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Old 06-03-2008, 08:01 AM   #26
DH
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
Dear Dan - I wasn't thinking of you at all. I was thinking of myself. I have a garage dojo, and frankly, I'm a lot less welcoming than you. You accept guests to practice, I do not. You issue open invites, I do not. So why a "garage or a barn?" I have a habit when I write of coupling words together for rhythm. "A garage or a barn," sounds like a community; far better than "a garage," which merely sounds lonely and depressing.
But if you want to argue with me and include yourself among the isolates who see students in terms of "suitable or please get out - now," you are welcome. The only question is if two misanthropes together are any less lonely.
Ellis
Hah! Or maybe it was unconscious.
Which misanthrope is lonely(er)?
Well hell, the only reason I opened my door after years of saying "No!" was what a certain someone said to me after plying me with mojitos. Two months later I had guests!! (blek) from all over.
Ya know, I think that guy may have been right after all.

Speaking of barns and garages- or country settings. I think that it would be an excellent expansion in both you and Peters capable hands and works on transmission / heritage / history (you know, that writing thing you two are good at) To consider what made the masters? What is the most common formula?
You're working on Takeda and what has become of Daito ryu down to Ueshiba.
Peter on Ueshiba and what has become of Aikido through Kissamaru to the present.
That's probably a fair summation of your latest work.

So, in a more general sense for the masters in Budo:
1. What was the real method of transmission that clicked VS the crap most did back then?
2. How does that play against allot of the crap we do today?
3. In the end were they or us really all that different in what it takes to master something?
I am certain, that large dojo's and big organizations had not to do with it.
Even my kid-who's turning into a powerhouse himself noted something. He had seen peoples reaction to my stuff for years. He noted how many held ranks were teachers that came from established dojos and large organizations and had heard theircomments. He said "Don't they read their own stories? It was never about them, large groups and systems. All the stories were about the guy in the barn, the guy in the country, or the mountains. Always a story about a visionaries small journey played out against samurai who were by an large just budo wallpaper.
Barns and garages may be, just maybe, not such a bad idea after all. What changes when you don't have to pay the rent, don't have to follow a set course, or have the responsibility to good and honest seekers under you to layout a comprehensive program for them, instead of spending all that time working on evolving within a small group. And then going out now and again to test what you think you learned. I'm guessing there is, over the years, a tremendous difference in growth and development. But that's just a personal subjective view. I wonder what a more objective study would reveal.
What did the masters do? Where did they come from? Were they alive, what would they think has become of the arts? What would they be doing? Maybe it's just me, but I think that would be an interesting read.
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Old 06-03-2008, 08:46 AM   #27
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Well hell, the only reason I opened my door after years of saying "No!" was what a certain someone said to me after plying me with mojitos. Two months later I had guests!! (blek) from all over.
Ya know, I think that guy may have been right after all.
Um, yeah, I owe that "certain someone" dinner. If not for that person, quite a lot of things/events/training would never have occurred for me. It'd be the least I could do to say thanks.

(Perhaps the best I could do is to show them in a few years that their effort was worth it. That some people really are seekers and really do work hard to train. And that is what I'm trying to do.)

Mark
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Old 06-03-2008, 09:39 AM   #28
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

[quote=Nicholas Pagnucco;207663]link: http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=4900

To summarize: In a piece on how to try and integrate internal training & strength/kokyu into aikido practice, Mr. Amdur offers 5 general rules:
  1. Seniors should stop the techniques of junior students once, but not constantly
  2. Always be aware of positioning as nage and uke for strikes
  3. Don't make your teacher look bad in front of students during a demo, even if you can stop the technique
  4. Social Darwinism is a lousy pedagogical philosophy
  5. Ukes have a responsibility to challenge but not break nage's structure

Those 5 match my 5.

Jennifer Paige Smith
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Old 06-03-2008, 09:49 AM   #29
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
I have a small question.

