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Old 05-18-2011, 11:43 AM   #1
"6kyu"
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Frustration with super-soft aikido class

I am a 6th kyu who has been training for about a year-and-a-half.

I train at an aikido dojo and one of my senseis, a shodan, is very into connection exercises. He sometimes makes an entire class out of them.

My last class was spent "connecting" to my partner, trying to move him with one finger, trying to "center" myself, doing breathing exercises, trying to do a tenkan without arm strength, etc. There were no techniques and I took no ukemi. I left confused, frustrated, and having never sweated a drop.

I have no problem with any of these things in and of themselves, but I have two problems with them being taught this way.

First of all, my understanding of aikido is that most of its great masters (including O Sensei and his teacher himself) learned technique first, then once they grasped the basics of the art, set about learning softness and ki. Trying to teach this stuff to a sixth kyu seems backwards to me, like trying to teach Einsteinian physics to someone who hasn't learned Newton yet.

Second, the sensei made no attempt to connect any of this to any technique, so I never got see how any of it fits into aikido.

I love aikido and don't want to quit, and classes are not always like this one, but at the end of a class like this, I can't help wondering if I should go find something else. I feel like this class was a complete waste of my time.

I'm not here to ask for advice, really. I'm still a beginner, and have no business telling any instructor (even just a shodan) how to teach. What I'd like to know from more experienced aikidoka than myself is whether or not I'm being reasonable about this.

Is it reasonable for me to expect the teaching of technique in every class? Is it reasonable for more me to expect an aikido class to provide me with at least a little bit of a workout? Is it reasonable for me to expect that as a beginner I will be spending most of my time on basic technique rather than abstract principles of the art? Is it reasonable to expect at the end of a class to feel that I know more than when I began?

Last edited by akiy : 05-18-2011 at 11:45 AM. Reason: Removed remarks which may identify dojo
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Old 05-18-2011, 12:23 PM   #2
Richard Stevens
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

It is unreasonable to expect every dojo to train in the same way. However, it is reasonable to want to train at a dojo that is a better fit with the way you want to train. It sounds like your dojo might not be the best fit for you. Have you visited any other dojos in your area?
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Old 05-18-2011, 01:03 PM   #3
"6kyu"
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Quote:
Richard Stevens wrote: View Post
It is unreasonable to expect every dojo to train in the same way. However, it is reasonable to want to train at a dojo that is a better fit with the way you want to train. It sounds like your dojo might not be the best fit for you. Have you visited any other dojos in your area?
Sadly, the pickings are pretty slim around here. The only other aikido dojo nearby is an independent dojo that gives out ranks on its own authority and refers to its third dan founder as a "shihan".

But again, I'm not really looking for advice on what to do next. My options are to stay and deal or leave. What I really want to know is whether I'm being presumptuous and unreasonable in my assessment of the class, whether I'm whining about something that is normal at most dojos.
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Old 05-18-2011, 01:09 PM   #4
phitruong
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

connection, centering, breathing - those are the things that make aikido techniques work. don't know about you, but i really don't want to stop breathing; that would put a cramp into my almost none existence social life. without connection, how's you plan to throw some body? sort of trying to phone someone without connection. without centering, wouldn't you be off-balance while trying to take someone else balance?

Saotome sensei mentioned often that aikido isn't about techniques, but is about principles and ideas. who am i to argue with one of O Sensei's uchi-deshi? Besides, there aren't that many aikido techniques; you could learn them in less than a year. what you plan to do after that?

if you just want to sweat, wouldn't an aerobic kick boxing class be better, since you will be sweating and enjoying the leotard view at the same time. that remind me i need to find a manly leotard. is there such thing? and wonder if the women will hate me because i am beautiful.
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Old 05-18-2011, 01:44 PM   #5
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Kata should embody the principles.

I would leave the place if this is not the case.

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Old 05-18-2011, 01:47 PM   #6
DH
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

I would kindly suggest to you that you have a view of the value of connection that is flawed by your lack of experience with it. There are shihans with decades of experience who are frustrated for not "getting" a stronger level of connection and aiki in their careers.
if I had only one thing...I would choose connection and aiki over all else.
I cannot speak for your teacher-I have seen my fair share of people teaching "connection" who simply did not have any idea of what they were talking about and others who were just so-so, but if you run across someone who really does get it, it can be quite stunning in any venue- frightenling so.
Good luck in your training.
Dan

Last edited by DH : 05-18-2011 at 01:50 PM.
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Old 05-18-2011, 02:01 PM   #7
lbb
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
First of all, my understanding of aikido is that most of its great masters (including O Sensei and his teacher himself) learned technique first, then once they grasped the basics of the art, set about learning softness and ki.
I don't think that connection (kokyu) is synonymous with softness,or in fact related to it in any way. It is true that when you get most people in a physical contest (or what they think of as such), they're more likely to be too hard than too soft, but I don't think that the solution to being connected is to find the exact right spot on the hardness-softness axis. I guess it's a necessary but not sufficient condition: you can screw up your connection to your partner with too much hardness or too much softness, but to get connectedness, there are more elements that need to fall into place.

