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Old 02-05-2005, 12:24 AM   #26
maikerus
Dojo: Roppongi Yoshinkan Aikido / Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan
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Re: Bowing...

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
Michael, this could really spawn another thread as I view what you're describing as not only unnecessary, but can be detrimental to a students development, too open to abuse and the basis of many complaints against TMA in general. I think we'll have to leave it as a "agree to disagree" as I cannot forsee any common ground on this issue, only a potential focus for argument.
Um...Ian.

My reply to your post was meant to say that I did read the initial post and replied with my opinion of why bowing is essential to training by oneself or within a dojo. You insinuated - or perhaps stately plainly - that you thought I had not read the initial post carefully enough and I wanted to correct that misconception before others were influenced by your incorrect assumption.

I also suggested that you talk to others who have gone through similar training as I before dismissing my idea of training out of hand, which is what you did...quite forcefully.

Your posts - which I have learned to respect - are usually more based on your own experience and I was surprised that you had such a strong opinion when you categorically stated that you had never experienced such training and furthermore had no wish to.

I merely meant to point this out and suggest that there are others out there that might be worth talking to before forming opinions that have no basis in your own experience.

Personally, I have found value in the type of training I have done and that was the basis of both my initial answer and my follow-up explanation to Drew when he asked us about our opinion on bowing during one's own training, with a mat, in a gym somewhere.

--Michael

Hiriki no yosei 3 - The kihon that makes your head ache instead of your legs
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Old 02-05-2005, 12:25 AM   #27
maikerus
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Re: Bowing...

Quote:
Darin Hyde wrote:
変な外人
I guess I can't really deny that...but at least I am in good company

--Michael

Hiriki no yosei 3 - The kihon that makes your head ache instead of your legs
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Old 02-05-2005, 03:19 AM   #28
batemanb
 
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Re: Bowing...

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
I think there are two sides to this coin. On the one hand, this type of training can seem outdated, capricious, and open to abuse.
I think this is very true, but I think this is typically a western view. I haven't done the Senshusei, I haven't been an uchideshi, but I have lived in Japan for a couple of years, and visited on many more occasions. Every time I trained I saw people behave in the way that Michael describes, these people were both young and old, kyu's and dan's, and they were not uchi deshi. The dojo's that I regularly train in during time in Japan do not have uchi deshi programs, but that doesn't stop the students from upholding training values.

We have to remember that Aikido was founded and developed in Japan, in a Japanese culture. Here in the west, many people try to adapt this into their own culture or way of thinking, but in doing this, we discard the things that we dislike, as Ron stated above. It's easy to dismiss things in this way.

I can't help thinking that without experiencing these things, which are basically examples of good manners, we are missing out on part of the training. As I said before, Aikido begins and ends with respect, to ignore this is to disrespect my training.

From the Japanese perspective, bowing is aisatsu (good manners). Bowing before you train (in any location) is not only for the mat, but for yourself.

rgds

Bryan

A difficult problem is easily solved by asking yourself the question, "Just how would the Lone Ranger handle this?"
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Old 02-05-2005, 09:01 PM   #29
M.E.Perona
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Re: Bowing...

Let put it this way : when you enter a dojo, an aikido dojo for exemple, why do you bow ? From what I have gathered, you bow is an aknowledgement that a dojo is a space where usual rules do not apply.

First, il Japanese culutre, a dojo is something of an hallowed ground (please remember that Japansese notion of holy is quite far off the monotheist one). So you bow necouse you enter a sacred place.

Second, usual social distinctions do not apply in a dojo. The distinctions are based on rank an time of practice, and not on wealth or political power. Basically, it means a 25 years-old student can command respect from a 45-years old CEO.

Third, the usual rules of behavior no not apply as well. On a mat, you are not personnally offended by the fact that someone is trying to hit you (it is neseccary for the practice), and you will allow people to have contact much more intimate that what you would tolerate elsewere.

Hence, bowing is an aknowlegdement of those three points. Hence, I think it is right to bow to any mat you will be practicing (if you don't go aigainst local customs bu bowing), or even to the patch of grass upon which you will try you ukemis.

For those reading French, I wrote an article about the significance of the Dojo as a special place. I am no expert, so errors are probably numerous, but I tried to summarize what I learned from various sources.

http://www.parisaikidoclub.com/spip/...id_article=107

--
http://www.parisaikidoclub.com
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Old 02-06-2005, 12:09 AM   #30
darin
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Re: Bowing...

Quote:
Michael Stuempel wrote:
I guess I can't really deny that...but at least I am in good company

--Michael
I worked for two Japanese companies in Tokyo and during those times was treated as a Japanese. You know, working for a traditional company is like entering into a dojo or joining the army. Your expected to clean and do boring jobs from day one until someone newer joins then takes your place.

