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Old 02-18-2012, 01:38 PM   #1
ChrisHein
 
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A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

I recently overheard a conversation between an Aikido student of a few years, and a very experienced martial arts teacher who had never studied or learned much about Aikido. The conversation was quite amusing. It was filled with contradictory statements that were also true, depending on the style of Aikido you studied and what your view of martial arts is. This conversation really got me thinking about Aikido, and how it is a very hodgepodge system.

Hodgepodge means a mishmash of different strange often contradictory things, mushed together. As much as we may not what to admit it, Aikido is a hodgepodge. It is based on many elements of Koryu martial arts, but is so absolutly not a Koryu martial art. It was was really coming into it's own in the 50's, 60's and 70's, when the martial arts world was obsessed with "Karate", and the idea of unarmed martial artists squaring up and duking it out. Yet it's founder, and his predecessor where very interested in multiple attackers, armed conflict and surprise situations. We say that our movements come from the sword, but no two Aikido styles have the same kind of sword work. Our system has many allusions to being very old and "traditional" yet, we are VERY young and unorganized. These are just a few quick examples of the mishmash of ideas and strangeness that surrounds our art. Yet we like to believe our system epitomizes refined martial arts systems.

So my real question is, how can our system continue to survive? Considering how easy it is to find very confusing and contradictory information about our system, it seems to me that we could go the way of the "dodo" quite easily. Most Aikido teachers, while well meaning, good hearted individuals, are just as confused as the general public. Who wouldn't be, our martial art is a confusing subject. In a very short time Aikido has had quite a rich life, which even a true scholar would have a difficult time tracking down.

What do I think we need to do? I've spent the last few years groping my way through this mess, and I've come up with no solid answers for Aikido as a whole. It seems to me, more and more, that it is the responsibility of each Aikido student to be clear with themselves first, they can intern find schools with Dojo heads who have similar goals, and slowly we can work our way back together. Looking only to "tradition" in a system that hasn't had enough time to develop tradition is not going to fix our problems.

Aikido- How can we make it clear.

1. Create a clear context as to what it is we are training for. What kind of martial engagement are we preparing for? When training is complete will we know how to sword fight, or wrestle, of drive a fighter jet? We need clear areas that we are going to be working within. Simply saying you are learning to "fight" or "not fight" is not a suitable answer.

2. Clear definitions of what students should expect to get from our training. Saying things like, " you will gain the power of Aiki" and then only be able to give an intangible answer as to what Aiki is, isn't cutting it. Or saying that Aikido will keep you "fit" when a good number of Aikido teachers are very out of shape, at an early age isn't being honest about what we are doing.

3. Accountability. Can we do what we say we can do, or at the very least, show the methods we are using that will ideally achieve what it is we are attempting to do. We must hold our selves highly accountable. Without this we are all just wearing old style clothes and dancing about (which actually might be perfectly acceptable, but if it is that should be made clear in 1. and 2.)

Just some thoughts.

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Old 02-18-2012, 04:56 PM   #2
graham christian
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Seems quite straightforward to me. In the world of kung fu, tai chi, etc. they tend to admit something. They admit they are a 'style of.'

Quite simply you should define your style. Quit worrying about others and know how to define your own.

Thereafter, acknowledge the various other styles.

Regards.G.
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Old 02-18-2012, 07:08 PM   #3
kewms
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Who is "we?"

Yes, *you* can certainly answer those questions for your practice. So can I for mine. But producing one answer for all of aikido seems to me a hopeless task as it would require a strong central organization that does not currently exist.

Katherine
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Old 02-18-2012, 08:52 PM   #4
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Before we ask "how to survive", ask "why survive?". Do we offer something unique and relevant tithe world? I think we do: aikido forms can be a way for a human being to experience a particular kInd of confidence, to be able to embody that in a physical way; and that confidence can help individuals in addressing the many issues that our society must face. People who know confidence can better lead and inspire it in others. We don't need to survive because the world needs more accomplished in the physical art that Uesiba family has given us; we need to survive because the world needs more genuine Budoka - warriors who are willing to put themselves on the line to protect the best that their society has to offer. The techniques we learn on the mat are only relevant in that they help us discover and remind us of a state of mind (state of being) that we can bring to bear on the real "battle fields" that we all must face in a world that is increasingly overpopulated and overheated.

