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Old 05-14-2011, 06:39 PM   #1
aikidoaddict
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Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

I believe that every Aikidoka is performing Aikido to the best of their ability according to their personal level of understanding, knowledge and expertise at that particular point in time.

If they keep trying to improve they can do nothing but evolve, grow and excel.

Sadly it is the ones who feel that they have learnt it all that stagnate, and have a tendency to obstruct others around them from evolving, growing and excelling.

Progress/Regress, which one do you choose?

Enjoy the journey
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Old 06-05-2011, 12:05 PM   #2
Adam Huss
 
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

I don't feel the majority of students train at "their best" level. I feel, many students simply 'tread water' and are content with going through the motions, as dictated by the specific instructor in each class. I would challenge students to really dial in their daily training. Focus on one small, simple, specific task per class (or week) and really drill that aspect home. I hope to always find teachers willing to look for, and identify, my deficiencies when I start to find a level of comfort and push me out of that zone and force me to better myself. I'm not suggesting most students are lazy, or lack proper attitude, just that many are not exposed to a level of training in which they are challenged at every level; emotional, spirit, technique, physical, et al....and pushed to recognize personal deficiencies and attempt to whittle these deficiencies away. A mentor of mine once told me he often learns a lot about an aikidoka he's never met by the way s/he sits in seiza....seiza being something we often practice and focus on. Anyway, I guess my point is I really appreciate a teacher who doesn't allow students to get complacent...whether bowing, doing tai sabaki/kihon dosa, or executing technique...all the while opening up new levels of each individual's concept of what "their best" is.

cheers,
Adam

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Old 06-06-2011, 12:53 AM   #3
Carsten Möllering
 
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

I am not so optimistic like you, Paul.

I experience students who are happy to move just a little bit around. Who train just once or twice a week and who are satisfied when doing the same movements "on the same level" for years. They simply don't expect to evolve or grow. This is not what they aim for. They just want to have a little bit "fun".

It was not easy for me to learn to accept this attitude towards aikido. But I think it is important to deal with those students also.
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Old 06-06-2011, 02:42 AM   #4
Eva Antonia
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Hi Carsten,

wouldn't one be able to evolve AND have fun?
I don't think that everyone is giving his best; in my dojo, maybe half of us. But still I don't think that the fun aspect is something negative; you get satisfaction out of the feeling that you learn something and master things that were a year ago still incomprehensible to you, but you can also get satisfaction from the pure joy of flying over the mats (or send someone flying).
Nothing evil in that!

Best regards,

Eva
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Old 06-06-2011, 04:39 AM   #5
carina reinhardt
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Quote:
Paul Araki-Metcalfe wrote: View Post
I believe that every Aikidoka is performing Aikido to the best of their ability according to their personal level of understanding, knowledge and expertise at that particular point in time.
Hi Paul,
In our dojo it is like that, everybody does his best. And we improve according our level.But I must add that we have an excellent teacher who keeps us training hard, beside enjoying it, he has a great psychological knowledge of personalities of each one.
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Old 06-06-2011, 04:42 AM   #6
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Perhaps we could use a bit of a qualifier here.

I do believe that people are doing the best they can given who they are and what they are there for.

Some people just don't have high expectations for themselves or Aikido.

But, there probably is some positive intention that they are showing up and training.

Thoughts?

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 06-06-2011, 06:43 AM   #7
graham christian
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Perhaps we could use a bit of a qualifier here.

I do believe that people are doing the best they can given who they are and what they are there for.

Some people just don't have high expectations for themselves or Aikido.

But, there probably is some positive intention that they are showing up and training.

Thoughts?
Hi Lynn.
This reminded me of something I realized many moons ago. Students go to learn and a happy student is one who is doing so. Therefore all students should be having fun for good study and practice is fun.

Now it's not so much the students who should know this rather it is the teacher. In other words it's the teachers responsibility to make sure progress is being made in a good atmosphere.

If anyone wants to be super disciplined about this then I would say use this rule: 'It's never the students fault.'

