of spontaneous expression. It is only that I would follow the same caveat that Mr. Threadgill is suggesting elsewhere in his article. I am not sure on where you would fall regarding this, but it is hard to imagine, based upon what you have said thus far, that you would disagree with the following. He writes:

"Change must be very deliberate and intricate[because] change risks obscuring information and knowledge gained through many generations of experienced teachers. The consequences of corrupting the knowledge and wisdom imparted by generations of teachers can be devastating to a ryu. [Change] can cripple a tradition by leaving its core teachings in disarray[but] deliberate and methodical change can be good[such] change can be embraced within the confines of both modern and classical budo without compromising the core teachings of the art[for] without the flexibility to adapt certain aspects of classical bujutsu to the modern environment [traditions would eventually become] irrelevant anachronisms."

That said, and because I do not doubt that you are very capable of such deliberate and methodical change, I think we might be better served if we drop the Koryu/Aikido contrast altogether in considering and/or reconsidering our own positions. I think we are very capable of addressing the concerns you have thus far raised, for you, and for your students, etc., without necessarily having to make use of the contrast you are wishing to draw between Koryu and Aikido. I get what you are saying in said contrast. Moreover, I get how you are trying to use it. However, I think in the end it may come back to haunt you (us) since it is not very accurate -- particularly regarding your understanding of Koryu pedagogy in regards to shu training. I just don't think it will be all that helpful in the long run because I think it is glossing over an important epistemic shift that took place in classical bujutsu at the end of the pre-modern and/or the beginning of the modern period in Japan.

Undoubtedly, there are today examples of classical Budo that are indeed as you describe, but there was a time when that was not so, and so, we must acknowledge, there is probably still now a place where that is not so. Mr. Threadgill's article and his description of his teacher's position, at the least, lend itself to that possibility. That is to say, Koryu were not always about the pure transmission of form in the manner in which you describe. I have written about this elsewhere. At a certain point in history, and not before that, there came a time when it was more "advantageous" to a given art to undergo a kind of "museum death" than it was to remain alive. As such, some arts became transmitters of form in the exact way in which you have described earlier. However, such a description cannot account for all traditional arts and/or even a given traditional art before this point in time. Thus, one is very likely to posit that what you describe is not necessarily an aspect of Koryu but a degeneration of Koryu that has more to do with this epistemic shift than it does with the actual pedagogy of a certain tradition. However, museum deaths happen all the time in any lineage -- even in Aikido. So I think it would be more beneficial for us to simply talk about lineages that experience a "museum death" in contrast to those lineages that remain living arts, rather than denoting one thing to one type of tradition and the other to another type of tradition. That said, allow me to summarize the contrast you are wising to make in this manner:

In some lineages, there is a circular and co-dependent set of relationships that negates change, invention, adaptation, and to a certain degree spontaneous expression of the art. This is caused by the status of authority being co-dependent with the practice of not questioning. In other words, only those with authority have the right to question a given kata, by and/or for whatever means, but only those who do not question can be given authority. In the end then, any type of objective standards -- no matter how beneficial - that lie outside of the person of authority become irrelevant and with them so to does any set of questions based upon said objective standards. In the end, self-reflection is not possible, and deliberate and methodical change is beyond the capacity of even one's imagination. In contrast, in other lineages, it is not like this at all (differences to be further discussed below). In the former lineage a type of "museum death" occurs, where tradition becomes more artifact than art. In the latter, the tradition does not become an irrelevant anachronism because its aliveness allows for an artistic expression that is built upon a consistency that exists between the art's objective ideals and the practitioner's subjective expression of those ideals. Not being reduced to artifact, such a lineage remains an art. Aikido, as any martial tradition, should be based on this latter structure and not on the former one.

Yes, that said, let us let folks do what they want with their Aikido. Only a beast would openly disagree with that. However, let us let them do what they want with their Aikido not because such openness is directly related to some kind of absence in Aikido's pedagogical structure. Let them do it because of issues pertaining to civil liberties and human rights. That should be enough. If a person wants their Aikido to be "A" and not "B," or "C" and not "B" -- go for it. Another person (even an instructor) has little right, let alone any actual power, to prevent such things from happening. However, this is not the same thing as suggesting that all expressions of the art must be deemed equally valid, or even valid while allowing for degrees of validity, simply because there is really no position of authority in Aikido, etc. For while there may be no central position of authority in Aikido's governing structures, like there may be in lineages that experience a museum death, there still remains a set of objective standards by which one can judge validity or a lack of validity -- particularly the objective standards put forth by the particular expression in question. I think we have to allow for this.

