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Old 12-10-2009, 10:04 PM   #1
Chris Farnham
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Bara Bara training thoughts?

Bara Bara is a Japanese word that generally translates as scattered, disperse, disconnected, in pieces...I am using it here in reference to the fact that I am currently training with multiple groups. I am regularly practice with two seperate groups with a third(a reletively nearby Shihan's dojo) that I visit semi regularly, and on occasion I make trips to the Ibaraki Shibu Dojo and Hombu. While I sometimes enjoy seeing a variety of approaches to the art it can also be a bit frustrating when I am told to do something one way one dojo when two days earlier I was adamently told the exact opposite at another dojo. Of course I have my own opinions of which approaches are best but whenever I am at one dojo I try to leave things I have learned at other dojos at the door. Sometimes I wonder if this is aiding or retarding my growth. I was lucky in that my first five years of training were with one teacher whose approach to Aikido I respected, and who had learned from a high level Japanese Shihan. The irony is that now that I live in the birthplace of Aikido, I have to run around just to get in a decent amount of practices each week. What are other peoples thoughts on this kind of training? If you do it, do you think that it helps you or hinders you? How do you put it all together to find the underlying commonalities? How do you bring unity to your practice?
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Old 12-11-2009, 03:17 AM   #2
dalen7
 
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Heh, funny you should ask.

You say techniques vary from dojo to dojo... try the same dojo where your instructor says one thing and the leading kyu says another!

This has thrown more than one person off to be certain, and confused me at the beginning as well.
[one reason it would be nice to have the instructor consistently come and teach...]

I try to avoid the confusion that comes with showing someone something different by saying, "hey look, this is how I understand it, and how it works for me - do you feel the technique is working, etc.? If so, try it out, or just keep trying the way you know." [And typically the way they know they are having issues with, and then they pick up what Im showing them. Its the freedom of choosing vs. thinking there is a right and wrong way or strict way of doing something...]

The point is that I reinforce the idea that Aikido is about possibilities and relies on underlying principles to make techniques work... not a certain step by step formula. [The step by steps are more like training wheels, but once you take them off, you can lean that bike as much as you want in any given direction... etc.]

When approaching the training this way, only to stop people when I dont feel their technique working, [and by that I mean that I am still stable, they haven't taken by balance, etc.] I have noticed that they gained more confidence and have picked up training faster.

Its that initial insecurity of trying to master a 100 steps, added to the "no not this way" - "but so and so said", etc. that hold people back and frustrate them to the point that they dont even want to show up again.

A good example of using underlying principles to make the technique work:

The other day, despite how terrible I did at the grappling portion of my Thai Boxing/MMA class, I actually pulled off kotegaeshi and got a tap from one guy who is a bit larger than me.

Did I do the correct steps, etc? How could I when we were on our knees in the clinch position - the fact is I got in some weird position to keep him from getting me to tap from which I was able to transition and apply kotegaeshi.

If you were to actually take Aikido and use it in sport, you would see that the "its not done this way" kind of fades away.

So take it with a grain of salt. If anything the various ways of doing an Aikido technique will help you find out how better to adjust how the technique works for you.

After awhile, they will hopefully ignore the differences as you hone your skill and they just see that it is working for you - or they will eventually start training with someone else, etc.

Peace

dAlen

Last edited by dalen7 : 12-11-2009 at 03:28 AM.

dAlen [day•lynn]
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Old 12-12-2009, 02:08 AM   #3
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Quote:
Chris Farnham wrote: View Post
Sometimes I wonder if this is aiding or retarding my growth.
I'm in your area (for one evening only) and can discuss this over a beer with you later, but just to keep the thread going and for the potential benefit of others…

Short term: I think it retards your growth.

Long term: I think the experience of having to constantly figure out how what people are doing is different and having to constantly reset yourself to accommodate different sensei must help with your training in the end. It must be a good skill to develop for when you do get a chance to focus again.
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Old 12-19-2009, 05:06 AM   #4
Ethan Weisgard
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Hi Chris,

I agree with Carl. I'm from the Iwama school myself, from quite a ways back. I feel that - as in any art - you need a stable foundation to start with. Your body needs to find certain positions, posture and "waypoints" in each technique. These aspects should settle into your body memory firmly. Once you have an instinctive, firm form and a stable way of moving through your techniques, then you can try to experience others "ways" of doing things. But if you need to respond instantaneously when executing aikido (and this is highly recommendable!) you should not have your body sending you mixed signals.
I am a drummer, and when learning to play, you start with rudiments. You choose one kind of stick technique (matched grip or traditional / "marching" grip) and work your way through all of the different combinations of stick technique. You need to be able to play everything at all speeds using the technique of your choice. Then if you want to, you can go over to using the other type of grip, and learn all of the rudiments using that grip. But if you try to learn the basics using both grips at once, it becomes chaotic.This is exactly the way I see the learning process in relation to aikido training.