Regards.G.
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Old 06-06-2011, 06:59 AM   #8
carina reinhardt
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post

Now it's not so much the students who should know this rather it is the teacher. In other words it's the teachers responsibility to make sure progress is being made in a good atmosphere.
Hi Graham,
That is right, our teacher finds always a motivation to keep us training hard and at the same time he keeps us humble to avoid that what Paul said about "ones who feel that they have learnt it all". And of course there is always a very good atmosphere as we finish every class with 5-10 minutes exercises that make us laugh.
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Old 06-06-2011, 07:43 AM   #9
jester
 
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

How on earth can anyone know what someone else's best is?

Maybe you're projecting your idea of best on to them. I used to think everyone was smart but that some of them were slackers like myself at the time.

In basic training I found out that there really are slow learning people. There were people without coordination. There were people who couldn't run as fast as I could. There were actually people who weren't that smart.

I always try and be the best at whatever I do but some people can't match my best no matter how hard they try. How fair would it be if I held everyone at my standard?

Although it might make you feel better about your own training, don't put your level of intensity, devotion or whatever on others. It just makes you look like a dojo snob!

-

-It seems to be all about semantics!
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Old 06-06-2011, 08:07 AM   #10
graham christian
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Quote:
Carina Reinhardt wrote: View Post
Hi Graham,
That is right, our teacher finds always a motivation to keep us training hard and at the same time he keeps us humble to avoid that what Paul said about "ones who feel that they have learnt it all". And of course there is always a very good atmosphere as we finish every class with 5-10 minutes exercises that make us laugh.
Hi Carina.
Yes, sounds like an excellent teacher. I'm not saying the student has no responsibility of course but a good teacher would know the difference.

I wonder what the current ratio would be; good students compared to good teachers? Now there's a subject that could go on a long time.

Regards.G.
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Old 06-06-2011, 08:31 AM   #11
carina reinhardt
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Of course students have a responsibility too, and we have students who learn more slow than others, that depends on the teacher too, to distinguish a slow student from a lazy one.
I think that if you are in a dojo for a few years you really want to learn otherwise you were wasting your money and your time.
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Old 06-06-2011, 09:08 AM   #12
jonreading
 
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

David Lowery wrote a great book on the expectations of training in a Japanese martial art, the book is In the Dojo. In the book, Mr. Lowery paints a realistic picture of understanding how a healthy dojo operates and what are the expectations of a student within the dojo.

I find it very hard to do anything after a full day, let alone give it my best in every aikido class. I do try to train to the fullest extent of what I have as often as I can; it is not my best all the time, nor can I do it every day. I believe that one [of the many] factors which separate an enthusiast, a hobbyist, an amateur and a professional is the expectation of performance. For example, the expectation for professionals is to perform at a high rate of skill for a greater period of time. To claim a professional set of expectations (to perform at a high skill level for an extended period of time) for most in aikido would not be a true claim.

As a general statement of encouragement, I appreciate the comment. I believe we should try to perform at our best when we train and we should train as often as we can. However, the truth is most of us train when we feel like it and we do not train consistently enough for a prolonged period of time.

I think we need to make a clear distinction between an actual claim that we train at our best all of the time and a general statement of encouragement to promote a friendly environment in which to train. There is a lot of bad aikido because of our over-encouraging praise.
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Old 06-06-2011, 09:41 AM   #13
Janet Rosen
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
I find it very hard to do anything after a full day, let alone give it my best in every aikido class. I do try to train to the fullest extent of what I have as often as I can; it is not my best all the time, nor can I do it every day.
Well, I think that is pretty much what we mean when saying "the best one can at any given time."
I certainly cannot do anything, from aikido to nursing to sewing, at the level of my very personal best moment/standard on every moment of every day, but better I show up and do the very best I can at that moment than sit at home and hope I am in my best possible shape another day!
I think one should train at the highest level one can at any given moment AND should be both looking to raise the bar and be encouraged to raise the bar.