(Ok, I see this should probably be a different thread - and I'm typing it on the wrong device to do it justice. I'll come back when I have a real keyboard)
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Old 02-18-2012, 09:12 PM   #5
Dave Gallagher
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

I think Aikido has evolved exactly the way it should have. Your Aikido and answers to questions will depend on whose Aikido you are doing. Only O'Sensei did his Aikido. As each student develops into a very advanced level his/her Aikido will be different than the teachers they had.
This is quite natural. Body sizes, weight, shape and mental outlook will make Aikido different from one person to another with basic elements in common.
Trying to make everyone and every technique,style and movement the same would be completely out of harmony with our human nature.
It would also make Aikido less interesting or even to the point of being boring.
Just my opinion. Yours may be different.

I came back to add one thought. Aikido does not need to be accountable to other arts or to anyone else outside of budo or martial arts in general. Aikido can only be accountable to the person who is training. An experienced Aikidoka will not feel the need for any accountability.

Last edited by Dave Gallagher : 02-18-2012 at 09:17 PM.

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Old 02-18-2012, 10:21 PM   #6
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post

I came back to add one thought. Aikido does not need to be accountable to other arts or to anyone else outside of budo or martial arts in general. Aikido can only be accountable to the person who is training. An experienced Aikidoka will not feel the need for any accountability.
Reminded me of a quote from Shoji Nishio - who was pretty experienced :

Quote:
That's why most people's practice today is empty. They don't look at other types of Budo. Right from the start, the value of a Budo is determined by comparisons with other Budo.
Best,

Chris

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Old 02-18-2012, 11:22 PM   #7
Dave Gallagher
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Compairison is one thing accountability is something else. Anything including flower arranging or making tea can be a budo if practiced correctly. You will note that my comment is talking about "those outside of budo or martial arts in general". Do forms will always be compaired to each other and that is natural and good,but accountability is a different animal.

It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak.
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Old 02-19-2012, 12:02 AM   #8
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
Compairison is one thing accountability is something else. Anything including flower arranging or making tea can be a budo if practiced correctly. You will note that my comment is talking about "those outside of budo or martial arts in general". Do forms will always be compaired to each other and that is natural and good,but accountability is a different animal.
He really wasn't talking about comparing technical details, he was talking about accountability. It was a common theme with him.

Best,

Chris

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Old 02-19-2012, 07:54 AM   #9
Dave Gallagher
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

I was refering to this quote from him:

"3. Accountability. Can we do what we say we can do, or at the very least, show the methods we are using that will ideally achieve what it is we are attempting to do. We must hold our selves highly accountable"

....Accountability.....To whom? Experienced aikidoka should be beyond needing it and a novice should be able to feel it when working with their seniors. In the last 35 years I have been involved with Aikido, Kendo, Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo and Shotokan Karate. I never felt the need to campare the effectiveness of the others or saw any reason one should be accountable to anyone outside or within of those arts. It's something you sense while training and that is where the proof is.

Last edited by Dave Gallagher : 02-19-2012 at 07:57 AM.

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Old 02-19-2012, 10:17 AM   #10
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
I was refering to this quote from him:

"3. Accountability. Can we do what we say we can do, or at the very least, show the methods we are using that will ideally achieve what it is we are attempting to do. We must hold our selves highly accountable"

....Accountability.....To whom? Experienced aikidoka should be beyond needing it and a novice should be able to feel it when working with their seniors. In the last 35 years I have been involved with Aikido, Kendo, Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo and Shotokan Karate. I never felt the need to campare the effectiveness of the others or saw any reason one should be accountable to anyone outside or within of those arts. It's something you sense while training and that is where the proof is.
Sure, and that's exactly what Nishio was talking about, and talked about quite often. That Aikido ought to be comparing the effectiveness of what they do to people doing other arts.