In aiki,

Ethan
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Old 12-19-2009, 04:20 PM   #5
RED
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

I don't see a problem to even be discussed.

Happiness is training.
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Old 12-19-2009, 05:01 PM   #6
aikishihan
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Perhaps there is some confusion between "style" and of "substance".

We practice waza and tai sabaki to better understand and incorporate Aiki principles within ourselves. I do not believe that Aiki principles can or should be used to master a particular style.

As long as the goal of training assists in following the Founder's advice to practice "Aiki", the style should be secondary, or not even a meaningful factor at all.

If joy in training and personal growth are inevitable, relax and enjoy the process.

with respect,
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Old 12-19-2009, 06:43 PM   #7
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

I think Ethan Sensei hit the nail on the head, particularly with his drumming analogy. I felt almost exactly the kind of neural chaos he described when I went through a similar situation in the same location that Chris is in now.

David Alexander sensei has more or less the same advice in this article here
Quote:
David Alexander wrote:
All people are different, and those who are interested in martial arts should seek out a style which best suits their personality and goals. If one martial art does not provide everything they are looking for, they may consider training in several.
A good strategy is to select the most apparently suitable martial art as primary, and train long enough to develop a high level of proficiency. Then, seek out other martial arts and incorporate their teachings into the primary system. This is, in fact, an excellent way to become a true and well rounded martial artist.
I don't think it is wrong to start out "bara bara" but it is not without its problems.

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
I don't see a problem to even be discussed.
Happiness is training.
Training is indeed happiness (at least it should be). But imagine one teacher is teaching you to move one way and another teacher is telling you to move another. In both teachers classes, you inevitably confuse the two ways of moving. I can understand that it is still training and that training may still be happiness (regardless of conflicting instructions slowing it down) but that is the "problem"(issue) being discussed.

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
As long as the goal of training assists in following the Founder's advice to practice "Aiki", the style should be secondary, or not even a meaningful factor at all.
Does it become meaningful when you habitually turn the wrong way giving massive openings to your opponent, wrong-foot yourself or actually step face-first into someone's fist while doing a full "body-stammer" due to conflicting teachings (I've done this!)? In isolation, either dojo's ways could be fine, but until they are reconciled, surely it is an obstacle in practicing the Founder's Aiki.

Btw: In my opinion the OP has a very good grounding in his original home-dojo's aikido so reconciling the different styles is not impossible.
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Old 12-19-2009, 10:42 PM   #8
aikishihan
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Hi all,

Great ideas about very real subjects and possible scenarios!

Carl,

I am not familiar with your training background or orientation, so I hope you will forgive me if I misunderstand.

My all too brief post simply referred to what I feel the Founder's purpose was of pursuing his curiosity of what Aiki has to offer for himself. He had already answered the other questions about survivability, martial proficiency, and the very ethical question of how we need to defend ourselves, without undue harm to ourselves, and to others.

No question that these very same questions are asked by serious martial artists before, now and in the future. It remains an individual choice to seek out effective systems within or outside of Aikido to do so. A gun permit works just fine.

For myself, I truly attempt to apply the Aiki principles of ma-ai, of not being where the attack occurs. I apply the principle of hanmi, so that I choose to withdraw or execute irimi; I appreciate the non confrontational benefits of kuzushi, verbal and non verbal, and the actual physical techniques, to create the opening I can and will appropriately utilize. Proper shisei gives me added time to see the opponent's attack a bit longer, to run through options on a subcounscious level, drawn from my countless hours of training.The list goes on, but the need to consider fighting first stops now for me.

Question is, are we training to eventually prove that our use of techniques, and the system of choice, will actually function in a fight? If so, we will surely succeed, as that slippery slope is ever enticing and seductive. We become what we think about most of the time, according to Earl Nightingale. We can, and should explore the many ways to avoid physical confrontation as the first resort. This is not what Aiki, and the Founder's Aikido means to me.

The greatest single weapon I have ever encountered or studied, is the genuine smile, which projects the desire for non violence. Yet, you are correct, that to not be prepared for conflict resolution on a more primitive scale, is foolish and unwise. The advice previously given of choosing to master one style at a time, is prudent and advisable.Training in "Aiki", means that we are always willing to learn 24/7, of all aspects of being an effective and responsible modern day martiall artist. After all, I would hate to be incarcerated because I misunderstood the intention of an innocent or an ignorant person. For sure, I would likely be labeled the "aggressor".

