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Old 02-08-2007, 08:31 AM   #51
Edward
Location: Bangkok
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:

Finally, Clark, you could ponder the question: why would anyone want to become an uchi-deshi in a martial art like aikido? I have met Don Angier and Toby Threadgill, and also Ellis, at the 2002 Expo. They all were deshi of senseis in koryu budo, but did not experience the rough and tumble of a being in a large group of Japanese deshi in a martial art with no real history. Unless I am quite mistaken.

Best wishes,
Hello Peter,

It would be very interesting to hear your answer to this question. I think I know what you mean by " a martial art with no real history" but I would love to read your point of view.

Thanks for your great contributions to this fascinating thread.
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Old 02-08-2007, 09:00 AM   #52
crbateman
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
Actually, my next Aikiweb column will be a discussion of the issues of transmission, inheritance and emulation in aikido. It was too late for the February columns, but will appear in March. Arikawa Sensei will be a good example of the issues involved. So, I hope you will come back with issues and questions later.
This is, in my opinion, one of the cornerstone issues in the preservation of this historical information. All who are yet capable of documenting, in as faithful a fashion as is possible, their experiences with the Founder, with early Aikido, and with these most influential teachers who comprise so many important stitches in the fabric of Aikido, should do so, for the benefit of future generations. The writings won't change over time, whereas the interpretative teachings of current instructors surely will, from person to person. The sense of what Aikido is cannot survive without the understanding of what Aikido was.

Thank you, Prof. Goldsbury, for your most valuable contributions. I look forward to your columns.
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Old 02-08-2007, 09:04 AM   #53
Jorge Garcia
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Speaking of supposed abuse, I have heard some interesting underground stories of a system of "protection" at the Aikikai Hombu for the locals that existed in the past. I don't know the details but the stories imply something like this. A person from another martial art comes in and is being really rough on his partner ( and possibly abusive). When a senior member notices it, they notify an unofficial "enforcer" who then finds a way to train with that person (interrupt the two practicing or get them the next time?) and that person "takes care of them".There seems to be an implication that is is somewhat of an honor to be that enforcer because it is an unspoken recognition that the person can handle almost anyone. This example would be among the more senior members. Anyone ever heard or become aware of anything like this? Could this be why O Sensei wasn't interfering with the person Ellis said was being abusive? Maybe it was going to be "taken care of" later.
Best wishes,
Jorge.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 02-08-2007, 09:05 AM   #54
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
Actually, I believe that Arikawa Sensei was not so much autistic as someone trying to do what O Sensei himself did. In Hiroshima he showed waza, but did not really teach. After practice ended he was very happy to answer questions, but occasionally told us not to give students certain explanations. They should be required to find out for themselves. The shihan could guide and prevent bad waza, but should not give verbal explanations.
Hi Peter,
One is tempted to see a direct connection between this attitude and his observation of a lack of quality in the demonstrations he saw. This way of looking at Aikido teaching is very "elitist" in my own opinion. That wasn't really an issue in the old days with O-Sensei because the uchi deshi as a group formed the "elite".

But now, Aikido has been encouraged to grow into a world wide endeavor. There are tens of thousands of people in the States who give up their precious time and hard earned money to train in this art. There simply is no way for them to all get consistent and frequent exposure to a Shihan level teacher. This "figure it out for yourself" attitude favors exclusively the folks who are "visual learners". Most of the people out there will not be able to take ukemi from a Shihan level teacher more than a very few times in a year, many simply will not at all. So even the "tactile learners" are stuck if they don't have a chance to put their hands on someone at a high level.

Frankly, attending a seminar in which you will never be called up for ukemi and at which the teacher will only demonstrate and not give explanation makes that seminar about as useful as learning from a video for most of the attendees.

And the "cognitive types" are simply left out in the cold. I have many students who require an understanding in their minds of what they are trying to do before they can get their bodies to actually do it. Everything for them is a matter of understanding preceding doing. Training can EVENTUALLY get them into their bodies and out of their heads to a greater degree but they have to stay which means they have to feel like they are getting some encouragement and making some headway.

I was trained under the minimal explanation model. To the extent that I have actually started to be able to do what my teachers are doing, it was largely do to the exposure I had to teachers like Kuroda, Angier, Ushiro, Threadgill, etc who had very systematic ways of describing the princples at work in their waza. I was able to take these explanations and figure out what my own teacher had been showing us all these years.

I just can't accept that the vast majority of practitioners should be condemned to doing Aikido-lite while a very few get to the point at which they can actually do their Aikido with some real understanding of "aiki". Even with the best instruction in the world, it still takes a huge amount of work to get the principles into ones body and mind to the point at which they feel natural on some level. Most people will not make the effort to get that far. But for the ones that are putting out the effort, we owe them the best instruction we can give.

When someone with the skill and experience like Arikawa passes away without having passed on what he knows to the next generation, it is lost. it will never be replaced. People may figure out new things for themselves but they will never really understand what went before. I think that prevents Aikido from building on a strong foundation. It means that every generation has to build its own foundation all over again. We should be able to build on what has gone before and add our own experience to it. This can't happen if there is not a systematic transmission.

I remember Saotome Sensei lighting into a student who had made the grave error in judgment of referring to an certain not very accomplished Aikido instructor as an "Aikido Master". This is a big button with him and one that is best avoided. But the fact is that Aikido has grown to the point at which most of the folks practicing only have minimal exposure to folks who have any real degree of mastery. Without a systematic transmission, Aikido keeps growing the way it has but we get to the point at which folks really do not have any sense of what real mastery is and what a teacher with real mastery looks and feels like. They simply do not know.

Even worse, even if they do know, they simply feel as if that level of understanding is somehow "special"; reserved for some elite group of folks. Then they give up. They might still go through the motions of training but they do not really believe that they can get to the point where they can do what their teachers can do.

