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Old 03-29-2007, 10:10 AM   #126
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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David Valadez wrote: View Post
Well, personally, I'm in total agreement with Stan's summation - both in terms of how Osensei understood "Aikido," and also in regards to what Stan (so politely) calls a "deep psychological need."

That need, the need for external determinants, is what folks are supposed to be doing away with when they train - in my opinion. It is the fact that that need is so dominant in Aikido, or in any other martial art, that tells me folks (someone, anyone) are not training at depth. I imagine this is not so popular a view, but for me that need demonstrates only weakness, and thus ignorance. In that sense, for me, we not only should not live by that need when it comes to Hombu Shihan but also when it comes to American Shihan. You want to get rid of nearly every problem, especially the political ones, have folks start training in such a way that this need is purified out of their being. Poof - end of problems. All power-games gone - gone forever.

dmv
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Old 03-29-2007, 10:16 AM   #127
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I think you are right about the senior Americans. But I think that the reason behind it is insecurity. We are in a sense competing with each other for recognition and the willingness of the training public to invest authority in us is clearly limited.

This is not true for the Japanese teachers... on a basic level they "know" they are entitled. So they don't act out.
Yes, I was just about to say, "Japanese teachers don't have to act like they are entitled because they are." Welcome to a top-down society.

I wonder if the possible insecurity among senior American practioners comes from some cognitive dissonance caused by calquing pseudo-Japanese social structures onto American relationships. They suddenly have this tightrope to walk of playing the role of "the SENSEI" while at the same time maintaining that sense of "equality" that Americans demand in their social interactions, even from those ostensibly superior in status.

Quote:
I have stated this before... if people want to act like folks doing Budo they should converse with each other as if they were sitting across the table from someone with three feet of razor sharp steel. If one wants respect the best way is to give respect. A lot of folks don't get that...
This reminds me of my other passion: Beowulf. Beowulf scholars have remarked at the ceremony, the pithy yet circumspect nature of the language armed men from different tribes used to communicate with each other, full of subjunctives and litotes, that you see in the poem. It's only in these days of peace, when we generally don't have to fear blood feuds that we can "keep it real", and "tell the truth".

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
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Old 03-29-2007, 10:24 AM   #128
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
It is just such gatherings that allow me to believe that Aikido has a bright and positive future.

It was a good time. I look forward to the next.
Yes, I definitely agree.

Even if there are no more expos, perhaps this small multi-teaching seminar idea will spread.

Mark
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Old 03-29-2007, 10:52 AM   #129
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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Jennifer Smith wrote: View Post
I can't express opinions about either of the organizations mentioned above. I do hear a snafu in the line of thinking relative to who will be the teachers of the next generation.
Ultimately, students choose teachers. People can have every imaginable certificate, endorsement or decleration from some world level organization, but is ultimately the students who decide if someone is a teacher. A teacher has a relationship to the future that chooses them as well as to the past that has designated them.
I believe that is important to remeber that heirarchy is a Japanese institution and is not a function of Aikido, the art, itself.
And to quote myself.....no, just kidding.
I was pretty slow in editing so the server made this a new post.
I was moving into a story about terry dobsons' influence on me. I will abridge my original thought with a quote from Terry. This is in reference to what might happen when our shihan die(some of ours have).
Terry:
"What is much more important than anything I say is that I touch you. Through me, through my touch, comes the touch of the founder of Aikido. There is no bible you can buy that says, "This is what Aikido is." It is transferred from person to person. These vibrations pass among us."
I reach across the veil constantly to connect with Terry and O'Sensei through him. For those of us who have walked close to death on this path, on any account, this may feel true. If you haven't experienced this yet, hold on to your hat.
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Old 03-29-2007, 11:04 AM   #130
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I heard someone the other day trying to justify his behavior by saying,"I was just keeping it real". No, he was just being rude. I have stated this before... if people want to act like folks doing Budo they should converse with each other as if they were sitting across the table from someone with three feet of razor sharp steel. If one wants respect the best way is to give respect. A lot of folks don't get that...
Your whole post was excellent but this is priceless!

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Old 03-30-2007, 08:27 AM   #131
Dennis Hooker
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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Mark Murray wrote: View Post
Yes, I definitely agree.

Even if there are no more expos, perhaps this small multi-teaching seminar idea will spread.

Mark
You can make it happen; it starts with one person wanting it to be. Be open to new things and find folks willing to learn from each other and teachers that are open to sharing with each other. Tell everyone to leave the ego at the door when checking in. Last weekend I was in Nashville doing a little workshop and a well respected Sefu from Nashville came by and I opened up the floor for him and we shared. I believe to the benefit of all. I would not even try to name his art, it had something to do with praying mantis kung fu but there were a bunch of words tied to it I can't remember but I do know skill when I see it and a gentleman when I meet one. He watched all weekend and then Sunday I ask him to share with us and he did buy drawing similarities between what I was teaching and what he taught. Correct movement and flow of energy is universal. When I would show very small women how very big men couldn't move them he did the same thing with different applications but the underlying principles were the same. Just like with Chuck, Ellis and myself, different but the same.

