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Old 03-29-2002, 05:14 PM   #1
Jonathan
Dojo: North Winnipeg Aikikai
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Meeting the challenge.

I have had the misfortune to train with a fellow yudansha who seems compelled to demonstrate at every turn that his technique works and yours doesn't. He also has been very vigorous with mudansha that he thinks have good ukemi, crowding their limits and occasionally causing injury. At one seminar he was giving a hard time to a mudansha who had the good sense to meet this fellow's challenge head-on. The mudansha began to block the yudansha's technique in the same way the yudansha had blocked his. Of course, tempers began to flare. Training between these two rapidly descended into all-out conflict. At one point the mudansha got the yudansha in a headlock and pinned him to the mat. It appeared at this point that the mudansha suddenly realized that he had let things go to far and released the yudansha. He then walked to the edge of the mats to sit down and collect himself. He later apologized to the yudansha.

My question is, did you think this mudansha went too far? Certainly, the yudansha was asking for what happened to him. I find it hard to fault the mudansha for his actions. Do you agree? What would you have done in his shoes?

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 03-29-2002, 05:38 PM   #2
Andy
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Just because a "beginner" is wearing a white belt in your aikido class doesn't mean he can't kick your ass. To assume so is pure arrogance.
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Old 03-29-2002, 06:13 PM   #3
Peter Goldsbury
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I repeat the question here which I asked on another thread concerned with a similar problem: what on earth was the instructor doing?

I think it is very bad to allow such encounters to degenerate to the level of street fighting and am astonished that someone stopped practisig and sat down at the edge of the tatami without the instructor noticing or intervening. To me this is bad dojo etiquette.

Yours sincerely,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 03-29-2002 at 06:16 PM.

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Old 03-29-2002, 07:22 PM   #4
warriorwoman
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meeting the challenge

Yes, this was very bad dojo etiquette for both students. However, the sensei, in his wisdom, may have been more aware of what was going on than you think. If he had interfered, they may not have learned the valuable lesson on their own, and might in the future repeat the same mistake, which is TO REMAIN IN CONTROL OF ONESELF. Some lessons like these can be taught but they sometimes have more value and are remembered longer when experienced. Please don't rush to judge the sensei in this case. I believe the mudansha learned his lesson and acknowledged his mistake. This will remain with him for a long, long time.
janet dtantirojanarat
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Old 03-29-2002, 07:54 PM   #5
Abasan
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I think he went too far... unless of course your dojo practices newaza and head pinning is one of the techniques taught by your sensei. Fun though isn't it? I would have proceeded to tickle the yudansha till he taps .

Still, if you do something, prepare to take responsibility for your actions. The yudansha did something to provoke the mudanshas response, live with it. In any case, during training, the sempai has to take responsibility if anything happens. Even though its not really his fault, he has the most responsibility to the mat and sensei. So he has to be doubly careful.

Interesting way of teaching anyway. What if by pure accident/or rage, the head pin became a choke and seriously injured the yudansha? Has the sensei taken into cognisance of this possibility? Or is it just going to be one of those 'you learn martial arts, prepare to be hurt' kinda thing?

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 03-29-2002, 08:17 PM   #6
Nacho_mx
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Thumbs up

For the mudansha losing itīs temper after being provoked, I can understand. After all you say he called the whole thing off before it got way out of hand and apologized later on, and thatīs the right attitude, even if he didnīt understand then. For a yudansha to act so arrogant, there is no excuse, his behavior speaks poorly of him and his instructor too, even if this particular incident itīs not his/her fault.

Last edited by Nacho_mx : 03-29-2002 at 08:21 PM.
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Old 03-29-2002, 11:52 PM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: meeting the challenge

Quote:
Originally posted by warriorwoman
Yes, this was very bad dojo etiquette for both students. However, the sensei, in his wisdom, may have been more aware of what was going on than you think. If he had interfered, they may not have learned the valuable lesson on their own, and might in the future repeat the same mistake, which is TO REMAIN IN CONTROL OF ONESELF. Some lessons like these can be taught but they sometimes have more value and are remembered longer when experienced. Please don't rush to judge the sensei in this case. I believe the mudansha learned his lesson and acknowledged his mistake. This will remain with him for a long, long time.
janet dtantirojanarat
www.warriorwoman.org
I do not think I was rushing to judge the instructor in this particular case. I merely asked what he was doing and made a general comment about bad etiquette, with which you agreed. One aspect which has not been mentioned is the effect which two students fighting has on the rest of the class, including the possibility of injury.