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 06-06-2011, 10:22 AM   #14
lbb
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
I believe that one [of the many] factors which separate an enthusiast, a hobbyist, an amateur and a professional is the expectation of performance. For example, the expectation for professionals is to perform at a high rate of skill for a greater period of time. To claim a professional set of expectations (to perform at a high skill level for an extended period of time) for most in aikido would not be a true claim.
Why is it relevant? I have a job. Aikido isn't it. Therefore, I am not a professional. Only a tiny minority of aikido practitioners could be said to be professionals, so why is that a relevant standard?
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Old 06-06-2011, 10:31 AM   #15
graham christian
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

I agree with all of the above points. To clarify the point of good atmosphere and enjoyment I would say this;

Yes, overpraising or praising something that is not good is a valid point. However that's not what I mean by creating a good atmosphere.

I would say that those students for example who need and thrive on one kind of teaching should receive it and thus will thrive and a good atmosphere is the result. The same rule applies to other students although the method might be different.

Thus you get different methods and degrees of intensity when you compare dojo's. If the students from both dojo's are thriving and the atmosphere is good then it shows good teaching. Both methods are correct.

Regards.G.
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Old 06-06-2011, 02:28 PM   #16
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Why is it relevant? I have a job. Aikido isn't it. Therefore, I am not a professional. Only a tiny minority of aikido practitioners could be said to be professionals, so why is that a relevant standard?
To answer the question, as well as address a similar point from Janet, I believe my comments are relevant because we need to identify what in life is important to us. Aikido rates #3 for me: 1. family, 2. career, 3. aikido. I devote the appropriate time, money and labor resources to each priority, but often that means I have less time, money, and effort available for aikido. However, I also realize that by placing aikido #3 on my list, becoming competent in aikido will be a harder struggle for me. When I was single, aikido was #2 and I did much more. Hopefully, I will win the lottery and be able to place aikido back in the #2 slot. Until then, I realize my situation and that motivates me to waste no #3 opportunities.

Competency in aikido should be the standard. I do not believe that we should lower the standard of expectation because those who do not highly prioritize aikido still want to participate at some lesser level. I believe instead that we should prepare students to recognize the level of their participation will reflect their actual competency. Right now, I would argue than many of us do not properly prepare ourselves [or our students] have a life plan that clearly defines where aikido fits into our lives. Most of us do aikido, unless something else comes up... or we have dinner with our friends...or we need to work late... or watch that new movie... or stay in bed because we're sore. You're right Mary, most of us are definitely not professionals.
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Old 06-07-2011, 12:45 PM   #17
Adam Huss
 
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Jon, responding to your last post;

Interestingly, while I am in afghanistan, my wife has started practicing aikido at my dojo back home. She is very bruised and sore (both from aikido and participating in a race called the Warrior Dash) and stated she may not go to class on Thursday. Now, while its hard to give advice to one's spouse about such things, I really tried to emphasize to her the importance of training through minor discomforts such as bruising, sunburn, scrapes, etc. Your last post just reminded me of this discussion I had with her tonight. Oh, also...in concert with my addition to this thread earlier, I would add that certain 'programs' in my organization require mandatory attendance. Regardless of illness or other personal matters (except in extreme circumstances). We have a program that is a 10 month commitment, I think once a week, and requires homework (not always like a paper assignment, but actualy doing things...such as not talking for a few days, making 'instinct based decisions' and exploring where they lead, etc). Anyway, this goes back to my original post claiming the importance a teacher places in setting a precident in the dojo and holding students to a certain level of responsibility to their training. People are, of course, allowed to come train for a litany of reasons. Some are more casual about aikido than others. They are not turned away or shunned, but many are encourage to push their training until it has real effect on their lives. In my experience, this level of training is rare...and to deny taking advantage of it when available baffles me. But, the idealistic side of me wants to pull whatever I can out of 'casual' practioners so they can benefit the most from their level of commitment. I know, a little off topic, but I find this linked to the original post.
cheers, all.
Adam

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Old 06-07-2011, 01:30 PM   #18
Adam Huss
 
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Perhaps we could use a bit of a qualifier here.