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Old 03-30-2007, 10:37 AM   #132
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

I think what Hooker Sensei has said is very constructive. Seminars which arise out of the spirit of sharing give teachers and students of different styles, and even different arts entirely, the opportunity to come together for their mutual benefit. It is a chance to overcome barriers built of ignorance and intolerance, and replace them with understanding and good will. They give needed perspective to those who have developed "tunnel vision". It is amazing how much common ground can be found by those of good conscience and good will. One can truly learn to train with joy.

Alas, the most realistic obstacle to such events is that of economics, not just from the standpoint of travel expenses, but also from the difficulty of staging such an event without significant financial risk. It just doesn't pay for itself unless a good crowd shows up. As practitioners, we owe it to those dedicated enough to put one of these things together, to show up and support it in enough numbers that the organizers don't take a beating. That way, they can keep doing it. There are many dedicated "seminar rats" out there, and bless you all, but there are so many more who show interest beforehand, only to say "I have to rearrange my sock drawer" when the day comes. You are missing a chance to train with some amazing teachers, including many who won't be doing these things for much longer. You are missing a chance to network with others, to make new friends, or to connect with people you often know only through the forums.

Bottom line: When a seminar comes to someplace you are, or can get to, go there and support it if you are able. You will not be sorry.
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Old 03-30-2007, 11:13 AM   #133
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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Jennifer Smith wrote: View Post
I can't express opinions about either of the organizations mentioned above. I do hear a snafu in the line of thinking relative to who will be the teachers of the next generation.
Ultimately, students choose teachers. People can have every imaginable certificate, endorsement or decleration from some world level organization, but is ultimately the students who decide if someone is a teacher. A teacher has a relationship to the future that chooses them as well as to the past that has designated them.
I believe that is important to remember that heirarchy is a Japanese institution and is not a function of Aikido, the art, itself.
Agreed. I could not have said it better myself. I wish more Aikidoka would see the value of this approach and observe the example set by such Aikidoka as David Lynch of New Zealand.

On the mat and out in the world when will some folks see thier little colored belts mean nothing...Actions will always speak louder than a belt when it comes to sharing your knowledge, experiance, and spirit with others.

That is the heart of Aikido.

William Hazen
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Old 03-30-2007, 11:28 AM   #134
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

What we are seeing is the positive side of "globalization" in our arts. After WWII the Japanese martial arts spread to Europe and America. Many of the earliest teachers, the "popularizers" were only shodan or nidan when they came back from their overseas military careers. Because they were the only ones doing these arts they looked to the folks here like these amazing folks who could do all of this incomprehensible stuff. Of course now, our standards are different and we realize that many of those guys aren't as good as we are now, by magnitudes.

Because of the rapid spread of the arts by people who weren't that high level, the arts in general have been missing great depth. Aikido is no different. American Aikido is just now getting to the place at which we have a small group of our own Shihan and this is a very recent development. Most of the folks out there have not trained with any frequency with someone at that level. And even our newly created Shihan don't represent the end all be all but rather they are folks who have just started to figure out the art on a deeper level.

The cross organization and especially cross style sharing, along with exposure to Japanese teachers from different groups and arts who operate on a much higher level is the result of all of us training our whole adult lives and knowing that there is more. When I started Aikido there were no videos, very few movies, only a few books, and hardly any seminars. Now there are more of these than anyone can take advantage of. Look at the information exchange that is possible now... It's unreal.

The folks who take advantage of these possibilities will be the ones who take the art up to the level which the early teachers attained. The missing elements are all around us to grab but we have to be open and looking for them. Things that used to be "secret teachings' are now openly available. Folks with Chinese martial arts backgrounds will come to your dojo and show you how to train what they have, Japanese teachers of Karate are coming to Aikido camps to teach what they know. Daito Ryu folks of various stripes are running open seminars in which Aikido folks can participate. Systema, an art that none of us were even aware existed until recently, is readily available and open to Aikido folks any time to experience... This simply possibility didn't exist until recently.

This is how we are going to exceed our teachers! They didn't have this access when they trained. If we take advantage of all this knowledge that is simply out there to be had, we can end up being better than our own teachers and not just subject to their limitations. There are American Shihan teachers in the US now who are every bit as good as their Japanese instructors. How do they get better? If they don't look outside for more knowledge they will simply stagnate. They have seen everything their teachers have to offer after 35 years of training with them. They have to look further for new inspiration and knowledge. If they don't, they will be bypassed by those that do.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 03-30-2007, 11:41 AM   #135
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Many of the earliest teachers, the "popularizers" were only shodan or nidan when they came back from their overseas military careers. Because they were the only ones doing these arts they looked to the folks here like these amazing folks who could do all of this incomprehensible stuff. Of course now, our standards are different and we realize that many of those guys aren't as good as we are now, by magnitudes.
Just to play Devil's advocate and throw something out for people to chew on...

