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Old 12-04-2010, 06:55 AM   #1
Dave de Vos
 
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Experience

Reading through the forums I find that many posters quantify their experience by the number of training years they accumulated.

I'm only a beginner in aikido, but I am a 4 dan in an ancient japanese board game called go (in japanese). So I might illustrate my question with my road to reaching some level of expertise in a different field.

I've been playing go for 22 years. In the first 4 years I spent about 30 hours a week on study and competitive play. Most of my progress occurred during that time (Go ranks are based purely on competitive results). I reached shodan after training about 2 years (3000 hours) and 3 dan 2 years later (3000 hours more).

But after those initial years I've spent less and less time on studying go (job, family etc.). The years after that initial period I only spent about 5 hours a week on playing and I hardly studied at all. With this lower intensity training it took me 12 more years (3000 hours more) to reach 4 dan. In the last 5 years (1000 hours more) I seem to have hit a plateau, or perhaps a slow degradation would be a more accurate description.

So now I have 22 years of experience, but that gives no indication of the hours and the intensity of my training during that period and even less of the expertise gained during that period. I know many people who have spent 30 years playing go without reaching shodan in go. But they have only spent 3 hours or so a week, accumulating only 5000 hours of low intensity training total.

I've heard about the 10,000 hours rule for mastering any worthwile skill and I think that training hours would be a more meaningful measure of experience. And then the expertise achieved depends a lot on the way those hours are spent. My observation is that the more you progress, the harder it becomes to train in a way that promotes learning instead of just going through the motions, so learning experiences become exceedingly rare.

I've read some discussions about comparing O Sensei's students who achieved great expertise in 5 or 10 year with others who accumulated decades of training without reaching the level of O Sensei's students.

So how many hours have you spent actually training? Do you still strive for some level of training intensity after so many years? Do you still learn from training?
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Old 12-04-2010, 12:43 PM   #2
carina reinhardt
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Re: Experience

Hi Dave,
I think it is different, I mean a play like go, I saw the guys playing when I went to japanese school, comparing with a martial art. Of course you can be 4 dan in go and maybe there is not much more to learn for you. I think in a martial art you will be learning your whole life, it doesn't matter how many hours you train. It is just my opinion, I only am shodan and in our dojo there is aikido only two times a week for 90 minutes, so even if I wanted to train more, it is not possible, but I see my teacher 3 dan, the teacher of my teacher 5 dan and the teacher of this one 7 dan, they are still learning and they train much more, as they are teaching almost every day.
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Old 12-04-2010, 04:27 PM   #3
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: Experience

I think there is so much to learn that you will forget some of what you learned then relearn it.

Lyle Laizure
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Old 12-04-2010, 05:58 PM   #4
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Carina Reinhardt wrote: View Post
Hi Dave,
I think it is different, I mean a play like go, I saw the guys playing when I went to japanese school, comparing with a martial art. Of course you can be 4 dan in go and maybe there is not much more to learn for you.
I think you are underestimating the sophistication and complexity of go.

Katherine
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Old 12-04-2010, 07:08 PM   #5
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Re: Experience

Go is considered by some to be the ultimate martial art. It is a microcosm for battle field tactic.

MM
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Old 12-04-2010, 11:33 PM   #6
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Re: Experience

If I weren't learning something new through my training, I wouldn't continue to do it. I've been doing Aikido for 22 years now.

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 12-05-2010, 01:14 AM   #7
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
I think you are underestimating the sophistication and complexity of go.

Katherine
No, I'm don't underestimating it, I'm just repeating what Dave said., or what I undertand he said, maybe I did not understand it correctly. I will not give an opinion if you still can learn as a 4 dan in go or not, because I don't know. I only gave my opinion about Aikido.
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Old 12-05-2010, 03:44 AM   #8
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Carina Reinhardt wrote: View Post
I will not give an opinion if you still can learn as a 4 dan in go or not, because I don't know
I could still learn very much in go. 9 dan is the highest rank and then there are title matches between the strongest 9 dans. That is out of reach for me in my lifetime. But 5 dan would be a realistic goal.

The thing is that I feel that I stopped learning years ago, even though I spend time on go. I could add 10 more years without improving at all. I know I should increase the intensity of my training to improve, but my motivation for that is lacking. It would come down to spending a lot of effort for a small improvement (or perhaps no improvement at all). That is one of the reasons I was looking for a new challenge, which I found in aikido. It feels so good to get noticeable improvement from effort spent.

