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Old 02-07-2013, 01:45 PM   #51
Dan Richards
 
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Re: Perhaps the tide is changing.

Yannis, I completely agree with you about not stripping away the essence. But then I would add that it gets tricky when we start looking at things like dress and protocol, because even those changed over time during its development by M. Ueshiba from the initial aiki-jūjutsu days through to modern aikido.

The hakama is a perfect example. In the early days of Ueshiba's aiki-jūjutsu everyone on the tatami had to be in a hakama - even if it had bright stripes and was borrowed from your grandpa. After WWII material was in such shortage that people were making hakamas out of anything they could find - sofas, curtains, foton covers, etc. And then it was decided that only yudansha needed to wear a hakama.

Even the dan/kyu system. It wasn't in effect during the aiki-jūjutsu era. And in fact, the dan/kyu system came from the game, "Go."

My point is, even such things as hakamas and kyu/dan grades are the result of "trends and tides" that have little or nothing to do with the "essence" of any of these arts.

Speaking of "essence," I trained a few years ago with Mike Sigman. I ended up being his uke for most of the two day seminar. We were all in sweats and tennis shoes. What I got through Mike - in two days - pound for pound - contained more "essence" in it than I got from years of training in dojos and with top-level aikido shihan. I've continued to develop what I "experience" through Mike, and have passed it on to many people. I also continue to explore what I learned from Shoji Nishio - which was, more than anything, to explore and examine.

There's a big difference between being sold fish by others, and being taught to fish for ourselves. And it's a funny thing; the highest-level teachers to really teach us about catching fish are, ultimately - the fish.

Last edited by Dan Richards : 02-07-2013 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 02-08-2013, 12:59 AM   #52
Dan Richards
 
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Re: Perhaps the tide is changing.

Quote:
Travers Hughes wrote: View Post
... a lot of people seem to be reducing goal timeframes - no such thing as long term goals any more. "If results can't be achieved quickly, its not worth it" seems to be the general attitude.
Travers, that's an interesting point. It seems that one thing that's changing is people's concept of time. For one, so many are now living more asynchronously. The intersection of time as a specific space is disappearing.

I read an article, perhaps by Dr. John Painter, about Tai Chi. Saying that this idea that it should take 20 years to learn was not even the original intention of Tai Chi, and that people could be trained to be battle ready and use it within six months.

My teacher, Shoji Nishio, would say that the way aikido is often taught simple takes too long. That there are better pedagogical methods that can, could, and should be put into place to allow for a much more rapid advancement of students.

A few years ago, I had a student who came in all the time. Really worked at it. Lots of weapons works, lots of randori, exploration into rhythm, timing, and breathing. He attained shodan in under two years. I wasn't looking to graduate anyone quickly, but he did it. I was sitting in a chair at some point, and realized that he was using energy on a shodan level. I called him on the cell phone and told him he got shodan. And that was that. In my classes the "test" is every day.

Unusual perhaps. Maybe. Ueshiba nonchalantly graduated Yamada from shodan to sandan while Yamada was giving him a massage.

I think a lot of structure has been put in place over the years that was not there back when it was "old school." Modern aikido often has very structured time schedules when the classes are held. Why? We can have some of that, but what about opening it up. Instead of a 5-6 class, why can't there be an ongoing session from 5-9, and let people come in when they can. On a given day, if someone can't make it in the prescribed hour, they miss out. It makes the window of opportunity for training much more narrow. Why can't we open the windows.

These are just some ideas, since I've had some different experiences over the years, and been inspired by certain movements and schools. Take surfers for example. They're just out in it. And they don't have specific times to meet. And often, what they do is subjugated by the weather and the waves. Skateboarding came from surfers who wanted to do it more, and not be so dependent on mother nature.

Another thing with surfers is that they've really been creative, and used their imagination and technology to progress. Their progression was also not held back by those who went before them. In fact, innovation is encouraged. And if someone like Greg Noll might be considered the O' Sensei of modern surfing, look at how far Laird Hamilton has taken. Things Hamilton does blows Nolls mind. Noll was an integral part of modern surfing, but so many have gone so much further since then.

Another inspiration was from watching the Yip Man movie. Seeing all the "schools" in the town square lined up, and contrasting that with Yip Man hanging out at his house with his children, and training with people who would come over. One of his students, Bruce Lee, was another innovator. Watch this Danny Iosanto interview where he talks about how Bruce Lee's training methods developed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUgYRi1uSJw

Of course there can be time for putting on a formal gi and hakama and observing more formalized ritual. No problem with that. But we shouldn't limit training to that alone. I've trained in all sorts of clothing, including a nice dress suit. I love seeing those old videos of (I believe it's) Tohei and K Ueshiba training in a field with tall grass in their business suits. And Sunadomari in a suit with that short staff at the Aikido Friendship demonstration. And when we put on hakamas, let's have everyone where them. That's how it was at hombu before the war. After the war, with the scarcity of materials it was designed only yadansha. Why has the hakama become a source of pride. And in some many systems it's become some sort of proud garment worn by yudansha. At least in some schools, hakamas are put on at 3rd kyu. I've had a hakama since 3rd kyu. I remember a teacher saying that having a hakama meant that you could be thrown, and that you're ukemi was developed enough. I think that's a good start. When I started a school I allowed anyone to wear a hakama as soon as they wanted. And I can tell you from experience, it advances students faster.

