Welcome to AikiWeb Aikido Information
AikiWeb: The Source for Aikido Information
AikiWeb's principal purpose is to serve the Internet community as a repository and dissemination point for aikido information.

Sections
home
aikido articles
columns

Discussions
forums
aikiblogs

Databases
dojo search
seminars
image gallery
supplies
links directory

Reviews
book reviews
video reviews
dvd reviews
equip. reviews

News
submit
archive

Miscellaneous
newsletter
rss feeds
polls
about

Follow us on



Home > AikiWeb Aikido Forums
Go Back   AikiWeb Aikido Forums > Columns

Hello and thank you for visiting AikiWeb, the world's most active online Aikido community! This site is home to over 22,000 aikido practitioners from around the world and covers a wide range of aikido topics including techniques, philosophy, history, humor, beginner issues, the marketplace, and more.

If you wish to join in the discussions or use the other advanced features available, you will need to register first. Registration is absolutely free and takes only a few minutes to complete so sign up today!

Comment
 
Column Tools
Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit
Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit
by The Mirror
04-26-2011
Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

This month's "The Mirror" column was written by Janet Rosen 2011.
I've felt for many years that in aikido, as in all things, ultimately I'm responsible for my own education. I can seek direction, but the goals and priorities, the existential meaning of my training as it were, has to be mine. The flip side of this is that I cannot be responsible for anybody else's training. Oh, sure, I can provide the purely technical "how to" of any specific bit of the training I feel competent to explain or demonstrate, and maybe offer some guidance towards a goal somebody tells me they are aiming for. But I can't assume that any given training partner at any given moment shares my goals or priorities or even defines "aikido" the same way I do. Learning to deal with that reality without becoming emotionally attached to a particular outcome is certainly a key component of why aikido serves as a spiritual as well as martial practice for me.

One potential pickle for this middle aged arthritic budobabe is being partnered with an enthusiastic, fit young junior student. He may know aikido isn't about "using muscle" but even while he's working on learning aikido he is also experiencing the energy and aliveness of his youth. As uke, he may not be purposefully resisting in order to test me, but on a night the arthritis is flaring up and I can't effectively grasp even my water bottle, his strength and rootedness are more than I can handle in terms of simply flowing into a quick application of technique. I could decide to let this frustrate or even anger me, I could ask him to change for me....or I could keep a smile on my face and find a way for each of us to work on our own priorities, build on our own enthusiasms and strengths. So I breathe, settle, give up any thought of, say, "doing nikkyo," and just let myself focus on finding connection and seeing if I can use my center to disrupt him a little bit. I do it a couple of times, then I let go, still smiling (trying not to let my pain show), and suggest we change roles. He can work off his energy while developing his technique, and I can work on any and all the aspects of ukemi of interest to me at the moment.

The benefit of this approach was brought home for me recently when attending a seminar where I only knew two or three of the dozens of people on the mat and was somewhat apprehensive. I had decided one of my goals was to maintain equanimity regardless of my partner. It helped that there didn't seem to be any outsized egos or lecturers on the mat. But there were a variety of priorities and goals on view; some folks were trying to do what the instructor was teaching, some were practicing in their usual "default" mode of applying technique, and some were going through the motions without real connection and just tanking. I kept in mind the thing I tell my coworkers when they become judgmental about patients who seem to be making poor decisions in their lives: Most of us are muddling through, doing the best we can on any given day, and we may not see the other person's "whole picture."

And darned if I didn't keep smiling all through the seminar. The only frustration I was aware of was with myself. But then, that's who I brought and that's who I was responsible for.
"The Mirror" is a collaborative column written by a group of women who describe themselves as:

We comprise mothers, spouses, scientists, artists, teachers, healers, and yes, of course, writers. We range in age from 30s through 50s, we are kyu ranked and yudansha and from various parts of the United States and styles of aikido. What we have in common is a love for budo that keeps it an integral part of our busy lives, both curiosity about and a commonsense approach to life and aikido, and an inveterate tendency to write about these explorations.
Attached Images
File Type: pdf themirror_2011_04.pdf (99.2 KB, 3 views)
Old 04-27-2011, 01:46 AM   #2
carina reinhardt
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 428
Spain
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Thank you for your great post Janet and for your courage. Please keep smiling, a smile gives joy to those around you even while you are training. Our teacher always tell us to relax when he sees our concentrated faces while training and a smile will do so.
  Reply With Quote
Old 04-27-2011, 09:27 AM   #3
SeiserL
 
SeiserL's Avatar
Dojo: Roswell Budokan, Kyushinkan Dojo, Aikido World Alliance
Location: Roswell, GA USA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 3,704
United_States
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Yes agreed.