Can aikidoka recognize this feeling? Have you experienced long episodes where you lost motivation because you stopped improving?
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Old 12-05-2010, 03:50 AM   #9
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Re: Experience

I have practised Aikido for about twenty years now, seven of which running my own dojo. I have practised, once a week up to four times a week.
My current teacher lives in France, me in the Netherlands, so to receive regular practise from him is out of the question. Still, I want to learn/master his Aikido. Allthough I cannot put in as many training hours as I would like, I study hard and progress steadily.
It is not only the number of practise hours. It is your commitment that counts.

Last edited by Tim Ruijs : 12-05-2010 at 03:52 AM.

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
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Old 12-05-2010, 03:56 AM   #10
Dave de Vos
 
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
Go is considered by some to be the ultimate martial art. It is a microcosm for battle field tactic.
It might seem inappropriate to compare go to martial art, because ones physical safety is not at stake in a board game. But I definitely feel many parallels: I can recognize moving off the line, keeping ones center, atemi, taking the center of you opponent, entering etcetera in go. The principles from "The art of war" by Sun Tzu apply very much to go (as I expect them to apply to martial arts).
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Old 12-05-2010, 04:09 AM   #11
Dave de Vos
 
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Lyle Laizure wrote: View Post
I think there is so much to learn that you will forget some of what you learned then relearn it.
Yes, but I think forgetting is good. Forgetting bad habits are the only way to improve sometimes. And sometimes, you need to forget things on a cognitive level to allow the subconscious to take over.
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Old 12-05-2010, 04:21 AM   #12
carina reinhardt
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Dave de Vos wrote: View Post
I could still learn very much in go. 9 dan is the highest rank and then there are title matches between the strongest 9 dans. That is out of reach for me in my lifetime. But 5 dan would be a realistic goal.

The thing is that I feel that I stopped learning years ago, even though I spend time on go. I could add 10 more years without improving at all. I know I should increase the intensity of my training to improve, but my motivation for that is lacking. It would come down to spending a lot of effort for a small improvement (or perhaps no improvement at all). That is one of the reasons I was looking for a new challenge, which I found in aikido. It feels so good to get noticeable improvement from effort spent.

Can aikidoka recognize this feeling? Have you experienced long episodes where you lost motivation because you stopped improving?
Yes, I can, at the beginning sometimes I felt like that, that instead of going forwards I stoppedI was not improving, but since my shodan, I think this is the very first step to know anything about aikido I feel happy about every new class, every new movement, every correction of my teacher to become better.
Dave if you feel you are not improving in go, just relax, try to enjoy your aikido classes and maybe in a few months or a year you will enjoy go again.
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Old 12-05-2010, 04:24 AM   #13
Dave de Vos
 
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Tim Ruijs wrote: View Post
Allthough I cannot put in as many training hours as I would like, I study hard and progress steadily.
It is not only the number of practise hours. It is your commitment that counts.
Good to see a fellow dutchman here

Yes, I lost commitment when I stopped progressing. Or was it the other way around? Perhaps I let myself get caught up in a downward spiral.
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Old 12-05-2010, 04:33 AM   #14
Tim Ruijs
 
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Re: Experience

Hollanders zijn overal, nietwaar?

lost commitment when progress stopped...
What exactly are you committed to then?

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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Old 12-05-2010, 04:54 AM   #15
Dave de Vos
 
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Tim Ruijs wrote: View Post
Hollanders zijn overal, nietwaar?

lost commitment when progress stopped...
What exactly are you committed to then?


I'm not sure I understand your question.

I used to be committed to improve the quality of my play in go by sticking to fundamentals, making sound choices on each and every move to avoid getting myself in a "stuck" situation where I would have to revert to "ugly" moves.
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Old 12-05-2010, 06:58 AM   #16
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Dave de Vos wrote: View Post


I'm not sure I understand your question.

I used to be committed to improve the quality of my play in go by sticking to fundamentals, making sound choices on each and every move to avoid getting myself in a "stuck" situation where I would have to revert to "ugly" moves.
I kind of got the feeling you lost interest because you did not make any progress anymore. This suggests your focus is not on the game itself, but on winning, progress, achieve the next rank.
In other words, when you think your progress comes to a halt, your commitment is what makes you continue, regardless.
I hope this makes sense.

