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Old 02-23-2007, 11:25 AM   #1
mriehle
 
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Dojo: New School Aikido
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Exceptional People

I had to think a bit about whether to put this here or under teaching, but decided here because I don't want just teachers to comment and I wanted to be clear about that.

I was thinking last night about some of my fellow students and some of my own students on the way to class. It occured to me that I've been blessed with encountering some really exceptional people in my training and my teaching.

So, I was wondering if that was unusual. I can't believe that it is. So I thought I'd ask.

Now, I'm not talking about the teachers, especially shihans, who we already know are exceptional people. I'm talking about the person you train with who seems to be on another plane in Aikido at 6th kyu (yes, alright, I'm engaging in hyperbole here).

I have some examples (names have been changed, of course, and identifying details ommitted altogether):

Becky, who at a surprisingly young age was knocking down grown men without breaking a sweat. She was far too little to be strong, but when you'd go to grab her she would disappear as soon as your balance was committed to grabbing you. Then she'd just "help" you fall down. Hard. I used to enjoy watching new, tough guy types go easy on her and get slammed for their trouble.

Rena, who we dubbed the "Randori Machine". She could get a rhythm going that only the yudansha in the dojo could ever mess up (and most of us didn't have the heart to, it would have been like slashing the Mona Lisa with a penknife). She didn't move particularly fast, but she always seemed to be a step or two ahead of her ukes.

Debbie, a fellow student I sometimes work with whose joy in Aikido is matched only by her quiet, powerful and smooth execution of techniques. It's always like dancing with her except that one of us falls down. She'd be scary if she weren't such a nice person.

There are other examples I could site, but not without including details about them that I would feel uncomfortable about here (or any other public forum). But, in general, these people are few and far between, IME. Far more rare than the teacher who seems able to do things that appear to approach magic.

Not knocking the teachers, it's just that it seems to go with the territory. As a teacher myself I've discovered that stuff I consider ordinary (and which I frankly don't think I'm very good at) impresses some of my students in ways that I find a little embarassing. Seems like there might be some skewed percpetions in play in the relationship.

And it isn't like these people are better than shihans, it's that they exceed the expectations of their level of training in such obvious and powerful ways that they stand out.

I have noticed that - for me - a disproportionate number of my exceptional students are girls. It isn't that I haven't had some boys that are really good, I think I just tend to find the girls who are like this more often. Or they find me.

I've been tempted to buy some of these shirts and distribute them at my dojo.

There are a couple of threads here that got me thinking about this. Stories about people actually using their Aikido. It struck me, among other things, that - at least IME - it hasn't been the exceptional people who wound up using their Aikido. Don't get me wrong, the people I know who've used their Aikido "for real" were good students, but they didn't have the spark, the special drive that some of these really exceptional people I've know have.

And then I wonder why so many of these people who are clearly so talented never wind up teaching and often give up the art altogether. Does it just come too easily to them? Or maybe this is just a mistaken perception on my part.

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Old 03-02-2007, 08:04 AM   #2
jennyvanwest
 
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Re: Exceptional People

Hi Michael,

I'm new to Aikido (since September) but so far I have also been so impressed with the people I've been meeting. Part of it seems to be the sort of people aikido attracts. Part of it seems to be the mutual respect extended between all levels of expertise. As Abraham Lincoln said, "the surest way to make a man is think him so," and that seems to apply to aikido as well. The respect I've been granted by more experienced students and teachers, and thus been taught to extend to newer students, is extraordinarily supportive to being the best a person can be.

Quote:
Michael Riehle wrote: View Post
And then I wonder why so many of these people who are clearly so talented never wind up teaching and often give up the art altogether. Does it just come too easily to them? Or maybe this is just a mistaken perception on my part.
It's pretty classic, I think, for women to whom things come easily to prefer staying somewhat anonymous--in other words, it's more common for women than men to fear standing out in a positive way. It could be more due to that than aikido per se. Also for some the difficulty of beginning something is very energizing, and if someone's a perfectionist then the fear of failing at a more obvious and unexpected time might cause them to drop out.

Jenny
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Old 03-02-2007, 10:15 AM   #3
mriehle
 
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Re: Exceptional People

Quote:
Jenny Van West wrote: View Post
It's pretty classic, I think, for women to whom things come easily to prefer staying somewhat anonymous--in other words, it's more common for women than men to fear standing out in a positive way.
I've heard this before. It's kind of a sad commentary if it's true.

Quote:
Jenny Van West wrote: View Post
It could be more due to that than aikido per se. Also for some the difficulty of beginning something is very energizing, and if someone's a perfectionist then the fear of failing at a more obvious and unexpected time might cause them to drop out.
Yes, I can see that.

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Old 03-02-2007, 07:45 PM   #4
jennyvanwest
 
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Re: Exceptional People

Quote:
Michael Riehle wrote: View Post
I've heard this before. It's kind of a sad commentary if it's true.
it is!

at the same time, when I read this about a year ago, a lot of my ways of being suddenly made sense and I no longer felt like such a total weirdo ;-)

back to your original topic....I love that you started this thread to appreciate these exceptional people. Overall I'm amazed and enchanted by the folks I meet at the dojo! In our dojo it seems the higher the rank the more warm and friendly people are, and the more humble and helpful. Is that just who tends to stick with it? Is that dojo culture? Is that aikido culture?
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