I do believe that people are doing the best they can given who they are and what they are there for.

Some people just don't have high expectations for themselves or Aikido.

But, there probably is some positive intention that they are showing up and training.

Thoughts?
Good comment. I know its not a popular thing in the aikido community to say something like "that person is not trying their best." It goes against a lot of the percieved 'spirit' of this art. I feel your second paragraph, about people not having high expectations, directly relates to one trying their best. One thing we try to focus on where I train is a combination of oral, written, and physical testing. Many students, for these tests, focus on studying aikido history, or philosophy as other's have stated and written about. While these questions are asked, and are important, the primary focus of this is often to test a student's self understanding of Why they train and What they get out of their training, and How they relate their training to their daily life. (I have no idea why I capitalized those interrogatives).

Humans are typically creatures of habit. Often its easy to get into a routine of showing up to the dojo and, while there, 'just get through class.' It is then a intuitive teacher should shake things up a bit, or get to know theirs students on some level of intimacy where complaceny and apathy are noticed. I've heard some aikidoka complain about feeling obligated to attend the many seminars throughout the year, particularly the dan rank requirements for seminar and instructor meetings/class attendance. This baffles me. For one, if you want to be nidan but are not interested in attending more than one seminar a year...there is something not quite right. I understand financial and logistical committments, but only to a certain level. There needs to be some level of commitment to your practice at higher levels and truly benefit one's training.

These seminars meetings and, as importantly, social events serve as means by which your dojo instructors, and organizaitonal leaders, can get to know you on a personal level. They watch you practice, interact with others, watch you fail and become embarrassed, succeed through difficulties, laugh, make others laugh or feel at ease in uncomfortable situations....all these things combine to make one who they are. If we study budo to better ourselves all these things should be taken into account. With that, this is the way we can set up our seniors for sucess in identifying how best to 'get the best' out of us. If there is no level of intimacy (which requires commitment to acquire) between student and teacher...then the student can get much less out of their training. That Isshin den shin connection developed by sharing blood, sweat, tears, brauts and beers. Jon earlier quoted or paraphrased Dave Lowry....I will add to that by regurgitating a statement made by Lowry about how odd he finds it that some students have never been to or seen their teacher's house or met their family. With that I completely agree. Lowry, of course, explains it much better than I could...so for those interested I would suggest they read his writtings (sorry, don't remember which book/chapter).

Point being, I feel its is the dojo's responsibility to discover what student's best are. When a student first walks in the door, they are an unknown. Teachers and assistants have to make certain assumptions and generalizations until those new students are better known. I have been training in my organization for over ten years. The more senior students have been there the whole time. I have been uchi deshi and attended as many seminars as I could. The senior students and teachers know a lot about me. They have seen me on good days and bad days. They know when I am being a litte too arrogant, self-debasing, lazy, etc.

A good example; I was recently training with my old mentor (from when I was uchi deshi). It was well into a long and trying seminar and towards the end of the day. I was getting lazy with my blocking of atemi (the technique had a designed atemi). My mentor noticed this and gave me a good, solid, atemit that blew right through my "I'm thinking about drinking in 20 minutes" style block and rocked my head pretty good. Basically I hit myself in the face with my own hand. Embarassing, and a good lesson in zanshin. I couldn't have appreciated it more. I was getting lazy and needed to be brought back mentally into what I was doing, and where I was. This is why I train where I do. There was nothing even mentioned of this inccident, in fact I never gave it any thought (other than when it happened) until now. Is this something my old mentor would have done with ALL studnets present at the seminar? No, certainly not. Many people would take offense, or not understand the lesson to be had. If someone thinks this odd behavior, we would provide a "that teacher would only do that to someone he liked" type of explanation. Point being, I feel there is a requirement of a personal level of development and trust for a student - teacher relationship. I entrust my money, body, time, and effort to those I call teacher. I expect, in return, a geinuine care for my development as a person and technician in aikido. I also expect them to have the tools and expertise to satisfy those requirements. In return, I give them enough of my time and effort so they can properly assess what "my best" is, and decide the correct way in which to pull it out of me.