I cannot state very much about Akuzawa Sensei's view of Morihei Ueshiba, but it seems that both Dan Harden and Mike Sigman agree that O Sensei definitely had 'the goods' about internal training.

Yet, he taught all his deshi waza, as did Takeda and Sagawa. If the value of internal training is so clear--and it clearly is, why did the creator of aikido never renounce his commitment to waza?Best wishes,

PAG
This is directed at the thought rather than the thinker, in all respect. I read this and felt a need to jump in.

In my technical and philosophical integration, waza are the techniques of Nature. That is where Nature expresses itself in form, for practice, through aikido.
My summation is that O'Sensei had a lot to say about Nature and Nature had a lot to say to him, and us.
Thanks.

Last edited by jennifer paige smith : 06-03-2008 at 09:52 AM.

Jennifer Paige Smith
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Old 06-03-2008, 09:55 AM   #30
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

Quote:
Nicholas Pagnucco wrote: View Post
To summarize: In a piece on how to try and integrate internal training & strength/kokyu into aikido practice, Mr. Amdur offers 5 general rules:
  1. Seniors should stop the techniques of junior students once, but not constantly
  2. Always be aware of positioning as nage and uke for strikes
  3. Don't make your teacher look bad in front of students during a demo, even if you can stop the technique
  4. Social Darwinism is a lousy pedagogical philosophy
  5. Ukes have a responsibility to challenge but not break nage's structure
I have a comment on #3, regarding safety. If you try to stop the technique, the other person may react by ramping up power or changing suddenly, either of which can be dangerous

Tom
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Old 06-03-2008, 09:58 AM   #31
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Jennifer Smith wrote: View Post

Those 5 match my 5.
But, are you doing internal training such as Sigman, Akuzawa, or Hardin are doing?
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Old 06-03-2008, 10:03 AM   #32
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Jennifer Smith wrote: View Post
This is directed at the thought rather than the thinker, in all respect. I read this and felt a need to jump in.

In my technical and philosophical integration, waza are the techniques of Nature. That is where Nature expresses itself in form, for practice, through aikido.
My summation is that O'Sensei had a lot to say about Nature and Nature had a lot to say to him, and us.
Thanks.
Sorrry. I do not fully understand you here. Which thinker and whose thought?

Best wishes,

PAG

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Old 06-03-2008, 10:26 AM   #33
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Robert Wolfe wrote: View Post
Dan,

Well, the only sure thing is you can't please everyone...

Our best head-scratcher was the evening two potential members came to watch the same practice. The vet said what we were doing was too much like the practical combatives he did in the Army, while he was looking for something softer. The college-aged kid said what we were doing was too soft, and he wanted something a little more "real."

Neither joined.

-- Bob
I've done the math and I'd say we get 1 new student out of 8 and of those only about 2 stay more than a year the rest leave often citing your two excellent "excuses"

Let them go with love I say and more power to them. I am here to work with the ones that want to be here.

SoCali's one caveat is there are so many World Class Martial Artists trying to make a livng it is a "students market."

We practice the 5 suggestions of Sensei Amdur most of the time. I need to work on #1 a bit more. Sensei thinks I can be too chatty at times LOL

William Hazen
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Old 06-03-2008, 11:39 AM   #34
DH
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Tom Holz wrote: View Post
I have a comment on #3, regarding safety. If you try to stop the technique, the other person may react by ramping up power or changing suddenly, either of which can be dangerous

Tom
I've backed off from doing this too much as I have gotten older, but in the past people have been hurt and broken when they tried that crap on me. If I feel a change to what I am just trying to show -I will change with them and continue.
Sometimes it's a new student not understading the danger inherently involved. Most of the time the smartalec who pulled that kind of crap was simply not as prepared for the outcome. It has precedent with some very famous Budo teachers. Teaching a waza is not to be confused with fighting and positional change. Only a fool would do it more than once.
Often the teacher is teaching with more respect for the student than that very student is aware of.