For while one has to appreciate the degree to which you wish to utilize the philosophical discourse of civil liberties and/or human rights in your approach to teaching we have to at some point allow for the probability that not everything is Aikido. In other words, if we cannot say, or if we are not prepared to say that everything is Aikido, then at some point we cannot say that every subjective expression of the art is valid to some degree. More importantly, if everything could be considered Aikido, if every subjective expression of the art to some degree has to be considered "valid," then the idea of deliberate and methodical change becomes a moot point -- right?

This we can realize whether we are talking about martial effectiveness or not. Validity, no matter what expression is before us, requires, at some level, a degree of measurement. Eventually something is going to fall outside of that measurement, and that means that eventually one is going to run into a subjective expression that has to be considered invalid. Therefore, concerning the issue of validity, and still attempting to address the issue of deliberate and methodical change, allow me to suggest the following. At some level, a given subjective expression must achieve two things in order to be considered valid: 1) A consistency with the tradition as a whole and/or with parts of that tradition in specific; and, 2) An internal consistency carried on throughout the length of its own thoughts, its own practices, and its own institutions. Note: Contrary to common perception, it is actually the latter condition that negates most subjective expressions as invalid -- not the former.

Consistency is at the heart of the deliberate and methodical change that Mr. Threadgill is talking about and that I would recommend. This, I feel, is how we have to understand his phrase, "made within the proper context of its goals." Consistency is also at the heart of any valid subjective expression of the art. In addition, this consistency is what is often missing in the lineages that experience a museum death. It is also consistency that most beginners, because of their limited exposure to the art, simply cannot possess. By marking validity with consistency (or invalidity with the absence of consistency) one can allow for multiple expressions of Aikido while avoiding the extreme position that EVERYTHING is Aikido. In this same way then, or in like fashion, through consistency, we can allow for the subjective experiences of the student to find a place in the overall training process, particularly in regards to spontaneous expression of the art, without robbing the instructor of the authority to say, "not like that, like this." In other words, as we do not want to open up to a degree where we have to say that everything is Aikido, we also do not want to negate the instructor's capacity to say, "not like that, like this." We do not want to limit the instructor's capacity to instruct, to transmit the art, and to propagate his/her lineage. One can address both concerns, the one you posit and the one I am positing here, by utilizing consistency as a marker for what is valid.

Undoubtedly you are wishing to address one's (a teacher's) own will to power as it plays itself out or has played itself out in the "popular" training systems we all have encountered thus far. Equally without doubt, the reconciliation of this will to power is both tantamount to the overall effectiveness of one's pedagogy and the capacity to express the art spontaneously. I can agree with all of this, but I would not so readily negate the authority that comes to the teacher who allies him/herself with consistency. A teacher, a priori, requires enough authority (derived from consistency) to be able to say, "not like that, like this," but this is not all a teacher does in Budo. As a living art is not solely a vessel for the transmission of form, so too is a teacher not only a transmitter of form. A true Budo teacher is a mirror through which or by which a deshi can come to see, determine, and ultimately reconcile one's attachment to self and to the habitual ways of being that are dominating his/her life. In short, a sensei is not a coach. The sensei/deshi dynamic is central to the cultivation of the spirit for each - the teacher and the student. It is through the interaction, the give and take, the exchange, the back and forth of two beings, one governed by the authority of consistency and one coming to be so, that Budo offers us not just the capacity to express ourselves spontaneously but the capacity to address the most basic human need of spiritual maturity. Therefore, as a student must monitor his/her desire to train under a coach, so too must a teacher monitor his/her desire to be a coach. A great fear and/or an attachment to the various elements of spiritual immaturity can lay hidden in both desires to avoid the mirror of self-reflection that comes to us, and is supported like in no other way, by the sensei/deshi dynamic.