The point of the original post may well be lost by now, but I believe that the apparently overwhelming emphasis on comparing fighting philosophies ignores the Founder's message, and his vision. I do hope that the direction of future conversations will include more instances of how to establish and maintain meaningful relationships. , rather than being on the lookout for potential enemies. A quote I like kinda goes like this. "I have had so many problems and scary situations in my life, that have yet to happen.".

Thank you for the opportunity to exchange interesting ideas!

In Oneness,
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Old 12-20-2009, 01:34 AM   #9
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Thank you for taking the time to answer so thoroughly, Francis Sensei. Thanks also for pointing out the only problem I might have had with your response by yourself:
Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
The point of the original post may well be lost by now, but ...
As for this...
Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
I am not familiar with your training background or orientation, so I hope you will forgive me if I misunderstand.
Forgive me too. I mainly fall in with the Founder's remaining students in Ibaraki. I started off in independent Uni Aikido, confused myself with Seifukai (still a good experience in retrospect) then found direction again in an Aikikai dojo before finally finding "Aiki Heaven" hidden in plain sight at the Founder's old dojo by the Aiki-Shrine in Old Iwama Town.
Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
Question is, are we training to eventually prove that our use of techniques, and the system of choice, will actually function in a fight?
From what I gather, the Founder often told his students to ask themselves why they are training, why they are doing this technique or why use the sword or jo and his students who remember his words still tell their own students to ask themselves the same questions. In this instance, I don't think it matters if the objective is "a real fight" or not. For example, the OP could be studying different ways to smile at an opponent and still come up with the same trouble when he ends up neither doing it the "coquettish" way of one sensei nor the "beaming" approach favoured by the different system (and gets punched for the resultant spasmodic "ogling").

What would you advise to overcome this scenario?
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Old 12-20-2009, 10:08 AM   #10
Amir Krause
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

An old Jewish story tells of the Rabi, who has to settle a quarrel:
One person states his claims and the Rabi then says :you are right"
the opposing person states his claims and the Rabi then says :you are right".
Then the Rabi's wife who heard everything tells him: " How can they both be right after stating the exact opposite?"
and he answers - "You too are correct".

When I was in Japan (only for a visit), I had a very similar experience, while learning a small style, I wen to 3 different classes, and two of the teachers constantly claimed each of them was teaching the correct way, and each even claimed to have asserted it with the system founder (Sensei Minoro Hirai - founder of Korindo Aikido).
I just tried to remember how to act in each lesson, in order to learn as much as I could from each of them. Both had a lot to teach me, and if you ask me, both were correct, depending on the purpose of the exercise.

My advice to you is to try and examine do the solutions really conflict? e.g. Are they really addressing the exact same situation?

Amir
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Old 12-20-2009, 08:45 PM   #11
aikishihan
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

A genuine smile is not a technique, nor is it intended to function as a "stall tactic" or false bravado. To be genuine, it must spring from a solid foundation of personal courage, well earned confidence in one's abilities, and a compassionate need to resolve conflicts of any nature without resorting to violent words or actions as the first resort.

I am curious as to why we do not believe, in general, that there is much more to training in Aiki than simply bashing and being bashed.

Morihiro Saito was a true giant of Aikido, and I have been privileged to train with him at Iwama. Yet the first and only time I did, I had to pair with Inagaki Sensei, and we both had to ratchet it up to make it through. It was Saito Sensei himself who stopped the "practice" by throwing me in a realistic manner. The look on his face when I arrived the following week with NIdai Doshu was classic.

I gained much from the experience, and note that Inagaki Shihan assists Isoyama Shihan at the old shrine. Both are fine gentlemen.

Color me Californian, tie died, and goofy. What others think of me is non of my business. I yam what I yam, and this works for me and my core supporters. I truly believe that we have not even scratched the surface of Aiki's potential, and shame on us "leaders" for not getting the message, change our behavior, and do justice to the Founder's true intent of interacting harmoniously within our respective societies. Aiki Principles are universal, yet we tend to treat such exploration of their obvious benefits as taboo, or a feat beyond our skill and interest.

I am positive that the majority of experienced Aikido adepts would have no problems dealing with actual attacks. Isn't it time to include the study of the myriad wonders that Aiki training promises?

So, I will continue to "beam" at the people I meet. It has worked wondrously for me over the years, and I am still to engage in my first "fight".

Amir, great example of Aiki principles in action! Reminds me of a quote attributed to the late Henry Ford. "Whether you think you can, or if you think you cannot, you are right."

I think we can.