Last edited by DH : 06-03-2008 at 11:41 AM.
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Old 06-03-2008, 02:15 PM   #35
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Often the teacher is teaching with more respect for the student than that very student is aware of.
As one teacher of mine used to say, "Don't mistake compassion for incompetence."

Josh
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Old 06-03-2008, 09:36 PM   #36
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
... but it seems that both Dan Harden and Mike Sigman agree that O Sensei definitely had 'the goods' about internal training.
I'd have to say that nowadays it seems obvious that a number of Japanese ryu experts had 'the goods', popping the bubble (misperception) that I had 3 or 4 years ago. The problem is that 'the goods' were there all around many of us who spent years studying various Asian martial arts, but we didn't see them because we couldn't conceive of something that basic and that 'large' that we could be unaware of. I.e., the number of westerners who were blinded by a conceit of sorts and whose conceit was reinforced by their fellow westerners who also had the same conceit is staggering.
Quote:
It seems to me that M Ueshiba was committed to waza, right from the beginning of his budo training, but he seems to have become aware of the crucial value of internal training in parallel and alongside his training in waza: the two seem to have complimented one another.
Sure. If all it took was internal strength, there wouldn't be so many martial arts... internal strength would be all that was practiced.
Quote:
The issue for aikido is how you do internal training as well as waza, not whether you do internal training as well as waza.
It's not just Aikido where this is a problem of great import. Slowly a number of different styles are beginning to see the problem. The real problem is that it's very different to try to put "internal strength" into movements that have already been repetitiously patterned for years in a way that doesn't use internal strength.

FWIW

Mike Sigman
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Old 06-03-2008, 09:54 PM   #37
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

Reading some of the other posts again, I'd like to add a quick comment: "Quitchyerbitchin'". Aikido has some enormous advantages over most of the other arts where there is also an attempt be various individuals to install or re-install internal strength. There is a structure to Aikido (generally speaking) that is not to be found in all the eclectic "Tai Chee", Bagua, Xingyi, etc., versions being practiced by westerners. Aikido does not have the extreme, cultivated stiffness/tension of so many karate styles (I discourage many karate and Wing Chun, Choy li fut, etc., people from coming to workshops because they are too stiff to change). And so on. Aikido is probably the best of all formats.

Secondly, it's always worth remembering that Tohei had to go outside of Aikido to get a lot of his understanding of how these things worked. So this is not a new problem in Aikido. The fact that there are small groups doing dedicated practice and research is a wonderful thing, no matter how cumbersome and trying it is at present. There may never be large groups of people doing actual "aiki" with the mind-directed forces and the ki development... but I feel pretty sure that O-Sensei was well-aware of that fact. Somebody's got to break the trail, so... quitchyerebitchin' and enjoy it. These are the good old days, right now.

Best.

Mike Sigman
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Old 06-03-2008, 11:46 PM   #38
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Now, conceivably years have gone by while working on all of this. With you doing solo work as an adjunct- to your paired work. BTW most will probably no longer train with you anymore. The real problem is then going to the dojo week after week and defaulting and failing, and seeing all your newly learned wiring once again falling apart; breaking structure, having your weight/balance on one side, being led out from your held equilibrium and seeing your shoulder tense up, or seeing a muscle train externally go right up through you and get manipulated before your eyes.
From my current perspetive, in terms of aikido practice while developing internal skills - I see this kind of specific training opportunity as a way for me to be able to continually up the progressive resistance . I cannot imagine ever NOT enjoying taking ukemi - unless I were injured. I just very much like the idea of having more "choices".