There are so many tools that can be used to give people a better and more technically accurate experiential discovery of what they're doing. In almost every class I teach I'll use hula hoops, bokken, jo, and some kind of shinai and a soft foam bokken. And sometimes whatever else is around. There's no reason that even a lot of the training can't be Takemusu as well - sponanteously generated teaching techniques.

And IP / Ki / Integration training. Testing and practices along the lines of Ki Aikido as well as what people like Mike Sigman are doing. I work on, and teach, what Mike taught me in every class. This kind of stuff needs to be in there. And people like Dan Harden and Akuzawa Minoru are providing even more core components for us to learn and experience and pass on.

Systema concepts fit in with aikido training perfectly. Especially the slow randoori. We do that in almost every class.

There's no reason that training can't get back to the "lifestyle" that it's been for many. Open the doors, open the windows. Open minds. Play. Be creative. Have fun. Explore. Take boxing gyms as an example. Or just gyms in general. There open a lot of hours, and people get in there and train when they can. That often results in people
training much more intensely and more immersively, and progressing not only much faster, but on deeper levels.

Just some notes, and me thinking out loud. Cheers...

Last edited by Dan Richards : 02-08-2013 at 01:02 AM.
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Old 02-08-2013, 05:35 PM   #53
Janet Rosen
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Re: Perhaps the tide is changing.

Dan Richards, great post. Thanks.

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Old 02-08-2013, 05:46 PM   #54
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Perhaps the tide is changing.

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
And Sunadomari in a suit with that short staff at the Aikido Friendship demonstration.
Just an aside... it was Kuroiwa Sensei in the suit using the sticks to show technique.

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Old 02-10-2013, 04:17 PM   #55
Travers Hughes
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Re: Perhaps the tide is changing.

Quote:
Dan Richards wrote: View Post
Travers, that's an interesting point. It seems that one thing that's changing is people's concept of time. For one, so many are now living more asynchronously. The intersection of time as a specific space is disappearing.

I read an article, perhaps by Dr. John Painter, about Tai Chi. Saying that this idea that it should take 20 years to learn was not even the original intention of Tai Chi, and that people could be trained to be battle ready and use it within six months.

My teacher, Shoji Nishio, would say that the way aikido is often taught simple takes too long. That there are better pedagogical methods that can, could, and should be put into place to allow for a much more rapid advancement of students.

(SNIP)

Why can't we open the windows.

Just some notes, and me thinking out loud. Cheers...
Hi Dan,

Nice post - agree entirely.
I think a couple of your points here reinforce what I am at a crossroads with my aikido now (and appear to be what Chris was mentioning from the OP - apologies if I'm wrong) :

I think that a lot of how some dojo train new members is almost backwards - learning ukemi first, and then "technique". I'd like to hear from others who have experimented with teaching a first class on say ikkyo prior to learning the ukemi for it.
(Note: Of course I get the importance of ukemi - not saying its not important. I'm trying to put a new members spin on it - if I come in and on the first class I learn how to do something that has practical value in my mind, then I'm more interested that say the other person who comes in and learns how to do a forwards and backward roll).

It almost the difference in TMA and MMA training (broad statement). In aikido, we are learning how to blend and are told that over time we will realise the martial effectiveness (whatever this means). Compare this with an MMA approach - getting in there and having a go at the techniques and over time learning fluidity etc - both get us to the same point, but the MMA approach seems to take less time, which is probably why this approach is more popular these days.

I particularly enjoyed your comment about "opening the windows" - how much of this is a result of us shutting the windows in the first place? (not just in class tiems etc, but also in how we teach / learn).

Thanks for your post.
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Old 02-10-2013, 06:37 PM   #56
Messias
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Re: Perhaps the tide is changing.

Quote:
Travers Hughes wrote: View Post
I'd like to hear from others who have experimented with teaching a first class on say ikkyo prior to learning the ukemi for it.
Well, Iīm in my second week of training, and I was quite surprised to read here in the forum about a separate "begginers class", front and back rolls all day, etc... For me and a few other new guys, itīs nothing of that. We just joinned the normal class and do whatever the others are doing. Hey...I donīt even know the names of the techniques yet!
The Sensei as well as the other senior members are constantly making sure that thereīs a high ranked guy "leading" us through class. And when the exercise allows it, we end it with a front or back roll.
At the end of the class, we maybe do some 15min of rolls.