I think instructors should be aware of what is happening to every student in their class and I for one would not allow practice to degenerate into such a fight.

Such an encounter occurred at a recent seminar. A shodan and a 1st kyu were blocking each other's technique, tempers soon frayed and there was a scrap. Of course, I stopped it, used the two as ukes for the rest of the class and, after the class had finished, made them practise the same technique once again, this time with me watching and participating. Of course, they apologised to each other, but I was pleased that they also apologised to me for potentially disrupting the class.

Yours sincerely,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 03-30-2002, 01:43 PM   #8
Jonathan
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The situation I described occured at a seminar. There were about sixty people on the mats at the time, so I don't think the shihan saw what was going on. It took only a few seconds for the wrestling match part of the conflict to transpire and the whirling and twisting bodies crowded around probably hid the event from all but those of us closest to what happened.

Personally, I thought the whole thing was highly inappropriate. A part of me, however, recognizes that the yudansha deserved this moment of ignominy.

My shihan emphasizes rising to a challenge. Very often he himself is the challenge. He throws hard and pins harder. He tosses curves at you constantly during testing and, when taking ukemi for him, expects you to read his subtle attack signals well (a brisk smack on the head warns you when you are not). He will even scold you for being too deferential toward him. So, I am not too sure he didn't see the whole thing and let it happen to encourage the fighting spirit necessary to rise to a challenge. I don't think the contention between mudansha and yudansha indicates he is a negligent instructor. Tough, perhaps, but not negligent.

Thanks for the feedback on this!

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 03-30-2002, 08:01 PM   #9
Peter Goldsbury
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Of course, in aikido it is always a matter of degree. The roles of uke and tori are in a real sense artificial, even political, rigidly demarcated for beginners and becoming progressively less well-defined as one progresses.

In your account, you refer to the persons concerned simply as yudansha and mudansha. In my experience as an instructor, such scraps tend to occur with higher kyu grades and lower dan ranks, the case I mentioned in my earlier post being 1st kyu (with a dan examination this summer) and 1st dan (with the dan examination occurring last summer). So the two were fairly equally matched in terms of age, grade, technical ability, and also physical strength. This is partly why it was pointless to let the scrap continue.

Over the past few years I have been thinking a lot about how to teach aikido, how to instruct, and I think there are several reasons why I would not allow the participants in such a scrap to fight it out without interfering. Though, as janet (aka warriorwoman) suggests, it is occasionally beneficial. This I do not deny.

(1) A playground scrap in the dojo seems to me to go against the whole purpose of aikido and training. If you lose your temper and focus entirely on how to 'get even' with your partner, you have lost the main picture. And you need to get it back, quickly. In my experience a sharp "Stop fighting!" from the instructor, followed by 'quality time' with senior yudansha, does this more quickly and effectvely than allowing the two to slug it out on their own.
(2) Such scraps affect other people in the vicinity. There is one notorious dojo in Japan where such scraps are relatively common and people trying to train nearby in comparative tranquility have the additional problem of avoiding collisions and wanton intrusions into their training space. The sensei usually wanders round as if nothing is happening.
(3) The possibility of injury, not so much to the protagonists as to other people. Though there is one dojo here where the desire to 'teach someone a lesson' during practice led to a fatal injury (by concussion from shiho-nage).
(4) I think it is the instructor's main job to train her / his yudansha properly.

Yours sincerely,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 03-30-2002 at 08:10 PM.

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Old 03-31-2002, 09:29 AM   #10
Jonathan
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I agree with you, Peter, completely.

The mudansha I mentioned was 4th kyu at the time and the yudansha was 3rd dan. Makes the outcome of the conflict rather a surprise doesn't it?

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 04-01-2002, 03:37 AM   #11
Johan Tibell
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jonathan
The mudansha I mentioned was 4th kyu at the time and the yudansha was 3rd dan. Makes the outcome of the conflict rather a surprise doesn't it?
Three years ago when I first started it would but since then I've seen a very wide range of abilities within the same rank (i.e. 3 dan).


- Johan

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Old 04-01-2002, 05:39 AM   #12
Peter Goldsbury
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jonathan
I agree with you, Peter, completely.

