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Old 04-23-2007, 11:34 AM   #1
George S. Ledyard
 
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Seminars

I took this and started a new thread...

Quote:
Fred Little wrote: View Post
David,

Price and value are two different things.

My recent experience, across multiple organizations, is that Shihan seminar are too overcrowded to offer good value, and I would happily pay twice the fee if the the organizers were willing to place meaningful restrictions on the number of attendees.

FL
Seminars are seldom about training. They are really about group cohesion. Everybody gets together with the "big guy" who does a bunch of stuff that is pretty much incomprehensible to the attendees, then everybody goes home. Most folks are no closer to understanding what the Shihan was doing on Sunday night than they were on Friday evening.

I think that seminars should start to be geared for certain levels. The Shihan should be focusing on instructor training. Attendance should be limited to San Dan and above and the total limited.

If the Shihan wish to do training for lower ranks they should hold seminars for those folks separately; say, a Shodan / Nidan seminar. This would allow them to adjust the training to the needs and capabilities of the students. The Shihan should endeavor to use as many people as possible for ukemi because so much of what they do requires feeling their technique to have any hope of getting it.

The seminar experience does vary by teacher... Endo Sensei, this past weekend was wonderful. He went around the room and threw EVERYONE; even the white belts had a chance to feel his technique repeatedly. This contrasts with another seminar I observed where the Shihan in question demonstrated his stock technique and the went off the mat and watched the clock for ten minutes while everyone did the technique exactly as they had understood it when they showed up. A video would have been more useful for learning.

People should start demanding better training. Vote with your $'s and don't go train with people who don't deliver. If a teacher isn't delivering, express your discontent to the Rokudans in the organization; it'll get back to the big guy eventually.

Right now there is no incentive to change. People invest this almost mystical aura in the Japanese Shihan especially. They go to seminars that are too crowded, at which the content isn't tailored to the attendees, at which the Shihan only throws around a couple of seniors, and where there is no real effort on the part of the Shihan to help the students actually get what they are teaching, then they sit around talking about how great the Shihan is. Well, you probably knew that when you showed up! The question is, did that guy help you one iota become great yourself? Or did you pay your $125 just to bask in the glory?

On the other hand, folks need to change their attitude about what they want from seminars. Most folks have a sort of "checklist" approach to these things. Sort of like trying to climb all the mountains over 14000 ft in the US... People take their little yudansha books and fill them with names.. But did they actually make nay effort to get what these teachers did?

Most of the Shihan level folks are operating on a level that one needs REPEATED exposure to them to start to get what they are teaching. Find a teacher or teachers who are doing what you want to know how to do and invite them to your dojo EVERY year.Follow them around the country and train with them at as many of their seminars as possible. Make the effort and I guarantee you that you will be noticed and start taking some ukemi and getting some extra attention. People naturally support folks who support them.

I frequently meet folks who tell me "Oh yes, I saw so and so Sensei at the Expo... or they trained with so and so Sensei at a seminar somewhere... and I look at them and say "And....?" But there is no "and". It was just this guy they saw... Nothing changes in their training.

Find teachers who can and are willing to help you get better and train with them as frequently as possible. Host them, attend their seminars as they travel around, go train with them at their own dojos... Don't think that by merely hitting a few seminars with various illustrious teachers each year and then going home and doing what you've always done will achieve anything, it won't, aside from a certain entertainment value.

Lastly, if someone sets up an event that looks like it will deliver more value for the time and money, support it. The Expos have gone away because not enough people attended to make such an event financially feasible. If someone sets up some training and limits the numbers but charges a bit more, support it if you want it to continue. The folks out there who have the dojos and the student base to be able to do things in a creative manner, start designing seminars the way YOU want them to be. Invite the teacher to come and teach what you want taught, invite the folks you would like to attend, control your own destinies rather than just accept whatever gets handed out.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 04-23-2007, 01:45 PM   #2
Fred Little
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Re: Seminars

George --

I agree with much you say. On that note, I would point out to anybody in the Northeast that there is a seminar coming up next weekend (April 27,28, 29) in Brattleboro, Vermont with Ken Nisson.

Ken's seminars have always been underattended, and quite frankly, underpriced. Indeed, I can't think of another American aikidoka who was regarded as a peer by any uchideshi to the founder, much less by the only American uchideshi to the founder.

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12310

On that note, I'll still my fingers and tongue for the moment.

FL

Last edited by Fred Little : 04-23-2007 at 01:55 PM. Reason: close parens
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Old 04-23-2007, 04:26 PM   #3
SteveTrinkle
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Re: Seminars

Ledyard Sensei,

I enjoyed reading your ideas regarding aikido seminars.