Here's a little more from the same interview:

Quote:
For the most part, if you set up Kokyu-ho between two Aikido people it's just useless. That will only be effective in the dojo. I guess that those people say things like "Even though you do Aikido you're also doing Karate and sword. If you want to do Karate then go to Karate. If you want to do the sword then go to Kendo. If you're doing Aikido you don't need to do other things.". Even in other Budo, everybody is working hard, you know. When we see that we should make an effort to surpass them with our Aiki. That is the mission of Aikido as a Budo. Unfortunately, the senior students who had that as a goal are gradually dying away, and the loss of substance just progresses.
Best,

Chris

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Old 02-19-2012, 10:57 AM   #11
Lee Salzman
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Sure, and that's exactly what Nishio was talking about, and talked about quite often. That Aikido ought to be comparing the effectiveness of what they do to people doing other arts.

Here's a little more from the same interview:

Best,

Chris
I almost wonder if, in light of what Mr. Nishio is saying there, that the problem may be exasperated by any attempts to consolidate aikido. Rather, what if you went the other direction? Get rid of the umbrella term, get rid of the Hombu, let the art radically splinter into countless nameless lineages, that it really is at this point, where each lineage gets by on what it can actually do on its own, now, not who it came from in the past.

Ineffective budo should no longer stand on the shoulders of the ghost of Morihei Ueshiba. By doing effective budo, and calling it aikido, you end up making a conscious choice to subsidize the efforts of those who do ineffective budo, because they can rely on the goodwill engendered by the term aikido to attract and mislead students that they too will get to be like those leading lights by doing something other than what made those illustrious few.

Maybe it is really time for aikido to die, so that the skill may live on?
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Old 02-19-2012, 11:38 AM   #12
Dave Gallagher
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Christopher, ok, now I see what you mean.

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Old 02-19-2012, 12:12 PM   #13
Chris Li
 
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Quote:
Lee Salzman wrote: View Post
I almost wonder if, in light of what Mr. Nishio is saying there, that the problem may be exasperated by any attempts to consolidate aikido. Rather, what if you went the other direction? Get rid of the umbrella term, get rid of the Hombu, let the art radically splinter into countless nameless lineages, that it really is at this point, where each lineage gets by on what it can actually do on its own, now, not who it came from in the past.

Ineffective budo should no longer stand on the shoulders of the ghost of Morihei Ueshiba. By doing effective budo, and calling it aikido, you end up making a conscious choice to subsidize the efforts of those who do ineffective budo, because they can rely on the goodwill engendered by the term aikido to attract and mislead students that they too will get to be like those leading lights by doing something other than what made those illustrious few.

Maybe it is really time for aikido to die, so that the skill may live on?
Nishio, for all his griping, was always a stalwart Aikikai guy.

Personally, I like the idea of a general umbrella organization. I'm not sure, however, that the current umbrella organizations are the right ones for the future - at least, not as they are currently organized.

I would like to see a loosely organized peer group that provides actual, valuable services to its members. Facilitating networking between groups and members, for example - this is something that is very hard to come by in the arts that have really gone down the splinter path.

Just a thought...

Best,

Chris

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Old 02-19-2012, 12:42 PM   #14
Lee Salzman
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Nishio, for all his griping, was always a stalwart Aikikai guy.

Personally, I like the idea of a general umbrella organization. I'm not sure, however, that the current umbrella organizations are the right ones for the future - at least, not as they are currently organized.

I would like to see a loosely organized peer group that provides actual, valuable services to its members. Facilitating networking between groups and members, for example - this is something that is very hard to come by in the arts that have really gone down the splinter path.

Just a thought...

Best,

Chris
Could you not provide those same services and networking as part of a larger, style agnostic, martial arts association? Wouldn't you want networking amongst people doing different "arts" help each other improve, rather than just the echo chamber that arises where people believe they're really all doing the same thing? I think that is some of what Nishio is getting at, no? And it seems very relevant to what Chris Hein is discussing: we can't even admit we're all on really different tracks with really different results, let alone discern what makes one track better than another. Really, we can't even figure out what a track is, it's really, really sad.