The mudansha I mentioned was 4th kyu at the time and the yudansha was 3rd dan. Makes the outcome of the conflict rather a surprise doesn't it?
A 3rd dan versus a 4th kyu, with the outcome you described, does indeed surprise me, not least because the 3rd dan appears not yet to have grasped some very basic principles of aikido. Which, again, leads to questions about the care with which a shihan trains his / her yudansha. In your earlier posts you defended the shihan against any suggestion of negligence, which, of course, is very reasonable on your part. But I wonder about the training of a 3rd dan who appears to be so ill-equipped to deal with strong kyu-grades, or with most partners. What do you think your shihan would say?

Then I read Johan's post, and I assumed he was referring to a recent divergence of skills within the rank in Sweden, which also surprises me.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 04-01-2002, 11:01 AM   #13
Johan Tibell
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Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury

Then I read Johan's post, and I assumed he was referring to a recent divergence of skills within the rank in Sweden, which also surprises me.
Excuse my not so very good English. Yes I was referring to our situation here in Sweden, as I see it. What surprise you? That I think there's a large divergence of skill in Swedish aikido or that there's a large divergence in Swedish aikido?

If you want to answer me personally please write to my private email address, it's in the profile.

PS Will you attend to the IAF training camp this summer in Sweden?

Best regards,

Johan Tibell

Pour your spirit and heart
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To approach the many through a single principle
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Old 04-01-2002, 02:18 PM   #14
Jonathan
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The 3rd dan I have referred to received his rank in Japan under someone other than my shihan.

Being japanese, my shihan does not speak English very well; so I do a lot of guessing as to his thinking on Aikido training. I am pretty sure he would think less of a sandan who was subdued by a yonkyu in the way I described.

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 04-01-2002, 10:29 PM   #15
MaylandL
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Eek!

I am surprised that this sort of behaviour occurs in dojos. I've always been taught to respect training partners and the dignity of a dojo. I must have lead a very sheltered aikidoka training life because I have never seen this happen in about 16 years of martial arts training. I would think that this is counter productive to the spirit of learning and a breach of dojo etiquette.

I think that Mr Goldsbury puts it very well and I think that the Sensei of the Dojo along with other yundansha would need to deal with the situation. I am heartened that both apologised to each other after the event but I do hope that this incident does not affect the tone of future training.

Mayland
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Old 04-02-2002, 12:13 AM   #16
Peter Goldsbury
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Quote:
Originally posted by Johan Tibell

Excuse my not so very good English. Yes I was referring to our situation here in Sweden, as I see it. What surprise you? That I think there's a large divergence of skill in Swedish aikido or that there's a large divergence in Swedish aikido?

If you want to answer me personally please write to my private email address, it's in the profile.

PS Will you attend to the IAF training camp this summer in Sweden?

Best regards,

Johan Tibell
I have been aquainted with aikido in Sweden since the days of Mr T Ichimura. I am aware of a large divergance within Swedish aikido, but I understood from your post that there was a larger divergence more recently of skill within the same rank, not just, say, an Iwama-trained 3rd dan and a Hombu-trained 3rd dan, but a divergence in skill among 3rd dans of the same type. Or have I misunderstood you?

PS. Yes. I will be attending the IAF meeting in Sweden and I hope to do some training as well, so that I can look at the skill level for myself.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 04-02-2002, 12:36 AM   #17
Johan Tibell
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Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury

Or have I misunderstood you?
Nope.

Quote:

PS. Yes. I will be attending the IAF meeting in Sweden and I hope to do some training as well, so that I can look at the skill level for myself.
Well, I sincerily hope you have the time to teach/practice some. I think the IAF meeting/camp couldn't have been held at a better time/place. Just a few months after my return from Iwama. I'll be dying to train with some Swedish aikidokas by then...

Best Regards,

Johan Tibell

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Old 04-02-2002, 01:37 AM   #18
George S. Ledyard
 
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Conflict on the Mat

It is the instructor's job to keep the practice under control. My students will occasionally give each other a hard time if they are peers. Seniors normally know better than to get into that kind of fray with the juniors. I keep an eye on things and if I see a new student who is being resistant in a way that doesn't make sense I'll step in and use him for uke. Normally I can resolve whatever doubts he has about the technique without hurting him. It is innapropriate for any of the students to take it on themselves to teach any other a student a "lesson", that is the job of the instructor who should be able to do so with a degree of finesse, preventing injury to the body or the spirit.

Not having witnessed the incident described I can't say what the instructor may have had in mind. Perhaps he wanted the Sandan to have a lesson in humility. Perhaps he wanted both of them to see what happens when the ego gets out of control. Or perhaps he wasn't paying enough attention to what was happening. I know that long before things get to that point in my class I will have split the two up and given them new partners.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 04-02-2002, 07:50 AM   #19
Bruce Baker
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Conflict on the mat ...