Rob
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Old 06-04-2008, 03:23 AM   #39
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
Slowly a number of different styles are beginning to see the problem. The real problem is that it's very different to try to put "internal strength" into movements that have already been repetitiously patterned for years in a way that doesn't use internal strength.
Mike Sigman
Certainly an interesting point. As someone who has trained in several arts for an extended period, I can say with 100% certainty that people who learn any type of Aikido always find it easy to go elsewhere and learn new stuff. Others coming to Aikido are like beginners starting again. This is probably the main reason I have continued to have faith in Aikido. In Korea I remember exchanging a few techniques with a Judoka. I was ten years out of touch and he showed me how to do his 'power' slam Judo. Naturally, he thought he was better than me (he was) and I was happy to oblige and learn his technique. After critiquing my tech until I did it his way, as an afterthought, he asked me to show him my way. I would not have bothered had he not asked. I don't know if my way would win against him in a fight, but one thing was for sure -- he could not do it my way at all. It doesn't mean my way was better, rather, just that he was totally unadaptable - almost like a beginner. To me, this means he had learned nothing of value. But if your conclusion here is not to learn Judo, that would be another mistake. If I were 16 again, I would take it up with a vengence!

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Old 06-04-2008, 06:52 AM   #40
Alex Megann
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
The real problem is that it's very different to try to put "internal strength" into movements that have already been repetitiously patterned for years in a way that doesn't use internal strength.
Coming in to this discussion a little late, I am feeling that what Ellis and Mike are saying here is very pertinent to the way my teacher has been teaching in recent years. These days Kanetsuka Sensei teaches in what you might call an "unstructured" way, and hardly ever teaches specific techniques. Instead he shows a large range of variants of kokyu-ho, with one or multiple attackers and in suwariwaza, tachiwaza, hanmihandachi and occasionally from lying full-length on the floor or hanging from wall bars. He stresses very much the "first contact", and as soon as you hold him you understand exactly what he means (not that it is guaranteed to work when it's your turn...).

He often says that he is "not teaching aikido", and his favourite analogy for his students who aren't getting what he is teaching is of "hamsters on a wheel" - plenty of repetitive and perhaps mindless effort, but with no useful outcome. In his classes it always feels as if we have to break down all of our habits as well as letting go of the physical strength if we want to do what he can do. Even after more than twenty-five years of trying to follow him it is still hugely challenging.

One of the hardest things after a weekend with Kanetsuka Sensei is to try to teach techniques in a regular class in my own dojo. It often feels as if the structure of the "canonical form" of the techniques is a distraction from the real aim of the training.

Interestingly, on the subject of Ellis's interesting suggestions on the subject of "stopping" the partner, I have never seen Kanetsuka Sensei stop a technique. Sometime he will call someone out in front of the class to show what they are doing wrong, and what happens is that that person tries to throw Sensei, and they simply keep falling over. When this has happened to me it is a weird feeling - it really feels as if his physical body has turned into something completely "other", which completely sidesteps whetever I try to do to him.

Alex
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Old 06-04-2008, 08:14 AM   #41
Robert Wolfe
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

I wanted to respond sooner to some of Mark's posts, but didn't have the chance ‘til now.

I'll caveat my remarks, noting that the situation at our dojo (we're independent) is conducive to this undertaking and we definitely enjoy certain critical advantages others might not. Most importantly, the curriculum designed for us by Ellis was structured with the intention we would move into the internal skills as opportunity presented, and we have the leeway to adapt technically as the internal study informs / illuminates our practice. Others, operating within organizations and more codified curricula are likely much more constrained.

We also enjoy a small, core group within the dojo bringing to the table a considerable breadth of experience and the ability to work collegially and research / debate / test / bang heads with the overall objective that we all get as skilled as possible, together. We're not much into social engineering or having our practice provide a "spiritual" alternative to religion; we honor the ethical standards inherent to aikido, but at the end of the day we would prefer to be the ones still standing.

There are two trains of thought mentioned in this thread, and elsewhere, with which I disagree.

The first is Mark's proposition that the best way to undertake internal training is as an entirely separate endeavor initially, only incorporating the practice to one's martial studies after some considerable period of time. To the degree I've been exposed to the early stages of internal training, I would propose rather that there are aspects to which even aikido novices can relate, and can profit thereby.

