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Old 04-27-2006, 02:16 AM   #1
David Yap
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Being your own teacher

Hi all,

Quoting from a post in the "Deepening our training" thread:
Quote:
My advice is to actually train during your training. Whether you are focused on movement, maai, timing, etc. O sensei said that only 25% of aikido is learned from your sensei. The rest is from your own practice.
Seemingly from the mathematical POV, no one will ever surplus the level of O Sensei as illustrated by the following matrix:

% of learning from O Sensei teaching versus % learning from own practice
1st generation students 25% 75%
2nd generation students 6.25% 93.75%
3rd generation students 1.56% 98..44%
4th generation students 0.39% 99..61%

Here, 25% O Sensei's teaching is retained gen-to-gen, hence, the declining numbers. Though there is a possibility that some of us 3rd and 4th generation practitioners of aikido may have less than 2% the level of skill of O Sensei, it does not mean that we have less than 2% of his knowledge.

IMO, O Sensei could have implied that he could only teach and correct his students 25% of the time and 75% of time the students themselves need to polish the techniques and figure out/understand their underlying principles. Hence, O Sensei also said that different people would have varying conceptions of his art. This takes us to another matrix (hypothetically) of the first generation students:

% learned from O Sensei's teachings (1st column) and from self-learning (polishing) % Comprehension and % Misconceptions
Deshi #1 25% 91% 9%
Deshi #2 25% 85% 15%
Deshi #3 25% 70% 30%
Deshi #4 25% 60% 40%

Looking at the level of the 1st generation group of shihan, I think that all of them would have more than 90% correct understanding of O Sensei's teachings by now. Can/could anyone of them surpass him? Can and could, if they are/were more "enlightened" than O Sensei. But, we should also bear in mind that O Sensei did more than 60 years polishing his martial skill and yet on his dying bed, he still said that he was just beginning to understand.

So, where are we as the next generations of students? Well, we have to put ourselves into the above matrix and we would at least acquire 25% of our primary instructor's instructions and teachings (and this includes his/her comprehension and misconceptions of the art). We need to spend 75% of our training time to polish our skill, figuring out the truth from the myths [sort, filter, keep and discard]. Besides starting with a good teacher (but not necessarily a good performer) which is the 25% part, what level we are at the moment will depend very much on our commitment and dedication to learning the art -- this 75% must be quality time shared with equally committed comrades.

What bring me to this topic?

I received a call from an aikido acquaintance. While requesting for a contact, he also inquired whether I was training at the same place. Using the "my dad can beat your dad" analogy, he invited me to train with his current teacher. I told him that I have done better -- I have had studied under the teacher of his teacher. If his teacher is the best aikido teacher (I couldn't use the word "Master") in my part of the country then, his teacher's teacher is even better. But yet he insisted that his teacher has now surpassed his own teacher. I told him that I started to learn aikido from a teacher who was a teacher to many of the dojo-cho in my part of the country today and I have trained with many of the current dojo-cho and even with their teachers. Using the above matrices, I told him I believe I have acquired the 25% from each of these teachers (including my current teachers) and I am now concentrating on the 75% portion (the polishing part). It does not matter (now) where I train but wherever, the dojo-cho must understand that I need this self-teaching process to improve my skill and he should reasonably avail me the opportunity to do as long as I am abiding to his/her dojo etiquette. It is not about training with the best performer of the art. A good performer does not necessarily be a good teacher. It is about finding the best dojo to learn in. And, what is a good dojo without good fellow students?

Best training

David Y
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Old 04-27-2006, 02:52 AM   #2
Dirk Hanss
 
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Re: Being your own teacher

Quote:
David Yap wrote:
Seemingly from the mathematical POV, no one will ever surplus the level of O Sensei as illustrated by the following matrix:
Dear David,
"seemingly" is the important espression and it seems, that your aikido is better than your maths - or in other words: only 10% of your mathematic skills are learned at school, 90% came out of your own mind probably neglecting most basic rules.

I guess that was blunt enough - no offense, just pure aggression

"25% of aikido is learned from your teacher", does not tell you anything about how much that is in terms of the aikido skills of your teacher.

Some might get only 1% of his teacher's skills - adding another 3 times as much my own practice and experience that is 4% of his teacher's aikido skills. So he'd better play tennis

In the extreme end the teacher is great in teaching and the student very talented, she might get 100% of her teacher's aikido plus her own part, which is 4 times her teacher's skills.

So the fourth generation (O Sensei given number 0 generation) aikidoka might range from vanished up to 4*4*4*4, i.e. 256 times O Sensei's aikido level.