You could look at CMA as an example of something that splintered in the past, and that due to recent political/government forces has consolidated, but what has that consolidation done for it? Just turned it into a mess of mass market new age tai chi yoga fusion mcdojos. Whereas if you look at the past couple hundred years, there were countless significant different martial disciplines flowering. Most of them are probably dead, in name, but if you look past the idea of passing on some notion of a system or an organization or a complete organized system of whatever, the skills all do survive, taken apart, recombined into new things, sometimes just only partially passed on and then salvaged together with other parts to make new and interesting things that are still relevant facsimiles of those things early in their lineages that spawned them. You have to chase down people with skill, you can't just be lazy and seek out Joe Random Tai Chi Master, but there are people in the CMA with valuable things to teach, but those things are not within the neatly painted lines modern CMA has drawn.

If this were physicists, and we set out to build a fixed organization in the service of Newtonian kinematics above all other tools of physics, what good would that do? It's just a tool, a model, that we find useful to approximate certain problems in certain contexts, but we can pass it on in isolation and without attaching great importance to it on an organization level. Sure, you can go to certain universities who have certain specialties in terms of acquired faculty and research, but they're dedicated to research and advancement of the field. If that means ditching Newtonian kinematics, when, say, relativity comes into the picture, they'll do it, and if good results come from another university, as determined by a peer review, they'll riff on it futher with more research, because the results are more important than the incidental tools or personalities or universities.

Last edited by Lee Salzman : 02-19-2012 at 12:44 PM.
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Old 02-19-2012, 02:15 PM   #15
Dave Gallagher
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

After the death of Masatoshi Nakayama in 1987 the Japan Karate Association broke off into a number of groups, each headed by excellent karate men. Many hold that the break up was because no one as
charismatic and strong as Nakayama could or was appointed to succed him. Everyone saw themselves as the rightfull leader.
Only those who stayed with the JKA showed their strong, loyal and true spirit.
The problem of leadership and right of succesion will always cause problem when any leader or founder dies. A single large governing body for Aikido may not be workable idea.
As for myself I remained loyal to the JKA. My sensei wanted to break away years before Nakayama's sudden death. When he did, I resigned and went to train elsewhere. Having various organisations to choose from is in my opinion a good thing. You can choose the one you like best.
I chose the JKA for Karate and Aikikai for Aikido.

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Old 02-19-2012, 05:53 PM   #16
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Frankly, I think loyalty to an institution is a bit daft. Loyalty to people, sure. But if the person you were loyal to dies, I think it's completely appropriate to reassess your institutional ties.
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Old 02-19-2012, 06:12 PM   #17
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
I was refering to this quote from him:

"3. Accountability. Can we do what we say we can do, or at the very least, show the methods we are using that will ideally achieve what it is we are attempting to do. We must hold our selves highly accountable"

....Accountability.....To whom? Experienced aikidoka should be beyond needing it and a novice should be able to feel it when working with their seniors. In the last 35 years I have been involved with Aikido, Kendo, Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo and Shotokan Karate. I never felt the need to campare the effectiveness of the others or saw any reason one should be accountable to anyone outside or within of those arts. It's something you sense while training and that is where the proof is.
We must hold our selves highly accountable"

Accountability starts with self.

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Old 02-19-2012, 06:31 PM   #18
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

All very good questions Chris...same ones I use for myself and the people I train. I personally have no issues with the criteria. It took me some years, but as you state in your last post, it begins with you. Once I realized this, it gave me the responsibility and freedom to train where ever and with who ever I wanted to. I don't care what the organizations do, I have my criteria and I train to accomplish my end states. Same with the folks that train under me.

