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Old 07-19-2008, 02:09 PM   #1
Zach Trent
Dojo: Integral Dojo
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When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

I wonder how people could tell (or if) when they stopped being a beginner at Aikido and moved onto "comfortable" or "intermediate". Was it a belt rank? Was it something internal? Was there a mile-stone involved? Maybe it was such gradual process that you didn't notice!

I ask because I'm beginning to feel a little more comfortable about this martial art, but I still have classes where I leave more puzzled than when I came in! Maybe I can learn from you about your experience in progressing

Thanks!

Zach, Brattleboro, VT
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Old 07-19-2008, 02:29 PM   #2
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

"Shoshin (beginner/ordinary mind) Is The Way."

Think of training as becoming more comfortable with mysteries than answers. IOW, Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Sounds like you're having fun!
Jen

Jennifer Paige Smith
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Old 07-19-2008, 03:06 PM   #3
mathewjgano
 
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

Quote:
Jennifer Smith wrote: View Post
"Shoshin (beginner/ordinary mind) Is The Way."

Think of training as becoming more comfortable with mysteries than answers. IOW, Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Sounds like you're having fun!
Jen
WORD! Beginner's luck isn't really luck, in my opinion.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 07-19-2008, 03:15 PM   #4
reisler
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

I have heard frequently that when you reach Shodan, you are just beginning. I am very much a beginner (less than a year) so I don't know anything yet but....
I think there is much more to advancing past beginner than just a belt level. Aikido goes beyond techniques and belts, it is a way of life, an attitude, a presence. I have the priviledge of practicing with experienced Aikidoka and it is an honour to learn from them.

Roberta
Aikido - a kinder, gentler can o' Whoop Ass.
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Old 07-19-2008, 04:13 PM   #5
Lyle Bogin
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

At about 3rd kyu I was able to do a lot of techniques to most people's satisfaction, and could throw newbies pretty well. At 1st kyu I could do very strong throws, convincing pins, etc. My ukemi improved and softened. At shodan, free from the curriculum (no more tests), I actually think my technique is improving while I'm giving "weaker" throws. Most of the major changes I've made on the mat come from wanting my training to reflect my life and personality.
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Old 07-19-2008, 05:14 PM   #6
Neal Earhart
 
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

This is my 20th year of Aikido...in the grand scheme of things, I consider myself a beginner...

So much to learn...so little time...
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Old 07-19-2008, 07:21 PM   #7
crbateman
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

Never, IMHO...
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Old 07-19-2008, 08:33 PM   #8
B.J.M.
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

Huh?! There is such a thing in Aikido?!

I think I'll always be a "beginner". My sensei is constantly discovering new things in his training and evolving his Aikido, and he is a 7th dan!
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Old 07-19-2008, 09:04 PM   #9
Keith Larman
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

As my sensei likes to say, we're all beginners. Some have just been beginners longer...

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Old 07-19-2008, 10:13 PM   #10
jennifer paige smith
 
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

Hi All,
A little change of pace.....
Two days ago I sat with my 20+ year old cat as he passed in form from this life. He has been my truest companion and foundation since the y=before I even began my journey in aikido. When he cam tot me he was a young adult cat, distinguished, present and guiding. I knew that he was my friend from the moment I met him and I couldn't have imagined the years that we would travel together. For the most of our years he was the wise guide;pulling me home after class so I could feed him, sit with him and watch "Just Shoot Me". He felt so much more stable than me. As I grew in my life and in my practice he always seemed to be with or ahead of me in some intangible wisdom that he xpressed by 'being'. After 10 years I renamed him "Master Shook", referring to him as "the master" frequently.
As his years went along, he became more frail, childlike, and dependant; often waking me 2 and 3 times a night for a much needed bite of food and a stroke on the head. More chilldlike in his needs and wiser in his presence. I tried everthing I coud to make him comfortable until the end, which came in so many more years than I have any right to expect. On the last day I called my mom in a certain state of pre-grief and expressed to her the guilt I was feeling about his frail condition, I so wished I could have made him happier. My mom told me, as moms can be so good at, the story of a young girl who took on the temporary commitment of a cat that turned into a lifetime commitment of unconditional love that ended when the cat knew the young girl was happy.
And so when my cat took his last breath it was while I was laughing over an episode of M*A*S*H*. I was happy and he could move on. He was returned to the state of a child in his needs and body and I was returned to the state of a child in my innocence and joy. And if there is anything I can say for sure, the beginning mind and the new beginning mind are cycles we must go through over and over again, joyfully, willingly, wisely, humorously, honestly, innocently, and terminally. That is love. That is beginners mind. That is to say there is only now, ever and eternally. So don't forget to remember. Then Forget.
In loving honor of all my friendships new and old,
Let's all begin together, again
Love
Jen

