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Old 06-10-2009, 10:09 AM   #1
"Ups and downs"
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Cycles in training

I have been training for app. five years, am a 1st kyu.
I find that my training and my feelings about my aikido tends to go around in grand sweeping cycles. In other words, there is "progression" -- deeper understanding, feeling -- over time, but I have some pretty severe downturns in between.
I feel like I am at the bottom of one right now. At least I hope it doesn't get much worse than this! Nothing works, I can't feel it, I am so absolutely not tuned in and feel like I am on the "outside" of everything, of all the techniques. I continue to train since I know that some day this will all turn around and I want to be there for it, but man, it takes some convincing sometimes. We're not just talking a bad day here, this feels systemic.
Does anyone else have the same kind of experience? What is it all about, do you think?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
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Old 06-10-2009, 10:38 AM   #2
Mark Gibbons
Location: Seattle, WA
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Re: Talk to me about cycles in training

Wow, you have times of deep understanding. Must be nice. I mostly hit myself with variations of "that totally sucks" and occasional "that's not completely wrong". I'm also at about the 5 year point. I can mostly tell when I'm doing something grossly wrong. I rarely do things right the first time, I do try to correct things and move on.

I miss the days when I could just show up, get banged around and not worry about actually doing anything correctly. Right now I'm much better at criticism than at technique. I don't see how to get better without being able to see the problems however.

Good luck,
Mark
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Old 06-10-2009, 10:48 AM   #3
"Ups and Downs"
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Re: Talk to me about cycles in training

Thanks, Mark - yeah, that was intentionally deep-er...
I dunno - sometimes there is what feels like true magic, and the thing is that you can't hold on to it however hard that is to accept.

I find aikido so very different from everything else learned. Usually, you can build on previous experience and specific knowledge. In aikido, it is very difficult to hold on to things you've learned - and perhaps even antithetical to try to do so?

I agree that it becomes easier to know when you are forcing the issue with uke, realize that you are off balance, not centered etc., and it does certainly help, but the magic, though... It is so fleeting and addictive, and yet chasing it will keep it from you.
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Old 06-10-2009, 11:04 AM   #4
Carl Smith
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Re: Talk to me about cycles in training

I'm not really sure it ever gets much better. The ups and downs have kept me guessing what's next since I started in 2000. I've heard it said that you're always a student no matter how far you progress. I certainly feel that way more often than I feel like I know what I'm doing.

I think it's not so much about holding onto things you've learned but about integrating what you learn into your own personal style and making it work for you consistently that's the most difficult part.
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Old 06-10-2009, 11:24 AM   #5
akiy
 
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Re: Cycles in training

If you haven't done so already, I'd recommend reading George Leonard's book "Mastery." It's an easy read and you may find it pertinent to your current situation.

Best,

-- Jun

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Old 06-10-2009, 11:55 AM   #6
ruthmc
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Re: Cycles in training

Ah - the infamous 'Aikido Depression'

It's something that goes along with training.

The best way around it is to accept it as part of the process - eg. 'Today I notice that I cannot feel any connection' - and then let that observation go. Subconsciously you'll be working on it, and one day you'll notice that you're feeling connection again

Don't beat yourself up about it. Don't think you shouldn't be feeling like this. Just calmly observe what is happening (or not!) and trust your body and mind to sort it out when they are ready to

Ruth
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Old 06-10-2009, 12:23 PM   #7
"Ups and Downs"
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Re: Cycles in training

Thanks, Jun, I just checked it out of the library; it does sound very relevant.

"Aiki depression"... that seems a very apt description.
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Old 06-10-2009, 12:56 PM   #8
Lee Salzman
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Re: Cycles in training

One thing to maybe look into is the structure of your training itself. Do you have specific measurable and achievable goals? Do you have a road map of the various necessary and fundamental components of performance, how to improve on them, and how to assemble them all together in the end to form the goal?

Techniques are very complicated things, and depend on so many factors, that in retrospect, it's a wonder we're expected to improve by just doing them, when there are so many things underlying them that we don't really separate and ensure we're doing adequately, and even beyond adequately, exceptionally.

I was at the same point as you very recently. Just going along and waiting for inspiration to come to me or my seniors to provide an answer did not help - neither happened. The only thing that has helped me to break out of it, is to really go back and break out all those factors that I glossed over in my training - never even learned to pay attention to - and specifically try to measure them and improve on them. And once I had ways of measuring them, in absolute terms, I realized - my god, I totally suck at these things, no wonder I can't do any techniques well anymore - I never could really do them intentionally to begin with - I was just showing up and praying for accidental miracles! There were, in fact, objective markers of performance, not just subjective and personal-style specific issues, at which I was really bad, I just never knew how I could look at them or focus on them before.

The structure of aikido does not make this very easy - as a lot of tools are thrown at you, and you have to decide the significance of them in retrospect, without much nuts and bolts instruction or even a lot of conflicting information that makes it hard to sort out how to really train anything at all. I had to look at other things outside of aikido - where it seemed people knew what they were doing and were getting results - and even that required sorting through a lot of junk to find the gems in it, but at least I knew what I wasn't looking for during that time. Once I used that to reveal the true extent of my awfulness, and in what specific things, the way forward became much clearer - as I had to lock onto those specific things and improve them.

