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Old 06-02-2008, 07:17 PM   #1
Joseph Madden
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Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Although I am deeply respectful of the teachers that I have seen at a few of the seminars I've been to, I really don't think I've learned anything "special" that my own sensei hasn't already taught me. My own belief is that these are merely opportunities to see the "rock stars" of aikido, as it were. For those that make a concerted effort to actually decide to start training with these men and women on a regular basis because they have something that they want is one thing. To all others, it just seems to be so much fan worship. You simply are NOT going to learn anything of value at these seminars. Its great to meet new people and all, but I think the value of these seminars are no more important than the average Trek convention.

Osu
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Old 06-02-2008, 07:30 PM   #2
lbb
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Dude. The average Trek convention has a bookroom.
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Old 06-02-2008, 07:36 PM   #3
Joseph Madden
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

But can you truly master Klingon in 2 days?
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Old 06-02-2008, 07:47 PM   #4
rob_liberti
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

When I first atteneded Saotome sensei seminars, I noticed that he did things differently. I held that image of what he looked like, how he held his body, what he felt like is in my body's memory so to speak. I couldn't copy him all that well, but as time went on I could copy him a bit more. I suppose at first, you just typically want to get an image. Later, you want to see if you can manifest that image with varying ukes.

Hope that helps.

And for God's sake, don't contribute to the rock star thing. That's not helping anybody.

Rob
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Old 06-02-2008, 07:55 PM   #5
Walter Martindale
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Depends... Do you understand what he's trying to get across? Does your sensei?
Sometimes a bit of Japanese lingo helps - and if shihan's command of the lingo in the country that's hosting the seminar isn't great, and there's nobody around who can translate from the shihan's (usually) japanese to the local language, he'll be hard pressed to get his messages across...
Sometimes, with my little bit of japanese, a judo background, and trying to follow the shihan's japanese and carefully observing the movements he's showing as "good" or "dame-desu", I've been able to figure some things out that were missed by the guy translating (also a native japanese speaker).
(helps to have a biomechanics background, too)
W
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Old 06-02-2008, 07:59 PM   #6
Joseph Madden
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Quote:
Rob Liberti wrote: View Post
When I first atteneded Saotome sensei seminars, I noticed that he did things differently. I held that image of what he looked like, how he held his body, what he felt like is in my body's memory so to speak. I couldn't copy him all that well, but as time went on I could copy him a bit more. I suppose at first, you just typically want to get an image. Later, you want to see if you can manifest that image with varying ukes.

Hope that helps.

And for God's sake, don't contribute to the rock star thing. That's not helping anybody.

Rob
Well said Rob. As Presley himself once said, "The image is one thing, the human being is another".
I think you may on occasion pick up a little hint of something, but we are talking about martial arts here and aikido in particular. This isn't about learning Windows in 5 easy lessons or Your Mac & You.
We are talking about YEARS of practice to even scratch the surface.

Last edited by Joseph Madden : 06-02-2008 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 06-02-2008, 08:13 PM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
Although I am deeply respectful of the teachers that I have seen at a few of the seminars I've been to, I really don't think I've learned anything "special" that my own sensei hasn't already taught me. My own belief is that these are merely opportunities to see the "rock stars" of aikido, as it were. For those that make a concerted effort to actually decide to start training with these men and women on a regular basis because they have something that they want is one thing. To all others, it just seems to be so much fan worship. You simply are NOT going to learn anything of value at these seminars. Its great to meet new people and all, but I think the value of these seminars are no more important than the average Trek convention.

Osu
With respect, I completely disagree with such a blanket condemnation and I think you need to add YMMV with almost every sentence.

The only times I have ever met the late Saito Morihiro Sensei, for example, were precisely at such seminars. Once he spent a week at the New England Aikikai Summer Camp and I still refer to the detailed notes I took at the time. At that time, Saito Sensei went through much of the contents of his older Traditional Aikido volumes, including all the ken and jo suburi, kata, kumi-tachi & kumi-jo.

Similarly with the seminars taught here by Yamaguchi, Tada, and Arikawa. Of course, I was able to attend their classes at the Hombu, but Iwama is simply too far away from Hiroshima and regular training there would have meant a change of job, house etc. and abandoning the teacher we have here.