Jennifer Paige Smith
Confluence Aikido Systems
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Old 07-20-2008, 12:53 PM   #11
Mark Uttech
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

The beginning keeps changing; but, uh yeah, I remember a time when I began to feel familiar with the dojo. 3rd kyu was another beginning; I was working on my car when I realized techniques flowed into each other. Shodan was a whole new beginning; so was Nidan. Sandan was the beginning of a floating world, with yellow plastic flowers scattered in a cemetery. Yondan was ringing a bell in the crematorium at Birkenau. Yah, it keeps beginning.

In gassho,

Mark

- Right combination works wonders -
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Old 07-20-2008, 12:59 PM   #12
mathewjgano
 
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

Quote:
Jennifer Smith wrote: View Post
Hi All,
A little change of pace.....
Two days ago I sat with my 20+ year old cat as he passed in form from this life. He has been my truest companion and foundation since the y=before I even began my journey in aikido. When he cam tot me he was a young adult cat, distinguished, present and guiding. I knew that he was my friend from the moment I met him and I couldn't have imagined the years that we would travel together. For the most of our years he was the wise guide;pulling me home after class so I could feed him, sit with him and watch "Just Shoot Me". He felt so much more stable than me. As I grew in my life and in my practice he always seemed to be with or ahead of me in some intangible wisdom that he xpressed by 'being'. After 10 years I renamed him "Master Shook", referring to him as "the master" frequently.
As his years went along, he became more frail, childlike, and dependant; often waking me 2 and 3 times a night for a much needed bite of food and a stroke on the head. More chilldlike in his needs and wiser in his presence. I tried everthing I coud to make him comfortable until the end, which came in so many more years than I have any right to expect. On the last day I called my mom in a certain state of pre-grief and expressed to her the guilt I was feeling about his frail condition, I so wished I could have made him happier. My mom told me, as moms can be so good at, the story of a young girl who took on the temporary commitment of a cat that turned into a lifetime commitment of unconditional love that ended when the cat knew the young girl was happy.
And so when my cat took his last breath it was while I was laughing over an episode of M*A*S*H*. I was happy and he could move on. He was returned to the state of a child in his needs and body and I was returned to the state of a child in my innocence and joy. And if there is anything I can say for sure, the beginning mind and the new beginning mind are cycles we must go through over and over again, joyfully, willingly, wisely, humorously, honestly, innocently, and terminally. That is love. That is beginners mind. That is to say there is only now, ever and eternally. So don't forget to remember. Then Forget.
In loving honor of all my friendships new and old,
Let's all begin together, again
Love
Jen
Thank you, Jensei (hope you don't mind my borrowing that for the moment...seems appropriate). That was a beautiful exposition on beginner mind! ...And it reminds me of my own 20+ cat (lbs. and years), Gus. From about ages 10 to 30 he was with me and I can honestly say I learned a lot from him. To me, beginner mind means opening yourself to insight in even the most mundane/unassuming of experiences. Hence, sitting and watching TV with your childhood friend can open up worlds of insight.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 07-21-2008, 08:27 AM   #13
SeiserL
 
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

THree days after I die if I am cremated and 7 days if I am buried.
Shoshin, beginners mind.
Always still a beginner.