What if what seems to be 'missing' from Aikido here in the US is *exactly* what those new Japanese trained shihan would be able to bring here? As George points out, Aikido in the west was primarily spread by teachers who would have been considered junior students in the dojos that they came from in Japan. Those teachers have done the best they could to continue their training over these years, and often their efforts have been recognized with rank and responsibility. BUT, in many cases they have progressed in something of vacuum, often one where they have a significant skill advantage over those who they train with/teach. Contact with senior teachers from Japan was often in the form of seminars, and what a teacher does at a seminar is often much different from how they run their everyday class. As a friend who returned to the US after training some in Japan a few years ago (at a relatively small dojo mind you) commented, "Aikido class is just a lot different when there are 5 godans IN class..." Imagine, George, where you might be now, if instead of having being thrust into a leadership role as early as you were in your training, if you'd been able to just work on training yourself (and received constant feedback from your seniors) for the last 20 years.

Just throwing that out there...

Chris Moses
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Old 03-30-2007, 01:41 PM   #136
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

This is a rapidly growing thread, so I don't know, if anything I have to say was said already.

Nevertheless:
I agree with George about nearly everything he told us. My model of a 'good organization' would probably look different. It would just be too long to post here - and the idea seems clear to me. The organization should create an environment that bears teachers and leaders on the highest level and the single aikidoka should look for the best ways to improve himself, technically and personally.

This would lead to a generic evolutionary aikido, with hopefully the 'fittest' ideas to survive, even if it moves somewhat from what it was.

And this is very important for all the teachers, for which George generally wrote his article. The idea is also important for me, but on my junior level, the only thing that is of interest, is to train aikido.

If aikido wasn't spread out widely and thus watered down - I probably would not have heard about it. So I am thankful for everybody, who watered it down and thus enabled me to learn aikido. My ambitions are going further, so there was a time, I had to look for quality teachers, and I am glad, I found some. There are legions of aikidoka out there, who are happy to do a fuzzy Japanese dancing or do good aikido, but do not care as long as it is there and fits their needs. If that is their way, it is fine and better as if it would not exist.

And for me personally, I found two good teachers. One follows Saotome Shihan and that is, where I train regularly, and the other one, whom I visit from time to time, follows Tamura Shihan. Both shihan are 'Honbu sent' first generation teachers. And both do not have a formal organization in Germany, just by incident the teachers are their followers. And the aikido I see, is a little bit different - not only due to organizations, but also personality of my teachers and dojo environment/possibilities. But the mistakes I do are in both dojo the same. So yes there are other dojo, I would go only if I had no other chance. But for me in the next decade or probably all my life - the current organizations provide sufficient quality - even after a colapse of the organizations, which seem to have gone somewhat further in Germany than in the US, probably also due to near borders.

But yes, for the organizations and those aikidoka, who are teachers, or want to be teachers: they have to find a way to provide high quality aikido for high quality students, which includes international, interstyle and interart exchange of knowledge.

Best regards

Dirk
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Old 03-30-2007, 01:48 PM   #137
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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Christian Moses wrote: View Post
Those teachers have done the best they could to continue their training over these years, and often their efforts have been recognized with rank and responsibility. BUT, in many cases they have progressed in something of vacuum, often one where they have a significant skill advantage over those who they train with/teach. Just throwing that out there...
That's true Chris, but there were some that along with teaching continued to pursue senior teachers and take their lumps while getting the transmission from people that had what they were chasing. If you look closely, you can tell the difference. If not, then there's nothing to worry about...

Chuck Clark
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Old 03-30-2007, 02:06 PM   #138
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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Imagine, George, where you might be now, if instead of having being thrust into a leadership role as early as you were in your training, if you'd been able to just work on training yourself (and received constant feedback from your seniors) for the last 20 years.
Hi Chris,
I agree largely but with one caveat; it would depend on what was happening at the dojo where one trained in terms of teaching methodology. Of course I started with Saotome Sensei who is something of a "genius" in the art (that was Chiba Sensei's term, not mine). When I moved I was lucky enough to train with Mary Heiny Sensei which for me at the time was still an excellent opportunity. But I have been on my own since 1986. At fisrt I felt that I was at a very distinct disadvantage compared to the folks I'd left behind training with Sensei very day. But over time, I found that that wasn't true. Sensei had given me a good enough foundation that I could oversee my own training to a degree and leaving put in in touch with Mary, Tom Read, Ellis Amdur, the DT folks I trained with, Bruce Bookman, my iai teachers, Angier Sensei, etc.

