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Old 05-15-2011, 07:17 PM   #1
Mario Tobias
Join Date: Aug 2006
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In Search of Excellence in Aikido

Hi,

I just wanted to get your views/experiences on what it takes to really excel in Aikido. There are only a select few who really do excellent aikido while I guess majority of us do not know (YET) what it takes to become an expert, even though we're training for decades.

Although we have the adage "practice makes perfect", I don't think this is enough IMHO. There must be some other ingredients to complete the "recipe".

The few can be fortunate enough to find what they are seeking in their lifetime but most would search and search but always lead to a deadend.
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Old 05-16-2011, 10:55 AM   #2
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
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Re: In Search of Excellence in Aikido

I have a number of answers at the ready, but there's a related question that I think has to be addressed first. In the spirit of "It takes one to know one," how can we know excellence when we see it?

Certainly we can be amazed, in much the same way we can marvel at a really good prestidigitator, without knowing the secret to the trick. And, perhaps significantly, the more the trick is concealed the better the amazement.

But amazement is not the same thing as recognition. If we can truly know there are some among who have achieved authentic excellence, what is it in us that allows us the confidence of recognition?
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Old 05-18-2011, 09:00 AM   #3
niall
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Re: In Search of Excellence in Aikido

Keep a sincere heart. Keep an open heart. Keep a modest heart. Keep a beginner's heart.

Sometimes there will be walls to break through or climb over but in budo the only people who reach a dead end have chosen to - even if they don't realize it.

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


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Old 06-16-2011, 03:41 PM   #4
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: In Search of Excellence in Aikido

Quote:
Mario Tobias wrote: View Post
Hi,

I just wanted to get your views/experiences on what it takes to really excel in Aikido. There are only a select few who really do excellent aikido while I guess majority of us do not know (YET) what it takes to become an expert, even though we're training for decades.

Although we have the adage "practice makes perfect", I don't think this is enough IMHO. There must be some other ingredients to complete the "recipe".

The few can be fortunate enough to find what they are seeking in their lifetime but most would search and search but always lead to a deadend.
First, you need an excellent teacher. It's like any activity, if you want to get to the top level, you need a top level teacher or coach. Additionally, that teacher needs to have decided that his or her dojo is a place designed to take students to excellence. This is not a given. VERY few dojos I have seen look likely to produce any students who are as good as their teacher. If a dojo is set up to maximize the number of students, if the primary concern is to make Aikido accessible to the widest possible group of participants, it will not be a place which will produce top level practitioners. The two concerns are pretty much mutually exclusive, in my experience.

The teacher needs to be a good "teacher". There are a number of very skilled people who are not terribly good (understatement) at passing on what they know. The idea that simply practicing will will get you there is wrong and that can be seen quite easily by looking around at all the folks who have put in all this effort and time and money all these years and aren't very good. Only training correctly will result in excellence for most folks. The "geniuses" who made it without good methodology are rare and do not rep[resent a model for the rest of us.

Then you have to train like crazy. Everyone I know of who is truly excellent spent some substantial period of time training every day. In an earlier thread there was a discussion of "how much is enough?" I made a number of people upset by stating that, in my opinion, the average adult needs to train AT LEAST three times a week to become competent. That's competent, not excellent. Excellent requires almost every day. People who have done an uchi deshi program have not only done every day but have done multiple classes each day.

You have to really want it. Aikido will have to be a primary focus of your life. In my own case, I had a demanding job, a family, and my Aikido. I did not feel I could do a good job on all three. So I combined my job with my training. That has been barely enough.

It is important to "get out" and train with people from outside your immediate circle. Set styles or slavish devotion to a single teacher seldom produces anything really top level, although it might produce a good "stylist".

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 06-17-2011, 12:09 AM   #5
Mario Tobias
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Re: In Search of Excellence in Aikido

Hi sensei,

I agree with everything you've said in your post. I've started training with a 7th dan aikikai shihan these past 2 weeks. From 3 hours/week, I've upped my training to 9 hours as my life circumstance allows me to. Hopefully, I'll see some improvement. Agree also that it not the amount of hours but also correct practice. How to do "correct practice" this maybe for a different thread. But right now, I'm focussing on keen observation on the shihan, full awareness of my every move and honest assessment of my weaknesses. The 3 things above also maybe for a different thread again.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
It is important to "get out" and train with people from outside your immediate circle. Set styles or slavish devotion to a single teacher seldom produces anything really top level, although it might produce a good "stylist".
Does watching a lot of youtube videos count? Seriously, I'm not a big fan of attending seminars as they are expensive so I watch videos of different shihans (my fav is Endo sensei, also Yamada Tissier, Osawa and Chiba sensei). I try to understand what they're imparting (verbal and in their movement) and try to mimic the movements. It's like you attended seminars for free...and can replay them over and over. But I also understand that you also need to experience first-hand the techniques of the masters to gain greater knowledge of how techniques are really done, but its not everyday you get to be their uke anyway.
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Old 06-17-2011, 09:41 AM   #6
RonRagusa
Location: Massachusetts
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Re: In Search of Excellence in Aikido

Quote:
Mario Tobias wrote: View Post
The few can be fortunate enough to find what they are seeking in their lifetime but most would search and search but always lead to a deadend.
Hi Mario -

And in finding what you seek what have you found but yet another end. The excellence you desire is not the end product of your journey, it is contained within the journey itself. Aikido is open ended, a question that provides answers with always more questions.

Be in the question.

Best,

Ron

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Old 01-15-2012, 02:16 AM   #7
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: In Search of Excellence in Aikido

First, of course, you need a good teacher. Then, you need to learn as much as possible and aim to be better than that teacher. Then, find another. You need to find someone of similar mind to train with at your home or elsewhere. You also need to do lots and lots and lots of self training (including weapons) everyday. This will help you absorb what you learn quicker, and, if it piques your couriosity, it will also reveal many secrets. You need to constantly test everything you know and everything you discover. It also helps to look at other arts.

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Old 01-15-2012, 04:23 AM   #8
Mario Tobias
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Re: In Search of Excellence in Aikido

Training with a shihan does make a difference. Over the last 6 months I decided to join his dojo fulltime, same time when I first posted this thread I think I've found part of the puzzle I was searching for. Shihans teach differently I observe. BTW, the country I lived before didn't have a shihan but nevertheless I had excellent and very competent teachers. I feel I've relearned in these 6 months the things I had difficulty understanding for the past 22 years in my aikido training (here you can see I am a very slow learner ). I liken it to university where you are forced to understand something in 1 week what it took you to learn in highschool in several months or years.

I am also working on my theory which I've recently discovered that techniques in themselves don't work but principles do. That techniques are just an amalgamation of principles put together. That techniques are all similar, but not the same. I'm currently building my own "library" of principle theories which I am testing during practice. I can't get enough of them. It takes the practice on a new and totally different plane and it makes training so interesting.

In July this year I will test for shodan. I really do feel I'm only just beginning to understand.
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