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 07-21-2008, 08:52 AM   #14
Mike James
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

I'm always a beginner. There is always more to learn from someone. A different way to do a technique.

masakatsu agatsu
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Old 07-21-2008, 05:09 PM   #15
Stefan Stenudd
 
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Three years on a stone

Of course we're beginners all our lives. But that's kind of semantics. Although we continue to learn eagerly and humbly, we do progress.
Normally, when the student is allowed to put on a hakama he or she is expected to have reached some kind of intermediary level - being able to practice with reasonable vigor and focus, and so on.

I think of the old proverb: Even on a stone, three years.
Even if it's something as simple as sitting down on a stone, it takes three years to learn.
But after three years, you've got it. You can sit on a stone. After ten years you know it even better, and after thirty you are surely a master of it - but anyway, after three years you have the basic skill.

I think there is a three year thing in aikido: You certainly don't master aikido at that point, but you have become aware of how far aikido can take you, what you can reach by it, in the big perspective. That's the first "satori" of one's aikido path: seeing how far it can lead.

When it comes to my students, I expect them to have that kind of insight after three years of training. And I expect them to reconsider whether they should continue to practice at my dojo, or move on. If they make the decision to leave earlier than that, I am sure that they have not yet grasped what they might be missing - or not. If they remain after three years, I am honored.
They are still students at the dojo, but with another awareness, and therefore I try to be more receptive to their needs as they see them.

Stefan Stenudd
My aikido website: http://www.stenudd.com/aikido/
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Old 07-21-2008, 05:31 PM   #16
aikidoc
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

A beginner's mindset should always be maintained. To do otherwise means you have stopped learning.
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Old 07-21-2008, 07:13 PM   #17
Lyle Bogin
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

Saying you are always a beginner is cheating, using a philosophical point. Of course we all strive for shoshin.

But it's such a common thing to do among instructors and traditional martial artists that in and of itself it becomes a form of bragging. How did you earn the right to be so modest? If modesty is an indication of mastery, aren't you just saying "hey look how advanced I am"? Rather than modesty, it's just dishonesty.
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Old 07-21-2008, 07:35 PM   #18
Keith Larman
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

Quote:
Lyle Bogin wrote: View Post
Saying you are always a beginner is cheating, using a philosophical point. Of course we all strive for shoshin.

But it's such a common thing to do among instructors and traditional martial artists that in and of itself it becomes a form of bragging. How did you earn the right to be so modest? If modesty is an indication of mastery, aren't you just saying "hey look how advanced I am"? Rather than modesty, it's just dishonesty.
No, I'd argue that in many cases it is an acknowledgment of the complexity and depth of what it is you're trying to learn. Some things are never really mastered. So the expression isn't just about "beginner's mind" but an awareness of the incredible depth of the area of study.

FWIW when I first started polishing I did a few swords and thought "wow, that's not so hard." Then I learned a bit more and looked at what I'd done. Ouch. Then I got more training. Ouch again. Now after a lot of years doing it I realize how much more there is to learn with each and every sword I work on. And I'm not even working on antiques in terms of blade restoration... And while I have people who like my work (which is really nice in many respects) from where I'm sitting I just see how much more I have to figure out. I had a sword polished by a living national treasure for a while in my safe. I studied that over and over again because it literally exponentially expanded my awareness of how very much I have to still improve.

Frankly with this stuff (aikido included) if you think you've got it all figured out you're either the one-in-a-million supremely gifted and magically enlightened "one"

*or*

you've simply missed something.

Smart money is on the latter...

It's not false modesty most of the time IMHO. Just relaxing into a realization that this is a *really* long road... it is a matter of an expanded (and greatly lengthened) perspective...