I explain when I teach. I try to isolate the principles which make this stuff work and that's what I pass on. I have found that when I go around and conduct seminars the folks out there are quite excited to actually have someone explain what they have been trying (often for some time) to do. It's like rain in the dessert, all of a sudden there is life. Folks get excited about their practice again because now they can see that they can really make some progress. I believe that as Aikido teachers, it is our job to do this.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 02-08-2007, 10:02 AM   #55
Aikilove
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

George, I agree that there should be a way to really transmit some form of foundation over the generations, but I also believe that for most people it doesn't matter. They simply don't train nearly enough (frequently and timewise) and/or take enough responsibility for their own training to have a chance to reach those levels of "mastery". Even if some of them do; without the talent they might become good but not brilliant.
An interesting point, as you wrote, is that most aikido people today simply have no idea of what mastery in aikido is. Just out of the sheer number exponents today vs. the number of people at these elevated levels living today. To some level I can understand Arikawa's view: He couldn't care less if people didn't understand him or put the time/energy in to make a different. It was those who did get it and had the skill that would make a different. And nothing he would say would change that.

/J

Jakob Blomquist
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Old 02-08-2007, 01:05 PM   #56
Fred Little
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Quote:
Jorge Garcia wrote:
Speaking of supposed abuse, I have heard some interesting underground stories of a system of "protection" at the Aikikai Hombu for the locals that existed in the past. I don't know the details but the stories imply something like this. A person from another martial art comes in and is being really rough on his partner ( and possibly abusive). When a senior member notices it, they notify an unofficial "enforcer" who then finds a way to train with that person (interrupt the two practicing or get them the next time?) and that person "takes care of them".There seems to be an implication that is is somewhat of an honor to be that enforcer because it is an unspoken recognition that the person can handle almost anyone. This example would be among the more senior members. Anyone ever heard or become aware of anything like this? Could this be why O Sensei wasn't interfering with the person Ellis said was being abusive? Maybe it was going to be "taken care of" later.
Best wishes,
Jorge.
Oh yes. The first time I went to Saotome Sensei's Aikido Shobukan in Washington DC, I was determined to demonstrate that I was serious about my training, which led me to an up-close-and-personal encounter with that particular phenomenon.

Mind you, I wasn't trying to hurt anyone, but I was most definitely intent on proving that I even though I was a yonkyu nobody knew from Adam, was serious about my practice, and I was working fairly fast and hard. Just as I began to register a touch of surprise that my partner didn't seem to be up for practice as fast, hard, and -- in retrospect -- more than a bit rough around the edges as I was engaging in, Frank Bell cut in, immediately bumping the speed and intensity up a notch. So my next yokomen was that much harder and more determined. His next shinonage set me down correspondingly faster. The cycle continued to rise in intensity -- with Frank maintaining a degree of control I recall as exquisite -- until I took enough of a knock on the back of the head when he set me down in shiho-nage that I learned why my teachers had all emphasized tucking the chin.

Not that I had the sense to dial back at that point. That obvious possibility didn't even occur to me until felt a sharp harbinger of potential shoulder separation. And even then, I didn't really dial back the attack so much as I adjusted the ukemi to avoid the risk to my shoulder. Frank was enjoying himself greatly. And to tell the truth, I was too. So we continued until I just couldn't draw enough oxygen to stand up again, and gasped "can I have a moment to catch my breath?"

He nodded yes, in a deadly serious but not unfriendly way. Saotome Sensei stepped up from where he had been watching and asked, "Everything ok here?" Frank and I both looked at him and replied at once: "Yes, Sensei." He smiled and said, "Good." Then, wa restored, he turned and walked away.

I popped back up, began to pay attention to the speed and intensity of practice around me, Frank continued to school me for the rest of the class, no matter what I did, and I remain grateful that I got a conscientious enforcer that evening.

FL
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Old 02-08-2007, 01:30 PM   #57
Ellis Amdur
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Mr. Garcia - Fred's story illustrates well the question you asked. But this would not have applied to Arikawa sensei, who was one of the senior shihan in the dojo. The only one who could have "set him to rights" was Ueshiba Morihei - and if he had, there wouldn't have been the chain of continued injuries that Arikawa sensei left behind him.
On another matter, I just had a conversation with a friend who, like me, took ukemi for Arikawa sensei in some of his classes. His technique was crude - looking, but both of us have a "body memory" of an absolutely precise irimi - that, at the moment of contact, he took absolute control. To compare my memory of taking ukemi for Chiba sensei, the latter had an explosive ability to go from zero-to-hundred miles per hour in an instant, but from that point, I could always feel him gather himself to do the next move. For example, grabbing his wrist for nikkyo, he would enter in an inordinately powerful way and my balance was disturbed. I would then feel him prepare, rising up and then slamming down in the wrist lock. Honestly, I waited for him to put the technique on. The initial move had the shock of being hit by a club, and then there would be space as he "drew back," so to speak, to do it again. With Arikawa, it was like being caught in the gears of an inexorable machine.

Best

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Old 02-08-2007, 01:32 PM   #58
dhebert
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Hi Fred - hope all is well. Thanks for the very enjoyable story. Frank Bell was irreplaceable.

Don Hebert
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Old 02-08-2007, 02:39 PM   #59
Jorge Garcia
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Yes Amdur Sensei, I understand. I thought of the story as I read it years ago not taking note that the person was Arikawa sensei.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 02-08-2007, 03:01 PM   #60
Rod Yabut
 
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

You'd have to wonder if shihans like Chiba and Arikawa senseis took it upong themselves to keep the training 'honest' in hombu in order not to lose face. I remember reading one of Chiba sensei's writings in reference to when he would accompany O'sensei to Iwama that the training there was more 'vigorous' than in Tokyo in his time as a deshi. He was alluding to the fact that the students were more blue collar (I'm picturing farmers with wrists the size of my ankles) vs. a more white collar city folk that attended Hombu.