And even if someone thinks, that the level is quite low today, there is much room for improving for the next generations.

Sorry, David, I just wanted to make a point on the beginning, now I start to read the rest of your post

All the best


Dirk
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Old 04-27-2006, 03:40 AM   #3
crbateman
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Re: Being your own teacher

David, it's pretty much just my opinion, but I also have a hard time buying into the 25/75 mathematical construct you have exhibited. If factual, no martial art could have lasted more than 50 years, yet many are quite recognizable after hundreds of years.

I think the fallacy is that the model assumes too much, such as that the human capability to absorb only 25% of what one is taught (or perhaps, be exposed to only 25% of what one's teacher knows) is constant. Or that one will ever only study from a single source or teacher.

While I agree that one never directly learns all that his teacher knows, I think it is a fairly universal reality that one has many teachers over a lifetime, and that, while a single teacher might pass on only part of O'Sensei's "legacy" of teaching, and a second teacher might do the same, those percentages might just a easily be comprised of different parts of the package. And the same goes for a third teacher, or source, and a fourth, fifth, and so on. Thus, the process becomes additive (cumulative) rather than divisive. It also becomes individual, rather than a matter of mathematical absolutes.

Consider also that simply reading a book about Aikido can expose a student to additional ideas and perspectives, beyond what he/she might be learning from their practice in the dojo, and that these different ideas presented also have their share of the root foundation that began with O'Sensei, and will further add to the knowledge base of the practitioner. Additionally, reading books or watching videos of original students of O'Sensei (or even of O'Sensei himself) takes one back to the "top of the ladder" so to speak, and offers a means of bypassing, or regenerating, much of the generational degradation that you have spoken of. We are fortunate in that Aikido was developed during a time where such technology was available to more completely document the ways of the Founder, and provide a better point of reference back to the beginning. Older arts do not have this luxury, and must rely so much more on the faithful reproduction and dissemination of the core teachings from generation to generation. Even the internet has broadened the knowledge network beyond geographical boundaries, and can connect one to ideas and paths of learning that one would have otherwise never been exposed to along the path in pre-web times.

With all that said, I will now say that I agree with the idea that a dilution of the knowledge of O'Sensei's Aikido will still inevitably occur over time. I just don't think we have to resign ourselves to go down without a fight. If Aikido people will take the attitude that we are stewards of the art, and that we should strive to learn as much as we can about all aspects of it, rather than just going in the dojo and rolling around a couple times a week, then the core foundations on which Aikido was based will last longer. This attitude toward "preservation" can be clearly seen in the teachings of Morihiro Saito Sensei, who, despite having his own ideas about Aikido, remained determined throughout his lifetime to preserve intact the teachings of the Founder.

Even O'Sensei has said that Aikido was not about HIM, but about the universal truths that exist in nature and the universe. These things are durable, and we must look past our noses and keep an eye on this "big picture". That way, much of that body of learning that each of us "improvises" to form our individual interpretations of Aikido, will have a similar exposure to the same benchmarks that O'Sensei used to so eloquently express the art.

Change is nonetheless inevitable. Even O'Sensei's Aikido evolved. Some of his students evolved with it, and some did not. Many found ways of their own. But if change must occur, it should be due to the thinking of the succeeding generations, rather than the lack of thinking. All any of us can do is arm ourselves with as much information as can be found, and make the most informed decisions we can. All the while, even when we disagree with, or have a hard time understanding him, we should maintain respect for the man who put it all together.
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Old 04-27-2006, 03:42 AM   #4
David Yap
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Re: Being your own teacher

Quote:
Dirk Hanss wrote:
Sorry, David, I just wanted to make a point on the beginning, now I start to read the rest of your post.

Hi Dirk,

Not offended at all. Your maths teacher and mine probably share the same lineage and 10% is not too bad by any standard. I got zero for my guitar lessons.

Best..

David
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Old 04-27-2006, 03:55 AM   #5
Mark Freeman
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Re: Being your own teacher

Definition of a statistician: Someone with their head in an oven, their feet in a freezer, but on the whole they are doing just fine!

The mathematics you use make a mockery of themselves as soon as you start extrapolating beyond the original 25/75 split. I am 3rd generation which according to your statistics means I am getting 1.56% of learning from O Senseis teaching, I think not.
While the I think the maths part of your post is highly suspect, I agree with much of the rest

Of course teachers can be surpassed by students, it would be ridiculous to think otherwise. if we stuck to the maths then within a few generations the watering down process would make the 'art' almost worthless. Surely a good teacher 'wants' his students to surpass him, if he doesn't then he is ego driven and a lesser teacher for it.