I think this is often difficult for non Japanese to comprehend. I too found it hard at first. Times are changing in Japan. The youth of Japan say that the old ways although probably good for developing character and discipline are not very recoursefull and are unhealth in the long run. Also they discourage individuality and creativeness.

I don't know if its possible to have a "free" martial art. Bruce Lee said that martial arts is about self expression. I think this goes against the ideals of Japanese martial arts. Maybe Japanese arts are not really about expression but replication or perfection of a technique not improving on it.
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Old 02-06-2005, 03:39 PM   #31
Drew Herron
 
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Re: Bowing...

Wow, thanks everyone. I didn't think this would be able to get such a debate... I guess there is a strong philosophical aspect to bowing to an empty room though. I will definitely bow when I'm training alone from now on (yes, even to the grass ) I think I'll start a new thread on a simpler question I've been wondering about, and see if it gets so much attention. Thanks again everyone.

-Drew

PS - I love this website.
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Old 02-06-2005, 05:47 PM   #32
maikerus
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Re: Bowing...

Quote:
Darin Hyde wrote:
Maybe Japanese arts are not really about expression but replication or perfection of a technique not improving on it.
Hi Darin,

That's an interesting thought and it does make sense.

I remember that we asked one senior Japanese instructor if he had made up any of his own techniques and he admitted that he had. When we asked him to show us (begged? pleaded?) he refused stating that they weren't part of Aikido since they didn't come from the founder, or words to that effect.

Quote:
Darin Hyde wrote:
I think this is often difficult for non Japanese to comprehend. I too found it hard at first. Times are changing in Japan. The youth of Japan say that the old ways although probably good for developing character and discipline are not very recoursefull and are unhealth in the long run. Also they discourage individuality and creativeness.
I've had a couple of discussions about this over the years and have to agree with you. Its hard to see as an outsider and even harder to understand when you haven't lived it at all. This whole sempai/kohai idea has to be looked at within the culture and not just within the dojo - which is why its hard to understand when the only exposure to the culture you get is through Aikido.

As for the youth of today...kids nowadays...jeez

You're right that it is changing. And that is probably a good thing...but on the other hand there is something comforting about firmly knowing your place in a hierarchy. Hopefully there will evolve a balance of some type.

cheers,

--Michael

Hiriki no yosei 3 - The kihon that makes your head ache instead of your legs
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Old 02-06-2005, 06:17 PM   #33
stuartjvnorton
 
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Re: Bowing...

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
Gozo Shioda thought the kind of training Michael descibes was crucial...he speaks about it in his autobiography, at some length. These types of tasks are also typically seen in uchideshi environments, something which is legitimately rather rare today.

I think there are two sides to this coin. On the one hand, this type of training can seem outdated, capricious, and open to abuse. On the other hand, people who have gone through it in various environments often proclaim its usefullness. Personally, I think it would be hazardous to dismiss it out of hand. Since almost every major student of Ueshiba went through something similar...and most did indeed seem to find some value in it. I would be extremely carefull about the environment where I subjected myself to this kind of training...I think that only wise. But to dismiss it out of hand? Without understanding the framework in which it exists? Seems kind of foolish...

Ron (but hey, whatever floats your particular boat is fine with me)
Mori Sensei (who did this as an uchi deshi of Shioda Sensei for almost 10 years) said it was a vital part of his training, and it seemed to me that this guy could just about read minds.
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Old 02-07-2005, 02:31 AM   #34
happysod
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Re: Bowing...

Michael and Ron, OK I admit, this subject has hit one of my "ON" buttons, so may have been more abrupt than was necessary, apologies for that.

However, while I can see where you're both coming from, my own experience of dojos where such behavior was fostered was entirely negative. I think this is because I have only seen this type of training emphasised in what are otherwise purely western dojos, so the traditional Japanese give and take between sensei and student with that attendant mutual respect (as I understand it) has been filtered through a different mindset.

It may be different in the US, but my feeling is that the UK still has enough of a class system to use this type of training as a means of promoting status, purely and simply, to the aggrandisment of the teacher while being to the detriment of the dojo.

Also, while I can understand people defending the use of menial tasks in the dojo as part of their training towards the philosophy behind aikido, I have to hold my hand up to being a total atheist on this. My own aikido practice (and interest) is limited to the physical, admittedly with it's emphasis on blending and non-escalation with regard to violence, but not as a path to live my life by, so our views will probably diverge quite dramatically.
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Old 02-07-2005, 04:56 AM   #35
batemanb
 
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Re: Bowing...

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
My own aikido practice (and interest) is limited to the physical, admittedly with it's emphasis on blending and non-escalation with regard to violence, but not as a path to live my life by, so our views will probably diverge quite dramatically.
Hi Ian,

Without wanting to get into a flame war, one could argue at this point that if you only focus on the physical, whilst you may study and practice Aiki techniques, you aren't actually studying Aikido. I think that this is key in where you draw lines in your practice.