Quote:
With Arikawa, it was like being caught in the gears of an inexorable machine.
Yikes!

Rod
"Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything." -- Miyagi Sensei
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Old 02-08-2007, 03:06 PM   #61
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Quote:
I explain when I teach. I try to isolate the principles which make this stuff work and that's what I pass on. I have found that when I go around and conduct seminars the folks out there are quite excited to actually have someone explain what they have been trying (often for some time) to do. It's like rain in the dessert, all of a sudden there is life. Folks get excited about their practice again because now they can see that they can really make some progress. I believe that as Aikido teachers, it is our job to do this.
Quite coincidentally, one of our newer students started attending our children's class consistently. I commended him for his enthusiasm in which he repled that "the stuff we practiced" in regular classes made makes more sense after it was slowed down and verbalized in the children's class. What a concept!

Rod
"Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything." -- Miyagi Sensei
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Old 02-08-2007, 08:48 PM   #62
Gernot Hassenpflug
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Ellis, that's a great point you make there about "gears of an inexorable machine", that's what I get when someone like Akuzawa does a technique slowly (happily! saves me some nervous sweating in advance) -- the feeling is simply like you described. In the vocabulary of Mike Sigman's explanations, that probably is related to the use of the ground in all movements. Speed is clearly not an issue in demonstrations or classes, so that this can be felt more easily. It is much harder, IMHO, to feel this with the so-called "aiki throws" that do not use much contact or in which the contact is so short (breaking of balance very rapid) that it is not clear how it occurred, even though the mechanism is the same.

On a random note, not taking people seriously as they age seems to be a common source of injuries :-) I've no doubt that someone like Abe sensei used to be a lot stronger than he is now, but that doesn't change the fact that the basic power hasn't degraded as much as the individual muscles that make up the body mass. So for people who associate technique with muscle mass, speed, timing, and such like, are often unpleasantly surprised by effect of such a teacher's movement, especially since it looks somewhat "weak" when viewed from the chorus-line. This failure to appreciate what is really going on means the uke's body is not protected and ready to take the technique, and I have seen a few of the strongly-built high-school and university students get thrown rather more violently through their own inattendance.

Last edited by Gernot Hassenpflug : 02-08-2007 at 08:55 PM.
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Old 02-08-2007, 09:43 PM   #63
raul rodrigo
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Ellis Amdur once had a terrific story on how the young Ichiro Shibata was called up to take ukemi for Rinjiro Shirata in the late 1970s. The young hombu deshi didn't really know who he was and Shibata came over looking bored and a bit put out at having to take ukemi for this old man. He writes: "Shirata took hold of young Shibata and began moving (blending) in the direction he had reached - very fast, very hard - 180 degrees away. Shibata's eyes opened wide in horror, because, in an instant, he was stretched nearly horizontal, and Shirata sensei hadn't even started his turn into the shihonage itself - this was just the initial move! Nor did he pause. Shibata-san just barely, with supreme athleticism, managed to "catch up" enough to merely be slammed down to the mat rather than have his arm ripped off. The expression on his face at the moment of realization was just like that of the coyote in the Roadrunner cartoons when he suddenly realizes he's run right off a cliff. ... Sometimes the best way to illustrate quality to a young man is to rattle his bones, and Shirata-sensei had done that with a casual ease - no viciousness at all, just the implacable force of an anvil dropped off a high building."
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Old 02-08-2007, 09:55 PM   #64
raul rodrigo
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
Actually, my next Aikiweb column will be a discussion of the issues of transmission, inheritance and emulation in aikido. It was too late for the February columns, but will appear in March. Arikawa Sensei will be a good example of the issues involved. So, I hope you will come back with issues and questions later.

Best wishes,

I look forward to that column.


best,


R
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Old 02-08-2007, 11:45 PM   #65
Peter Ralls
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

This thread certainly covers a lot of issues in aikido, but getting back to how Arikawa Sensei taught, what interests me is what he was trying pass on, and how. He was obviously an intelligent man who put a lot of thought into what he was doing, and what the art was. So why did he teach the way he did?

My guess is that he was not trying to pass down his own style of aikido in terms of a way of doing techniques, or a methodology, but instead trying to create a training environment that would result in the students experiencing certain things that would deepen their understanding of aikido. Obviously Arikawa Sensei thought that the training environment had to be severe. We all have our own opinions of what constitutes an acceptable level of severity, and what constitutes abuse. I don't think Arikawa Sensei was too worried about people getting injured. I think most of us in the west teaching now are concerned about injuries.

Since Arikawa Sensei was an equal opportunity pain inflictor, and I never thought there was the slightest racial malice behind what he did, I didn't find it abusive. The way he taught, and threw his ukes was clearly the way he felt necessary to impart what he was trying to teach. This in turn meant usually that your partner for the class was going to be throwing as hard as they could also, and I think that was the environment he was trying to create.

This was very different from say, a certain other senior teacher's class, which wasn't generally so severe, but in which I had an experience I did think was abusive. My training partner was an attractive blond American woman who I knew slightly, and this teacher came over to "instruct" her, which translated to him smashing me repeatedly into the mat to impress her. Was it any more painful than some of the training in Arikawa Sensei's class? No, but the intent was totally different, and left me feeling angry and disgusted.

Anyway, when we think about trying to teach aikido, I think as westerners, we try and create a rational, methodical curriculum based on what we think will benefit the majority of our students, as George Ledyard touched on above. I think this is based on our western value system, and understanding of how the world works. We also want to avoid injuries. But it seems to me that a lot of Japanese teachers I have trained with seem to have a different value system. And Osensei, by all accounts, didn't have the most rational system of teaching either.