IMHO, we can never emphasis enough the need to self responsibility and reliance.

I smile a lot with the people I train with and laugh loudest at myself.

Excellent thoughts and column. Compliments and appreciation.

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!
  Reply With Quote
Old 04-27-2011, 12:31 PM   #4
jonreading
 
jonreading's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido South (formerly Emory Aikikai)
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 849
United_States
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Quote:
I've felt for many years that in aikido, as in all things, ultimately I'm responsible for my own education. I can seek direction, but the goals and priorities, the existential meaning of my training as it were, has to be mine. The flip side of this is that I cannot be responsible for anybody else's training.
I believe this to be a key component to persevering in aikido. Aikido is moving through a commodity phase that allows students to buy rank, buy access to shihan, and buy "expertise." The students I meet who are commit to train and persevere in aikido all seem to share this a belief that their training is their personal responsibility.

If I do what I am supposed to do, as nage or as uke, then my partner may also learn the what she is supposed to do. Keep your eyes on your own &#%^ paper. Sometimes in an effort to "help" our partner we do not respect the necessary steps to allow for their self-education.

Thanks for sharing.
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-03-2011, 09:45 AM   #5
niall
  AikiWeb Forums Contributing Member
 
niall's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 394
Japan
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Thanks Janet. I like your last sentence. But I also think your flip side comment that you can't be responsible for anyone else's training underestimates the relationship between tori and uke. Aikido doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's not you training and your partner training independently. The synergy can lift you both higher.

Niall

we can make our minds so like still water, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life
w b yeats


aikiweb blog|wordpress blog
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-03-2011, 10:21 AM   #6
Diana Frese
Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
Location: Stamford Connecticut
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 379
United_States
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

I liked this article, and was planning to revisit, reread and then comment, but Niall's post reminds me of something one of his teachers, Arikawa Sensei said in response to a question of mine.
It was in the little coffee shop, and there was a relatively young Japanese woman who could translate. I'm not sure if he understood that I was just asking in general about a non-aikido practicioner friend of mine with whom I was not getting along ...

I was trying to ask if arguing was bad, with friends, but I think in his mind or the translators understanding of what I was asking, it broadened to conflict in general from the wide background he had in budo history.... and thus I felt I had gotten something extremely valuable that day far beyond the current problem I had.

He said, "If done correctly, they progress each other." according to the translator. Maybe Niall can further interpret this statement, or probably has just done so .....
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-04-2011, 06:50 PM   #7
Chuck Clark
 
Chuck Clark's Avatar
Dojo: Jiyushinkan
Location: Monroe, Washington
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 1,134
United_States
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Janet, wonderful and really difficult for most of us to do... take responsibility for our own "stuff" and not only, be responsible, but take charge, even when you don't really know what's possible. It takes great courage to go into the unknown and trust yourself enough to keep going and taking whatever guidance you can get that will get you further along the path.

I get kinda tired of folks that already "know" what's coming, even though they have no idea what's really around the corner. They won't look for a teacher or make that connection. They end up just making stuff up and constantly acting as if they're just around the corner from the "treasure" but don't really want it because then they'd have to be responsible for having it.

It's evident, you know what you know and are constantly looking to broaden that and find even new stuff that you'll recognize when you get close... Pretty cool.

Thanks for sharing.

Chuck

Chuck Clark
Jiyushinkai Aikibudo
www.jiyushinkai.org
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-04-2011, 07:28 PM   #8
Peter Goldsbury
  AikiWeb Forums Contributing Member
 
Peter Goldsbury's Avatar
Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 1,997
Japan
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Quote:
Niall Matthews wrote: View Post
Thanks Janet. I like your last sentence. But I also think your flip side comment that you can't be responsible for anyone else's training underestimates the relationship between tori and uke. Aikido doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's not you training and your partner training independently. The synergy can lift you both higher.