In Oneness

Last edited by aikishihan : 12-20-2009 at 08:47 PM.
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Old 12-20-2009, 09:05 PM   #12
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Quote:
Carl Thompson wrote: View Post

Training is indeed happiness (at least it should be). But imagine one teacher is teaching you to move one way and another teacher is telling you to move another. In both teachers classes, you inevitably confuse the two ways of moving. I can understand that it is still training and that training may still be happiness (regardless of conflicting instructions slowing it down) but that is the "problem"(issue) being discussed.
Eh, just go with it. You'll find your own style some where in between.
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Old 12-20-2009, 11:36 PM   #13
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Thank you very much for sharing the story about Inagaki Shihan.

Quote:
Francis Takahashi wrote: View Post
A genuine smile is not a technique, nor is it intended to function as a "stall tactic" or false bravado. To be genuine, it must spring from a solid foundation of personal courage, well earned confidence in one's abilities, and a compassionate need to resolve conflicts of any nature without resorting to violent words or actions as the first resort.
I hope I did not give you the impression that I think you are training people how to smile as a technique -- it was just an analogy. Also, I do not disagree with your opinion about the smile at all. Far from it! I think the OP's problem is pretty simple: Conflicting instruction. It could be conflicting instruction from a blinkered, fight-orientated form of aikido or it could be conflicting instruction from a form that emphasises the good things you described. I think it could also be conflicting instruction from something like drumming as Ethan sensei suggested.

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
Eh, just go with it. You'll find your own style some where in between.
Agreed. It looks like he really just has to put up with it. Or move.

PS: (and I mean it!)
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Old 12-21-2009, 04:10 AM   #14
Walter Martindale
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Well... The people in sports sciences study this sort of stuff because there's money riding on people developing their skills. Unfortunately I can't cite the authors in the paper I'm going to describe, but... It's called "decision training". One study was done with baseball batting, where a group of relatively new baseball players were split into two for batting practice. All batters faced 45 pitches a day - 15 sliders, 15 fastballs, 15 curveballs. One half of the group essentially faced all 15 of each type in a row (blocked practice), and the other group faced whatever was written on the slip of paper drawn by the pitcher at random (random practice). The group doing blocked practice initially learned to hit each type of pitch sooner and more effectively but couldn't handle it well when a more-or-less-live situation came up and they were faced with random pitches. The group doing random practice were slower to develop their hitting ability, but were better in the long run than the blocked practice group -even after a period of no practice. It may be because they observe farther back into the pitch to see what's coming. IIRC, When the group that had been doing random practice were presented with the blocked practice situation they outperformed the group that had trained in blocked practice.

The same sort of thing seems to work in Aikido if you don't know what's coming before you actually see it on its way, you may initially get hit lots of times (be nice, now) but you learn to figger out the signals from the attacker while he or she is forming the attack rather than after it's already on the way. Most of the time in most dojo I've visited or trained in, the practice is blocked, we do technique A in response to attack B, four times, and then change roles. Jiyu (sp?)-waza is more like "random" practice, and while it may involve getting hit or overwhelmed more often than blocked practice, we should learn how to defend against a real attack "out there"... I know some (well, many) dojo don't practice for "real" attacks, but - hey - it's a martial art - a "budo"

So - I think - it may in the long run pay off to be rather bara bara.., but it will be frustrating on the way.

Walter

Last edited by Walter Martindale : 12-21-2009 at 04:13 AM.
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Old 12-22-2009, 05:19 PM   #15
Ethan Weisgard
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Hello all,

There are some very interesting and valid points being made here.

I think that we need to look at which level of Aikido development we are dealing with, when speaking about whether or not one should go "bara bara" or not.

If using the baseball analogy, I would say that no matter what you are dealing with in terms of batting, you still need to learn to swing the bat properly. There are different ways of swinging the bat, but in terms of physically teaching your body to get a good fundamental form, I think most would agree that it is better to let one instructor teach you how to stand, grip, observe and swing. If you have three different batting coaches teaching you to begin with, it will obviously get pretty confusing. Saito Sensei would often use the baseball analogy of having to learn how to throw and catch the ball before actually getting into the game.
Once you have established a good outer form, then of course you should be open to what may be found from other sources.
And then in regard to the spiritual aspects of Aikido: Isoyama Shihan and Inagaki Shihan are both very adamant in making the point that if we stay stuck in the physical realm of Aikido without looking deeper into the spiritual aspects, then O-Sensei's great efforts will be put to waste. But we do need a proper physical form to create the vessel for which the spiritual aspects can be contained.

In aiki,

Ethan Weisgard
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Old 12-23-2009, 02:03 PM   #16
Walter Martindale
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Quote:
Ethan Weisgard wrote: View Post
Hello all,

There are some very interesting and valid points being made here.