The seminars were part and parcel of the dojo training.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 06-02-2008, 08:20 PM   #8
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Speaking only for myself, I learn something from every seminar I attend. I even go and watch when I cannot train. Joseph, do you suppose it's possible that your prepossession that you won't learn anything is getting in your way?
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Old 06-02-2008, 08:41 PM   #9
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

I'm with Joseph on this one - seminars are pretty much geared toward political acculturation - at least more than anything else.

I think for viewing a master's techniques, dvds are now the way to go, and/or, better, go to their dojo and train for however long you can, even if that is only periodically.

I think dvd's have come a long way, as I think seminars have changed a great deal since the times Peter may be referring to. They are sooooo crowded now, and the masses, more than ever (and not just because of a lack of space), are dictating that things remain not only overly basic but also overly non-martial.

my opinion,
d

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Old 06-02-2008, 08:44 PM   #10
Joseph Madden
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

I'm a nidan in Yoshinkan aikido. My sensei is one of the greatest practitioners of aikido on the planet. I do not have a predisposition for not wanting to learn new things. Why would I study an art diligently for almost a decade, start a new art (jodo) unless I wanted to try new things. The seminars that I have been to have, for the majority, been about seeing the Greats in aikido and nothing more. I'm talking about learning. About taking something and going with it. This seems to be a sore point for some people on this site but the "cult" that has been built up around the Greats of aikido, as though by going to a seminar you will receive that miracle that will make you a better aikidoka is bulls&*#. It's only through years of hard, diligent training both physical and spiritual, will you get better.
Going to a three day seminar to make your aikido better won't happen. Will it make you happy to say you have witnessed one of the greats performing flawless technique. Of course. It would make me happy too. It won't make my aikido any better.

Thanks David

Joe
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Old 06-02-2008, 09:07 PM   #11
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

I like to apply a principal I learned while teaching young people. "One thing." I once taught a young children's class and would always try to make sure they learned just one thing from each lesson. If I can take away one thing from a seminar and apply it to my training, I feel that it was worth it. Besides, I would not have had the pleasure of meeting and training with Francis Takahashi sensei if it weren't for a seminar. Aikido seminar's are very strange social events indeed, but I find that I enjoy them. I do think as much can be gained by simply attending a class or two at other dojo's as well though, and, it's alot cheaper.
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Old 06-02-2008, 09:55 PM   #12
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
You simply are NOT going to learn anything of value at these seminars.
Sorry Joseph but… how come you keep complaining about people who go to seminars when you seem quite eager to attend them yourself on occasion?

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
If only I had the money. I'd be there in a minute.
I don't see the problem of spending a day practising with a diverse body of people, especially if you don't know them. I've only ever trained with Ken Cottier Shihan at seminars (three times in total), but I'll never forget the moment he grabbed me by the throat and said "I could kill you" and I got the same feeling I had when I lost control of my car in the wet and felt the wheels leave the road…

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Old 06-02-2008, 10:15 PM   #13
Buck
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
Although I am deeply respectful of the teachers that I have seen at a few of the seminars I've been to, I really don't think I've learned anything "special" that my own sensei hasn't already taught me. My own belief is that these are merely opportunities to see the "rock stars" of aikido, as it were. For those that make a concerted effort to actually decide to start training with these men and women on a regular basis because they have something that they want is one thing. To all others, it just seems to be so much fan worship. You simply are NOT going to learn anything of value at these seminars. Its great to meet new people and all, but I think the value of these seminars are no more important than the average Trek convention.

Osu
WOW, that sounds like a slap in the face with a bunch of sour grapes, it caught my attention. My question is why?

My comment
What is the alternative for those like me who could and do learn something. Who do become more educated from such experiences, like being able to take part in the process of a fine work. For example, how many Rock musicians would sell their souls at the chance to study under a great guitarist. Please don't under value such an experience for those like me who appreciate the opportunity. Aikido "stars" are far more generous then Rock and Roll stars.

What I learn isn't reduced down only to the mechanics of technique. You can learn allot from a person if your open to it.

Last edited by Buck : 06-02-2008 at 10:17 PM.
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Old 06-02-2008, 11:12 PM   #14
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Quote:
David Valadez wrote: View Post
I think dvd's have come a long way, as I think seminars have changed a great deal since the times Peter may be referring to. They are sooooo crowded now, and the masses, more than ever (and not just because of a lack of space), are dictating that things remain not only overly basic but also overly non-martial.

my opinion,
d
Well, the seminars I am referring to are not the vast events given by people like Doshu, who shows basics in the middle of 1,000 mats with several hundred people present. I have stated elsewhere, and to Doshu himself, that such seminars are of limited benefit.