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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Old 12-05-2010, 09:38 AM   #17
Janet Rosen
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Re: Experience

It is very common to hit training plateaus in ALL endeavors and slogging through them is the mark of real committment.
I've heard it said that during these long plateaus there actually IS active learning going on, it just isn't integrating/manifesting yet and that eventually there is a real Aha! or shift that occurs.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 12-05-2010, 10:25 AM   #18
ChrisHein
 
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Re: Experience

Nice post Dave de Vos.

I think you are spot on with your assessment. Showing up and "clocking in" doesn't really do it either though. I've trained with several Aikidoists who have been doing Aikido since the 70's, most of them show up regularly, bow in and "train" several times a week. But, while they are physically there, they are not mentally/spiritually there, so they've stopped growing. They have 30+ years in class, an honest 10,000+ years "training" but they were only truly present for 2000-3000 hours of training. While some Uchi-deshi who has been training for only 1 year could easily rack up 1500 hours of very intense, dedicated training.

In most of the Martial arts I've studied I was in the lead pack of students. Those that gave 100% to everything they did, living breathing and eating the training. However I have done a few martial arts where I noticed that I was not there, I just was not as interested in the training. Even though I had the same "time-in" in two different systems, the one's I cared about I became very good at very quickly, but the ones where I tried less I was never in the lead pack of students.

You have to be present in order to improve. That gets harder the longer you study one thing because you must continue to stay interested, finding new ways to improve and develop. Most hobbyists will never do this, so they brag about their 30+ years of training, but really have done less then a serious 3 year student.

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Old 12-05-2010, 01:47 PM   #19
Dave de Vos
 
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Tim Ruijs wrote: View Post
This suggests your focus is not on the game itself, but on winning, progress, achieve the next rank.
Your intuition is very good. Indeed, I focus too much on winning. Trying to prove I am making progress gets in the way of making progress.

A couple of weeks ago I participated in my first aikido seminar. One of the things Shimamoto shihan said to us: "you are not fighting your opponent(partner). You are fighting yourself." The funny thing is, even though I know it works this way in go too, I still can't help myself.

Quote:
Tim Ruijs wrote: View Post
In other words, when you think your progress comes to a halt, your commitment is what makes you continue, regardless.
I hope this makes sense.
Indeed, although I may never break away from this plateau, I love the game too much to stop trying.

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
I've heard it said that during these long plateaus there actually IS active learning going on, it just isn't integrating/manifesting yet and that eventually there is a real Aha! or shift that occurs.
Thank you for the encouragement. I may be learning to not let myself get carried away by complacency or fear. Taking up Aikido may improve my mental balance (I think it has this effect on me).
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Old 12-05-2010, 01:57 PM   #20
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
You have to be present in order to improve. That gets harder the longer you study one thing because you must continue to stay interested, finding new ways to improve and develop.
I've been absolutely floored - mentally, not physically! - from time to time (not often, but just often enough that it's left real impressions on me) when visiting a dojo or off at a seminar, and having someone clearly of high rank w/ many years in the art partner with me and give the most ho-hum, unconnected attack, literally looking somewhere else and acting as if ready to start a conversation w/ somebody over there, w/ no attempt at connection. And I wonder why they bother showing up at all.

Janet Rosen
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Old 12-05-2010, 03:02 PM   #21
Dave de Vos
 
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
Nice post Dave de Vos.

I think you are spot on with your assessment. Showing up and "clocking in" doesn't really do it either though.
...
While some Uchi-deshi who has been training for only 1 year could easily rack up 1500 hours of very intense, dedicated training.

In most of the Martial arts I've studied I was in the lead pack of students. Those that gave 100% to everything they did, living breathing and eating the training. However I have done a few martial arts where I noticed that I was not there, I just was not as interested in the training. Even though I had the same "time-in" in two different systems, the one's I cared about I became very good at very quickly, but the ones where I tried less I was never in the lead pack of students.

You have to be present in order to improve. That gets harder the longer you study one thing because you must continue to stay interested, finding new ways to improve and develop. Most hobbyists will never do this.
Yes, training with dedication is much more effective. But as you say, it is hard to stay dedicated over the years. I feel very dedicated to aikido now, but that is easy because I just started. I used to be very dedicated to go in my first 4 years. Over the years my dedication has shrunken to about 25% of my original dedication. Is it possible to maintain ones initial dedication for decades?