I often think that in aikido, that quality which has been a major topic in this forum, the quality that transcends physical technique that we refer to as kokyu, has been passed on by experiencing kokyu taking falls from ones teacher, rather than any set method of teaching. Thus, Osensei had a lot of kokyu. His students, that experienced him directly, got some of it, though not nearly to the degree Osensei had. And their students in turn, often got a whole lot less. And as the the number of people training in aikido became greater and greater, the less people proportionately have had the experience of being thrown with kokyu, to the point now that a lot of people just don't believe in it at all.

So maybe that's what Arikawa Sensei was up to, trying to pass on what he had by letting people feel it from him. I never got the feeling that he was throwing the way he did because he enjoyed hurting people. My guess is he did it to create a training environment where people would get something, and to try and pass something on that he didn't feel could be passed on by explanation.

Last of all, I think the Second Doshu must have had some of this thought process also, as the training in pretty much all the classes at Hombu Dojo in the period I lived in Japan in 1979 and 1980 was a lot rougher than is the norm at Hombu Dojo now. My impression is that the Third Doshu doesn't want things to be as severe. I personally find it a lot more enjoyable now.
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Old 02-09-2007, 03:49 AM   #66
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Hello George,

Since you addressed your post to me, I think I need to reply. I have added a few comments at the end of each paragraph. Peter Ralls has pretty well summed up what I think about Arikawa Sensei's classes.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
Hi Peter,
One is tempted to see a direct connection between this attitude and his observation of a lack of quality in the demonstrations he saw. This way of looking at Aikido teaching is very "elitist" in my own opinion. That wasn't really an issue in the old days with O-Sensei because the uchi deshi as a group formed the "elite"..
PAG. I think the temptation should be resisted. I think Arikawa Sensei had extremely high standards as to what constituted good aikido and saw clearly when these standards were not met. So I think he tried to show the best aikido of which he was capable for as long as he could. I was once struck by Yamaguchi Sensei telling me that he planned to give up practising aikido, for he could no longer train in the way he wanted to (like Arikawa Sensei, he was a secret cancer sufferer). But I do not think it is elitist to have high standards and then, separately, to have a certain way of teaching. I suppose that if I really wanted to learn the best aikido possible to me at this time, I would leave Hiroshima and go and live close to Hiroshi Tada--and then learn from him, in whatever way he chose to teach me. I suppose I am being elitist here. Of course, I cannot do this, since I have a job here, and so I have to be satisfied with the teacher I have.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
But now, Aikido has been encouraged to grow into a world wide endeavor. There are tens of thousands of people in the States who give up their precious time and hard earned money to train in this art. There simply is no way for them to all get consistent and frequent exposure to a Shihan level teacher. This "figure it out for yourself" attitude favors exclusively the folks who are "visual learners". Most of the people out there will not be able to take ukemi from a Shihan level teacher more than a very few times in a year, many simply will not at all. So even the "tactile learners" are stuck if they don't have a chance to put their hands on someone at a high level..
PAG. Well, I don't think you can blame Arikawa Sensei for this. Aikido in America has grown to what it is now, thanks to the efforts of the folks interviewed in Aikido in America and their Japanese teachers: Koichi Tohei, Yoshimitsu Yamada, Akira Tohei, Mitsunari Kanai, Mitsugi Saotome and Kazuo Chiba. What you have here is people being sent abroad, or, rather being given an offer they cannot refuse, and intially replicating the circumstances in which they themseves trained. They were given no preparation because the Aikikai were not in a position to give such preparation. As it is, I would think they had a pretty sharp learning curve. But I think American aikidoists should call their own Japanese teachers to account and ask: (1) what steps have you taken to make sure that what you teach is available to every single member of your organization; (2) what steps have you taken to ensure that the quality instruction that you give now will still be available when you are no longer around.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
Frankly, attending a seminar in which you will never be called up for ukemi and at which the teacher will only demonstrate and not give explanation makes that seminar about as useful as learning from a video for most of the attendees..
PAG. I disagree. I do not like attending large seminars, but I attended one given by Doshu in Tokyo. I was not called on to take uke, Doshu gave the minimum of explanation and much of this was lost in translation. However, I practised with several people, whom I knew, but had never practised with before. I have regularly questioned the value of large seminars but each time I have been overruled, with the reason that large seminars have some value.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
And the "cognitive types" are simply left out in the cold. I have many students who require an understanding in their minds of what they are trying to do before they can get their bodies to actually do it. Everything for them is a matter of understanding preceding doing. Training can EVENTUALLY get them into their bodies and out of their heads to a greater degree but they have to stay which means they have to feel like they are getting some encouragement and making some headway..
PAG. I am not sure that the dichotomy between the two types is so marked. For example, I have seen two ways of teaching ukemi here in Japan.
One way is favored by the students here and has the very minimum of expanation. Students make return journeys up and down the dojo and the kambu and sempai are there to explain and correct at an individual level. However, there is no set model, but a lot of peer pressure, and students end up being able to take very good ukemi by the end of the first semester.
The other way is favored by my colleagues in my dojo. Here, there is a specific model: a very clear and specific way of holding your hands and turning your head. The model is shown, with explanation given as necessary, but excessive deviation from the model is not permitted. I am not yet convinced that the second method is better than the first, but it is preferable to the kind of training that goes on in the other city dojos of which I have experience.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
I was trained under the minimal explanation model. To the extent that I have actually started to be able to do what my teachers are doing, it was largely do to the exposure I had to teachers like Kuroda, Angier, Ushiro, Threadgill, etc who had very systematic ways of describing the princples at work in their waza. I was able to take these explanations and figure out what my own teacher had been showing us all these years..
PAG. So was I. I had a large number of teachers in my time and each one became my 'teacher'. Each had a different take on kihon-waza and each had his own preferred oyou-waza. You have had Saotome Sensei, but I wonder whether you ever gently forced him to explain what he had been showing you, for the sake of the 'cognitivists'.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