The seminars I mean take place in our own dojo and are given by the instructors who taught my own teacher. So numbers are only slightly more than at a regular training session and have the advantage of someone like Tada or Yamaguchi instructing for several hours continuously. The last seminar taught by Tada Sensei here involved ten hours of training, spread over two days. He never does that in his own dojo.

The NE Aikikai Summer Camp (I think in 1981) had more people present, but, again, allowed about 5 hours training daily, with tai-jutsu in the mornings and weapons in the afternoon, usually outside. I remember being up near the front, so I got to see everything and train with people like Bruce Klickstein. When he came to Hiroshima, Saito Sensei remembered me and so I got to partner him for all the weapons training we did on the second day, which was very valuable.

PAG

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Old 06-02-2008, 11:28 PM   #15
Joseph Madden
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Quote:
Philip Burgess wrote: View Post
WOW, that sounds like a slap in the face with a bunch of sour grapes, it caught my attention. My question is why?

My comment
What is the alternative for those like me who could and do learn something. Who do become more educated from such experiences, like being able to take part in the process of a fine work. For example, how many Rock musicians would sell their souls at the chance to study under a great guitarist. Please don't under value such an experience for those like me who appreciate the opportunity. Aikido "stars" are far more generous then Rock and Roll stars.

What I learn isn't reduced down only to the mechanics of technique. You can learn allot from a person if your open to it.
So, your going to learn how to play like a great rock guitarist at a seminar?
Remember, we are talking about a SEMINAR. And, if you paid attention to my original post you will see that I state that meeting new people is great. I'm not saying that they aren't fun. I'm stating that if you want to truly learn something of any great significance, you won't find it at a seminar. Becoming great at aikido requires more than being merely a fan.

OSU
And if you felt that having a shihan threaten your life as something significant and worthwhile, than......
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Old 06-03-2008, 01:16 AM   #16
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
And if you felt that having a shihan threaten your life as something significant and worthwhile, than......
Hi Joseph,

I don't recall ever being threatened by a shihan. There are all kinds of things that can kill you and I appreciate having them pointed out to me in a friendly manner. Having a peer take the time however briefly to show me anything about aikido was worthwhile. It was just a glimpse but that doesn't mean I didn't remember it and learn something from it. For the most part, we get principles and ideas and it is up to us to consolidate them in our regular training.

BTW: So why did you want to go all the way to the UK to the Mustard and Thanbu Seminar?
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Old 06-03-2008, 01:20 AM   #17
grondahl
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

I think the problem is that a seminar is not a seminar.
I have attended weekend seminars that did not give me anything at all except an opportunity to have a few cold ones with friends from other dojo afterwards but I have also been to really great weekend seminars that made a world of difference to my understanding of aikido.
And the gashuku-style seminars where you focus an entire week training for maybe 6 hours a day have always made my physical waza a whole lot better each time.

But of course, seminars are useless without the regular training in ones home dojo. And if you have shihan level instruction on a daily basis the need for seminars are probably a whole lot different than if your main instructor is a fresh nidan.
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Old 06-03-2008, 01:53 AM   #18
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

I feel as though these seminars have great value. Each Shihan shows various techniques in different ways then the other Shihans. But there many similarities involved and it is up to the individual to find them. Also, by seeing all of these Shihans and taking whatever I can get from them back to my own training at my own dojo had help me learn many things that I put into practice daily. These seminars have also taught me to always keep an open mind as well as the mind of a beginner. I know that some people may get tired of going away to a seminar and seeing the same techniques over and over again, but how many of us can do those techniques at that level? How many of us have seen a technique 1000 times and then on the 1001 time had a light go off? I know I have. Not to brag, but check out who I have had a chance to see in person:

Doshu
Shihans: Chiba, Yamada, Kanai, Sugano, Tamura, Shibata, Miyamoto, Saito Sr., Toyoda, Muryama (Hawaii), Berthuime, Waite, Halprin, Nour, DiAnne, and others who I cannot remember at the moment. So that is just to name a few.


I have also seen many guest Sensei's, many who have studied for many years under some of these Shihans. Do you really think that I haven't learned anything from some if not all of them? As for the politics of it all, I don't get involved in that stuff. I'm there to learn and grow and to one day be teaching at a seminar where I can pass on some of what I have learned from those I have mentioned and others.

