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Old 01-10-2011, 11:50 AM   #1
George S. Ledyard
 
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What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Ok, so I am attending a seminar with a teacher who decides to do a sword class. I am excited because this teacher's sword work is extraordinary and I love sword. The teacher started out with a basic flow exercise, which as it happens, is in the first chapter of his sword video which has been around since VHS days. He demonstrated then set folks to work. Folks were pretty much mangling the exercise so he stopped them and showed it again, this time a bit slower. The same thing happened. In fact it happened four times. By the end Sensei was furious. And, I have to say, I was furious.

Of course there were a few people in the room who were not folks from our organization. These folks did little or no sword at their home dojos so one could understand why they had issues. But the majority of these folks were regulars that I see every year at these events. Sensei pointed out that, in his uchi deshi days, O-Sensei would only show them something (no explanation at all) once or at most twice and they were expected to get it. He had just showed it four times, with explanation and folks were still pretty much exploring just about every way possible not to do what he had just shown.

My own partner was a person I had seen every year at this event. He never looked any different from year to year. Even with the added explanation I gave him as I walked him through it, he still never got it. All I could think was what a huge waste of everyone's time it was. The exercise in question was a basic drill. Sensei clearly intended for it to be the warm-up so he could build on it. Instead he spent half the class on it. He couldn't get to the good stuff because many (not all) folks couldn't do the most basic exercise.

I found myself asking what has happened to Aikido? It seems to have become the dumping ground for all the folks who, if they weren't doing Aikido, wouldn't be doing martial arts at all. They treat their training as if it is an afterthought done when everything else in their lives allows. It makes me crazy... Does anyone actually think that O-Sensei created this art as a hobby for middle class Americans to do in their spare time?

If this had been an isolated event, a bad day for whatever reason, then that would be one thing. But this happens all the time. Especially when we are talking about weapons work, which happens to be central to this teacher's Aikido. Sensei yells at everyone, they all look chagrined, then they go home and show up next time no better than they were the last time. What is the point? Year after year of not getting it, year after year of baby beginner exercises with no ability to move beyond in to something with some real content... What is the point?

I mentioned this to another friend and we agreed that, if we had been in a position of screwing up that badly with Sensei, one thing would absolutely happen. The next he time he saw us, we would be total and complete masters of that damned exercise. Sensei would never again have to say a word about our inability to do that particular set of movements.

Yet, what I see is not that kind of seriousness. If I had thought Sensei had meant me when he was criticizing the inability of the group to get what he was doing, I would have felt like going out in the parking lot and slitting my belly from embarrassment. Sensei was treating these folks like children because they were acting like children.

Why do people do this art who don't care enough about the art, their teacher, their fellow students, or their own training to fix things when they are broken? There are several teachers in our group who are perfectly capable of teaching these things and do so when asked. Way have I never seen any of these folks at my dojo asking for help on things like this? Why haven't any of us been asked to come to their dojos to do a workshop specifically on these elements which our teacher thinks are important enough to try to teach but the students are so weak in their fundamentals that Sensei can't even get them to do a simple beginner level exercise?

A few years ago I tried to help folks address their weak weapons work. I set up an event in which I invited two other 6th Dan level teachers from our organization to co teach a weapons seminar along with me. This was the A-Team of weapons teachers in our group and I was hoping to make it a yearly event with Sensei coming every fourth or` fifth year himself. Well, the event tanked. These very same folks who get yelled at by Sensei each year for their incompetence couldn't be bothered to come train with a bunch of American teachers, who could actually explain what Sensei is doing, and perhaps take folks up a level or two. No, folks continue to feel that it is more important to show up to train with Sensei with sub standard skills and waste his time and everyone else's than to actually go out of their way to train with a bunch of Americans who might have actually helped them to be better.

I find this attitude incomprehensible. If someone isn't trying to be good at this art, why do it. Quit and find something else one can be serious about. This is Budo. It is a serious pursuit. Many people take it very seriously. I think most of us are quite patient with beginners as they slowly figure stuff out... they are not the issue. I am talking about folks who have done Aikido for years and years, even decades, and still haven't bothered to put froth the effort to master the basics so that they can move on. Perhaps they tell themselves that it's their own practice and it's their business how much effort they put into it. But it's a group endeavor, not a solo practice. If it were iaido and you sucked, no one else would care. You could suck for decades and it wouldn't really effect anyone else's practice. But everything we do is paired. So when you get paired with someone who wants to train and you can't even hold your sword properly, you are wasting your partner's time. When the teacher has to address the group on issues that are simple beginner issues, it means that the teacher cannot take the class forward and do the things he or she might be capable of teaching.

Time after time I have seen Sensei start to do something really interesting and then have to change what he was intending and dumb it down for folks who never get any better, year after year. I pay the same amount to attend these events. I take the same time out of my life as these folks. Yet I can't get what I need from the training because these folks won't do the work.