Spontaneous expression is not all there is to training in Budo. Thus, the role of sensei is not totally fulfilled simply be equating his subjective expression of the art with every other subjective expression of the art. Jazz musicians that can improvise are not Budo masters. Budo training involves a "fusing," if you will, of a reconciliation of subject and object with a moral/spiritual position on the nature of existence and of creation. The mentor/disciple model, which is found through the world's contemplative traditions, is paramount to this fusing. It does not function merely as a means of transmission -- where information goes from one place to another. It is the relationship itself, the dynamics of being in one, which is the true engine for the fusion I am trying to delineate. In that capacity, in the fulfillment of this role, a teacher must be primed to act as mirror for the student. The clarity of this mirror rests upon several things. Some important ones are that the teacher learns to reflect without condemnation and without attachment to his/her own subjective experiences, and that the teacher, through this relationship, comes to reconcile his/her own will to power. However, without the authority that comes to one through consistency, a teacher can reflect nothing. The student that faces such a teacher will see nothing. In this role, the role of spiritual mentor, the teacher feels the most need, and hence the most pressure, to address his/her own will to power. If he/she cannot do this, it will become obvious to all -- but for those most attached to their current perceptions of self and the issues of pride, fear, and ignorance that underlie that attachment.

In other words, opening validity up to the infinite subjective expressions possible of an art like Aikido will not necessarily get an instructor to address his/her own will to power and/or the negative effect it may have on the potency of one's pedagogy and/or the possibility for spontaneous expression. This is because such an opening marks more a de-investment of oneself (the instructor) from Budo praxis than it marks an actual investment in that praxis. If all subjective expressions carry within them a sense of validity -- whether we rate that validity or not -- the responsibility to serve as mirror for another is totally absent from the overall training and teaching model. When consistency of thought, practice, and institution becomes equal to inconsistency then all that one is left with is an "I'm okay, you're okay" kind of mush. It is precisely this kind of mush that requires little self-reflection, since validity is thought to be present outside of consistency and prior to anything else. Yet it is precisely and only through self-reflection that we can actually address our own will to power as teachers. For these reasons, I am sensing that I would be much more cautious than you would be concerning how and why certain (or all) subjective expressions of Aikido can (or should) be considered "valid." Therefore, I would like to propose another alternative.

It is self-reflection that I sense is at the heart of your triadic model for instruction. Traditionally, outside of communication circles, what you are describing is in Sanskrit called "upaya". It is one of the marks of the awakened mind -- the ability to teach or transmit according to the needs of the person before you. Whereas it is not so prevalent in "popular" Aikido today, upaya has a secured part in the underlying Buddhist structures that are at the heart of Budo. Upaya, whose source can be said to lie in self-reflection, is ultimately an act of compassion. It is through upaya, and other acts of compassion, that a teacher comes to reconcile his/her own will to power via a constant process of self-reflection. (Like you, I cannot see any great value in a teaching that comes from a teacher that lacks the mark of upaya. ) This self-reflection, in my opinion, relates mainly to the consistency of which I spoke above. That is to say, a teacher must self-reflect to note the needs of a student as they relate to the teachings being transmitted, as they relate to one's own studying of those traditions, as all of these things are held up to a consistency of thought, action, and institution. As I noted earlier, this is the doorway to the deliberate and methodical change that Mr. Threadgill is talking about in his article.

So personally I would turn to cultivating myself (as teacher) through acts of compassion rather than in de-investing myself from the role of instructor when it comes to reconciling my own will to power. Such acts, I hold, should stem as much as possible from a sense of servitude -- which I have discussed elsewhere in earlier replies to your post. This has always been the traditional solution -- seen across the world's religious traditions. In fact, we can see this exact thing in the mentoring Deguchi gave Osensei. This is from an article recently posted on Aikido Journal and translated by Stanley Pranin. The article reads:

(quote)

"While Onisaburo was lying along side Ueshiba during one of these [periods of fasting], he remarked, "Ueshiba, I can't help but see you as 'Kongosan' who stands and guards the Buddha."

[Osensei said,] "Sensei, Kongosan is the deity of strength, isn't he?"