Evil ... after my own heart!

I know how difficult it is to be outdone by younger, more skilled technically efficient people who practice Aikido, but that is also their down fall.

If you cannot lessen the intensity of an encounter, then break it off, break it up with laughter, or at least stop to excuse yourself so you can sit.

It took me a long time for me to finally admit that some people needed to be asked to be your friend, or to play nice ... they worked in the European ethic that ones word was not morally bound if some loophole could be found. That is part of the successful business world of today.

Sometimes our lives outside Aikido creep into practice, with competition and promotional consideration ... this should not be the ego of partnered practice, ever!

We are human, so it will happen time to time. If need be, point it out to other teachers, sensei, and let them direct traffic or intercede. There are lessons for all to be learned. Sometimes we see it and learn, or sometimes we become the lessons?

For years I couldn't understand why I thought different from others until my brother suspected my family was interlinked with the Native Americans of Six Nations in New York. Then as we researced I came across this list of Traditional Indian Values verses European Industrial Values as put forth by the American Indian Education Commission. When I read it, I began to understand why I thought different that other successful lieing weasels. Read it and see if many of Aikido ideals are not on the Indian side?

Cooperation vs Competition
Group Emphasis vs Individual Emphasis
Modesty vs Self-Attention
Non-Interference vs Interference
Passive vs Active
Informal Courtesty vs Formal Courtesy
Patience vs Aggressiveness
Generosity/Sharing vs Saving
Non-Materialistic vs Materialistic
Work for Current Need vs Work for Sake of Work
Time/Alway with us vs Time/Use every minute
Orientation/Present vs Orientation/Future
Pragmatic vs Theoretical
Respect for Age vs Respect for Youth
Harmony with Nature vs Conquest over Nature
Religion/Way- life vs Religion/Segment- Life
Spiritual-Mystical vs Skeptical
Non-Verbal vs Verbal
Personal Caution vs Personal Openness
Listening/Observation vs Verbal Skills
Permissive Childrear'g vs Punitive Childrear'g
Indirect Criticism vs Direct Critism
Extended Family vs Nuclear Family
Cultural Pluralist vs Assimalationist
No eye2eye contact vs Eye2eye contact

These are normal day to day obsevations, some change in formal encounters with leaders and speaking, but most ideals for me wound up on the right collumn.

The point?

Recognizing behavior, just like understanding other people is a learned trait.
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Old 04-02-2002, 10:21 AM   #20
Jonathan
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I get the impression that my shihan places much value in having a strong fighting spirit. I think that his not interrupting the conflict I described may have been the result of his desire for students to learn to develop this spirit. This is a guess, of course, but he has given me some reason to believe I might be right. For instance, he will try to "rattle" you during rank testing by telling your uke to give you a hard time or by abandoning the established test criteria completely for his own list of surprise techniques. Or he will lock or pin you right to the edge of your limit. Once he had me "test" a new shodan with yonkyo. The fellow was very slight and so my yonkyo on his wrists was very painful (I have thick wrists from powerlifting so his yonkyo didn't hurt at all). Seeing his discomfort I eased off for a time but my shihan saw this and scolded me for doing so. He then stood behind me and watched to make sure that I applied yonkyo full force for the approximately one hundred times we did it. On one hand, I felt very uncomfortable treating this guy this way, but, on the other, I recognized that this was what I had experienced many times from my shihan and that it was part of being a serious student under his instruction. He wasn't being mean, he was trying to toughen this new shodan and remind him that he was now, as a shodan, on a different level in terms of what was expected from him. His fighting spirit would have to grow to meet the challenges of being a yudansha. This spirit, I believe, is what my shihan was, perhaps, encouraging when he didn't interfere with the yonkyu and sandan who scuffled.

As I said, the conflict was short-lived and relatively contained. I'm sure if it had been wilder he would have intervened.

How do you who teach develop fighting spirit in your students? Is this even a concern?

Thanks for your comments on this!

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 04-11-2002, 08:27 AM   #21
Bruce Baker
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Mat behavior ...

I can understand the conflicts that arise when hormones of the those under forty get going. Yeah there is actually a physical stimuli you have to be in control of, and it is very difficult.