I donīt know if itīs the right approach (never saw another, so...) but itīs perfect for me. I might not be getting everything out of the exercises yet, but Itīs certainly a great method for experiencing the efectiveness of a hand twist, while feeling integrated with everyone the class. We keep changing partners and in fact... Trainning is a real joy to go!
Ohh... and another thing: I can go in whatever day, schedule or Sensei that I want.

Iīm really happy with it!
Cheers,
Messias.
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Old 02-10-2013, 09:56 PM   #57
Janet Rosen
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Re: Perhaps the tide is changing.

Quote:
Travers Hughes wrote: View Post
I think that a lot of how some dojo train new members is almost backwards - learning ukemi first, and then "technique". I'd like to hear from others who have experimented with teaching a first class on say ikkyo prior to learning the ukemi for it.
Well, in my "low impact" class aimed at folks w/ mobility, pain, disability issues, "teaching ukemi" focuses purely on proper, on target attacks w/ intent then staying connected to give accurate feedback to partner (we aren't taking folks down to the ground, though - so for ikkyo, just to point of balance break)

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Old 02-12-2013, 08:48 PM   #58
Dan Richards
 
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Re: Perhaps the tide is changing.

Thanks for the comments. And I appreciate Chris for starting this evolving thread.

We have to understand something about "power." The average teenager today - with access to the internet and a credit card - has more power available to them than all the kings and queens of civilizations past. We have far more power available to us than the founders of aikido did. And, in fact, it is our very power that will empower them even more.

M. Ueshiba learned, and was taught, in an age of largely one-to-one communication. Then the age of one-to-many came about over time, and largely through media. His son, K. Ueshiba, and Tohei were largely responsible for the one-to-many model and the growth of Aikikai and Ki Society, respectively, as well as the founding of "branch" schools by other direct students.

We have entered an age of many-to-many communication. A new level of "structure." And, as such, we are discovering that the very institutions, hierarchies, and power structures that were once effective, trusted, and supportive - are becoming irrelevant. The pyramids of power - by their own design - are collapsing under their own weight.

To be honest here, I started training at NY Aikikai under Yamada many years ago. And I've got to say that for many years after, I didn't like him. I didn't like the "power structure." But Yamada's really been receptive to the "turning of the tide." He's started his own organization. He's also speaking out on things such as belts and dan grades, politics, and how the internal structure of aikido - where it was once supportive - can not longer support aikido. Aikido has grown, and by definition, now requires a structure that allows for more freedom, more autonomy - more power.

Which sort of gets us back to "skin as structure." M. Ueshiba was the architect. K. Ueshiba was the engineer. The direct students were the builders who constructed the building. And we have reached a phase not only in aikido - but in our civilization - where the scaffolding is being removed. Interestingly enough, if you want to look at power, look at what Stanley Pranin has done. He has, as an historian, nearly single-handedly exposed and dismantled the old power structure - for all of us to see. It's not that there was anything wrong with the "old" power structure at the time. But we are all moving to a new level. He's also been responsible for bringing more aikidoka together than anyone else.

In the new many-to-many model, Stanley Pranin is the Toto in the Wizard of Oz, who pulls the curtain away, to expose, not a powerful being who rules through fear, deception, and smoke and mirrors - but a simple man - with his own frailties, imperfections, and "partial understandings." Stanely Pranin has pulled the curtain back to show us ourselves.

And believe me. Ueshiba wanted us to see that. Because, even today, Ueshiba has a greater understanding.

Aikido to me is not a "path" but a process to greater understanding. And, by design, will always contain segments of "partial understanding." Perfect understanding, while we get glimpses of it, will ever remain a blueprint rather than a final destination. Aikido, like enlightenment, and even love, is not a destination, but a practice. In fact, if we take away words such as "way" and "path" and install practice - it's makes for something more alive, more dynamic, more - eternal. And the definite article, "the," doesn't really serve us. "The way to harmony with the spirit" may have had some cache at some point, but it doesn't really have the same impact as it once may have.

I've also seen a high-level shihan comment that what Ueshiba meant by his practice was, "You're relationship with God." I could go for something like "A practice of harmony with spirit." Ueshiba was clearly "in process." Nothing more. Just like the rest of us.

Anyone who says, "I got it." Doesn't have it. They are the Wizard of Oz.

But if someone says, "I have a partial understanding, and I want to explore and create more - and that together, we can all make something greater." Therein lies a child. Ueshiba became a great man - precisely because he remained a child. Look at him. The guy was like a kid in a candy shop.