Niall
Hello Niall,

I have wondered about this over the years, but I am not sure. I am basing this uncertainty, by the way, on having taken ukemi over the years from shihans like H Tada and S Yamaguchi. You know what they both want and expect and you do your utmost to give them what they want, but I do not think the relationship is equal, beyond the fact that you both make up a pair.
I think the relationship between uke and tori is an established teaching and learning tool (in Daito-ryu as well as aikido) and as such is far more multifaceted than is commonly thought.

To Diana,
I am very curious why you asked Arikawa Sensei such a question. I once had the occasion to have a serious argument with him. Neither he nor I believed we could budge from our respective positions (which involved a very serious issue concerning the Aikikai). The argument (at a committee meeting in the Hombu Dojo) ended in mutual anger, but I received a long telephone call later on from Arikawa Sensei. You know how hard it is to understand him (even header at the end of a telephone line), but peace was made.

Best wishes,

PAG

P A Goldsbury
_______________________
Hiroshima, Japan
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-04-2011, 07:53 PM   #9
hughrbeyer
Dojo: Shobu Aikido of Boston
Location: Peterborough, NH
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 653
United_States
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
I have wondered about this over the years, but I am not sure. I am basing this uncertainty, by the way, on having taken ukemi over the years from shihans like H Tada and S Yamaguchi. You know what they both want and expect and you do your utmost to give them what they want, but I do not think the relationship is equal, beyond the fact that you both make up a pair.
By contrast: One of my sensei's senior students came back to do a seminar with us and he encouraged us to challenge our sensei--to give him honest attacks, take honest ukemi, and reverse the technique if we thought we could make it work. He said not only will this make our aikido better, it would make his aikido better and raise the level of training in the dojo overall.

Just another 2 cents.
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-04-2011, 08:10 PM   #10
Peter Goldsbury
  AikiWeb Forums Contributing Member
 
Peter Goldsbury's Avatar
Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 1,997
Japan
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Quote:
Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
By contrast: One of my sensei's senior students came back to do a seminar with us and he encouraged us to challenge our sensei--to give him honest attacks, take honest ukemi, and reverse the technique if we thought we could make it work. He said not only will this make our aikido better, it would make his aikido better and raise the level of training in the dojo overall.

Just another 2 cents.
Oh, yes. Indeed. I am aware of this. When I stated that ukemi was multifaceted as a teaching and learning tool, I meant that there is a very wide spectrum of what is acceptable. I would imagine that Niall used to give Arikawa Sensei honest attacks: if not, he would know about it. To elaborate a little on what I stated earlier. H Tada gave no openings at all. Once you gave the honest attack--as honest as you could, the rest seemed a foregone conclusion. Which is why I think that Tada's aikido is somewhat solitary, as he himself believes. S Yamaguchi, on the other hand, used to give openings, and you had the choice of taking them or not taking them.

Of course, you could also choose to attack, but not quite as expected... One of H Tada's ukes used to do this and was inevitably put through the mangle.

Best wishes,

P A Goldsbury
_______________________
Hiroshima, Japan
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-04-2011, 08:56 PM   #11
raul rodrigo
Location: Quezon City
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 777
Philippines
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Hi, why would Yamaguchi leave openings?
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-04-2011, 09:53 PM   #12
Peter Goldsbury
  AikiWeb Forums Contributing Member
 
Peter Goldsbury's Avatar
Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 1,997
Japan
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Quote:
Raul Rodrigo wrote: View Post
Hi, why would Yamaguchi leave openings?
Well, from what he said, when the discussion reached this area, I gather this is what Morihei Ueshiba did. K Chiba also stated this in private discussion and I think he mentions it in an article somewhere. How you dealt with the opening indicated where you were, on the learning spectrum.

I commend Ellis Amdur's discussion of ukemi in Hidden in Plain Sight. It is clear that both Takeda Sokaku and Morihei Ueshiba used ukemi as a teaching tool.