"Yes, right strength!" Onisaburo answered. These words of Onisaburo struck the heart of Ueshiba. "The martial art of right strength!"

"Sensei, please observe my martial art." [Osensei requested]

After the fasting period was over, Ueshiba gathered together the martial arts practitioners and strong men around Ayabe in the big ball of the Omoto Headquarters and demonstrated a Daito-ryu match.

At that time, many practitioners of different martial arts pitted their strength against Ueshiba one by one, but no one was able to defeat him. Each was dispatched in turn with a Daito-ryu joint twisting technique. Word spread immediately in Kyoto and Osaka that a terribly strong martial artist was to be found at the Omoto Headquarters. He was repeatedly challenged to matches, but, of course, no one could defeat him.

[Onisaburo said] "You are too strong. A sign in your face reveals that serious trouble awaits you. In order to avoid this, do the following."

Onisaburo told Ueshiba that this was a part of his training and called it "geza" (training in humility). Ueshiba immersed himself in this training of being the caretaker of footgear. One day, a huge man weighing about 250 pounds carrying a thick bokken as a walking stick appeared at the Omoto Headquarters asking, "Is there somebody here named Ueshiba?"

"Please come in, sir."

After Ueshiba took the huge fellow's footgear, he led him into the guest room. Then, washing his hands he introduced himself saying, "I am Ueshiba."

Realizing that this was the same man who had taken his shoes, he said, "Are you kidding? You are Ueshiba! I was wondering what kind of martial arts man he could be. And you are only the caretaker of shoes. Well, I'll give you a lesson anyway."

The large man took Ueshiba to the hall. Ueshiba stood empty-handed facing this huge man with a wooden sword. There he stood, his knees showing, the image of a shoe caretaker.

"Damn!" The giant of a man struck at Ueshiba with a shout. But his blow was deftly dodged. He lost his balance forward. At that instant his wrist was swept to the side sending the big man spiraling into the wall backwards.

(end quote)

In this passage, Osensei demonstrates "right strength." That is to say, he demonstrates the strength that comes to us through the position of authority but that is nevertheless cultivated in acts of self-reflection, humility, compassion, and servitude. In my opinion, if we truly want to drop the baggage of impotent paradigms, we should do the same and practice more servitude throughout our pedagogies.

Again, I must say that I'm a truly grateful for your replies. They have been most informative and most helpful in refining my own position, etc. I would like to send you some things I've been working on for the purposes of possibly continuing this discussion. If you are interested in seeing them, please email me at senshincenter@impulse.net and provide me with your mailing address.

I look forward to many more communications.

Kindest regards,
david
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Old 02-17-2006, 12:43 AM   #37
Charlie
 
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

I truly appreciate the back and forth this thread brought out on this forum and others [like so many of David's posts!]. Much has been presented to mull over.

Now I understand David's remarks made in other posts that refer to this one.

Charles Burmeister
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Old 02-17-2006, 09:57 AM   #38
Edwin Neal
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

I agree Charles... very good thread... touches on many other threads that have been floating around here lately...

Edwin Neal


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Old 02-17-2006, 10:58 AM   #39
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Well, while I can say that I hold many of the same ideas, with many even being further developed since this was posted, I can also say that I sure was lame in presenting those ideas. I hope today I can better handle the very skeptical nature that this forum often has toward new folks and "new" ideas.

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Old 02-17-2006, 11:31 AM   #40
Edwin Neal
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Nonsense David! you did a very good job at presenting your ideas... although you and i share the tendency to 'wordiness' and intellectualization... i found it reprehensible that the best some people could muster was calling you insulting, condescending and arrogant, instead of discussing the particulars of your posts... i agree with your assessment of these misreaders... one's style of writing should not be used to justify personal attacks... i have met the same accusations on this forum, and find it a symptom of some of the cult-like aspects you discuss about aikido in general... i do like your guidelines and i do somewhat agree that a bit of paring down will go a long way in making this document more useful to all students of all ranks... i enjoy your ideas and firmly believe, as i feel you do, that this forum should be about ideas, not associations, representatives, and ranks... good luck and please keep posting for those of us that enjoy a deep and meaningful discussion...