I think that we need to look at which level of Aikido development we are dealing with, when speaking about whether or not one should go "bara bara" or not.

If using the baseball analogy, I would say that no matter what you are dealing with in terms of batting, you still need to learn to swing the bat properly. There are different ways of swinging the bat, but in terms of physically teaching your body to get a good fundamental form, I think most would agree that it is better to let one instructor teach you how to stand, grip, observe and swing. If you have three different batting coaches teaching you to begin with, it will obviously get pretty confusing. Saito Sensei would often use the baseball analogy of having to learn how to throw and catch the ball before actually getting into the game.
Once you have established a good outer form, then of course you should be open to what may be found from other sources.
And then in regard to the spiritual aspects of Aikido: Isoyama Shihan and Inagaki Shihan are both very adamant in making the point that if we stay stuck in the physical realm of Aikido without looking deeper into the spiritual aspects, then O-Sensei's great efforts will be put to waste. But we do need a proper physical form to create the vessel for which the spiritual aspects can be contained.

In aiki,

Ethan Weisgard
I understand the need to get the form "right" before being involved in more open practice - however research is showing that the earlier you start training people with these methods, the better your learning in the long run - the initial learning is apparently slower and makes parents, athletes, administrators, and coaches a little worried at the initially slow progress, but in the long run - the skills and performances are better.

http://www.coach.ca/women/e/journal/feb2003/pg1.htm

I don't have access to academic journals (well, not easily), but those who do can use Vickers's work as a starting point to review decision training literature.

As in my earlier post - unlike most aikido instruction, there's often money or medals riding on the robustness of an athlete's sports skills under duress, and sports coaches generally tend to pay attention to the outcomes of modern research, whereas most (but not all) martial arts seem to dwell in the past glory of their founders and fail to do the "research" needed to advance the art. As a coach, I consider myself to have failed if the athletes can't do more than I could when I was competing.

If only martial arts instructors "got" this... Some do, but I doubt all do.
Walter
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Old 12-24-2009, 10:26 AM   #17
Ethan Weisgard
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Hi Walter,

Saito Sensei used to say that one's goal as a teacher was to try to make your students better than you. And if you succeed, then you have failed - an interesting conundrum!
He meant that you needed to constantly try to develop yourself -.and teaching your students was one way of developing. He wasn't of the school of martial arts teachers that believed in the tradition of keeping some of the teachings secret. He believed that by giving your students everything you were showing a spirit of kindness and nurturing. He said that you should take care of your deshi, and try to help them progress in aikido as much as possible. But you should not forget to work on your own progress at the same time.

In aiki,

Ethan
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Old 12-24-2009, 08:20 PM   #18
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Quote:
Walter Martindale wrote: View Post
So - I think - it may in the long run pay off to be rather bara bara.., but it will be frustrating on the way.
That is kind of what I was suggesting at the start. However, I am also reminded of the phrase “man of many talents, master of none”. I liked your link on Decision Training which is an interesting study, but it seems to me this is still part of an organised training programme (controlled exposure to “bara bara” learning). And it could be argued that some elements already exist regarding this within aikido where as I see it, kata are meant to be living, adaptable matrices rather than dry fixed forms (hence initially different but ultimately analogous multiple forms of training such as the ken, jo and unarmed techniques, the kotai forms verses ki-no-nagare, etc).
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Old 12-25-2009, 11:07 PM   #19
Walter Martindale
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Re: Bara Bara training thoughts?

Quote:
Carl Thompson wrote: View Post
That is kind of what I was suggesting at the start. However, I am also reminded of the phrase "man of many talents, master of none". I liked your link on Decision Training which is an interesting study, but it seems to me this is still part of an organised training programme (controlled exposure to "bara bara" learning). And it could be argued that some elements already exist regarding this within aikido where as I see it, kata are meant to be living, adaptable matrices rather than dry fixed forms (hence initially different but ultimately analogous multiple forms of training such as the ken, jo and unarmed techniques, the kotai forms verses ki-no-nagare, etc).
You're probably right - in my work the normal format is for someone to demonstrate, describe, discuss, and "don't" their way through a very structured system - it works, but it's not that great at the top level. I get people to experiment and play around, and the ones that take things on board go pretty far. (so far from the novices I've coached in rowing there have been two with Olympic medals (one with 4 medals), and a few more with worlds medals. others, coached by people I've trained one-on-one as coaches have produced people with multiple world level medals, so I'm fairly sure the things my coaches showed me and the coaching methods I've developed have some validity)...
Anyhoo - a mix of structure and randomness seems to keep both working fairly well..
W
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