Best wishes,

PAG

P A Goldsbury
_______________________
Hiroshima, Japan
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-04-2011, 10:26 PM   #13
raul rodrigo
Location: Quezon City
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 777
Philippines
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Thank you, professor. Yes, I have Ellis's book and have gone over his discussion of ukemi. I suppose my follow-up question would be, if Morihei left openings for his ukes to exploit, why did Morihei's students Tada and the late Arikawa not leave any openings in their waza? Does this mean they have a different take on the meaning of ukemi?
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-04-2011, 10:55 PM   #14
Janet Rosen
  AikiWeb Forums Contributing Member
 
Janet Rosen's Avatar
Location: Left Coast
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 3,916
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Wow this thread woke up... :-)
I have enjoyed the direct comments, am still pondering Niall's comment and also Chuck's (might be seeds for a future column there) ..... and I'm also very much enjoying the interesting tangent so keep at it!

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-05-2011, 12:48 AM   #15
raul rodrigo
Location: Quezon City
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 777
Philippines
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

In an earlier thread (I think on Arikawa), Prof. Goldsbury alluded to this same phenomenon, in the process of comparing four senior Aikikai shihan—Tada, Yamaguchi, Arikawa, and Fujita, in their attitude to meeting attacks. All four were Morihei's students, but only one, Yamaguchi, liked to give openings to his uke and see where the encounter would lead. Why is there this difference in attitude about ukemi and openings? Is it a difference between demonstrating (the teacher insisting on doing this particular waza at this particular time) and templating uke with a certain awareness of the body-to-body connection and its possibilities? Is the difference between doing something for the benefit of the rest of the class, and doing something specifically for the good of uke?
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-05-2011, 01:32 AM   #16
Peter Goldsbury
  AikiWeb Forums Contributing Member
 
Peter Goldsbury's Avatar
Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 1,997
Japan
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Hello Janet,

I did not think this discussion of ukemi was actually a tangent, but never mind. I think ukemi is a so crucial a part of one's self education in aikido that I am surprised that so little effort is put into teaching it.

As for Raul Rodrigo's question, I cannot speak for Arikawa Shihan, but I am sure that Niall can do so, since he was his 'resident' uke. I regularly took ukemi for the three others ever since I came to live here in 1980. To some extent, I think it has to do with the 'architecture' of the waza and the shihan's particular purpose in teaching at a seminar. Yamaguchi was always ready to depart from the minimal requirements set up to execute a particular waza and simply exploit the balance and awareness offered by a particular uke.

PAG

P A Goldsbury
_______________________
Hiroshima, Japan
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-05-2011, 04:50 AM   #17
Diana Frese
Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
Location: Stamford Connecticut
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 379
United_States
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Definitely Janet's original post is food for thought for me, especially since on another thread someone returning to practice after 35 years was encouraging me to do likewise (in my case about twenty or twenty-five years) and I'm quite a bit older than "middle age". (But I have gardened thru the years! It probably has helped!)

This past day was one of those times one dozes for hours, wakes up, makes dinner, etc. goes back to sleep.... My husband took up limo driving as a supplement to carpentry and the sleep schedule can be strange.... so I was catching up. I thought I might have forgotten to sign out from AikiWeb in the afternoon, so in the late evening brought up the computer my husband had shut down, and found three different posts of mine ,two threads and a blog comment had been answered! Then my husband said come to bed NOW we have to get up early...

And this morning, on this thread I found another teacher had been mentioned, Yamaguchi Sensei, whom I remember, though I didn't take many of his classes one demonstration in his class stands out that may be of interest to people on this thread.

He was laughing, his typical ho ho ho laugh and his expression showed his amusement and , you could almost say, delight. Uke was scrambling about knee level, and Yamaguchi Sensei, with totally relaxed shoulders would just shift his balance a bit as uke kept trying to regain standing position .... moving from, for example ikkyo to kotegaeshi all kinds of waza from the subtle shifts in balance. I'm sure others can explain better than I, I think it is "henka waza" and I never forgot the mental movie clip of Yamaguchi Sensei laughing and changing techniques with totally relaxed shoulders while uke scrambled trying to adjust, trying to regain standing position.... This went on for quite some time, probably until uke gave up.... I don't remember how it ended...