Regards

Bryan

A difficult problem is easily solved by asking yourself the question, "Just how would the Lone Ranger handle this?"
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Old 02-07-2005, 05:59 AM   #36
happysod
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Re: Bowing...

Bryan,

One could definitely argue this, even passionately - but then we'd have to take a side step into defining aikido and how you recognise it. For me, physical practice is the only area where you can actually show whether you're truly practicing aikido or not - I would argue the flip side in that if you're using aikido's philosophy in the world outside, you may be using some of the philosophical tenements of aikido, but you're not actually practicing aikido at that point.

No flames, just musings and eagerly awaiting the trouncing to come
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Old 02-07-2005, 07:08 AM   #37
batemanb
 
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Re: Bowing...

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
Bryan,

One could definitely argue this, even passionately - but then we'd have to take a side step into defining aikido and how you recognise it.
That's possibly true, but I think you need to look past the physical in order to define it. Kaiso was a very religious man, he formed this art influenced heavily by his beliefs. By it's own name, Aikido is a way, it is much more than physical form. The spiritual and philosophical aspects are inherrent to the way.

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
For me, physical practice is the only area where you can actually show whether you're truly practicing aikido or not -
I'll have to stay disagreed here . Practicing the physical only demonstrates the physical, it does not show that you are practicing the way.

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
I would argue the flip side in that if you're using aikido's philosophy in the world outside, you may be using some of the philosophical tenements of aikido, but you're not actually practicing aikido at that point.
I can see your argument .

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
No flames, just musings and eagerly awaiting the trouncing to come
No flame, nor trouncing .

Regards

Bryan

A difficult problem is easily solved by asking yourself the question, "Just how would the Lone Ranger handle this?"
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Old 02-07-2005, 07:46 AM   #38
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Bowing...

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
Michael and Ron, OK I admit, this subject has hit one of my "ON" buttons, so may have been more abrupt than was necessary, apologies for that.
No need to appologize, I do understand your perspective, and I've seen some things in the kinds of environments we're discussing that give me pause. Thanks for keeping the tone civil...its one of the hallmarks of this site.

Quote:
It may be different in the US, but my feeling is that the UK still has enough of a class system to use this type of training as a means of promoting status, purely and simply, to the aggrandisment of the teacher while being to the detriment of the dojo.
In the US too...but where I see a crucial difference in my own experience, is in having a japanese instructor who views aikido as something more than a martial art...it is a study of culture as well. And as such, some of the things Michael mentioned come into play in interesting ways. If my teacher was not japanese, maybe some of the ettiquite would turn me off more. But I happen to enjoy learning about other cultures (hopefully not just for the role playing benefit ). I think it takes a special person to be able to bring a microcosm of a society that doesn't really even exist to any large extent anymore and replicate it outside of the country of its origin. Its a difficult task, fraught with many dangers. The koryu face an even tougher challenge than aikido...and yet we see teachers like Ellis Amdur and the Skosses doing it. And they are not even japanese.

Quote:
Also, while I can understand people defending the use of menial tasks in the dojo as part of their training towards the philosophy behind aikido, I have to hold my hand up to being a total atheist on this. My own aikido practice (and interest) is limited to the physical, admittedly with it's emphasis on blending and non-escalation with regard to violence, but not as a path to live my life by, so our views will probably diverge quite dramatically.
I can understand what you are saying here...personally, the more esoteric(?) parts of any practice I find hard to speak about...how can you measure them? What is the test for harmony in life?

I've heard John Stevens say quite often that 'Aikido is not easy'. It really isn't easy...there are many pitfalls (too soft, not enough form, falsely non-competitive, too hard with a cooperative uke, no real way to measure spiritual/philosophical progress, adults playing japanese dress up, etc. etc.). We can all go on and on about these and other issues. Its hard to avoid these pitfalls, to train honestly, to make your best effort even though you're 43, don't train enough, smoke too much, have bad knees and have to go to work tomorrow. So getting on the mat alone is hard enough...then you have to practice shikkoho, kokyu dosa, and after ten years, you still don't do it right. Technique grounded in a foreign culture (what possible use is it today??).

But I enjoy it. Just like the ettiquite, I find it adds something somehow to my life, that I can deal with adversity in new ways, that I can get in sync with people I would have beaten to a bloody pulp before, that I feel better about my life after a good hard keiko.

But it isn't easy...
Best,
Ron

Last edited by Ron Tisdale : 02-07-2005 at 07:49 AM.

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
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Old 02-07-2005, 05:57 PM   #39
maikerus
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Re: Bowing...

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
Michael and Ron, OK I admit, this subject has hit one of my "ON" buttons, so may have been more abrupt than was necessary, apologies for that.
Hi Ian,

Now that the world has turned on its axis to my time zone again...<grin>

We all have things that push us past where we want to be and this was obviously one of yours. No apology required.