I just can't accept that the vast majority of practitioners should be condemned to doing Aikido-lite while a very few get to the point at which they can actually do their Aikido with some real understanding of "aiki". Even with the best instruction in the world, it still takes a huge amount of work to get the principles into ones body and mind to the point at which they feel natural on some level. Most people will not make the effort to get that far. But for the ones that are putting out the effort, we owe them the best instruction we can give..
PAG. Yes, you have stated this before. One could argue that it is a mistake to offer aikido to a very large number of potential practitioners without also making sure that the facilities to enable them to go beyond aikido-lite are already in place. We can see that this mistake has been made in many places (Russia comes to mind as a good example), but this is partly hindsight. I think the second Doshu was faced with a number of choices after the war, but he did not have the means to weigh the consequences of these choices. He chose to make aikido a 'general' art, available to everybody, but the structure available to him was the pre-war model: a local dojo run by a shihan who 'shows' the art to as many people who have the resources to be shown.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
When someone with the skill and experience like Arikawa passes away without having passed on what he knows to the next generation, it is lost. it will never be replaced. People may figure out new things for themselves but they will never really understand what went before. I think that prevents Aikido from building on a strong foundation. It means that every generation has to build its own foundation all over again. We should be able to build on what has gone before and add our own experience to it. This can't happen if there is not a systematic transmission..
PAG. Well yes. But how do you persuade the likes of Arikawa Sensei to be aware of this? And there is a systematic transmission. It is centered on Doshu and his successors. You might not like it, but it is there. The Aikikai Hombu under the present Doshu is quite an efficient, well-oiled organization. Perhaps like a Toyota car factory... And Doshu goes around Japan and the world giving very similar demonstrations and classes. One could think that he is marketing a product, but there are always many, many consumers. I think there are major differences between a Doshu class at a large seminar and the kind of class that Arikawa Sensei used to teach here in Hiroshima.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
I remember Saotome Sensei lighting into a student who had made the grave error in judgment of referring to an certain not very accomplished Aikido instructor as an "Aikido Master". This is a big button with him and one that is best avoided. But the fact is that Aikido has grown to the point at which most of the folks practicing only have minimal exposure to folks who have any real degree of mastery. Without a systematic transmission, Aikido keeps growing the way it has but we get to the point at which folks really do not have any sense of what real mastery is and what a teacher with real mastery looks and feels like. They simply do not know..
PAG. Yes, but I think you need to deal with this in the States and with Saotome Sensei himself. It is a fact that in the next 50 years there will be no one left who learned from O Sensei himself. But this cannot be avoided.
We have the same problem in Hiroshima. The average age of A-Bomb survivors is now 77, so the City is now building up a massive video archive of 'A-Bomb testimony'. Rather like the interviews that Stan Pranin conducted with O Sensei's deshi. But the model, the frame of the operation, is first hand description of what it was actually like to live through the atomic bombing and you cannot change this to any other medium. By relying on 'katari-be', as they are called, Hiroshima City has chosen an 'elitist' way of preserving the memory of the atomic bombing, because there are very few who actually experienced the event and if you want to hear about it directly, you need to find the surviving victims and get them to talk.
In some sense this is a 'heroic' way of looking at the atomic bombing, through the eyes of the those who lived through it and did not give up.
Similarly, Arikawa Sensei represents the 'heroic' age of aikido. He lived with the Founder and learned from him directly, but HE did it and his experiences cannot be duplicated or reduced to a set of techniques.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
Even worse, even if they do know, they simply feel as if that level of understanding is somehow "special"; reserved for some elite group of folks. Then they give up. They might still go through the motions of training but they do not really believe that they can get to the point where they can do what their teachers can do..
PAG. I disagree, again. This might be true for some, but not necessarily for everybody. For example, I know that I will never be as good as the people who have taught me and this is because my life has unfolded in a certain way. I made choices and then had the consequences. I am prepared to believe that someone like Tada Sensei has a special level of understanding because, in addition to the gifts he was born with, he put in the hours and trained relentlessly. I have never been able to do this. But this does not mean that I am simply going to go through the motions of training, or give up because I can never reach Tada's level. One of the reasons why I was so attracted to aikido is that it is so personal. It takes you for what you are and then polishes it. Like grace, it builds on nature: it does not destroy it. I think you create too broad a gap between the shihans like Saotome and Arikawa and the rest of us.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
I explain when I teach. I try to isolate the principles which make this stuff work and that's what I pass on. I have found that when I go around and conduct seminars the folks out there are quite excited to actually have someone explain what they have been trying (often for some time) to do. It's like rain in the dessert, all of a sudden there is life. Folks get excited about their practice again because now they can see that they can really make some progress. I believe that as Aikido teachers, it is our job to do this.
PAG. Yes, George, but I have experienced this from shihans like Chiba and Saito. I have never forgotten such experiences like training with Chiba Sensei in his own house in Hatake, just the two of us, of Arikawa Sensei in a local coffee shop showing & explaining about shomen uchi attacks, of Saito Sensei showing me how to hold the head in katen-nage, and of struggling to take the best ukemi of which I was capable for Yamaguchi.

And I suspect that you are famous as a teacher in the US because you are first and foremost George Ledyard and only secondarily for the brilliant methodology you use.

Best wishes and apologies for the very long post.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 02-09-2007, 07:35 AM   #67
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Quote:
But this does not mean that I am simply going to go through the motions of training, or give up because I can never reach Tada's level. One of the reasons why I was so attracted to aikido is that it is so personal. It takes you for what you are and then polishes it. Like grace, it builds on nature: it does not destroy it. I think you create too broad a gap between the shihans like Saotome and Arikawa and the rest of us.
I'm sorry, I thought this was worth repeating...and this part in particular...