I began to see that when I went back it wasn't me that was at the disadvantage. The guys I'd left behind (many not all) had the attitude that they were at the source and didn't need to look further. I on the other hand knew I wasn't at the source and set about looking for the people who could teach me what I wanted to know. I had to work harder to get what I wanted and over time it has paid off.

So eventually I came to realize that the best thing for my Aikido was to have left and continued my training on my own, Of course I train with Sensei many times a year and see Ikeda Sensei numerous times. So it isn't a problem keeping up on what they are doing. But it's been the additional training I've done since I left that has enabled me to finally understand what my own teachers were doing.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 03-30-2007, 02:15 PM   #139
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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Clark Bateman wrote: View Post
Alas, the most realistic obstacle to such events is that of economics, not just from the standpoint of travel expenses, but also from the difficulty of staging such an event without significant financial risk. It just doesn't pay for itself unless a good crowd shows up. As practitioners, we owe it to those dedicated enough to put one of these things together, to show up and support it in enough numbers that the organizers don't take a beating. That way, they can keep doing it. There are many dedicated "seminar rats" out there, and bless you all, but there are so many more who show interest beforehand, only to say "I have to rearrange my sock drawer" when the day comes. You are missing a chance to train with some amazing teachers, including many who won't be doing these things for much longer. You are missing a chance to network with others, to make new friends, or to connect with people you often know only through the forums.

Bottom line: When a seminar comes to someplace you are, or can get to, go there and support it if you are able. You will not be sorry.
Osu,

Couldn't agree more.

I am headed to Charlotte, NC this weekend to train with Andrew Sato Sensei (AWA).

Your own Dojo, where you already pay rent, is a good space to open up, invite others in, and train. Doesn't have to be big or expensive for some of us to show up. I keep checking the web for seminars to attend.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 03-30-2007, 03:18 PM   #140
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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Couldn't agree more.
Thanks for the ditto, Lynn-san. If all who practiced Aikido would do so with your genuine joy and dedication, there would be nothing to lament. Keep spreadin' the love...
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Old 03-31-2007, 05:11 PM   #141
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
....I began to see that when I went back it wasn't me that was at the disadvantage....
George,

You working on a book on aikido?

(hint)

Don J. Modesto
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Old 03-31-2007, 06:43 PM   #142
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

I think this has been mentioned here and there throughout the thread, at least as an undertone, but I wanted to have it come to the surface more clearly in order to promote discussion more in this direction. Somewhere underneath all this discussion is the "gap" we feel or perceive (at some level) between generations of aikidoka - the one going out and the one existing or coming in. When it comes to that “gap,” I'm not so sure organizational structure is all it is supposed to be - even if it can be all it can be. I'm also skeptical of revamping teaching methodologies when it comes to truly addressing this "gap." This is not to say I'm against fine tuning our pedagogies, etc., but it is to suggest that there is one thing more than any other that really is at heart when it comes to addressing this "gap." That is training time. In particular, I'm referring to training hours spent on the mat per day.

Often time, when folks say, “Training in technique after technique is not going to cut it,” I understand what they are trying to get at, but I can also see that this statement is more true for those that train four hours per week than it is for those that train four hours per day. Daily training hours ads a relativity to everything when it comes to organizational structures and teaching or training methodologies. As such, my impression is that this is what most distinguishes generations – the one going out vs. the one coming in.

For the generation that trains in seven days what the previous generation trained in one day, or in half a day in some cases, organizational structures and teaching/training methodologies are only going to do so much. What that “so much” is, we’ll have to wait and see I believe. However, now, we can see already, they cannot and will not ever make it so that Western/Modern wisdoms can turn limited investments in terms of daily training hours into a complete fulfillment of the natural law of maturity.

Therefore, I would propose, that as Aikido spreads via said organizational structures (improved upon or not) and/or modern training/teaching methodologies, it is only going to come into contact with a larger and larger number of folks that are looking to train at a miniscule fraction of what the past generation trained at. As a result, the “gap,” no matter what, is going to grow as Aikido spreads. The more able Aikido is to spread, the more rare those individuals who commit to the practice fully become. As this is nothing but the inverse of the law of maturity, and though we would like to see things otherwise, even folks that are concerned with Aikido’s future should probably accept this fact before they go on trying to “fix everything” or “make things better.”

This is not a position contrary to George’s, just something I was thinking about. I’m not trying to be pessimistic either. It’s just I feel that folks might come out with different propositions – both organizational and pedagogical - if they acknowledge the law of maturity and the true heart of all practices: daily and prolonged commitment.