Some western aikido teachers have brought their own skills to the teaching process of aikido and maybe this is an area where things have been surpassed since O Sensei. O Sensei was a man of his time and culture, things were passed on in a particular way. Show - do - little explanation, you just had to get it through repetition. I know there are still fans of this method and I'm sure it has alot going for it. That doesn't mean it can't be improved upon or that it hasn't. My own teacher has done a great deal to create a teaching method that has taken all his learning from his own 1st generation teachers combined with 50 years of aikido teaching, this he is passing onto his own teachers. He knows that some aspects of aikido that he took along time to 'get' he can pass on much quicker now. Improvement from one generation to the next.

It seems in most/much of the world of aikido no matter which country you are in Japanese is heavily used during instruction. Not from where I come from, apart from the names of the thechniques ikkyo, nikkyo, shihonage etc we learn everything in english, a layer of complexity has been removed and learning is perhaps a little easier.

The English invented Cricket, but we ar regularly out done by the India, West Indes, Pakistan.

I would like to think that Aikido has a life of it's own, O Sensei created it and we should all remain thankfull for that. But the cat is out of the bag, no one person or organisation owns or controls it. it is free to become what it becomes, and who knows haow far it can go and in which direction? There is no one type of Aikido that can be called O'Sensei's, as it changed over time, he didn't keep it one way for his own lifetime, so it was evolving even then.

It is up to us to keep the spirit of aikido strong and pure, look backwards to history for guidance, but forward to the foture for where we are going and what we want aikido to mean in the modern world.

Leave the maths out of the dojo it will just get in the way of simple learning.

Good post David, it certainly got me thinking over my morning coffee,

Cheers

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 04-27-2006, 04:13 AM   #6
David Yap
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Re: Being your own teacher

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote:
David, it's pretty much just my opinion, but I also have a hard time buying into the 25/75 mathematical construct you have exhibited. If factual, no martial art could have lasted more than 50 years, yet many are quite recognizable after hundreds of years.
Clark,

It is not about the maths. It is about being your own teacher and you described the whole process being one in your post. The commitment to seek information/knowledge from books/websites etc., sought out other teachers to enhance your understanding and to add on the knowledge. This the 75% and you are right - there are no absolutes to start with.

The first matrix was a diversion - that's why I used the word "Seemingly". You have to read my post entirely to understand my point. Perhaps as a non-native English speaker, I fail to express myself well enough - my apologies.

Rgds

David
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Old 04-27-2006, 04:29 AM   #7
David Yap
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Re: Being your own teacher

Quote:
Mark Freeman wrote:
Leave the maths out of the dojo it will just get in the way of simple learning.

Good post David, it certainly got me thinking over my morning coffee,

Cheers

Mark
Hi Mark,

It (the maths) did get to your attention though. I wanted to add in a 3rd and 4th set of matrices to discard the first set of equations but had a hard time typing them into columns here. So I decided to summarised by words in a paragraph for you guys to explore...

Quote:
So, where are we as the next generations of students? Well, we have to put ourselves into the above matrix and we would at least acquire 25% of our primary instructor's instructions and teachings (and this includes his/her comprehension and misconceptions of the art). We need to spend 75% of our training time to polish our skill, figuring out the truth from the myths [sort, filter, keep and discard]. Besides starting with a good teacher (but not necessarily a good performer) which is the 25% part, what level we are at the moment will depend very much on our commitment and dedication to learning the art -- this 75% must be quality time shared with equally committed comrades.
Thanks for the response.

Cheers

David
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Old 04-27-2006, 05:00 AM   #8
Mark Freeman
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Re: Being your own teacher

David,

My own statistics combined with some of your words:

Honest practice with equally committed comrades under a good teacher = 100% good aikido

Cheers
Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 04-27-2006, 07:46 AM   #9
crbateman
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Re: Being your own teacher

Quote:
David Yap wrote:
You have to read my post entirely to understand my point. Perhaps as a non-native English speaker, I fail to express myself well enough - my apologies.
David, I did read your post completely. Perhaps you have concluded from mine that I am disagreeing with yours. Not true. I agree and support your views.

It is the general idea I often hear tossed about by others (not yourself) that we are doomed to lose the fundamental teachings of O'Sensei as time goes by that I take issue with. That will only happen if we as students don't diligently search for that knowledge in the variety of places it can be found.