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
I've trained with several Aikidoists who have been doing Aikido since the 70's, most of them show up regularly, bow in and "train" several times a week. But, while they are physically there, they are not mentally/spiritually there, so they've stopped growing. They have 30+ years in class, an honest 10,000+ years "training" but they were only truly present for 2000-3000 hours of training.
I would think that a large portion of the "less dedicated aikidoka with many training hours" is still getting something out of training. Why else would they keep showing up?

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
so they brag about their 30+ years of training, but really have done less then a serious 3 year student.
Are you talking about Aikiweb posts?
Posts I read mentioning many training years did not feel like bragging to me. Senior members here seem to be quite mild-mannered, just being helpful and conveying some information about themselves so readers know the advice is coming from someone with experience.

Last edited by Dave de Vos : 12-05-2010 at 03:10 PM.
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Old 12-05-2010, 04:14 PM   #22
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Dave de Vos wrote: View Post
I would think that a large portion of the "less dedicated aikidoka with many training hours" is still getting something out of training. Why else would they keep showing up?
Habit, perhaps. Like any habit, a training habit can work for good, or it can work for ill.

I think that in aikido, or any martial art, there's also a problem that people can run into as a result of rank testing -- and shodan is probably the biggest danger point. Passing the test becomes the goal, it blocks out other reasons for training. When the test is over, it seems like people look around and find themselves at something of a loss. Not only do they no longer have this tangible goal in front of them, and the specific test criteria, test date, etc. to focus them...but they may find that they no longer have any reason to train. The answer to the question "Why am I training?" changes unexpectedly, and people who get locked into some specific goal and stop really honestly asking themselves that question can end up in the classic and unenviable position of getting what they want, but no longer wanting it once they get it.
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Old 12-05-2010, 04:44 PM   #23
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
It is very common to hit training plateaus in ALL endeavors and slogging through them is the mark of real committment.
I've heard it said that during these long plateaus there actually IS active learning going on, it just isn't integrating/manifesting yet and that eventually there is a real Aha! or shift that occurs.
A very common experience for me is to go to a seminar, feel completely frustrated and underwhelmed by it, and then get back to my regular practice and realize that I've taken a big jump. Sometimes you need a different perspective in order to improve.

Katherine
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Old 12-05-2010, 04:50 PM   #24
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Chris Hein wrote: View Post
You have to be present in order to improve. That gets harder the longer you study one thing because you must continue to stay interested, finding new ways to improve and develop. Most hobbyists will never do this, so they brag about their 30+ years of training, but really have done less then a serious 3 year student.
It helps to have teachers and peers who will push you. If you stay around long enough, you'll eventually become a senior student. At that point, it's easy to become complacent. Who will call you on your mistakes? If the answer is no one, it's time to move on.

(This is a particular challenge for dojo chos, and why I think running your own dojo before you're pretty senior is often unwise.)

Katherine
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Old 12-05-2010, 06:39 PM   #25
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Re: Experience

Quote:
Dave de Vos wrote: View Post
Yes, training with dedication is much more effective. But as you say, it is hard to stay dedicated over the years. I feel very dedicated to aikido now, but that is easy because I just started. I used to be very dedicated to go in my first 4 years. Over the years my dedication has shrunken to about 25% of my original dedication. Is it possible to maintain ones initial dedication for decades?
I don't know, I'm just past my first Aikido decade myself. But as of right now, I'm more interested in Aikido then ever. Seems like every day I find something else to work on.

Quote:
Dave de Vos wrote: View Post
I would think that a large portion of the "less dedicated aikidoka with many training hours" is still getting something out of training. Why else would they keep showing up?
There are lots of things to get from going to Aikido besides the training. Your ego gets stroked as a senior member of the Dojo, you get to chat with long time friends, you might enjoy ordering kohai around, getting away from the wife/husband kids. There are lots of distractions if you want to take them.

Quote:
Dave de Vos wrote: View Post
Are you talking about Aikiweb posts?
Posts I read mentioning many training years did not feel like bragging to me. Senior members here seem to be quite mild-mannered, just being helpful and conveying some information about themselves so readers know the advice is coming from someone with experience.
No, I don't mean bragging in a malicious way. But people do like to talk about how long they've been "training". Most Aikido people are pretty good people, this was the subject you brought up, I'm simply sharing my observations.

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