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 03-31-2007, 08:09 PM   #143
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

That's a good point David. I often tell people I don't expect to ever become as good as my teacher. That's something I'm very comfortable with. Even if I had an equal level of talent for the art (and I don't) I just am not able to put in near the same number of hours in studying the art so how can I realistically expect to reach the same level. My teacher is a professional aikido teacher; I do it as a hobby after work, so it's two different levels. However, despite that I do have goals I am striving to reach and as long as I am progressing in my level of the art I'm happy and am encouraged to continue on. I remember Tada-sensei once saying something like you need to put in 2000 hours of training in a year if you want to reach a level to become a professional teacher. That includes mat time as well as personal physical and mental training time, but I don't know for how many years. Of course that's his opinion and others may have a different opinion but it's an example of what the older generation of shihan think about what it takes in terms of training time.
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Old 03-31-2007, 10:13 PM   #144
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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Don J. Modesto wrote: View Post
George,

You working on a book on aikido?

(hint)
Been bugging him about that myself. I hope he does, and soon.
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Old 04-02-2007, 09:13 AM   #145
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

I think that is very nicely said - about how we all do what we can and our training is always going to be of value for us at whatever level of training we are training at. I'm not saying this to suggest that we leave things at a personal level at the cost of the overall tradition maintaining its integrity, but there is simply no way we can or should invalidate the individual experiences of the individual practitioner for the sake of some sort of "tradition." We have to realize that these individual experiences are more the tradition than is some sort of imaginary abstract understanding of "Aikido." This is, for me, is as important to understand as it is to understand that we cannot escape the all-important element of daily training hours when it comes to maturing in the art and the art maturing. Somehow, both truths have to be upheld. For example, it would seem "wrong" to turn folks away from training that could not train several or more hours a day and at a physical intensity that is high, violent, and likely to cause injury. However, it would be equally "wrong" to have no place for those kind of practitioners that can and want to fulfill these requirements. If folks can train like the past generations could, then they should have access to that training methodology. If they cannot train like past generations could, then their Aikido, first, should not be invalidated for not being of what the past generation's Aikido was (i.e. it is not "not Aikido"), and, second, their training should be tailored to the fact that they are training with less hours, at a lighter intensity, and that they are looking to enhance their lives via the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits that Aikido training can and does bring to all (vs. upholding "AIKIDO").

Looking at things now, without realizing it, I see that my own program has sort of adopted this viewpoint. Now this is "funny" for me because, in voice at least, I've been critical of this type of division. I liked the idea that everyone should be training at "x" level, etc., that there should not be "Aikido lite" and "real Aikido" - that everyone should be getting slammed and expected to train multiple hours a day, yada, yada, yada. In fact, I've been, at least verbally, very critical of kenshusei programs that I myself participated in - since those programs represent a division of training types. Looking at what I've realize now (as stated in the first paragraph above), I can see the reasons why my own past teacher had said division. I guess that goes with everything he's done - me realizing what it was all about much later. Just by dealing with the multiplicity of training capacities and training motivations, etc., our own dojo has come to adopt a type of divisional training - though we have nothing in place as official as "kenshusei" and "dojo member" - and though folks are always looking to train in both as best they can. The closet we get to to an actual official division is in our kids program - "Aiki 1" and "Aiki 2." However, even there, children in Aiki 2 are required to train in Aiki 1, and children in Aiki 1 are "highly encouraged" to reach a level of investment where they can start training in Aiki 2.

Below are two videos, so folks can see what I'm talking about with these divisions. Of course, the division related to children, but in principle, it is very much what we are talking about here. You'll be able to distinct the classes from each other quite easily. The video was made just by sticking a camera off to the side of the mat the other day - so please excuse all you cannot see.

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/version1.html

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/version2.html

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 04-02-2007, 12:22 PM   #146
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Quote:
David Valadez wrote: View Post
I think that is very nicely said - about how we all do what we can and our training is always going to be of value for us at whatever level of training we are training at. I'm not saying this to suggest that we leave things at a personal level at the cost of the overall tradition maintaining its integrity, but there is simply no way we can or should invalidate the individual experiences of the individual practitioner for the sake of some sort of "tradition." We have to realize that these individual experiences are more the tradition than is some sort of imaginary abstract understanding of "Aikido." This is, for me, is as important to understand as it is to understand that we cannot escape the all-important element of daily training hours when it comes to maturing in the art and the art maturing. Somehow, both truths have to be upheld. For example, it would seem "wrong" to turn folks away from training that could not train several or more hours a day and at a physical intensity that is high, violent, and likely to cause injury. However, it would be equally "wrong" to have no place for those kind of practitioners that can and want to fulfill these requirements. If folks can train like the past generations could, then they should have access to that training methodology. If they cannot train like past generations could, then their Aikido, first, should not be invalidated for not being of what the past generation's Aikido was (i.e. it is not "not Aikido"), and, second, their training should be tailored to the fact that they are training with less hours, at a lighter intensity, and that they are looking to enhance their lives via the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits that Aikido training can and does bring to all (vs. upholding "AIKIDO").