Thanks for asking, Peter (hope you don't mind me not using the Professor title, I do respect your training and your scholarship!)
It's almost embarrassing, but I'm glad I took the opportunity to learn something. It was the little coffeeshop. I was trying to write a letter to that friend I mentioned who lived in another part of Tokyo and with whom I was not getting along .... and Arikawa Sensei passed by the table and asked, :Benkyo? ( Studying?) I felt I had to be honest, and there was a young Japanese woman nearby whom I felt I could ask to translate.... So a personal problem of mine led to getting a very important piece of wisdom....

Unlike Mary Heiny, who returned to the US to study Japanese quite thoroughly before spending time in Japan... I stayed over for more than a year from one of the tours and was fascinated by the diversity of movement all from the same basic techniques of the various teachers... the ones whose classes I attended the most were Saotome Sensei, Arikawa Sensei, and Watanabe Sensei.

Ukemi was never very easy for me but there were always people in every dojo I attended, or seminar, with whom I could have an excellent practice and I am grateful to them, and of course my teachers... Thanks Janet, for a great topic.
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-05-2011, 04:58 AM   #18
Diana Frese
Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
Location: Stamford Connecticut
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 379
United_States
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Sorry, I forgot to make the point about Mary, she knew Japanese well, I didn't
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-05-2011, 08:02 AM   #19
hughrbeyer
Dojo: Shobu Aikido of Boston
Location: Peterborough, NH
Join Date: Aug 2010
Posts: 653
United_States
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

Quote:
Raul Rodrigo wrote: View Post
...All four were Morihei's students, but only one, Yamaguchi, liked to give openings to his uke and see where the encounter would lead. Why is there this difference in attitude about ukemi and openings?
Pure speculation on my part, but Yamaguchi did a lot of sword work and that showed up in his aikido. In traditional sword teaching, I've heard the instructor leaves openings to see if the student has the sensitivity to take advantage of them, and the student is expected to do so. Maybe this is where it comes from.
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-05-2011, 09:53 AM   #20
niall
  AikiWeb Forums Contributing Member
 
niall's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 394
Japan
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

I agree with Peter completely about the importance of ukemi and being uke. I’ll come back to Arikawa Sensei in more detail another time. Being the uke for a teacher gives a slightly different set of problems to the interaction between tori and uke in training - at least until you have reached a certain level of confidence and competence.

About openings. If there is no opening there is no technique. There is no way to attack and perhaps even no reason to attack. So a good teacher will make or leave an opening inviting an attack. It can be very subtle and almost unnoticeable. Often - usually - only one attack is appropriate or possible. I’m talking about mainstream Aikikai aikido, not styles in which tori provokes a reaction attack from uke.

I don't know any teachers who would leave openings after that initial invitation. It would mean giving uke the chance to get back into equilibrium so you can do another technique and that doesn't sound very efficient or useful. I didn't train with Yamaguchi sensei very often.

In kenjutsu kata the technique or chain of techniques is usually initiated by tori making an opening - suki - and giving uke a target to attack. The role of uke is usually taken by the senior partner exactly because it is so important.

we can make our minds so like still water, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life
w b yeats


aikiweb blog|wordpress blog
  Reply With Quote
Old 05-05-2011, 10:36 AM   #21
niall
  AikiWeb Forums Contributing Member
 
niall's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2010
Posts: 394
Japan
Offline
Re: Responsibility and Smiling, or Training for Mutual Benefit

I just remembered Endo sensei sometimes plays with the uke like that. Which makes sense - he is in the Yamaguchi sensei line.

we can make our minds so like still water, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life
w b yeats


aikiweb blog|wordpress blog
  Reply With Quote

Please visit our sponsor:

Aikido DVDs and Video Downloads - by George Ledyard Sensei & other great teachers from AikidoDVDS.Com



Comment


Currently Active Users Viewing This Column: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Column Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new columns
You may not post comment
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 11:10 PM.



Column powered by GARS 2.1.5 ©2005-2006

vBulletin Copyright © 2000-2014 Jelsoft Enterprises Limited
----------
Copyright 1997-2014 AikiWeb and its Authors, All Rights Reserved.
----------
For questions and comments about this website:
Send E-mail
plainlaid-picaresque outchasing-protistan explicantia-altarage seaford-stellionate