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Old 06-03-2008, 02:55 AM   #19
Joseph Madden
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Quote:
Carl Thompson wrote: View Post
Hi Joseph,

I don't recall ever being threatened by a shihan. There are all kinds of things that can kill you and I appreciate having them pointed out to me in a friendly manner. Having a peer take the time however briefly to show me anything about aikido was worthwhile. It was just a glimpse but that doesn't mean I didn't remember it and learn something from it. For the most part, we get principles and ideas and it is up to us to consolidate them in our regular training.

BTW: So why did you want to go all the way to the UK to the Mustard and Thanbu Seminar?
I'd like to see Thambu sensei in person. I'm just as much a fan as anybody. But then again, I would like to have seen Elvis as well.
Would I learn anything from Thambu sensei? Probably not.And I dunno Carl. Having a shihan grab you by the throat and saying "I could kill you" sounds like a threat to me.If you want to call it friendly advice that's great. But comparing it to almost dying in a car crash doesn't sound to appealing to me. Whatever floats your boat.

Last edited by Joseph Madden : 06-03-2008 at 02:58 AM.
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Old 06-03-2008, 03:03 AM   #20
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Does anyone truly "learn" anything in an hour-and-a-half regular class?

Josh Reyer

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Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 06-03-2008, 03:32 AM   #21
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Frequently, the seminar experience, where I get exposed to the feel of someone new's power, technique, posture, movement, creates a major "AAAH HAAAAAAA!" moment.

Take your revelations ("ah ha" moments) and diligently work to understand and develop their concepts in your own practice, at the dojo.

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Old 06-03-2008, 03:44 AM   #22
Mark Uttech
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Onegaishimasu. I would venture the notion that anyone who attends a seminar with the intent to study and learn something will not come away empty handed. I think the purpose of a seminar is to focus on a few points.

In gassho,

Mark

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Old 06-03-2008, 03:54 AM   #23
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Quote:
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Going to a three day seminar to make your aikido better won't happen. Will it make you happy to say you have witnessed one of the greats performing flawless technique. Of course. It would make me happy too. It won't make my aikido any better.
Then most of my aikido career must have bee one giant hallucination. Weird. It seemed so real.

A 3 day seminar with Kimeda sensei (your teacher, I assume) sparked my fascination with weapons work. A 3 day seminar with Chida sensei opened my eyes to the softness and relaxation in aikido. A 5 day seminar with Muguruza Sensei (admittedly almost personal instruction) did wonders for my kihon, and I'm looking forward to repeating that next week. And recently a 3 day seminar with Inoue sensei taught me a shitload of stuff about mental strength and focus.

And these were just the highlights of my ~6.5 years of training.
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Old 06-03-2008, 04:08 AM   #24
Paulo Barreto
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
Although I am deeply respectful of the teachers that I have seen at a few of the seminars I've been to, I really don't think I've learned anything "special" that my own sensei hasn't already taught me. My own belief is that these are merely opportunities to see the "rock stars" of aikido, as it were. For those that make a concerted effort to actually decide to start training with these men and women on a regular basis because they have something that they want is one thing. To all others, it just seems to be so much fan worship. You simply are NOT going to learn anything of value at these seminars. Its great to meet new people and all, but I think the value of these seminars are no more important than the average Trek convention.

Osu
We had Kevin Choate Sensei here in Portugal this year in March for a 5 days Seminar. For me it was a chance to see a different approach, learn new things (still trying to digest it all) and get some hands-on time with Choate Sensei.

So my experience is that you can learn a lot in a Seminar and that it may also provide you with a lot of things to work on in the Dojo (the Seminar and the training you do in the Dojo complement each other).

This was my first seminar though so i may have just been extremely lucky .

Back to the more experienced voices.
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Old 06-03-2008, 04:30 AM   #25
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Re: Does anyone truly "learn" anything at a seminar?

Quote:
Joseph Madden wrote: View Post
I do not have a predisposition for not wanting to learn new things.
What you want or do not want is not the issue. The predisposition I'm referring to is the one you have that you aren't going to learn anything at a seminar. My point is that if you are convinced going in that it will be a waste of your time, then you are probably right... for you. But to make a blanket indictment of seminars in general, and to generalize that others won't be able to learn anything is presumptuous. If I didn't benefit, I wouldn't go. I have no fascination for "rock stars", but I do have considerable interest in listening to, and training with, those people who doubtless know a lot more about what we're doing than I do.
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