Last edited by Dan Richards : 02-12-2013 at 09:03 PM.

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Old 02-13-2013, 04:34 PM   #59
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Perhaps the tide is changing.

Quote:
Travers Hughes wrote: View Post
It almost the difference in TMA and MMA training (broad statement). In aikido, we are learning how to blend and are told that over time we will realise the martial effectiveness (whatever this means). Compare this with an MMA approach - getting in there and having a go at the techniques and over time learning fluidity etc - both get us to the same point, but the MMA approach seems to take less time, which is probably why this approach is more popular these days.
Here's where I would disagree. I do not think both ways get you to the same point. No amount of MMA training will result in the ability to apply technique with "aiki". Yes, really good MMA practitioners get flexible, more relaxed, develop more power but it is an art which is dependent on muscular strength and external power. Getting into competition right away will not result in the kind of re-programming of mind / body required to do technique with aiki.

That said, most Aikido one encounters doesn't really have any "aiki" either. But that isn't because of the emphasis on ukemi as opposed to nage waza. It's because we ask our students to execute very complex techniques, attempting to duplicate something they just saw from the teacher, with no understanding of how to properly use one's body. There is no alternative to either muscling the technique concerned or having the uke tank for you so the technique will "work".

If I were to be left completely to my own devices, I would have the student do static technique, and basic connection exercises of the type one would do with Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei (or any of the internal power teachers) and spend 3 - 5 years getting the body / mind properly programmed. Than I'd start doing more technique in a dynamic fashion. I would not have the student do anything resembling what folks often refer to as "resistant" training until they had been training this way for 5 years or so. I would also teach the ukes to attack using the same principles used by the nage. Right now we have one person attempting to do very sophisticated technique against an attacker who is totally remedial.

I think at the end of 8 to 10 yrs of training properly, we could end up with someone who currently operates at a fairly high Dan rank. In other words, after 8 - 10 years of training we would have someone who functions at or better than what passes for 6th dan at this point.

I wouldn't do any "mixing it up", or sparring before five years or so. Before that the student will fall back into old body habits in order to "win".

- George

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Old 02-13-2013, 05:21 PM   #60
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Re: Perhaps the tide is changing.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
If I were to be left completely to my own devices, I would have the student do static technique, and basic connection exercises of the type one would do with Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei (or any of the internal power teachers) and spend 3 - 5 years getting the body / mind properly programmed. Than I'd start doing more technique in a dynamic fashion. I would not have the student do anything resembling what folks often refer to as "resistant" training until they had been training this way for 5 years or so. I would also teach the ukes to attack using the same principles used by the nage. Right now we have one person attempting to do very sophisticated technique against an attacker who is totally remedial.
Oddly enough, this sounds quite a bit like what we've been doing out here. But we have the advantage of being left completely to our own devices (or maybe it would be better to say - we took that advantage).

Best,

Chris

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Old 02-14-2013, 01:58 AM   #61
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Re: Perhaps the tide is changing.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Here's where I would disagree. I do not think both ways get you to the same point. No amount of MMA training will result in the ability to apply technique with "aiki". Yes, really good MMA practitioners get flexible, more relaxed, develop more power but it is an art which is dependent on muscular strength and external power. Getting into competition right away will not result in the kind of re-programming of mind / body required to do technique with aiki.

That said, most Aikido one encounters doesn't really have any "aiki" either. But that isn't because of the emphasis on ukemi as opposed to nage waza. It's because we ask our students to execute very complex techniques, attempting to duplicate something they just saw from the teacher, with no understanding of how to properly use one's body. There is no alternative to either muscling the technique concerned or having the uke tank for you so the technique will "work".

If I were to be left completely to my own devices, I would have the student do static technique, and basic connection exercises of the type one would do with Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei (or any of the internal power teachers) and spend 3 - 5 years getting the body / mind properly programmed. Than I'd start doing more technique in a dynamic fashion. I would not have the student do anything resembling what folks often refer to as "resistant" training until they had been training this way for 5 years or so. I would also teach the ukes to attack using the same principles used by the nage. Right now we have one person attempting to do very sophisticated technique against an attacker who is totally remedial.

I think at the end of 8 to 10 yrs of training properly, we could end up with someone who currently operates at a fairly high Dan rank. In other words, after 8 - 10 years of training we would have someone who functions at or better than what passes for 6th dan at this point.

I wouldn't do any "mixing it up", or sparring before five years or so. Before that the student will fall back into old body habits in order to "win".

- George
A great post. I pretty much agree, and this is how I am attempting to approach training. However, most people simply won't put in the time and effort in this model, not in the modern world.I don't know if it's possible to run a viable dojo on this model. At best, you'll get a loose affiliation of small groups of dedicated individuals.
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