VR
Adam

I apologize for the spelling errors.

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Old 07-23-2011, 10:38 PM   #19
aikidoaddict
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

Quote:
Tim Jester wrote: View Post
How on earth can anyone know what someone else's best is?

Maybe you're projecting your idea of best on to them. I used to think everyone was smart but that some of them were slackers like myself at the time.

In basic training I found out that there really are slow learning people. There were people without coordination. There were people who couldn't run as fast as I could. There were actually people who weren't that smart.

I always try and be the best at whatever I do but some people can't match my best no matter how hard they try. How fair would it be if I held everyone at my standard?

Although it might make you feel better about your own training, don't put your level of intensity, devotion or whatever on others. It just makes you look like a dojo snob!

-
What a silly statement. My comment was that everyone is doing their best whatever that may be. It was to say be compassionate. It was not judgemental in any way, yet you chose to twist it that way. Such a sad and bitter twist on it.
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Old 07-24-2011, 06:03 PM   #20
Diana Frese
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

First of all, it is an important premise to consider, and I am impressed by the sincerity of the comments, and the examples. The different types of students, the different ways of teaching.

I was writing about one of my teachers on another thread, and I remember the first time he corrected me personally.

When I first started at his dojo many years ago there were not many students. I had come from college women's judo classes and although I had a start on learning ukemi, the different attacks instead of just the one collar and one sleeve grab I was used to, and the fact that I was totally confused by the couple months of Aikido available before I graduated.... So when I got to NY Aikikai there was a lot I couldn't figure out. However, there were many helpful people.

Yamada sensei would walk down the line to make sure everyone was doing okay. He stopped to help as I couldn't figure out what to do next.

"Move your foot" he suggested. I couldn't even figure out which foot, so he bent over, picked up my foot and moved it for me.

Fortunately Aikido was so fascinating that I kept attending, there were great people keeping the training at a high level, and , yes, I know all about the flying part that Eva mentioned, that's why I kept coming back to class...

Years later I had an opportunity to teach when I moved back with my parents and as a proofreader could commute to NY once a week. I remember when Yamada Sensei had a seminar for those of us from Connecticut, since it was a neighboring state. Same mat as where he had said "This foot" and moved it for me.

Well, he was trying not to embarrass me and since I had lived in Japan for a year and a half, he mischievously said to me so that my partner couldn't understand but I could "Nannen keiko shimashita?"

The exercise was the basic tenkan turn and his question was,
"How many years have you been practicing?"

I may not be great at ishin denshin, but in the case of Yamada Sensei I didn't need ishin denshin. He walked up and told me.

I am studying all the posts on this very important topic, I just wanted to offer something others might find both serious and amusing.

Once he knew I had a YMCA class he wanted to make sure I did the best I could to improve myself. Being a teacher is a responsibility. That was years ago, but I sometimes ask myself what I did in the case of the various types of students. It turned out I was rather tough on my assistants (anyone who had any seniority among my students) and at the same time encouraging the newer people not to be embarrassed if they made mistakes. I told the latter that I had made mistakes they couldn't even think of making and the only excuse for quitting was if I had bored them with some of the repititious stuff.

Oh well, sorry about telling too many stories. I think all the comments on this thread are very worthwhile. Thanks everyone.
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Old 07-24-2011, 10:46 PM   #21
Mario Tobias
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Re: Keep in mind that everybody is trying their best

A drove of fresh white belts started in our dojo the last 2-3 months totalling around 15 or so. I noticed a few of them having a hard time doing the techiques and being clumsy, uncoordinated. I'm thinking teaching them step by step is taking too much of my practice time.

Now in my 22 years of practice and can mimick any technique that sensei shows, it's really easy to forget after these decades that we were once like them fresh beginners, clumsy and uncoordinated. heck, I even failed my 5th kyu exam 2 decades ago (you'd think now whoever fails this exam?). The thing is to remember what you once were because it's easy to forget.
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