Mechanical aspects such as body alignment and structure, weighting, relaxation, and fundamental methods of moving are taught from the beginning in all arts anyway, either implicitly or explicitly, so why not include reference to how these aspects relate to internal skills? Telling a new student, "Do this because ultimately you'll be healthier, more powerful, and better able to kick butt" seems to me to provide a good rationale for undertaking the solo work necessary to getting anywhere with Ellis's approach to aikido, let alone internal skills.

The "mind-directed" aspect of internal skills is certainly an esoteric concept to most people — it is to me, anyway — but, again, it seems to me training beginners to operate intentionally (and in their solo practice, introspectively) at least lays a foundation on which more complex aspects of training might subsequently be addressed.

Mike is adamant that internal principles and paradigms must be integrated to the point they become one's natural state, 24/7, so it seems to me a mistake to start off compartmentalizing the practice, making it something separate from whatever else one does. True, most of us are not at the point we can manifest internal skills in fast-paced training. So slow down! A lot! One of my instructors constantly criticized "practicing at the level of your incompetence." That's a danger, but one avoidable by working consciously and reducing the intensity immediately when it's no longer possible to operate with intent and proper mechanics.

The bottom line to me is that researchers like Mike and Dan are providing a structured means to acquire and incorporate these skill sets. Most of us have very likely seen bits and pieces of these skills in various arts, maybe without even realizing it, but what Mike and Dan are doing is sharing the results of years of their own struggles and searching during a time this material was not typically presented here in a coherent package, so that we might stand on their shoulders and reach higher. (Or at least the younger guys will; some of us will just be hoping to catch up a bit.)

The second notion with which I take exception is the idea that the best way to practice is to say to yourself, "Okay, I know I'm doing this completely wrong…" I mean, I get the point that the greatest obstacle to improvement is self-satisfaction (especially if it's bordering on utter delusion), but if you don't have some notion of what you're supposed to be doing, and whether you're doing it or not, you ought not be doing anything at all (hence the absolute requirement to be shown, hands-on, by someone further down the path). Another of my old instructors used to say, "Practice doesn't make perfect; it makes permanent." Without some clear perception of at least a very basic component, all you're likely to do is ingrain errors. Maybe it's just semantics, but I'd rather build on positives.

To conclude, in the four months following our seminar with Mike Sigman, we've found it is without question possible as a dojo to incorporate things we were shown to regular practices. We also schedule one practice a week focusing exclusively on the material from the seminar. In some cases, we're still arguing how best to incorporate a particular aspect. It's a work in progress.
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Old 06-05-2008, 01:19 AM   #42
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Alex Megann wrote: View Post
These days Kanetsuka Sensei teaches in what you might call an "unstructured" way, and hardly ever teaches specific techniques. Instead he shows a large range of variants of kokyu-ho,
Alex
It sounds to me like he hasn't changed at all !

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Old 06-05-2008, 10:35 AM   #43
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Sorrry. I do not fully understand you here. Which thinker and whose thought?

Best wishes,

PAG
Just trying to say, your thoughts inspired mine but they may not be similar.

Thanks

Jennifer Paige Smith
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Old 06-05-2008, 02:00 PM   #44
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
Aikido has some enormous advantages over most of the other arts where there is also an attempt be various individuals to install or re-install internal strength. There is a structure to Aikido (generally speaking) that is not to be found in all the eclectic "Tai Chee", Bagua, Xingyi, etc., versions being practiced by westerners. Aikido does not have the extreme, cultivated stiffness/tension of so many karate styles (I discourage many karate and Wing Chun, Choy li fut, etc., people from coming to workshops because they are too stiff to change).
I may be asking an incoherent rube question, but could you elaborate what you mean here? I generally understand the stuffness claim, but what do you mean by structure, in this context?
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Old 06-05-2008, 02:24 PM   #45
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

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Nicholas Pagnucco wrote: View Post
what do you mean by structure, in this context?
Generally, Aikido has a classroom structure of everyone doing exercises, technique, working with partners, etc., that is *generally* followed/accomodated throughout the art. Within that general format are a number of already-existing exercises that were originally used for ki/kokyu development, even though those exercises have become ritualistic, muscular, technique-y, etc., almost across the board. It would be a far simpler matter to insert bona fide ki/kokyu training into Aikido than it would into most of the other parodies of Asian arts that flourish in the West. Karate, for example, has for the most part become a muscular parody of the southern Shaolin arts that it derived from.