I can name at least four conflicts I have had in the last two years at seminars with young black belts who thought increasing pain was correctly applying technique ... not so. That is the least of your Aikido training. Any fool can create pain from Aikido by correctly using the body, but to control body, mind, and spirit ... that is the million dollar question?

I saw a thread about taking away rank for behavior ... I have heard about it, and seen it done in karate but not in Aikido, yet.

(Got away from my thought)
Anyway, physical practice of Aikido has to be without any kind of selfish thought, especially the kind that thinks,"I have been doing Aikido for this long and I will show my partner I am better or instruct them to my level of practice ...." Oops? I guess I do that, but I didn't mean to do that?

Sometimes ... you have to step out of yourself and examine what happened opposed as to what you meant to do, talk it out, and understand what you should be doing?

At seminars, even your teacher is practicing without watching the class, so sometimes it is your responsibility to alert someone to an excalating situation, or ask," Are you guys alright, everything OK?"

If the answer is mind your own business, alert someone, if not, go back and practice.

My fault for not seeing that doing a technique better than the kid would come to this ... should of walked away ... built like a gorilla, thinking like a child who wants to play.

Now, who wants to get back on the mat and play!

(When your hair and beard turns white you will be crusty too!)
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Old 04-11-2002, 04:42 PM   #22
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I think the shihan should have broke it up, but will make allowance for it being crowded on the mat, a very brief time spent in the altercation, perhaps he is short, etc so he didn't see it.

That is where the comment (fairly loud) from nearby helps: the pair now knows others are watching, perhaps even sensei, and sensei gets a heads-up that something is happening. A visiting senior female, while training with me, got frustrated in her inability to do the technique to her satisfaction and relieved the frustration by dropping her knee (and her weight, luckily she is small) onto my spine after I'd rolled over for her to pin me. Perhaps she was hoping for a brawl. I just yelped 'hey, cut it out ____', the instructor looked over, saw her jumping on me during the pin and signaled an end to that technique (and our pairing).

On the other hand, this repeated yonkyo business sounds like puerile hazing, and it makes me wonder just what is being stressed.
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Old 04-12-2002, 11:18 PM   #23
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This is from Ellis Amdur's great book, "Dueling with O-sensei" (reprinted here with permission from the author):

Quote:
There was a period right in the beginning of my time as an uchi-deshi
when Arikawa Sensei decided to take me under his wing -- so to speak.
He would call me out for ukemi, and throw me head-first into the
tokonoma (altar) or hit me in the throart with a knuckle, leaving me
retching on the floor. I'd be diving through the air, trying to
protect my arm from being broken, thinking, no, screaming inside my
head, "This isn't aikido, this isn't waht O-sensei teaches! Boy, is
Arikawa sensei going to get in trouble when O-sensei sees this!" And
one day, O-sensei came bopping across the mat just as Arikawa sensei
slugged me in the throat, knocked me down, and cranked an arm bar on
my elbow, and kept it going even after I frantically tapped out.
O-sensei glanced over, smiled, said something like "Carry on, carry
on" and kept on going right through the dojo and out the door.

I never really figured this out. I ended up regarding Arikawa like a
force of nature, sort of like gout ot the black plague, but I figure
that O-sensei was saying that there's a role in the community for
everyone, even mad dogs and sadists. Hell, I don't know, that's just
what I came up with. I sure learned how to take ukemi with that man,
though...

-- Terry Dobson, from a personal conversation
-- Jun

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Old 04-18-2002, 09:47 AM   #24
Hanna B
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Quote:
Originally posted by Peter Goldsbury
but I understood from your post that there was a larger divergence more recently of skill within the same rank, not just, say, an Iwama-trained 3rd dan and a Hombu-trained 3rd dan, but a divergence in skill among 3rd dans of the same type. Or have I misunderstood you?
(italics applied by me, HB)

Quote:
to which Johan Tibell replied
Nope.
Johan, what scope of time are you talking about for this larger divergence to happen?

Regards,
Hanna
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Old 04-18-2002, 11:27 AM   #25
Lyle Bogin
Dojo: Shin Budo Kai
Location: Manhattan
Join Date: Feb 2002
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So then, eventually Terry was able to take ukemi for this guy with no problem? Was he ever actually injured or just in pain? Has he carried on the tradition of punishment? How tough was Terry at the time? Did this make him tougher? Is he glad he went through this kind of training? Did he ever get to return the favor? If someone punches you in the throat, shouldn't you get out of the way? Had Terry had training before this event?

I find that anecdote confusing.
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