Looking at things now, without realizing it, I see that my own program has sort of adopted this viewpoint. Now this is "funny" for me because, in voice at least, I've been critical of this type of division. I liked the idea that everyone should be training at "x" level, etc., that there should not be "Aikido lite" and "real Aikido" - that everyone should be getting slammed and expected to train multiple hours a day, yada, yada, yada. In fact, I've been, at least verbally, very critical of kenshusei programs that I myself participated in - since those programs represent a division of training types. Looking at what I've realize now (as stated in the first paragraph above), I can see the reasons why my own past teacher had said division. I guess that goes with everything he's done - me realizing what it was all about much later. Just by dealing with the multiplicity of training capacities and training motivations, etc., our own dojo has come to adopt a type of divisional training - though we have nothing in place as official as "kenshusei" and "dojo member" - and though folks are always looking to train in both as best they can. The closet we get to to an actual official division is in our kids program - "Aiki 1" and "Aiki 2." However, even there, children in Aiki 2 are required to train in Aiki 1, and children in Aiki 1 are "highly encouraged" to reach a level of investment where they can start training in Aiki 2.

Below are two videos, so folks can see what I'm talking about with these divisions. Of course, the division related to children, but in principle, it is very much what we are talking about here. You'll be able to distinct the classes from each other quite easily. The video was made just by sticking a camera off to the side of the mat the other day - so please excuse all you cannot see.

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/version1.html

http://www.senshincenter.com/pages/vids/version2.html

dmv
Hi David,
It's funny, I came to much the same conclusion and put a plan in place in my dojo to acknowledge that folks had different concerns and commitments. It didn't work out because no one who enrolled actually admitted to himself (herself) that they were only interested in Aikido-lite. Everyone saw himself doing Budo.

Anyway, I came to realize that the very same range of concerns that students display, the instructors display also. Many of the folks teaching Aikido don't see themselves creating another generation of instructors, are not particularly interested in the Budo aspect of the art, don't worry about where their students (or themselves for that matter) can execute their Aikido techniques as functional self defense. What they wish to do is create a strong, cohesive group experience. It's the community experience of the dojo that is important. In this day and age when "community" is harder and harder to come by, I understand the appeal.

As I came to this conclusion, I realized that I simply wasn't interested in teaching folks whose interest in the art are different than mine. I do see myself striving to be at least as good, if not better than my teachers. I have every intention of turning out students who will be as good or better than I am. So I have come to accept that my dojo will be smaller than many of the dojos which my friends run. I have former students who run dojos with more students than I do.

Anyway, I have found that, even though I am a professional instructor, and having a smaller dojo is not absolutely ideal, I am finding that in the larger Aikido community there are a number of folks out there who do wish to train the way I wish to teach. In fact they are hungry for it. So I find myself with a much larger "community" of students that is national, rather than local.

When I post about the issue of quality in Aikido I am always speaking from my own point of view (of course). I do not wish to belittle the approaches or concerns of others who do not share this point of view. One of the reasons that Aikido has grown so spectacularly is that it is so inclusive. But one of the reasons that Aikido has such a bad reputation as a martial art is that it is so inclusive...

The problem with two tiers of training is that everyone likes to believe that they are serious. So in the dojos which have chosen a more populist, user friendly approach to training, its not like folks are sitting around thinking that they are doing something "less". they want to believe that they are doing to "full meal deal". And of course, what teacher believes that he or she isn't delivering the goods to the full extent of their ability? So standards for progression up the ranks are adjusted to fit the commitment levels of the students, rather than asking the students to adjust their commitment levels to the requirements. People have have been integral to that dojo's community for many years want to have rank, they want acknowledgment... so they end with nidans and sandans which they really can't back up if they go train somewhere else where people are training more seriously. This creates a "dissonance" that folks seek to resolve in their minds. I see whole dojos in which people are basically fearful of going outside to train. They resolve the "dissonance" by believing that folks whose training is is more focused on Budo are the "bad guys" the ones who are too rough, too violent. The outside world becomes this scary place and the dojo (or the organization) is the haven from all that distortion of O-Sensei's message that the "others" are doing.

In my own mind I just don't see how to square this... Much of what people are doing in their Aikido doesn't work... I don't mean that it doesn't work if some BJJ guy comes in the door, or if someone like Dan Hardin grabs you, I am talking about if someone of average skill and strength who actually executes his attack with intention in the classic traditional Aikido training structure. This includes the instructors themselves.