Last edited by Keith Larman : 07-21-2008 at 07:40 PM. Reason: Spelling errrrrors :)

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Old 07-21-2008, 09:37 PM   #19
aikidoc
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

I disagree about it being dishonest. All I have to do is have a session with my sensei and I realize how little I know and how much I have yet to learn.
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Old 07-21-2008, 10:43 PM   #20
Nafis Zahir
 
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

Never! Still am and always will be! I've been training since 1994 and still feel like I'm always starting over.

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Old 07-21-2008, 11:04 PM   #21
Randy Sexton
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

Jensei,
Master Shook taught you one of the greatest lessons and gifts of life. "To live in the now giving and receiving love." Your story brought tears to my eyes as I remembered my best friend who taught me the same lesson. A female minature Schnauzer we called "Sugar Bear." She died at 9 years old of lung cancer. Our "pets" sometimes are our greatest teachers. They remind us to stand with our face to the sun and smell the breeze, to roll in the grass with abandon, to love our food no matter how simple and snuggle with our bestest friends.
Doc

"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will"
Gandhi
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Old 07-22-2008, 03:02 AM   #22
Stefan Stenudd
 
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Beginner's mind attitude

Quote:
John Riggs wrote: View Post
I disagree about it being dishonest. All I have to do is have a session with my sensei and I realize how little I know and how much I have yet to learn.
On the other hand, haven't you trained with juniors or equals in the dojo, thinking that you have learned a lot?

Stefan Stenudd
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Old 07-22-2008, 04:48 AM   #23
Ethan Weisgard
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

I saw someone at an aikido training camp a long time ago with a T-shirt that said "Aikido - I'm still confused, just at a higher level."

Nice way of putting it, isn't it?

In aiki,

Ethan Weisgard
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Old 07-22-2008, 10:09 PM   #24
PeterKang
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

QUOTE=Ethan Weisgard;211827]I saw someone at an aikido training camp a long time ago with a T-shirt that said "Aikido - I'm still confused, just at a higher level."

Nice way of putting it, isn't it?

In aiki,

Ethan Weisgard[/quote]

Spot on. I think that its really true that over many practices, one becomes increasingly aware of the magnitude of learning required for understanding. I've been told that aikido is a lifetime of learning... which really speaks to the need of shoshin.

I think that the learning journey is analogous to approaching a mountain you are attempting to climb. The mountain looks small at a distance, but looks increasing large as you get closer until you get to the base where it seems formidable. ( shodan perhaps?) Then your ascent begins..... as for me I am not even close to being midway to the peak.
I don't think that its necessarily true that saying you're a beginner is an act of false modesty... I would have to look at the person's behavior as a whole to decide if he or she was truly modest or otherwise.
Generally I choose to accept a person's word for what it is, much like I try to accept nage's technique during ukemi, with as open a heart and mind as possible without giving a mindless opening.

I hope that you enjoy your ukemi as much as I enjoy mine.

In aiki,

Peter
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Old 07-24-2008, 03:56 PM   #25
Basia Halliop
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Re: When did you stop being a beginner in Aikido?

The problem is that beginner and advanced are more relative than absolute terms. So they only really make sense in some kind of context, i.e., compared to who(m). That goes for any field unless there's a theoretical logical ceiling for the skill set,(i.e. a point at which you are literally 'perfect' and it's simply not possible to be better) -- this is true of math or music or most things you can study, as much as of Aikido.

The question of what word you use to define yourself isn't unique to Aikido, either; it happens with anything you study enough to have some sense of how far a person could in theory go. Random example: in my last year of high school I really felt like I was doing 'advanced' math when I took calculus, but pretty soon in university and a couple math courses into my engineering degree I felt more like a beginner, and not because I was doing it that badly, just because I started to see how immense and deep the field truely was and how vastly more advanced it was possible to go than my (now seemingly incredibly piddling) little first and second year calculus, algebra, differential equations, etc courses. People spend decades studying, as a full-time job, just a small subset of just one of those. But on the other hand the math I learned is still advanced compared to high school math or elementary school arithmetic.
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