Unfortunately, one of mine is the misrepresentation or maybe misunderstanding of what I see as Japanese (or AIkido...to be specific) culture in many/most/some? dojos in the western world. This includes the misuse of Japanese words and concepts in order to pigeonhole a whole wealth of information into one word which isn't even in one's native tongue. There are others here who's Japanese is much better than mine that can go on about that.

Of course...what this means is that I find we are actually in agreement with the problems you have seen in the western world.

My emphasis from the original post was more on what I guess I think training should be and how it has helped me in Japan (including the whole sempai-kohai relationship concept). I mean, I even bow while speaking on the phone half the time (I can't believe I admitted that <sigh>).

Your perspective was obviously based on your experience elsewhere and I guess that you have found anything other than physical training lacking and not worthwhile.

That being said...I need to relate a story told to us by Chida Sensei during our senshusei course that touches on this use of only physical aikido.

One class we asked Chida Sensei whether he had ever needed to use Aikido in real life. His reply was that he often used Aikido in the subway and train stations in Tokyo.

We were amazed...all of us had often wanted to throw somebody out of the way or smash them into a door when we were pushed, kicked or poked (of course we never did ) and here was Chida Sensei telling us that he too did this.

Of course it wasn't really like that

We asked him to elaborate further and he said that when he walked through a really big crowd he would touch the person he wanted to get out of his way on the opposite side shoulder that he wanted them to move to. That person would then move away from the touch leaving room for him to pass. This was in contrast to shoving through a crowd and having them shove back...which we all know doesn't work very well no matter how gratifying.

So...I now do this and it does work very well. I suppose you could still call it physical Aikido, but I don't think that's the type of physical you were thinking of.

Ian...No flame...no trouncing. Just striving to understand where we are all coming from and why. I should have remembered that when this all started. My apologies as well for coming on stronger than needed.

cheers,

--Michael

Hiriki no yosei 3 - The kihon that makes your head ache instead of your legs
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Old 02-07-2005, 10:28 PM   #40
Charles Hill
Dojo: Numazu Aikikai/Aikikai Honbu Dojo
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Re: Bowing...

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
It may be different in the US, but my feeling is that the UK still has enough of a class system to use this type of training as a means of promoting status, purely and simply, to the aggrandisment of the teacher while being to the detriment of the dojo.
I think this is very important and I am glad Ian wrote it. Bowing, in the aikido style, is very much Japanese culture, developed over a long period of time by people with a particular psychology, culture, geography and etc. I don`t think it is necessary to remove it when Aikido changes countries, but I do think it is important for those involved to think deeply about the issues and figure out what (if any) relevance they have. From what I have heard, the UK has quite a different "class system" from the US. Thus I (american) have no idea what bowing might mean there.

Ron mentioned John Stevens. Prof. Stevens has emphasized that Aikido is universal. If one feels that bowing in the Japanese way is not universal, maybe it should be changed in their school. However, I, personally, would be reluctant to change this, but that is due to my lack of understanding what exactly Aikido is.

I have learned a lot from this thread.

Charles
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Old 02-09-2005, 06:32 AM   #41
bogglefreak20
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Re: Bowing...

Quote:
Xu Wenfung wrote:
Hi Miha,

I am Chinese, and I don't bow (in normal everyday activities anyway) and I have not heard of the above saying, maybe it is Japanese. The Chinese civilisation did bow/kowtow but then such practice became arcane since circa 1920; eversince China underwent a huge change in management (i.e. overthrowing of the Imperial Ching dynasty and founding of the Republic of China).

Just a piece of cultural policing.

Boon.

Well, I was obviously misinformed. I once read the phrase above to be a Chinese proverb. I am aware of the recent Chinese history but I suspect the proverb is of an older date.

I find the proverb, be it Chinese or Japanese or whatever, very enlightening.

Nevertheless, I stand corrected and am much obliged for your insight. Thank you!

Beatus Qui Venit In Nomine Domini!
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Old 02-09-2005, 07:25 AM   #42
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Bowing...

Well, here in 'godless' Hiroshima, we bow to the shoumen only when there is a picture of the Founder displayed, or the Japanese flag. At the main dojo, where the chief instructor practises, there is no space for a picture, so we just bow to each other. If there were only one person training in this dojo, there would be no bow at all.

My own dojo is the judo hall of a local school. We 'transform' it into an aikido dojo by means of the picture and, of course, do a shoumen rei. Occasionally I train by myself, ukemi and suburi etc. Sometimes I put up the picture and bow to the Founder; other times I dispense with this and just get on with solo practice.

I certainly do not bow to reinforce a habit: I doubt whether the habit acquired from 25 years residence needs any more reinforcing.

Best regards to all,

P A Goldsbury
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