Last edited by Lee Salzman : 06-10-2009 at 12:59 PM.
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Old 06-10-2009, 03:01 PM   #9
SeiserL
 
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Re: Cycles in training

Second on Leonard's "Mastery".

Change my head about the learning cycles so you don't keep going in circles.

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 06-10-2009, 08:42 PM   #10
"bbbb"
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Re: Cycles in training

this is not a religion.
this is for the pure joy of it. do you remember at the beginning?

do not let this become bondage.

why do you train?

It is a bad thing when one thing becomes many.
J
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Old 06-10-2009, 10:02 PM   #11
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Cycles in training

another good read is the "Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkins.

http://www.joshwaitzkin.com/

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Old 06-10-2009, 11:18 PM   #12
Abasan
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Re: Cycles in training

I think there's an article here in aikiweb... peaks and troughs or something to that effect. Polishing the mirror maybe, I can't remember... search for it.

I thought you were going to refer to something akin to Tiger Wood's training cycle. He was good, then he went bad to get better. Something which I think requires absolute bravery and tremendous amount of guts to do.

First to believe that what you're doing is not the best way.
Second to believe that what you're going to do is better.
Third to re engineer your body/mental mechanics/understanding to do the second way, thereby regressing in terms of your actual current playability/ability.
Fourth to climb every step back upwards till you reach and surpass your current level.

God give me the strength.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 06-11-2009, 01:48 AM   #13
Eva Antonia
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Re: Cycles in training

Hi all,

oh, how I know these cycles! Only I'm not so sure if it is really "getting worse" or "getting to a better understanding of your deficiencies", which actually would mean that you get better.

I've often heard people saying that the more you advance the more you understand what is still missing, and apparently this understanding comes not smoothly but always package by package, so your physical progress and your observation are not always synchronised.

When I started aikido I was, after some weeks, really convinced that I mastered some techniques like kote gaeshi, kaiten nage or all sorts of sankyo really well. I did not even know the notion of distance, the importance of footwork, of "the center", of keeping your muscles relaxed etc. etc., so this ignorance protected me from being negative (realistic) about the pitiable aikido performance I must have had at that time.

Now, after three years of training there are many many more things I observe, and I suppose, a lot more other things I even cannot suspect that they are there but that I will maybe discover some day. So among the issues I am able to observe there are lots of errors I now see I commit, and many more errors I see that others commit, but that I can see in my own practice only if someone mirrors the errors in my movements. The more errors I see the more I can try to correct, but obviously that needs time and patience, and in meantime I learn to observe new errors. Something like Sisyphus' task

Last Saturday I dislocated my knee during yokomen uchi irimi nage; as tori. That also was due to two errors: 1) doing tai sabaki with straight legs 2) having the wrong distance to uke and trying to pull him with force towards me => straight knee gets bound backwards + torsion = snapping out.

So am I getting WORSE because I do so blatantly WRONG movements, or am I getting better because I start seeing how wrong they are?

I suppose it's more or less the same for you also, and for most aikidoka, and I suppose it'll go on during all our training time...

Have a nice day!

Eva
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Old 06-11-2009, 04:55 AM   #14
ruthmc
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Re: Cycles in training

Quote:
Eva Röben wrote: View Post
So am I getting WORSE because I do so blatantly WRONG movements, or am I getting better because I start seeing how wrong they are?
Hi Eva,

No, you're not getting worse - if the movement is incorrect in some way, it's incorrect - but your knowledge has increased so that you realise it's incorrect, hence you are actually improving

Tiger Woods doesn't screw up his next swing if the previous one was shocking - he lets it go and starts over, each swing is a new swing. If your last effort at, for example tenchi-nage, went horribly wrong, pick ONE thing you notice you could have done better and concentrate on that ONE thing during your next attempt, retaining a positive frame of mind eg "I am keeping my arms extended" instead of "OMG I must not let my arms collapse again I look like such a dork"

Depending upon your level, this ONE thing can be very simple, such as "I will step forward with my right foot first" or more complex such as "I will feel the spiral movement within this technique"

Once I began to accentuate the positive, the Aikido Depressions went away and have not returned

Ruth
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Old 06-11-2009, 09:36 AM   #15
"Ups and Downs"
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Re: Cycles in training

Thank you, all. It has really helped to just "talk" it out and focus some thinking on this.
For some strange reason it does help to know that I am not alone in this "aiki ennui."
I suspect that it has something to do with goal orientation and the frustration that happens when things don't turn out exactly as you want. So, I suppose the lesson is to go with it and not get into some internal altercation about "not/getting better" or "not/doing the right thing," or having some defined end goal in mind. As a matter of fact, that is what usually trips me up in regular practice - I will focus on the throw and not the process, leaving uke completely out of the equation.
There are some techniques that I just love and that sit really well with me. I like to start off with that when I have these low points. But even those sometimes get stuck.
I look forward to reading the books you have recommended.
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Old 06-11-2009, 09:37 AM   #16
Shadowfax
 
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Re: Cycles in training

I wish I could remember where I read this as it was a really helpful way of looking at things.