Edwin Neal


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Old 02-17-2006, 11:38 AM   #41
Mark Freeman
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

David,

I hate to seem pedantic (one of the qualities of a pedagogue) but the following does not seem to make sense to me:
Quote:
In my opinion, if we truly want to drop the baggage of impotent paradigms, we should do the same and practice more servitude throughout our pedagogies.
In my mind 'servitude' is not normally a positive thing, and I'm not sure even if it was how it would be applied throught a pedagogy, and then how that would help in dropping the baggage of impotent paradigms.

I realise that I have just picked on a small part of a very long and interesting dialogue, and apologise for this bit of nit-picking, but when I read it my brain had a mini meltdown trying to make it all fit.

A little clarification might go a long way in helping me understand what was meant.

thanks,
Mark

Last edited by Mark Freeman : 02-17-2006 at 11:41 AM.

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Old 02-17-2006, 12:44 PM   #42
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Hi Mark,

If one looks at how Onisaburo used it in his mentoring of Osensei - one can get a pretty good idea of what I was trying to get at. In short, here, I would say that a whole different kind of authority and power comes to us through the presence of true humility. With humility comes a whole other way of relating to some very important aspects of our training - from taking ukemi to exhibiting takemusu aiki, etc. Traditionally speaking, one of the most common ways of producing humility is through the practice of servitude - the practice of serving others, serving others first, etc. With this in mind, I was trying to suggest that if one really wanted to do away with transmission paradigms that are problematic (as was being discussed in the thread), one would make humility and the practice of servitude a huge part of any new transmission paradigm that was designed to replace the former problematic ones.

It is a matter of truly putting the spiritual practice of "he who is first is last, and he who is last is first" into place.

Thanks Mark,
dmv

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Old 02-17-2006, 02:29 PM   #43
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Well, while I can say that I hold many of the same ideas, with many even being further developed since this was posted, I can also say that I sure was lame in presenting those ideas. I hope today I can better handle the very skeptical nature that this forum often has toward new folks and "new" ideas.
I very much can see a difference in how you post now compared to then.

If anything, I would say that your stated purpose of why you share ideas on these types forums has been actualized and the growth from lessons learned is undeniable!

Coincidentally, have you furthered your thoughts on the following:
Quote:
Giancarlo DiPierro wrote:
In my opinion, the fact that aikido's approach to form is fundamentally different from that of koryu is closely linked to the fact that aikido employs the triadic model of uke-nage-sensei instruction rather than the traditional dyad of uke-nage in which the uke is also the sensei or a senior acting in that role by proxy.
As you now have seemed to have expanded your dojo somewhat with the adding of children's classes and such; what changes have you had to make to maintain this type of transmission process possible [if you do]? And, has dojo size forced you to make a change from the dyad to the triad model?

Charles

Charles Burmeister
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Old 02-17-2006, 10:28 PM   #44
senshincenter
 
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Hi Charles,

That view was actually Giancarlo's. I can't say I fully agree with his division and/or of his understanding of both types of tradition. I tend to feel things are a bit more complicated and thus try not to speak in terms of koryu and/or of gendai budo. I tried to work with what he was saying as a working definition.

That said, if that is something you'd like to pull out of this discussion, I can say the following regarding such things in relation to what we do at our dojo. At our dojo, there is also one way of doing a given technique. This "one way" is a matter of consistency regarding both the martial and the physical sciences. In that sense, we have a singular thing that we do seek to pass on without variation but we do so for scientific reasons. Thus, I'd say we are tradition-based without being traditionalistic. As far as the sensei-nage-uke relationships - we are kind of in the middle here because I, as sensei, participate as a practitioner in every class. So, as with all participants, I am taking ukemi 50% of every class hour. Regardless of the trend, and/or of how many important practitioners do otherwise, I feel it is vital to a dojo's overall health that a teacher present his/her body as uke 50% of every training hour.