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Old 02-19-2012, 06:50 PM   #19
Dave Gallagher
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Chris, accountable to whom? and why? This concept is beyond me. In the old days all koryu were closed and private. It was very difficult to be admitted as a student even with a letter of introduction from a highly respected person. It was the headmaster's way or you were not a member. The ryu was accountable to no one. This is still a good way for modern budo. For me the idea of being accountable to a second or third party is outside of my understanding.
To hold thoughts of being accountable can really be a negative thing on your training. The over used statement "just do it" fits here.
I had a long layoff due to a serious knee injury. When I first came back I had a fear of ukemi. It really held me back. I kept thinking I would injure my knee again. When I decided to stop thinking and just do it I was shocked at how easy it came back to me. The thinking was holding me back. If I had to think about accountabality I would just give up.But thats just me. I have been lucky to have received great instruction and thus never had any doubt about the art or teacher.
Chris, do have have these thoughts because you are in doubt about the instruction that you are getting?

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Old 02-19-2012, 07:28 PM   #20
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Quote:
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I recently overheard a conversation between an Aikido student of a few years, and a very experienced martial arts teacher who had never studied or learned much about Aikido. The conversation was quite amusing. It was filled with contradictory statements that were also true, depending on the style of Aikido you studied and what your view of martial arts is. This conversation really got me thinking about Aikido, and how it is a very hodgepodge system.

Hodgepodge means a mishmash of different strange often contradictory things, mushed together. As much as we may not what to admit it, Aikido is a hodgepodge. It is based on many elements of Koryu martial arts, but is so absolutly not a Koryu martial art.
So many things wrong ...

First, aikido is *not* a hodgepodge art or system. If you consider what you are training is a hodgepodge system and you're calling it aikido, I would strongly suggest you find a qualified teacher of aikido to help guide you in the right direction. Or quit calling what you do, aikido.

Second, please list your bona fides in the koryu community so that we can better understand how you *know* that aikido is "absolutly" *not* a koryu. Do you have enough qualified years in a koryu to make that statement? Are all koryu the same?

Understandably, if we look back to Japan in the mid 40s (ish), we find that a Japanese Organization was trying to categorize aikido and it did not fit their views of koryu or judo or etc, so they named it aikido. But, you didn't mention any of that. So, back to koryu ... how do *you* know?

Third, Morihei Ueshiba's main, primary martial influence in the creation of his aikido is Sokaku Takeda, Daito ryu and Daito ryu aiki. You failed to mention any aspect of the spiritual part of aikido, do you even wish to go there? How about giving us your research and experiences in Omoto kyo, Deguchi, Reiki Monogatari, the Japanese version of Takemusu Aiki, etc. Are you fluent in Japanese, new and old?

Please don't look to me for answers. I am not the one who posted false statements.

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
So my real question is, how can our system continue to survive? Considering how easy it is to find very confusing and contradictory information about our system, it seems to me that we could go the way of the "dodo" quite easily. Most Aikido teachers, while well meaning, good hearted individuals, are just as confused as the general public. Who wouldn't be, our martial art is a confusing subject. In a very short time Aikido has had quite a rich life, which even a true scholar would have a difficult time tracking down.

What do I think we need to do? I've spent the last few years groping my way through this mess, and I've come up with no solid answers for Aikido as a whole.
In my travels and short stints at training, I have found exceptional teachers who have a solid direction and path in front of them. George Ledyard, Bill Gleason, Marc Abrams, etc, etc, etc. Not to mention those I haven't met, like Chris Li. And these people have a core group around them that are all looking ahead, understanding where to go, how to get there, and seeing a bright future for aikido.

I would strongly suggest that you do quite a bit more research, quite a bit more training with qualified teachers, and re-assess what you are doing. The answers are there for those open enough to empty their cup. The aiki of Morihei Ueshiba can be found, can be trained, and can be attained.

Do you really not understand who some of these people are and what qualifications they have *earned* through hard work, long years of training, and sometimes great sacrifices?