So, I have not been able to resolve this in my own mind... I know I have students who are not as committed as others. So what do I teach them? A watered down curriculum that lacks any real content, or simply teach them less material but make sure that what they learn they can do... If you teach them less, how do you mark their progress? They obviously can't have the same rank for the same time in as folks who mastered a much wider curriculum... If you choose to teach the same broad curriculum that you and I have been taught, then how do you acknowledge the folks that don't make the commitment to take those techniques to some level of reality?

I find the degree of unconscious dishonesty that exists in much of Aikido to be offensive. People find themselves in a dojo in which they are asked to suspend what their own experience is pointing out. The poor person who is very strong, maybe has done some other martial arts, finds himself in a dojo in which that strength is systematically devalued. Those nice folks who came up the ranks in the "user friendly" system find that this new guy can stop them dead because they really have no idea how to do their technique... So what happens? They rain all over him and tell him he's "resistant", his attitude is made out to be less evolved spiritually, etc The entire weight of the dojo is brought to bear to retool this guy because he threatens the self image of the entire school, often including the teacher. So that person either leaves or he adjusts and buys into the "culture". I have taught places in which the training has systematically taken people who are very strong, spirited folks and trained them to be weak in spirit and body, they have been taught to overreact, to suppress any strong spirit they might have had because it scares the piss out of everyone in the dojo...

I simply haven't been able to resolve this issue... I don't understand how to teach one person something that is my best shot at being real and then teach someone else something that isn't, that just has the outer form but not the content.

Anyway, I've abandoned the two tiers, it didn't work for me. I teach what I believe is the best Aikido I know how, period. I tell my students exactly what they will need to do to be really good at this art and if they leave because they know they don't want to make the commitment, well that's just how it goes. I don't want a bunch of illusion where people think they know things they don't. I'd rather have them feeling frustrated until they get it right.

The art shouldn't be changed just to make everyone doing it feel validated. This is only possible because we don't have competition... this kind of attitude would disappear if people actually had to step up to the plate and do what they do... I am saying I want competition, but I am saying that we shouldn't adjust reality simply because we don't have it. This of course starts to get very Zen... if your technique doesn't work but no one ever shows you it doesn't, does it REALLY not work? If your technique works all the time in your dojo, then it's working right? Or is there some underlying reality here that is independent of approach, style, independent of which community of practitioners one finds oneself in? Isn't there still a place where we deal with reality as expressed through technique? Doesn't that require acknowledgment that some techniques simply don't work, even if that hurts someones feelings and fails to make them feel validated"?

For the most part, I don't feel that people are not intentionally deceiving themselves. My approach to teaching seminars is that, while i am at your dojo and you are paying me for my teaching, I will treat you as i would my one students. Why else pay me all this money and bring me in? In most cases people react positively even if I am a bit hard on them about some of their training habits. They want someone to give them direction. I have been incvietd back to almost every place I have taught and almost every person whoi had come to our place has returned.

Very occasionally though, I find myself somewhere where the problems are top down. It's the teacher(s) themselves who are the problem... I know, even as I am teaching, that i won't be back because I won't pretend that things are ok when they aren't. I try to be polite but I know that what I am teaching runs exactly counter to the way that these people have been trained. What am I going to do, smile a lot and tell everyone how swell things are and go home? I can't do that. I think there is way too much of that already...

Anyway, I know you and I are always thinking about these issues and although you might come to a different conclusion than I have, I definitely get what you are doing and think it is an admirable attempt. One thing you have to say about Aikido people, regardless of style or approach, they are pretty passionate about what they do and they care about their fellows. We may have drastically different ways of expressing that care but it's a hallmark of the art, i think.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 04-02-2007 at 12:25 PM.

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Old 04-03-2007, 10:33 AM   #147
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

Hi George,

Yes, it is funny, isn’t it – meaning, on some level much of what we are attempting to do just sort of happens as a result of each of us trying to do the best we can, based upon as much of the issue that we are able to perceive at any given moment. As I said, I certainly did not set out to have the kind of division that might make sense of the different levels of commitment folks walk into a dojo with. Moreover, I don’t really have that going anyways – with the nearest I get to it being our children’s program, which is divided (mostly) according to a child’s capacity to learn Budo, which is obviously related to the child’s capacity for investment in the process. However, there is a reason why our kids program is so thusly divided, while our adult program is not – thinking about it now.

Our kids program is an open door program. We take every child – no matter what. We take them when they can’t afford the dues or a gi, we take them when each parent is at their wit’s end, we take them when every counselor or therapist has gotten nowhere with them, we take them when they’ve been kicked out of this or that educational program, etc. As a result, we have a mat that very often forces a choice to be made: Will I fit Aikido to the kids, or will I fit the kids to Aikido? I think everyone, everywhere, not only instructors, but each of us in his/her practice, has to make this decision eventually, perhaps repeatedly. So, this is nothing unique. However, what we have done, and what in some ways addresses some of the things you’ve said, understanding that I’m only discussing a children’s program here, is that whatever choice we make we be very conscious of it.