Sorry if I sounded as though I was critical of YOUR views. I am only bristling at the suggestion that ignorance is somehow the inevitable result of the passage of time. History does not support that. My apologies if you took offense.
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Old 04-27-2006, 09:48 AM   #10
Talon
 
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Re: Being your own teacher

If you get 25% from your teacher and 75% of your own practice , you still end up with 100%. Its just that the 75% is up to you to achieve and figure out. This makes me think that as long as your teacher was commited to the art and took the time to do his share of the 75% you are in good hands with someone that has the full 100%. That person will give you the 25% and it will be up to you to do your share of 75% again. This means that you can still end up with 100%. At least it does to me. I doubt that anyone will match O'sensei's skill since he is the founder, but as someone mantioned, like everything in the universe, Aikido is evolving so O'sensei's skill back in the day should not necessarily be the guage at the present.
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Old 04-27-2006, 11:19 AM   #11
jonreading
 
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Re: Being your own teacher

There is a game in the US where a group of people (usually children in school or at camp) repeat the same story in from one person to the next person, at the conclusion of the storyline (no pun intended), the last person then repeats the story aloud for the group to hear. The initial storyteller then repeats the initial story and the two are copmared for accuracy. The stories often differ considerably.

Aikido has a lineage, with a clear origination and no end in sight. As aikidoka, we are charged with learning everything that our instructors teach, and then develop our own aikido to pass on to those that come after. Is it possible to learn everything your instructor knows and also learn beyond your instructor? Probably not, but that should not prevent us from trying.

Much of the danger the initial post threatens is related to losing key knowledge about aikido. Aikido is personal and each student is personally responsible for passing on correct aikido teachings; every time a student passes along bad aikido that knowledge base becomes weaker, every time a student passes along good aikido that knowledge base becomes stronger.

The question that lies before all of us is "do I wish to construct aikido, or destruct aikido?" We answer that question every day when we train. If we train properly, we construct aikido to perpetuate the art while preserving the training of antiquity.

While keeping in mind that much of our initial instruction is derived from a teacher, the advancement of the art remains with the exploration and development of individual aikido for the art to remain current alive and vibrant. O'Sensei's teachnings may have referred to this concept.

Last edited by jonreading : 04-27-2006 at 11:22 AM. Reason: spellin'
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Old 04-27-2006, 11:20 AM   #12
Chuck Clark
 
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Re: Being your own teacher

Interesting discussion.

One of the things a good teacher can do (and should do, in my opinion) is to teach the student HOW TO LEARN, not just what the teacher knows. How to learn and how to practice added to the inspiration from the example of the teacher and other seniors' practice and trustworthiness helps us motivate ourselves to continue our practice. If this is done, then the Japanese traditional model of Shu, Ha, Ri can and will come to fruition. This is how traditions survive for many generations. Otherwise, there would be a continuing diminishing level of skill and the ability to pass it on.

Of course, not every student has the motivation (or the natural tools) to reach the higher levels of budo practice. The beauty and elegance of "Michi" is that skill level, on an individual level, isn't the most important part of the practice. How we understand ourself and then relate to others is the key. Fortunately, enough individuals do reach the level where they are the art and the art is them.

Does this happen all of the time in all arts. Of course not. It's up to each one of us to find our teacher and the courage to continue with them to enable the full transmission of the teacher's art and then accept the responsibility of original knowledge and authority and become the teacher.

Best regards,

Chuck Clark
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www.jiyushinkai.org
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Old 04-27-2006, 08:34 PM   #13
David Yap
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Re: Being your own teacher

Quote:
Mark Freeman wrote:
David,

My own statistics combined with some of your words:

Honest practice with equally committed comrades under a good teacher = 100% good aikido

Cheers
Mark
Absolutely

Cheers
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Old 04-27-2006, 09:13 PM   #14
David Yap
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Re: Being your own teacher

Quote:
Paul Nowicki wrote:
If you get 25% from your teacher and 75% of your own practice , you still end up with 100%. Its just that the 75% is up to you to achieve and figure out. This makes me think that as long as your teacher was commited to the art and took the time to do his share of the 75% you are in good hands with someone that has the full 100%. That person will give you the 25% and it will be up to you to do your share of 75% again. This means that you can still end up with 100%. At least it does to me. I doubt that anyone will match O'sensei's skill since he is the founder, but as someone mantioned, like everything in the universe, Aikido is evolving so O'sensei's skill back in the day should not necessarily be the guage at the present.
Paul,

You are absolutely right. As a student, I would definitely stay on with a teacher whose skill and knowledge are continuously improving and who is ever willing to share his knowledge with his students.

Chuck,

Good post. TQ

Best training.

David Y

Last edited by David Yap : 04-27-2006 at 09:19 PM.
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