For your other point:

Well, we have actually made no changes - now completing our second month of this new phase in our dojo's path. I think we've gotten 8 to 10 new members in that first six weeks. However, I think it is too early to tell how much of what we accomplished before was a matter of our small-close-knit group or of our attempts to be well-thought out in whatever we are doing or being. Right now however things look well - with us not appearing to have to make changes at all - not structurally at least (meaning, I am however pressed by a lot more labor to get the job done and done in the right way). An interesting point, the children's program has actually given us a lot more freedom regarding our way of understanding budo and budo training. The kids program is an extension of our adult training. It is a way of giving back to the community at large - doing our tending of the garden (http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/w.../farming.html). However, it's actually showing a great financial potential at the same time. This financial potential, how shall I say this, is sure making it easy to be more "honest" regarding training in the adult program. There is a new "freedom" to teaching now - one I cannot honestly say was there before. It is not that I am doing something or anything different, it is that it is so much easier now to do the same thing. lol I'll have to let you know how things pan out in a year or so. For right now, like I said, our program has remained unchanged - this though we are showing growth and great potential for further growth.

Thanks,
dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 02-20-2006, 12:05 AM   #45
Charlie
 
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Hello David,

I realize that the view presented was Giancarlo's. I thought it was an interesting theory and such wondered how it played into your dojo's dynamics.

Myself, I have been fortunate in my martial upbringing as to have had instructors that where very hands on. Even my exchanges with Terada sensei were unexpected considering his advancement in age. There is nothing compared to the rush of adrenalin one gets when presented with the opportunity to do a technique on the senior man of the system [at the time] and have to choose between either a show of control and effectiveness or to heed the advice of your own instructor to take it easy" [with my skill level at the time, they definitely where not one and the same!].

At any rate, I appreciate the fact that he was willing to take ukemi for me. It really says a lot about him as a teacher.

I thought the question of whether or not your teaching methods having had to change was probably premature but I thought I'd give it a go anyway.

Charlie

Last edited by Charlie : 02-20-2006 at 12:11 AM.

Charles Burmeister
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Old 02-20-2006, 01:18 AM   #46
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Hi Charles,

Yeah - I think Giancarlo had a lot of good points in his side of the discussion.

Well I will let you know then if or when things change and/or if things really do look like they can remain the same. I think it is going to be very interesting to watch - even though I'm in the middle of it myself - lol.

thanks for writing, take care,
dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 02-20-2006, 07:53 AM   #47
ruthmc
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
"General Guidelines For Being Nage"

- Nage must always account, in terms of intensity and applied energy, for the following qualities when determining how to throw, pin, or strike, etc., Uke: Uke's skill level, Uke's age, Uke's size, Uke's physical durability, Uke's current state of health and wellness; and the dojo's official position concerning the Senpai/Kohai model as it is relative to the Nage/Uke dynamic (see below). All things being equal, safety is the primary determining element for the Nage/Uke dynamic. Martial "reality," as (mis)perceived by any one member is NOT a determining element to be considered.
I like this bit Lots of people seem to think it doesn't apply to them though As senpai I've had a a few comments of "You're a black belt you should be able to take it". Yeah, maybe if I was built like Mike Tyson... These techniques we do actually WORK, and if somebody applies them with full speed and power beyond my body's structural ability to take them, I WILL break. My belt ain't gonna save me as I'm afraid it doesn't hold my slender joints together

Thanks for including that first
Be nice if more folk remembered it.
My tuppence worth,

Ruth
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Old 02-20-2006, 06:20 PM   #48
Mark Freeman
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Re: The Nage/Uke Dynamic - Guidelines

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Hi Mark,

If one looks at how Onisaburo used it in his mentoring of Osensei - one can get a pretty good idea of what I was trying to get at. In short, here, I would say that a whole different kind of authority and power comes to us through the presence of true humility. With humility comes a whole other way of relating to some very important aspects of our training - from taking ukemi to exhibiting takemusu aiki, etc. Traditionally speaking, one of the most common ways of producing humility is through the practice of servitude - the practice of serving others, serving others first, etc. With this in mind, I was trying to suggest that if one really wanted to do away with transmission paradigms that are problematic (as was being discussed in the thread), one would make humility and the practice of servitude a huge part of any new transmission paradigm that was designed to replace the former problematic ones.

It is a matter of truly putting the spiritual practice of "he who is first is last, and he who is last is first" into place.

Thanks Mark,
dmv
David,

thanks for that clarification, I and my grey matter appreciate it.

regards
Mark

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