Quote:
It takes you for what you are and then polishes it. Like grace, it builds on nature: it does not destroy it.
Rarely have I heard this put so well.

Domo arigato gozaimashita,
Ron

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Old 02-09-2007, 07:36 AM   #68
DH
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Quote:
Peter Ralls wrote:
This thread certainly covers a lot of issues in aikido, but getting back to how Arikawa Sensei taught, what interests me is what he was trying pass on, and how. He was obviously an intelligent man who put a lot of thought into what he was doing, and what the art was. So why did he teach the way he did?

My guess is that he was not trying to pass down his own style of aikido in terms of a way of doing techniques, or a methodology, but instead trying to create a training environment that would result in the students experiencing certain things that would deepen their understanding of aikido.......
snip

I often think that in aikido, that quality which has been a major topic in this forum, the quality that transcends physical technique that we refer to as kokyu, has been passed on by experiencing kokyu taking falls from ones teacher, rather than any set method of teaching. Thus, Osensei had a lot of kokyu. His students, that experienced him directly, got some of it, though not nearly to the degree Osensei had. And their students in turn, often got a whole lot less. And as the the number of people training in aikido became greater and greater, [b][i]the less people proportionately have had the experience of being thrown with kokyu,[/i to the point now that a lot of people just don't believe in it at all.

So maybe that's what Arikawa Sensei was up to, trying to pass on what he had by letting people feel it from him.
Peter
First up learning kokyu is not done from taking falls. I teach it without anyone having to fall down. I teach them to stay standing up. Learning to take falls is Ukemi. Not kokyu.
I understand perfectly well your point about "experiencing" the veracity of Kokyu skills by taking technique. While I understand the model BTDT it is not necessary either. The logic of this sentance escapes me ....snip....kokyu, has been passed on by experiencing kokyu. Taking falls from ones teacher, rather than any set method of teaching. Thus, Osensei had a lot of kokyu. His students, that experienced him directly, got some of it, though not nearly to the degree Osensei had.
Ueshiba learned Kokyu from Takeda and he learned it from learning to do it- not by learning to take falls. But by being taught how to DO it. So to quote you it was " Thus, Osensei had a lot of kokyu."

Aikido folks it seems do not practice solo training do not practice AIki-power as breath power the way it was done with Takeda. Why? They were, for the most part, not shown how. It for this reason they can't do and have less power.

I see nothing compelling to support Arikawa or Chiba's reputation of abuses. Again, and I cannot emphasize it strongly enough. Aikidoka are not truly fighting back as in MMA or Judo whihc creates a different dynamic in the body that protects. Aikidoka when Uke are still offering an attack then taking technique. With that measure of cooperation, there is not justifaction for repeated injury.
To make the point, lets review and pretend we are talking about Arikawa and Chiba having demonstrated now for the last thirty years with Chuck Lidell, Rickson Gracie, and Randy Coutere as their Ukes.
What student injuries do you suppose- we'd be discussing?

Its abuse, and yes, it is that simple. It is just as important to read Peter G.'s reply about training with CHiba in his house or Arikawa in the coffee shop. Why the dichotomy? What was the need in these men to do what they did? Sever training can be dangerous, I have had my share of injuries with students but they were random accidents or done under full fight training. It is different than what has been frequently reported with many of these guys.

Cheers
Dan

Last edited by DH : 02-09-2007 at 07:41 AM.
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Old 02-09-2007, 08:09 AM   #69
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
Hello George,

Since you addressed your post to me, I think I need to reply. I have added a few comments at the end of each paragraph. Peter Ralls has pretty well summed up what I think about Arikawa Sensei's classes.


PAG. I think the temptation should be resisted. I think Arikawa Sensei had extremely high standards as to what constituted good aikido and saw clearly when these standards were not met. So I think he tried to show the best aikido of which he was capable for as long as he could. I was once struck by Yamaguchi Sensei telling me that he planned to give up practising aikido, for he could no longer train in the way he wanted to (like Arikawa Sensei, he was a secret cancer sufferer). But I do not think it is elitist to have high standards and then, separately, to have a certain way of teaching. I suppose that if I really wanted to learn the best aikido possible to me at this time, I would leave Hiroshima and go and live close to Hiroshi Tada--and then learn from him, in whatever way he chose to teach me. I suppose I am being elitist here. Of course, I cannot do this, since I have a job here, and so I have to be satisfied with the teacher I have.


PAG. Well, I don't think you can blame Arikawa Sensei for this. Aikido in America has grown to what it is now, thanks to the efforts of the folks interviewed in Aikido in America and their Japanese teachers: Koichi Tohei, Yoshimitsu Yamada, Akira Tohei, Mitsunari Kanai, Mitsugi Saotome and Kazuo Chiba. What you have here is people being sent abroad, or, rather being given an offer they cannot refuse, and intially replicating the circumstances in which they themseves trained. They were given no preparation because the Aikikai were not in a position to give such preparation. As it is, I would think they had a pretty sharp learning curve. But I think American aikidoists should call their own Japanese teachers to account and ask: (1) what steps have you taken to make sure that what you teach is available to every single member of your organization; (2) what steps have you taken to ensure that the quality instruction that you give now will still be available when you are no longer around.


PAG. I disagree. I do not like attending large seminars, but I attended one given by Doshu in Tokyo. I was not called on to take uke, Doshu gave the minimum of explanation and much of this was lost in translation. However, I practised with several people, whom I knew, but had never practised with before. I have regularly questioned the value of large seminars but each time I have been overruled, with the reason that large seminars have some value.