I was wondering what your thoughts might be on "gashuku" in comparison or in contrast to "seminar."

Thank you.

Steve
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Old 04-23-2007, 04:32 PM   #4
kifed_rebel
 
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Re: Seminars

I have my second seminar this Saturday, and your comments have been taken onboard with me. I remember my previous experience to be a sea of bodies; most of which wearing hakamas. Lower ranking seminars would be great idea.
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Old 04-23-2007, 06:41 PM   #5
SeiserL
 
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Re: Seminars

My yudansha card overfloweth.

I have learned so much from seminars; about Aikido, about training, about common-unity, and about myself.

I have always gotten my money's and time's worth.

Count me in.

Hope to share space and time with everyone someday.

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 04-23-2007, 09:35 PM   #6
raul rodrigo
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Re: Seminars

The reason some shihan can just phone in their seminar performances is that most people can't tell the difference anyway. I admire the shihan like Endo or Kuribayashi, who go around throwing everyone just to give them the correct feel. Maybe 1 in 20 of the people they are throwing will get it; the rest will go on muscling the technique and insisting on their old habits. But I admire a shihan who will make the effort despite knowing it is mostly wasted.

I agree shihans should be more accountable for the quality of their teaching. But the weakness begins with us, who only want to be able to boast that, "I've trained with X, Y and Z." The retort is, unfortunately: "Yes, and you came back with your aikido completely unchanged."

Last edited by raul rodrigo : 04-23-2007 at 09:42 PM.
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Old 04-23-2007, 11:10 PM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Seminars

Quote:
Stephen Trinkle wrote: View Post
Ledyard Sensei,

I enjoyed reading your ideas regarding aikido seminars.

I was wondering what your thoughts might be on "gashuku" in comparison or in contrast to "seminar."

Thank you.

Steve
I am not George, but I have experienced gasshuku (h) and seminars, called koushuukai uK in Japanese, here in Japan.

As the name implies, gasshuku are residential and are far more geared to the group than koushuukai, where a visitor comes and does something like give a lecture. Here in Hiroshima, we invite only regular teachers like Hiroshi Tada to aikido koushuukai and they have been coming regularly ever since I came here. So the issue here is what you can learn from someone who is not your regular shihan (we have a regular 8th dan shihan), but someone whom you know quite well. Beginners have similar problems in understanding Tada Shihan's waza to the the problems they have in understanding Kitahira Dojo-Cho's waza, but this is thought to be inevitable: understanding comes only with training and Tada is one more means of achieving this.

In Japan gasshuku are almost exclusively organized by and for university students in their clubs. Usually, there are no visiting teachers in Japanese gasshuku and so the events is simply a reinforcement of daily training in the dojo, with the focus perhaps more on training. Some of the training is very much open to question.

Members of town dojo do not organize gasshuku because there is no concept here in Japan of vacations. In the UK and the US summer schools are organized and provision is sometimes made for aikido participants to take their families, so it becomes a kind of holiday. This is quite alien to the martial arts in Japan.

I suspect that the UK and US custom was started by Japanese shihan as a way of adapting their Japanese university customs to a new environment, and responding to a demand for vacation training. I have very good memories of a summer camp run by the New England Aikikai, where Morihiro Saito was the guest instructor.

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Old 04-24-2007, 12:19 AM   #8
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Seminars

Quote:
Stephen Trinkle wrote: View Post
Ledyard Sensei,

I enjoyed reading your ideas regarding aikido seminars.

I was wondering what your thoughts might be on "gashuku" in comparison or in contrast to "seminar."

Thank you.

Steve
Without Peter's post I wouldn't have been able to reply as the use of these terms here in the states seems to be a bit more interchangeable.

Anyway, I host something we call an "Intensive" twice a year. It is limited to only 14 people and we train for four days seven hours a day. The focus is a mix of randori and weapons work. It is an "in house" event in that I conduct it and there is no guest instructor so I guess it would be a form of "gasshuku".

We train very intensely and because it is small the students get a lot of feedback. Generally, it is open to anyone 3rd kyu and up but I have done one for Dojo-cho only (they could each bring one senior student).

Originally, this was something for just my own students but over the years the event has caught the attention of folks who want something different and now we have people coming from all over the States and Canada. We fill up earlier and earlier now. I have folks who attend every year and a couple who have simply decided to attend all of them, even though they live on the other side of the country.