Thus, in our kids program I’ve made up two types of training, “Aiki 1” and “Aiki 2,” and each type relates to the other type, and folks have to do both types of training, and both work on the most central issue relevant to a child’s practice: the development of character. However, things are not left there. While each child can feel “fulfilled” in either program, the dojo, and myself, and our adult members, everyone and everything, etc., never give anything but a very clear message that Aiki 1 is not Aikido training but rather a program that prepares one for Aikido training. Additionally, it is also made very clear that a child’s participation in the Aiki 2 program, as stated above, is fully dependent upon a child’s (and thus that of his/her family) capacity at personal investment. This means then, which is also very clearly stated, that if a child is not in Aiki 2, it is either because that child is opting not to train in Aikido, or because they have not yet developed the character and maturity necessary to undertake Aikido training. No one is training in our kids “Aikido-lite” without both realizing that they are and that they either do not want to train in Aikido or that I (the dojo) do not think they are capable of training in Aikido.

Our adult program has no such divisions of any kind, but as a teacher, I’ve had to make many adjustments according to the investment capacity of the deshi. I think every instructor has to – even when training with a beginner vs. a more experienced practitioner. Looking at things now, I feel our membership requirements, which we do not have in our children’s program, do a lot in terms of us not having to make “official” training divisions. Most folks that look to join are folks that did not bother to read the membership page on our website – only looking at the schedule and the videos perhaps. Once they do read it, we either do not hear from them again, or they come in with them being malleable – which is always best.

However, even without official divisions, I am very clear about investment levels and their probable yields. One has to be, because we orient training in such a way that self-deception and delusion become main targets. Now, what does that mean? This means we attempt to gain a spiritual maturity, which we understand as (for example – to choose a phrase) the development of a relationship with God, which can be understood as reconciliation with fear, pride, and ignorance. In this process, for this process to even exist, self-deception and delusion must be purified out. Equally, a capacity for honesty, clarity, and for acceptance, must be let in. In this kind of Budo, martial integrity is a natural byproduct, as martial efficiency is a by-product of said martial integrity. However, the key word here is “byproduct.” In our dojo, one clearly realizes that any martial efficiency, even the kind proven to achieve victories (in any format), is of no value if within the person self-deception and delusion still rule one’s life, if fear, pride, and ignorance, still keep one from gaining spiritual maturity.

When we combine this orientation in training, with our membership requirements, when anyone would (in my opinion), certain things that are very common just do not come up (or don’t come up as often or as strongly). For example, folks tend not to think in terms of “full meal deals.” They tend to think in terms of doing all one can, while always working to do more, because there is always more that one can do and should do. Interest in rank goes out the window, so there’s hardly any need to adjust ranking requirements – let alone having them! Folks tend to understand that much of the Aikido world will not understand (this) their training, and that in all likelihood come to see them as the violent bad guys that are too rough and that have totally misunderstood the art of peace. Etc.

Additionally, because martial integrity and martial efficiency is a byproduct of the spiritual method, since the main degree of “measuring up” is spiritual, training is capable of addressing the multiplicity of investment capacities. Meaning, everyone has a spirit, every spirit can be matured. If we train mainly toward the body, for example, toward the gross obviousness of being able to win in a fight, Aikido becomes for the few as it becomes less than it should be. This is true in both senses: An Aikido that trains mainly toward the body – either in Aikido-lite or in Aikido-full – is for a relatively small portion of folks – the kind of folks that get asked, “Why do you train in that?”

I square things by training toward the spirit, by leaving martial integrity and martial efficiency as the byproduct of a method that takes violence as its engine for purification. In this way, I love to train with my student that is chasing after my training schedule as I chase after my teacher’s, and I love to train with my student that is a single-mother full-time college student with a neurological disorder that trains only 4 days per week, and I love to train with my 50-something year-old student that trains only three days per week, as many days as he visits some sort of body therapist per week, Etc. Now, I’m not saying this because I’m a “happy-go-lucky” guy. I’m saying this because each of these people are working on their spirit via their training – they are each laboring to reconcile fear, pride, and ignorance. They are each purifying self-deception and delusion out of their being. In this way, we are able to train together, slow or fast, hard or soft, always working on the same thing, always achieving the same main goals and the same by-products but doing so according to our own pace and our own levels of investment. I could not imagine training or teaching any other way. So I could not imagine you doing anything that differently – even if the details and the surface might demonstrate variation.

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 04-03-2007, 03:59 PM   #148
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Re: George Ledyard on the Future of Aikido

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
One thing you have to say about Aikido people, regardless of style or approach, they are pretty passionate about what they do and they care about their fellows. We may have drastically different ways of expressing that care but it's a hallmark of the art, i think.
And who said their isn't a future for Aikido and we were on the wrong path?

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