Connectedness is one of Chiba Sensei's five pillars. It's a fundamental, not an advanced topic, but you do have to experience it through technique and mechanics. When connection exists, that's how you get the sense of what you can do and when you should do it. When connection is lost, that's when the opportunity comes for a reversal. Unfortunately, the connection exercises in isolation make it very hard to see this.

The first time I got a glimmer of what this "connection" blather was all about was doing sitting kokyuho with my sensei. He kept saying, "Stay connected, stay connected," and I was thinking, "What does that even mean?" Then he did the technique and talked his way through it, while losing connection: "Now I've got it...now I just lost it." As soon as I started focusing on "what's happening now/what am I feeling", I could feel the difference. We practiced for probably half an hour straight like that. From that point, I could start to feel when connection went away during a technique or wasn't there. If "connection" is a big deal at your dojo, maybe you can get your sensei or one of your sempai to try something similar: a very simple technique where they deliberately lose connection at some point. It is a good practice -- awareness of connection, and the ability to maintain it, will really make your techniques much more effective.
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Old 05-18-2011, 02:02 PM   #8
Mark Freeman
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Hi,

I'd take heed of what Dan says, annonymous user, if I were you.

I'd only like to add that frustration and confusion are par for the course in aikido, learn to love it and keep practicing.

regards

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 05-18-2011, 02:12 PM   #9
Janet Rosen
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
Is it reasonable for me to expect the teaching of technique in every class? Is it reasonable for more me to expect an aikido class to provide me with at least a little bit of a workout? Is it reasonable for me to expect that as a beginner I will be spending most of my time on basic technique rather than abstract principles of the art? Is it reasonable to expect at the end of a class to feel that I know more than when I began?
I feel like I'm at a Seder answering 4 questions....
1. Well it would be NICE to have the principle connected to a practical application, but in the long run, what is one class out of many?
2.No. Whatever gave you the idea aikido = a "workout"? Join a gym.
3. If you don't integrate form and principle, then the form is learned using the wrong things and years later you have to unlearn it - a real wast of time
4.No. It is reasonable to leave class with questions and a certain amount of frustration - use them to identify your weaknesses and your boundaries - those unwilling to do so never really last long in aikido or just become muscle-bound throwers of their partners.

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 05-18-2011, 02:27 PM   #10
"verily"
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Quote:
Mark Freeman wrote: View Post
Hi,
I'd take heed of what Dan says, anonymous user, if I were you.
I'd echo this too.
And I'd make damn sure that the teacher had the real stuff if I was going to stay around. There is lots of baloney around there. But the real stuff is like gold. It may be that it is worth the wait working on this kiso, that is, if he's got the knowledge to make it for real.

Now as to how to tell if he's for real: well; that's a good question.
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Old 05-18-2011, 03:06 PM   #11
gregstec
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I am a 6th kyu who has been training for about a year-and-a-half.

First of all, my understanding of aikido is that most of its great masters (including O Sensei and his teacher himself) learned technique first, then once they grasped the basics of the art, set about learning softness and ki. Trying to teach this stuff to a sixth kyu seems backwards to me, like trying to teach Einsteinian physics to someone who hasn't learned Newton yet.
Just to add to what Dan, Phi, and a couple others mentioned...

IMO, connection IS Aikido and at 6 kyu, that is exactly where the basics need to start. Techniques are nothing without the connection to center. If more traditional Aikido dojo's took this approach, I think there would be less Shihan going outside to people like Dan to get that real connection to center

Greg
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Old 05-18-2011, 03:31 PM   #12
sakumeikan
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I am a 6th kyu who has been training for about a year-and-a-half.

I train at an aikido dojo and one of my senseis, a shodan, is very into connection exercises. He sometimes makes an entire class out of them.

My last class was spent "connecting" to my partner, trying to move him with one finger, trying to "center" myself, doing breathing exercises, trying to do a tenkan without arm strength, etc. There were no techniques and I took no ukemi. I left confused, frustrated, and having never sweated a drop.

I have no problem with any of these things in and of themselves, but I have two problems with them being taught this way.