PAG. I am not sure that the dichotomy between the two types is so marked. For example, I have seen two ways of teaching ukemi here in Japan.
One way is favored by the students here and has the very minimum of expanation. Students make return journeys up and down the dojo and the kambu and sempai are there to explain and correct at an individual level. However, there is no set model, but a lot of peer pressure, and students end up being able to take very good ukemi by the end of the first semester.
The other way is favored by my colleagues in my dojo. Here, there is a specific model: a very clear and specific way of holding your hands and turning your head. The model is shown, with explanation given as necessary, but excessive deviation from the model is not permitted. I am not yet convinced that the second method is better than the first, but it is preferable to the kind of training that goes on in the other city dojos of which I have experience.


PAG. So was I. I had a large number of teachers in my time and each one became my 'teacher'. Each had a different take on kihon-waza and each had his own preferred oyou-waza. You have had Saotome Sensei, but I wonder whether you ever gently forced him to explain what he had been showing you, for the sake of the 'cognitivists'.


PAG. Yes, you have stated this before. One could argue that it is a mistake to offer aikido to a very large number of potential practitioners without also making sure that the facilities to enable them to go beyond aikido-lite are already in place. We can see that this mistake has been made in many places (Russia comes to mind as a good example), but this is partly hindsight. I think the second Doshu was faced with a number of choices after the war, but he did not have the means to weigh the consequences of these choices. He chose to make aikido a 'general' art, available to everybody, but the structure available to him was the pre-war model: a local dojo run by a shihan who 'shows' the art to as many people who have the resources to be shown.


PAG. Well yes. But how do you persuade the likes of Arikawa Sensei to be aware of this? And there is a systematic transmission. It is centered on Doshu and his successors. You might not like it, but it is there. The Aikikai Hombu under the present Doshu is quite an efficient, well-oiled organization. Perhaps like a Toyota car factory... And Doshu goes around Japan and the world giving very similar demonstrations and classes. One could think that he is marketing a product, but there are always many, many consumers. I think there are major differences between a Doshu class at a large seminar and the kind of class that Arikawa Sensei used to teach here in Hiroshima.


PAG. Yes, but I think you need to deal with this in the States and with Saotome Sensei himself. It is a fact that in the next 50 years there will be no one left who learned from O Sensei himself. But this cannot be avoided.
We have the same problem in Hiroshima. The average age of A-Bomb survivors is now 77, so the City is now building up a massive video archive of 'A-Bomb testimony'. Rather like the interviews that Stan Pranin conducted with O Sensei's deshi. But the model, the frame of the operation, is first hand description of what it was actually like to live through the atomic bombing and you cannot change this to any other medium. By relying on 'katari-be', as they are called, Hiroshima City has chosen an 'elitist' way of preserving the memory of the atomic bombing, because there are very few who actually experienced the event and if you want to hear about it directly, you need to find the surviving victims and get them to talk.
In some sense this is a 'heroic' way of looking at the atomic bombing, through the eyes of the those who lived through it and did not give up.
Similarly, Arikawa Sensei represents the 'heroic' age of aikido. He lived with the Founder and learned from him directly, but HE did it and his experiences cannot be duplicated or reduced to a set of techniques.


PAG. I disagree, again. This might be true for some, but not necessarily for everybody. For example, I know that I will never be as good as the people who have taught me and this is because my life has unfolded in a certain way. I made choices and then had the consequences. I am prepared to believe that someone like Tada Sensei has a special level of understanding because, in addition to the gifts he was born with, he put in the hours and trained relentlessly. I have never been able to do this. But this does not mean that I am simply going to go through the motions of training, or give up because I can never reach Tada's level. One of the reasons why I was so attracted to aikido is that it is so personal. It takes you for what you are and then polishes it. Like grace, it builds on nature: it does not destroy it. I think you create too broad a gap between the shihans like Saotome and Arikawa and the rest of us.


PAG. Yes, George, but I have experienced this from shihans like Chiba and Saito. I have never forgotten such experiences like training with Chiba Sensei in his own house in Hatake, just the two of us, of Arikawa Sensei in a local coffee shop showing & explaining about shomen uchi attacks, of Saito Sensei showing me how to hold the head in katen-nage, and of struggling to take the best ukemi of which I was capable for Yamaguchi.

And I suspect that you are famous as a teacher in the US because you are first and foremost George Ledyard and only secondarily for the brilliant methodology you use.

Best wishes and apologies for the very long post.
Thanks so much for taking the time, Peter. I am aware that these issues are open to debate. As I have told my students, they are my guinea pigs... I am fifty five and what I am trying to do is an experiment. I will only have time to try it once so if I am wrong, well apologies in advance to my students...

The one thing that gives me hope is that, at the level at which they currently are, which would be Shodan through Yondan, each of them is far more aware of what it is that they need to be working on than I was at that point in my training. If they train hard and stay with it, they will be better than I am. But that's a big "if". Only time will tell...

George S. Ledyard
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Old 02-09-2007, 10:21 AM   #70
Ellis Amdur
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