When you are at a plateau it may seem as if you are making no progress. Learning nothing. But while you are there is when you are learning the most and it is when you find the understanding and it becomes easy again that the lesson has been learned. That point of feeling stuck and trying and trying again to find the right "feeling" or answer, is when you are in fact making the most progress.

Makes plateau no less frustrating but at least more bearable.
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Old 06-11-2009, 01:52 PM   #17
Carl Smith
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Talking Re: Cycles in training

Quote:
Cherie Cornmesser wrote: View Post
I wish I could remember where I read this as it was a really helpful way of looking at things.

When you are at a plateau it may seem as if you are making no progress. Learning nothing. But while you are there is when you are learning the most and it is when you find the understanding and it becomes easy again that the lesson has been learned. That point of feeling stuck and trying and trying again to find the right "feeling" or answer, is when you are in fact making the most progress.

Makes plateau no less frustrating but at least more bearable.
That's certainly true, when things get frustrating and makes you question what your doing sometimes finding the answer is itself a satisfying reward. I love it when a plan comes together...er I could be quoting there.
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Old 06-11-2009, 02:22 PM   #18
"BitWiser"
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Re: Cycles in training

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I have been training for app. five years, am a 1st kyu.
I find that my training and my feelings about my aikido tends to go around in grand sweeping cycles. In other words, there is "progression" -- deeper understanding, feeling -- over time, but I have some pretty severe downturns in between.
I feel like I am at the bottom of one right now. At least I hope it doesn't get much worse than this! Nothing works, I can't feel it, I am so absolutely not tuned in and feel like I am on the "outside" of everything, of all the techniques. I continue to train since I know that some day this will all turn around and I want to be there for it, but man, it takes some convincing sometimes. We're not just talking a bad day here, this feels systemic.
Does anyone else have the same kind of experience? What is it all about, do you think?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Maybe it's not so much a cycle as a spiral? You start out with "nothing," start adding to it, and while at first there seems to be little or no progress you do start to feel results over time. Then you get "kicked upstairs" to a new level of expectation that is beyond your physical and mental scope, and you're lost again, just as you were at the beginning. I'm using "you" in the general sense, by the way, and I'm including myself!

Each time you get boosted to a new level of skill and understanding, there's your teacher ready to hand you something you feel utterly unprepared to understand or perform. It's like weightlifting: you have to push beyond your current skill level in order to progress to heavier loads, but you'll experience total muscle failure, soreness and exhaustion when you push past your current weight limit.

In other words, we have to break ourselves down in order to build ourselves up. And each time we do, the bar is lifted and we do it again. Sometimes, that space or period between moving on from what we already can do and into something we can't do yet, there is a "plateau." Sometimes that interstice can last a maddeningly long time. It's happened to me, and the only advice I can give is that if it goes on for more than a few months, it might be a good idea to take a little break and do something else for a bit, then go back refreshed.

Keep in mind that each time you go up the spiral, you know a little more, can do a little more than before, than when you were lower on that spiral.
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Old 06-11-2009, 05:39 PM   #19
Marc Abrams
Dojo: Aikido Arts of Shin Budo Kai/ Bedford Hills, New York
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Re: Cycles in training

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I have been training for app. five years, am a 1st kyu.
I find that my training and my feelings about my aikido tends to go around in grand sweeping cycles. In other words, there is "progression" -- deeper understanding, feeling -- over time, but I have some pretty severe downturns in between.
I feel like I am at the bottom of one right now. At least I hope it doesn't get much worse than this! Nothing works, I can't feel it, I am so absolutely not tuned in and feel like I am on the "outside" of everything, of all the techniques. I continue to train since I know that some day this will all turn around and I want to be there for it, but man, it takes some convincing sometimes. We're not just talking a bad day here, this feels systemic.
Does anyone else have the same kind of experience? What is it all about, do you think?

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
I recently wrote a blog on my dojo website that addresses your post. Please read it and I hope that it can be of some help and guidance for you.

http://aasbk.com/blog/?page_id=72

Marc Abrams
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Old 06-15-2009, 03:26 PM   #20
"Ups and Downs"
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Re: Cycles in training

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
Sometimes that interstice can last a maddeningly long time. It's happened to me, and the only advice I can give is that if it goes on for more than a few months, it might be a good idea to take a little break and do something else for a bit, then go back refreshed.

Keep in mind that each time you go up the spiral, you know a little more, can do a little more than before, than when you were lower on that spiral.
It feels like a spiral, for sure.
I did have an interesting experience - we had a self-defense seminar at work, you know, with eye gouging, groin-kicking and big giant styrofoam heads. Nobody asked us about our backgrounds, and I was really curious how it would work. It seems to have broken the "spell" - it was great to see how all the training applies in a situation when the expectations and the setting is completely different than the dojo. They did surprise attacks from the back, and I also got to play with two of them at one time. The center and the focus was right there, and I did not get sucked in but could keep calm. I guess it just helped put things in perspective on a very physical level.
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