Anyway, I mention it because I have tried to make this everything that the normal seminars are not. It is intimate. There is space to train all out. It is not just a "feel good" event; I push the folks hard, although I work hard to structure the training so that there are no injuries. I have found that students of any level can make a quantum jump in their training during these four days. I have had folks getting ready for yudansha testing attend and I have had 5th Dans who run their own dojos come to play. Whereas the focus is the same each time in terms of subject matter, the training is highly interactive and every Intensive is different because each person brings a unique set of issues. I adjust constantly to what is coming up for each student. The folks that have attended a few times start to really internalize the principles and we can take the training to a different level, doing the same things but with a much more sophisticated focus.

So if this is what you mean by gasshuku, then I would say I think there should be far more of this type of training. I have tried to make this event be everything that the normal seminars and camps are not. I think that the folks who have attended over the years have felt that this type of training was important to them (at least I assume so since almost all of them have returned).

I know that there are other events around that don't follow the standard camp or seminar model. There are some "retreats" which often mix Aikido training with other things. Gleason Sensei does one which mixes Aikido and Zen training. I haven't done it but would like to at some point. Anyway, as far as I am concerned, the more intimate the better. People should push themselves mentally and physically but the training should be tailored to the attendees and not just a cookie cutter block of instruction...

At this point in my training I get something out of any kind of event I attend but I think the big camps and large seminars leave an awful lot of people out in the cold so to speak. People need a lot of feedback to change what they are in the habit of doing already. Half the time folks see what they already know, even when the teacher is doing something different. In an intimate event, you can show them what doesn't work, what does work, how what you are doing is different from what they have been doing, etc. You can adjust the training so that each person is forced up against his or her limitations and the you can help them break through to a new level. This just doesn't happen at big events.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 04-24-2007, 01:19 AM   #9
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Re: Seminars

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Members of town dojo do not organize gasshuku because there is no concept here in Japan of vacations. In the UK and the US summer schools are organized and provision is sometimes made for aikido participants to take their families, so it becomes a kind of holiday. This is quite alien to the martial arts in Japan.
Hi Peter,
hope you are well, apologies for not being able to come visit during my recent trip over. I hear Nakao sensei will be visiting you some time shortly, just spent two weeks training with him almost every day, hope you'll have as much fun as I did :-). He's promised to send me the video :-).

I'd just like to comment on this from my own experience. When I lived in Tokyo, alonside my Aikikai Hombu membership I belonged to the Nakano Ku Aikido Renmei run by Koyama Kenji. We went on a renmei gasshuku every year where members from all four dojo's would attend. The instructors were the 4 dojo cho's and Koyama kaicho. Additionally, my own dojo did it's own gasshuku once a year where we went off to a small dojo near Fuji san and just trained with Nojima sensei.

Kind Regards

Bryan

A difficult problem is easily solved by asking yourself the question, "Just how would the Lone Ranger handle this?"
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Old 04-24-2007, 08:38 AM   #10
Joe Bowen
 
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Re: Seminars

Not to sound contrary but during my 8+ years in Korea, every year we would participate in Kobayashi Dojos Annual Gasshuku as well as Igarashi Dojos Gasshuku in Japan. Kobayashi Yasuo Shihan and Igarashi Kazuo Shihan both run their Gasshukus in "off-site" or vacation locales. Kobayashi Dojos Gasshuku is over a Japanese 3-day holiday which nicely coincides with the US Labor day weekend, and Igarashi Dojos holds its Gasshuku in June. Since Igarashi is one of Kobayashi's most senior students he participates in Kobayashi Dojos Gasshuku and Kobayashi participates in his. Both have multiple training areas with classes segregated by rank. Very intimate, very fun, very good. Maybe it is a model to be emulated?

regards, joe
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Old 04-24-2007, 09:37 AM   #11
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Seminars

I've enjoyed attending the AKI Gasshuku I've been permitted to join...I also got the impression that these are typically "in house" affairs in that outsiders seem to rarely participate.

At the Doshinkan, Gasshuku refers more to an intensive seminar over a 20 week period or so. If you are going to miss a class, you notify Sensei in writing...basically, you don't miss. A great effort is made to create a certain serious atmosphere, from cleaning the dojo as a class before training, to the nature of the participation, along with homework.

Best,
Ron

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Old 04-24-2007, 10:38 AM   #12
Jeremy Hulley
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Re: Seminars

I think that this discussions gets back to issues about the transmission of skills and knowledge. I appreciate that George limited the number of participants when he hosted Ikeda Sensei earlier this year.....Of course I was too late to go but that's my fault.

This information is best transmitted in samll groups and the last few big seminars that I've been at have been too crowded to apply what the teacher was offering.