First of all, my understanding of aikido is that most of its great masters (including O Sensei and his teacher himself) learned technique first, then once they grasped the basics of the art, set about learning softness and ki. Trying to teach this stuff to a sixth kyu seems backwards to me, like trying to teach Einsteinian physics to someone who hasn't learned Newton yet.

Second, the sensei made no attempt to connect any of this to any technique, so I never got see how any of it fits into aikido.

I love aikido and don't want to quit, and classes are not always like this one, but at the end of a class like this, I can't help wondering if I should go find something else. I feel like this class was a complete waste of my time.

I'm not here to ask for advice, really. I'm still a beginner, and have no business telling any instructor (even just a shodan) how to teach. What I'd like to know from more experienced aikidoka than myself is whether or not I'm being reasonable about this.

Is it reasonable for me to expect the teaching of technique in every class? Is it reasonable for more me to expect an aikido class to provide me with at least a little bit of a workout? Is it reasonable for me to expect that as a beginner I will be spending most of my time on basic technique rather than abstract principles of the art? Is it reasonable to expect at the end of a class to feel that I know more than when I began?
Dear anon user,
I do not think it is unreasonable to be practising waza.I think you teacher is trying to make you run while you can barely crawl.
'Connectedness' only comes by training in Aiki principles.
Perhaps your Shodan teacher is using you as guinea pigs to perfect his /her own understanding of aiki?
Cheers, Joe.
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Old 05-18-2011, 03:53 PM   #13
Aikibu
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

A Shodan teaching "connection" ???

What Mary & Dan said....

William Hazen
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Old 05-18-2011, 06:07 PM   #14
Mark Gibbons
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

William

Does rank mean all that much? Two of the best people I've ever played with are still nidans.They are capable of explaining difficult concepts to beginners.

Mark
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Old 05-18-2011, 08:45 PM   #15
Nick P.
 
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

OP: How often (percent, ratio, etc) does this get taught by this teacher?

I would say if it is less than, say 30%, then relax, enjoy, and be more resonable. 2 out of three classes are fine, no? If that ratio is too high for you, then move on.

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Old 05-18-2011, 09:42 PM   #16
NagaBaba
 
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Leave this dojo as fast as possible and don't look back. If you can't find other aikido dojo start to practice judo or jujutsu.

Nagababa

ask for divine protection Ame no Murakumo Kuki Samuhara no Ryuo
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Old 05-18-2011, 09:49 PM   #17
Abasan
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Two things:

1. Can your sensei use his connection exercise to affect you and take control of you without the need for strength, technique or coercion?

2. Are you frustrated that you can't do the exercise well?

a. Yes. No. = stay
b. Yes.Yes. = stay and try harder
c. No. No = Leave or take over.
d. No. Yes = leave and don't look back.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 05-19-2011, 12:44 AM   #18
Janet Rosen
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Not a bad practical algorithm!

Quote:
Ahmad Abas wrote: View Post
Two things:

1. Can your sensei use his connection exercise to affect you and take control of you without the need for strength, technique or coercion?

2. Are you frustrated that you can't do the exercise well?

a. Yes. No. = stay
b. Yes.Yes. = stay and try harder
c. No. No = Leave or take over.
d. No. Yes = leave and don't look back.

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 05-19-2011, 02:34 AM   #19
Eva Antonia
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Hello,

just yesterday evening I had the pleasure to get a 90 minute special training on connection and "feeling uke's movements" with an aikido friend who showed up especially for this purpose. We had discussed about an Endo seminar, and I said to him that I went once to Endo, getting out completely frustrated at my ineptitude to comprehend and, even worse, apply, what he showed. Not that 90 minutes brought me enormously ahead and made me grasp the concept, but even a 100 km walk is composed of many small steps. So I'd say it was very good.

Obviously no one can judge from outside if your shodan sensei does this well or not. I don't think that the connection issue is very much linked to rank. There are some people who have more talent for this type of approach, and others, who have less. I also belong rather to those who tend to do bulldozer aikido, but we have one 1st kyu, one 2nd dan and several others in our dojo who seem to have understood this concept and can effortlessly turn the "connection" or the loss of it into a technique whenever you least expect it.

But I think you are right in expecting that at some point the exercise should turn into waza. Maybe this is just the pupil's attitude that there should also be some fun in aikido, or that every advance should be measurable in quantifiable indicators (like: "today I learnt this aspect of ikkyo ura footwork), and this is not the right approach, but I also get enormously frustrated if I have to do only exercise and no application. We have another prof who indulges in endless tai sabaki. I'd never contest the usefulness of repeating and repeating tai sabaki, but it is still boring. But then again, I think it's part of the overall package, and I make a sour face and do my 200 tai sabaki and 300 ten kan...