I am in full agreement with Dan Harden above. I remember, still an active aikidoka in Japan, age 24, telling my truly formidible instructor in Araki-ryu about some of the abuses I (and others here) enumerated. He looked honestly puzzled and said, "Are you telling me that the teachers do this and the students think they are strong?" He, far more precocious than me at a younger age than my 24, described joining the NihonDaigaku Aikido club, a very aggressive club led a very prominent, very brutal shihan - already a judoka and kick boxer, he lasted a week. At that point, he took ukemi for the teacher, who tried to hurt him and said, "OK if I fight back now?" And didn't wait for permission. Stopping the teacher's response cold, he disdainfully pushed him aside and got his gear and left. And given his reputation in other circles which I shan't mention here, he, unlike most youth who quit a university club, was left utterly alone - no retribution whatsoever from his seniors, FWIW.
Additionally, some thoughts on George Ledyard's and Peter Rail's post - and also concurring with Peter G.'s point that we should try to hold our teacher's accountable for their legacy, this being contingent, however, on our own level of accountability. Whatever level of skill I've attained in the various arts I've trained - and more generally, bodyskills - has come from four things: 1) training itself - putting in the mileage 2) Finding teachers who actually know something 3) Courteously, persistently demanding answers from my teachers - putting them on notice, directly or subtly, depending on the quality of our relationship, that I am only training to learn - EVERYTHING. I recently told a friend of mine, who has trained with a teacher for well over twenty years, that he should formulate the questions to ask his teacher why, after all this time, given his true dedication to training, he is clearly many levels below his teacher. In other words, "what have I not been taught? What have I not noticed? What have I not listened to?" But I also believe the teacher only "owes" the answer to those who offer the PASSION (I'm using the word in it's original usage - note "the Passion of Christ" is both ecstasy and torment). If one doesn't offer that level to one's teacher, one is owed nothing. In the latter case, take anything given as a gift you haven't earned. 3) Never get offended when my own lack of understanding or skill is pointed out. I recently got offended at a teacher of mine who apologized after for pointing out a clear deficiency in my "structure." My sense of offense was not the way he crudely pointed it out at first - it was that he felt I might be the kind of person who would have hurt feelings at the truth. (As a teacher, myself, I "write off" people who are so offended, who cling to the attainments they have). Similarly, if a teacher is off the mark, I am not offended either - those who defend themselves, saying "that's not fair," "that's not true," when it comes to technical corrections are more concerned about their own image and attainments than learning, because rectifying the misapprehension of the teacher becomes more important than further information.
In a moment of alcohol inspired affection and honesty, one of my teachers in Japan said the following to me, after eleven years together: "Ellis, I'm going to teach you everything I know. So I'm putting you on notice, I'm going to treat you like hell. I'm going to find fault in everything you do, cut you no slack whatsoever, and accept no excuses or explanations without instant understanding and ability in what I want. I can't believe I'm telling you this, but you are a foreigner. A Japanese would know without my saying so what I was doing. Because you are a gaijin, you might think I merely hate you." Kindest thing he ever did. Because he was true to his word. I was sick to my stomach with adrenaline for the next two years. It, an accentuation of the relationship we already had, played havoc with my entire life - in retrospect, some aspects were destructive for a long time. But I learned what I desired, and that havoc - mostly psychological, but also physical, was what I was prepared to sacrifice to do so. (But, quoting Dan above: "Severe training can be dangerous, I have had my share of injuries with students but they were random accidents or done under full fight training."). My teacher received - and was willing to receive - as good as he got. This is something different than the abusive behaviors we've been discussing.

Best

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Old 02-09-2007, 11:18 AM   #71
Dennis Hooker
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

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Old 02-09-2007, 11:33 AM   #72
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Not sure about Kokyu, but I have been told by my previous Japanese teacher that it is customary in Japanese Dojos (especially in universities) not to allow the new comers to execute any techniques. They have to spend the first few months just taking Ukemi for senior students. Many Aikidoists believe that one learns best by taking Ukemi for notorious Shihans. I have no idea whether this really is the best way to learn, but I have heard it often enough to get the impression it is a wide spread belief.
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Old 02-09-2007, 11:57 AM   #73
Dennis Hooker
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

I guess I am an exception then. I have interacted with most of the Japanese Shihan in America over the last 4 decades or so in one fashion or another. I have not been treated with malevolence. On one occasion where bad feelings existed I just did not dress out. I have seen high ranking people do such things and I have worked with their senior students in some cases that would have like to hurt me but I never gave them the opportunity. I have been ask to leave a mat a time or two for defending myself in a rather proactive ways but hay that is part of the life we live is it not. To paraphrase old Abe you can't trust all the people all the time and you can't trust some of the people any of the time. I'll be damned if I just let someone hurt me if I can prevent it, I don't care who it is. If I see such abuse in my dojo or any class I control that person is gone and will never be welcome in my space again. Years ago I did let a godan from another organization train in the dojo and he gained my trust. The first time I let him teach when I was not there he dislocated a sandan's shoulder after the sandan had tapped out. The jerk then left and has not been back. I think if I saw someone deliberately injure some one to the point of disability I would seriously consider legal action. We are not immune from assault and battery because we practice this art. Being a Shihan of any nationality does not immune one from civil responsibility.

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Old 02-09-2007, 12:26 PM   #74
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

I think an important distinction that is often lost is

a) taking ukemi as in recieving your teacher's technique (doesn't equate to falling, though you might)

and

b) falling.

Best,
Ron
Quote:
Edward Karaa wrote:
Not sure about Kokyu, but I have been told by my previous Japanese teacher that it is customary in Japanese Dojos (especially in universities) not to allow the new comers to execute any techniques. They have to spend the first few months just taking Ukemi for senior students. Many Aikidoists believe that one learns best by taking Ukemi for notorious Shihans. I have no idea whether this really is the best way to learn, but I have heard it often enough to get the impression it is a wide spread belief.

Ron Tisdale
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Old 02-09-2007, 12:50 PM   #75
James Young
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Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei

Quote:
Edward Karaa wrote:
Not sure about Kokyu, but I have been told by my previous Japanese teacher that it is customary in Japanese Dojos (especially in universities) not to allow the new comers to execute any techniques. They have to spend the first few months just taking Ukemi for senior students.
Maybe in days past, but I'm not sure how customary that is these days. My experience in an aikido club at a Japanese university was not like that, nor were other people in similar situations that I knew. We were thrown into the fire so to speak and were expected to practice waza with our senpai along with taking ukemi from them from day one.
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