I really like the idea of some seminars for different audiences, everyone, shodan and nidan, sandan and up...

Just a few thoughts to add to a good discussion..

Best
Jeremy

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Old 04-24-2007, 02:33 PM   #13
aikidoc
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Re: Seminars

We do something different. We host Kato Sensei without charging seminar fees. We raise the money for his honorarium and entertainment/lodging through donations. So far this has worked well. Those who can give more, those who can't still can train.

I do agree that there seems to be a tendency to teach the seminars sometimes to the lower level of skill and not the highest level. As such, it can be difficult to get a feel for what you could learn with a different focus.

I went to one seminar where the shihan was more interested in having a smoke break about every hour for 20 minutes. It was like he couldn't wait to get off the mat for a cigarette. He also provided very little feedback to the participants. This is one thing I like about Kato sensei. He goes around and has everyone even the little kids feel what he is doing. He even took ukemi for one of my 11 year olds doing shihonage -he commented that he (meaning the student) was ok to learn aikido. He even made a point to get his picture taken with him at the end of the seminar.

Last edited by aikidoc : 04-24-2007 at 02:38 PM.
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Old 04-24-2007, 03:21 PM   #14
SeiserL
 
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Re: Seminars

I guess I am pretty fortunate. Almost all the seminars I attend, the instructors goes around so everyone feels the technique and feels it differently for the level they are training. The less advance get it easier and more technical. The advanced get it harder, conceptually, more subtle, and did I say harder.

Lynn Seiser PhD
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Old 04-24-2007, 03:41 PM   #15
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Seminars

Quote:
Bryan Bateman wrote: View Post
Hi Peter,
hope you are well, apologies for not being able to come visit during my recent trip over. I hear Nakao sensei will be visiting you some time shortly, just spent two weeks training with him almost every day, hope you'll have as much fun as I did :-). He's promised to send me the video :-).

I'd just like to comment on this from my own experience. When I lived in Tokyo, alonside my Aikikai Hombu membership I belonged to the Nakano Ku Aikido Renmei run by Koyama Kenji. We went on a renmei gasshuku every year where members from all four dojo's would attend. The instructors were the 4 dojo cho's and Koyama kaicho. Additionally, my own dojo did it's own gasshuku once a year where we went off to a small dojo near Fuji san and just trained with Nojima sensei.

Kind Regards

Bryan
Hello Bryan,

Good to hear from you.

I think the Nakano Renmei and the Kobayashi gasshuku are fairly special. They are examples of groups within the general Aikikai umbrella in Japan that have sought to retain a separate identity. The other groups like the Kanto Aikido Renmei hold koushuukai, which in my opinion are examples of the type of event that prompted George's post.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 04-25-2007, 08:25 AM   #16
Don_Modesto
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Re: Seminars

Quote:
Raul Rodrigo wrote: View Post
....I admire the shihan like Endo or Kuribayashi, who go around throwing everyone just to give them the correct feel. Maybe 1 in 20 of the people they are throwing will get it; the rest will go on muscling the technique and insisting on their old habits. But I admire a shihan who will make the effort despite knowing it is mostly wasted....
Ya know, I feel like I'm one of these, all too often. But I also believe, and have experienced, that learning can be equally a non-linear phenomenon. It doesn't proceed one brick at a time, but as a tipping point where things suddenly come together. All that tussle is not for nothing.

Don J. Modesto
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Old 04-25-2007, 06:45 PM   #17
raul rodrigo
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Re: Seminars

Quote:
Don J. Modesto wrote: View Post
Ya know, I feel like I'm one of these, all too often. But I also believe, and have experienced, that learning can be equally a non-linear phenomenon. It doesn't proceed one brick at a time, but as a tipping point where things suddenly come together. All that tussle is not for nothing.
Its not the tussle I object to. I too experience aikido learning as a series of hard to explain jumps, where things suddenly come together. I was pointing out the refusal of some yudansha to actually look at what the shihan is doing and instead they do whatever variation is most comfortable for them. As Kuribayashi put it: "If you're not going to pay attention to what I am doing, why did you invite me to teach?"
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Old 04-25-2007, 08:07 PM   #18
SteveTrinkle
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Re: Seminars

Thank you to Ledyard Sensei and Goldsbury Sensei and all others for your knowledge and insight. I guess I do not have so much experience with seminars yet.

*Our group is having Spring gashuku this weekend and our teacher and some folks from our California dojo will arrive soon. I have lots of eager anticipation (and a little dread too!)

Thank you,
Steve
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