George Ledyard has posted about his training with Saotome. Start attending his seminars.
Bill Gleason trained in Japan with Yamaguchi at his private dojo. Start attending his seminars.
Marc Abrams has trained with Imaizumi since 1988. Where were you in 1988? If Marc had seminars, I'd suggest you attend them.
Etc

To post information that categorically goes against what these (and other) fine teachers have stated is bordering on lunacy, unless you have the experiences, years in training, and abilities that they have. Do you? You want to know the future of aikido, how about putting yourself out there and finding out in person? Go train with these highly qualified teachers. You want to know what aiki is beyond it being spoon fed to you via pixels on a screen? Seek it out and train. Morihei Ueshiba didn't sit at home when Sokaku Takeda came to Engaru. Morihei Ueshiba did *not* demand that Sokaku Takeda come to *him*. Had he done so, there would never have been aikido.

And history loves to repeat itself. Because all those who demand that this "aiki" come to them are going to be left with ... nothing. Those, like Morihei Ueshiba, who went to train have found aiki, have found what made Ueshiba, Takeda, Sagawa, Kodo, etc great. Have had their eyes opened to true budo. And all those sitting on the fence? Time is ticking away. I have lost count of the number of people who have said, I wish I'd have found this (aiki) when I was younger. And those standing in the way? hahaha. In the very apt story about Ueshiba having men push on him and the men slid backwards, taking tatami with them ... Who is Ueshiba? Who were the men?

Your training is in your hands, but at least have the decency to do the research before posting false information. The only hodgepodge is in the mind of those who truly do not understand aikido. Empty the cup. Find the qualified teacher. Train.
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Old 02-19-2012, 09:07 PM   #21
kewms
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Quote:
Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
Frankly, I think loyalty to an institution is a bit daft. Loyalty to people, sure. But if the person you were loyal to dies, I think it's completely appropriate to reassess your institutional ties.
I think it's also reasonable to ask what the institution has done to deserve such loyalty.

Katherine
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Old 02-19-2012, 09:24 PM   #22
Chris Li
 
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

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Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
I think it's also reasonable to ask what the institution has done to deserve such loyalty.

Katherine
It's a two way street - but honestly, I'm not sure that the Japanese entirely understand that what they're providing is not what the kind of two way street that is expected from an organization outside of Japan.

Best,

Chris

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Old 02-19-2012, 10:13 PM   #23
Dave Gallagher
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Quote from Chris:
"I'm not sure that the Japanese entirely understand that what they're providing is not what the kind of two way street that is expected from an organization outside of Japan."

.....I think you are right. The way see it though is that if you join a Japanese organisation you have to be prepared to live with it. I have never had a problem belonging to any of them. With enough experience you know what your getting into.

It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak.
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Old 02-19-2012, 10:24 PM   #24
Chris Li
 
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

Quote:
Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
Quote from Chris:
"I'm not sure that the Japanese entirely understand that what they're providing is not what the kind of two way street that is expected from an organization outside of Japan."

.....I think you are right. The way see it though is that if you join a Japanese organisation you have to be prepared to live with it. I have never had a problem belonging to any of them. With enough experience you know what your getting into.
The problem is, these are no longer purely Japanese organizations.

The bulk of people have no real contact or relationship with anybody in Japan, and there are more senior people outside of Japan than in.

If they don't recognize that people will just walk - and with good reason.

I don't know about you, but I, for one, see no reason to sit in the back of the bus just because the organization happens to come from Japan.

Best,

Chris

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Old 02-20-2012, 12:50 AM   #25
kewms
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Re: A hodgepodge system, in an information age.

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Dave Gallagher wrote: View Post
The way see it though is that if you join a Japanese organisation you have to be prepared to live with it. I have never had a problem belonging to any of them. With enough experience you know what your getting into.
And how many new students have that experience?

Unless someone actually goes to Japan to train, they are likely to have *zero* contact with the Japanese organization that signs their certificates. Their shihan is probably Japanese -- although at this point many shihans have spent more of their lives overseas than in Japan -- but the average student sees that person a handful of times a year, with at most a few minutes of actual hands-on training time. For most American students, their immediate teachers are American, that teacher's peers are American, and so are most of their friends and training partners. On what grounds does the Japanese organization expect any loyalty whatsoever from such students?

Katherine
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