George Ledyard Sensei's seminar at Alamo City Aikido in San Antonio, TX was a great success!
Many of you here on Aikiweb may know Ledyard Sensei through his thoughtful and informative posts. If you have never had the opportunity to train with him though, you are truly missing out on one of the greats. I highly recommend making the effort to visit his dojo or catch him at a seminar somewhere; you will get a lot out of the experience, no matter what your level of practice.
Ledyard Sensei has a very systematic and understandable way of explaining the connection between basic Aikido techniques and their natural progression into the more advanced concepts. He bridges the gap between understanding just the physical movements to advanced principles of timing, distance, energy, and intuitive response between uke and nage that the basic physical movements reveal. He does this through demonstrating first the static basic form of technique, then to nage initiating movement through physical contact, progressing to leading uke's mind and energy without contact. Along the way he uses various "tools" to do this: he utilizes a deep understanding of the sword and the role of atemi in disrupting uke's attack and intent. Uke's role in the technique is emphasized as well. Ledyard Sensei made a point of making sure our attacks were honest and not just "giving" the technique to our partners. He made much of the fact that a sloppy weak attack will do nothing to help our partners: the truth of our technique can only be found in the resolution of conflict between an honest attack from uke, and correct mental intention on nage's part. He emphasized that having a mind with any doubt as to whether a technique will succeed, will always be defeated by a true attack.
Ledyard Sensei has had the advantage of many years of direct instruction from some of the highest ranked, most advanced Aikido instructors in the world, such as Saotome Shihan and Ikeda Shihan. These Shihan are trying to impart not just the outward form of technique, but the more difficult to understand and communicate advanced principles. Things such as how to manipulate weight and body structure, connection with your partners center, movement through neutral space instead of against your partner's strength, proper extension within your own sphere of control, timing and space, and sensing and control of intent. Perhaps because of different cultural backgrounds and communication difficulties it is harder for we, as westerners, to understand these principles from these Japanese Shihan…making things that are already hard to grasp even more difficult.
It took Ledyard Sensei many years of constant diligent effort to develop a deep understanding of some of these more advanced principles. He has a very analytical mind and a talent for systematizing these difficult concepts. The teaching approach he has developed gives a similar western cultural outlook, understanding, and pedagogical structure; making them more accessible to those of us fortunate enough to receive instruction from him. His stated goal is to give us a way to arrive at and begin to be able to practice these things, and so advance faster than he did. His ideal is not to hold back information or keep things hard to understand, but instead try to help his students surpass him in understanding. It becomes apparent through his teaching, that his hope is to fulfill the duty of advancing Aikido further for the next generation of students, not simply continue it in it's current form, or worse yet, have it slip backward. He is a very generous instructor, with a serious but joyful teaching approach…a great time was had by all, and the learning experiences we gained have planted seeds that will give us much to practice and process for a long time to come.
Thank you Sensei for sharing your knowledge, giving us so much time (12 hours of classes in 2 ½ days! not to mention all the late-into-the-night discussions), and making our first seminar in San Antonio such a great success! A big thank you as well to all of the out of town guest who attended. Sensei expressed his pleasure with the turn out and the eagerness of all in attendance. We hope to see you all again next year in October when Ledyard Sensei will return.
PS. I just notice George Ledyard Sensei will be teaching in Berkley this coming weekend...here's your chance California, don't miss him!