Resuming, I think you are partly right (also 6th kyus have a right to judge their experiences and like or not like), but this connection thing (and breathing, and footwork, and suburi, and and) is necessary, and you'd have to learn it anyway.

Wish you much success and satisfaction in your training!

Eva
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Old 05-19-2011, 05:57 AM   #20
danielajames
 
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Random thoughts....
Who's got the aikido you want?
What about the other teachers in the school?
Who floats your boat?
Sometime the juice is worth the squeeze, sometimes its not

BTW anyone that starts their own school can call themselves what ever they want, its their school and they are entitled to make the ground rules and are technically outside of the dan system they implement. Wether they are a schmuck or the next O'Sensei or somewhere in between is in the eye of the beholder.

Daniel James, Brisbane Aikido Republic: AikiPhysics, Aikido Brisbane news,
ph 0413 001 844, 1593 Logan Rd, Mt.Gravatt, Brisbane, AUSTRALIA
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Old 05-19-2011, 06:25 AM   #21
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

If a shodan can't teach about connection isn't the style lacking?
Mary
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Old 05-19-2011, 06:43 AM   #22
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Quote:
Ahmad Abas wrote: View Post
Two things:

1. Can your sensei use his connection exercise to affect you and take control of you without the need for strength, technique or coercion?

2. Are you frustrated that you can't do the exercise well?

a. Yes. No. = stay
b. Yes.Yes. = stay and try harder
c. No. No = Leave or take over.
d. No. Yes = leave and don't look back.
This.

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Old 05-19-2011, 06:44 AM   #23
Shadowfax
 
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

I have been training for two years at my dojo and we do a lot of the connection stuff. Sometimes whole classes. I have to say that I am really grateful that my own teachers believe that even a 6th kyu can get something from learning this stuff early.

I am more sensitive to connection than a lot of people so to me the subject is endlessly fascinating and doing them for a solid hour is really very much ok with me. But I know that the majority of other students in the dojo feel the same way and while I see a couple who find it a little difficult and frustrating I can also see their sensitivity improving over the time they are with us. And it does make the technique better. Even if you can't quite see it's direct application just yet.

The other nice litle perk is when you go to a seminar with someone like Hiroshi Ikeda sensei you will be one of the ones who actually has a clue as to what he is doing. I've been in the situation at these seminars where I was working with someone, sometimes far senior to me, who had no real idea what it was we were supposed to be working on because they had so little experience with this kind of training.

Sometimes the workout you get in the dojo is more mental than physical. If you want to sweat and get a physical workout join a Gym or another martial art. Or grab one of your dojo mates and do some jyu waza before or after class.
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Old 05-19-2011, 07:29 AM   #24
Dazzler
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Quote:
Mary Eastland wrote: View Post
If a shodan can't teach about connection isn't the style lacking?
Mary
Hey Mary

Maybe...maybe not...is a shodan representative of a whole style?..are they all identical?......when I was shodan I was really just interested in kicking ass.

Didn't make me a bad shodan...I think I was a pretty good one...i just wasn't into this stuff at that stage.

Now I am into it - I can still kick ass too ...just choose not to mostly.

If the guy is trying to develop himself through teaching fair play to him...think he needs to tweak the balance a bit so those students that need a more physical work out feel like they are getting what they paid for maybe...but his dojo = his rules. If numbers aren't a concern then he can teach what he likes.

My way or the highway I guess.

If he's not trying to develop...and thinks he has it all then yep - move on...but it doesn't sound like that.

Who are we to criticise based on a beginners post anyway? Anyone here prepared to go and take the guys classes week in week out and have the rest of the world dissect us on the net?

An enthusiastic 'young' (as in aikido age) instructor with a willingness to put himself out there and take good advice when its on offer Versus someone a little more experienced but who's cup is full?

Maybe worth staying along for the ride.

Regards

D
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Old 05-19-2011, 11:42 AM   #25
Aikibu
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Re: Frustration with super-soft aikido class

Quote:
Mark Gibbons wrote: View Post
William

Does rank mean all that much? Two of the best people I've ever played with are still nidans.They are capable of explaining difficult concepts to beginners.

Mark
Sorry I meant it a more of a joke. and...

Yeah they're NIDANS I am a Nidan long over due for a promotion to at least Godan LOL ( Money and A New Dojo would help) So rank doesn't not mean all that much but in my experience a Shodan knows the basics that's it...and it seems the poster has a question about how that knowledge is being transmitted.

William Hazen
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