Taiji (Tai Chi), Xingyi, most of the Chinese martial arts don't follow a generally standardized method of teaching. It's difficult to find any 2 teachers that have classes resembling each others and the theories have become wild, non-standardized guesses that run the spectrum of fantasy and science fiction.

So what I'm saying is that Aikido is like a car body pretty much ready for the engine to be dropped in. Most other arts are just bits and pieces that don't have a waiting coherent structure. One of the most interesting experiments at the moment in the US, in my opinion, is the Itten Dojo and how they attempt to transition to a ki-based Aikido... and not in the flowery sense; in the practical sense.

There may be others attempting the transition out of Dan Harden's methodology (or Akuzawa, Ushiro, and some others that I am being negligent in not mentioning), but I don't have much of a feel what their approach is or how complete the syllabus is, etc., so I can't comment intelligently. If any art can do it, though, it will almost certainly have to be Aikido.

FWIW

Mike Sigman
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Old 06-05-2008, 03:02 PM   #46
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

Thanks; that refined some of my confusion.

Quote:
Mike Sigman wrote: View Post
Generally, Aikido has a classroom structure of everyone doing exercises, technique, working with partners, etc., that is *generally* followed/accomodated throughout the art. Within that general format are a number of already-existing exercises that were originally used for ki/kokyu development, even though those exercises have become ritualistic, muscular, technique-y, etc., almost across the board. It would be a far simpler matter to insert bona fide ki/kokyu training into Aikido than it would into most of the other parodies of Asian arts that flourish in the West. Karate, for example, has for the most part become a muscular parody of the southern Shaolin arts that it derived from.

Taiji (Tai Chi), Xingyi, most of the Chinese martial arts don't follow a generally standardized method of teaching. It's difficult to find any 2 teachers that have classes resembling each others and the theories have become wild, non-standardized guesses that run the spectrum of fantasy and science fiction.

So what I'm saying is that Aikido is like a car body pretty much ready for the engine to be dropped in. Most other arts are just bits and pieces that don't have a waiting coherent structure. One of the most interesting experiments at the moment in the US, in my opinion, is the Itten Dojo and how they attempt to transition to a ki-based Aikido... and not in the flowery sense; in the practical sense.

There may be others attempting the transition out of Dan Harden's methodology (or Akuzawa, Ushiro, and some others that I am being negligent in not mentioning), but I don't have much of a feel what their approach is or how complete the syllabus is, etc., so I can't comment intelligently. If any art can do it, though, it will almost certainly have to be Aikido.

FWIW

Mike Sigman
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Old 06-05-2008, 03:07 PM   #47
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

As Mark has pointed out, the people who will have the hardest time are individuals trying to bring this into their own practice in dojo that aren't necessarily taking the same focus. There will be some struggles, but as I said before, I kind of consider that part of the training.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
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Old 06-05-2008, 03:19 PM   #48
Mike Sigman
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Re: new Ellis Amdur piece on aikido journal

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote: View Post
As Mark has pointed out, the people who will have the hardest time are individuals trying to bring this into their own practice in dojo that aren't necessarily taking the same focus. There will be some struggles, but as I said before, I kind of consider that part of the training.
I, along with a lot of other people who have posted on the subject, agree with that. If you get your eyes opened and you suddenly start trying to practice these things in a dojo where the teacher and other students don't know these things, you either need to quit bother trying to do them or you need to quit the dojo. You're doomed, if you're trying to learn.

I went and looked at a local dojo as a potential place to workout/exercise and after watching the way everyone moved, I knew it would be a waste of time and frustrating to join. Peer pressure would eventually cause friction because I "wasn't doing it the way Sensei showed us", etc. Conformity will kill you.

YMMV

Mike
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