Perhaps Sensei shouldn't even be teaching folks like this. In music someone at his level would never be teaching anyone but advanced student via "master classes". Less advanced student actually pay to watch these master classes. But Sensei has not chosen to do that. He still is trying to connect with the larger student population. I think that is admirable but I do not see that this same population understands that it is a privilege to train directly with someone like Sensei and that whenever you choose to get on the mat with him, you have a responsibility to work hard, take what he shows away with you, and come back better next time. That is the absolute minimum expectation. If you encounter something at a seminar that baffled you, you should make yourself crazy trying to get it. It should be gnawing at you constantly that you didn't get it.

This whole "we have all the time in the world" attitude makes me crazy. It's ok that I didn't get it this time just leads to a whole series of I didn't get it this times. Eventually, you have simply gotten into the habit of not getting it. You decide that you didn't get it, not because you have been too lazy to tear it apart and chew on it until you have figured it out, but that Sensei is "special", someone far beyond us mere mortals and it's ok that we don't get what he is doing.

This art of Aikido is amazing. It has the potential to take someone out into the unknown, to be trans-formative, to really change ones perspective on everything. perhaps change the world. But with folks treating it like a casual hobby placing it pretty much in a tertiary place of importance in their lives, or beyond, that not only won't happen, these folks end up impeding the efforts of the folks who do want to do the work. If folks don't want to train, they should get out of the way of those that do. I am not talking about the fact that people will make differing levels of commitment to their training. Some are striving for real mastery and other simply wish to attain a solid competency. I am talking about that group of folks who stay incompetent year after year because they will not work at it. Sure their are varying degrees of natural ability. Some folks pick some things up quicker than others. But, if you are one of the folks for whom things are difficult, you have to work harder. You don't just accept that you aren't any good and won't be. You strive harder. That's Budo.

This art requires serious people training seriously. The rest is a waste of time in my opinion.

(Original blog post may be found here.)
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Old 01-10-2011, 12:46 PM   #2
Janet Rosen
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

To answer your topic question... IMO my responsibilities as a student are to pay attention, hew as closely as I can to my best understanding of what is being demonstrated, be fully receptive to and respectful of correction, and take away what I can as stuff to work on during the coming months. Anything less would be a waste of my time and of the instructor's time.
I would hope that within an organization, each attending dojocho or instructor would return home prepared to change curriculum based on problems identified at a seminar.

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Old 01-10-2011, 01:50 PM   #3
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
.
I would hope that within an organization, each attending dojocho or instructor would return home prepared to change curriculum based on problems identified at a seminar.
Yes! Janet you have once again hit the nail on the head. When students look the way I described in a collective sense, that isn't an "ability" issue or even an example of individual lack of motivation. It is a widespread failure of the teachers to do their jobs.

Once on a way to a test, Saotome Sensei said to me "Student not do well on test, not student's fault, teacher's fault." So we are looking at an issue that has multiple problems. We have teachers who fail to take any serious responsibility for their students. If the students look good great, if they don't look good, well, I am sure they are trying , it's ok. Some of the folks Sensei was yelling at ARE teachers. They teach at their dojos, in fact some run dojos.

How many went home after that training and did two or three weeks of intensive sword classes? How many went back to their dojos and immediately invited a senior instructor to come in and work with the folks at the dojo on this material? Why should it take our teacher yelling at everyone to even get folks attention? Anyone looking around the room would know that folks drastically needed work. But when Sensei actually gets to the point at which he blows up over an issue, what kind of teacher would not immediately work to ensure that his own skills were adequate and then additionally make sure that none of his students ever went in front of Sensei looking like that again.

Pride is often looked at as a negative emotion. But it has a positive aspect. Pride in oneself is what causes one to have personal standards. As a teacher, I "pride" myself that my student never appear incompetent in front of my teacher. I would never encourage a student who I thought was substandard to travel for a seminar. It would reflect on me and the rest of the dojo. Why do these teachers seem not to have that same pride?

It's not that training doesn't reveal that a given student or teacher has problems to overcome. That's the point of training. But if one is really training, it should never be the same issues over and over. When it's the same stuff each year, then clearly the training is a joke. And that is the fault of the teacher, period.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 01-10-2011, 01:53 PM   #4
Tony Wagstaffe
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

To be sensible......

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Old 01-10-2011, 02:02 PM   #5
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Quote:
Attilio Anthony John Wagstaffe wrote: View Post
To be sensible......

Hi Tony, sure, ok. But you are one of the hard asses here. Usually more blunt than I am. What do you think about a student's "responsibility" to try to actually master the material presented or a teacher's responsibility for seeing that they do so? From your writings I have a hard time imagining you being very tolerant of folks just messing about and wasting everyone's time.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 01-10-2011, 02:21 PM   #6
Ernesto Lemke
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Hello George.

There's hardly ever a post from your hands I don't find worth reading. They are always so well considered and thought provoking.

That said, I do wonder whether you have any hope that this column will help those people you are describing any further (maybe more towards your own standpoint) or that it's mostly an expression of frustration and infuriation.
For me, once upon a time not too long ago, it surely was…

There was so much in this post I recognized that it was almost as if I was reading my own experience. It's what made me leave my former organization and leave the seminar circuit. I think I haven't been to an aikido seminar in almost ten years.
That is, with the exception of my own teacher who I get to see and train with once a year.

The thing I love about my own teacher (though my ego hates it) is that he doesn't cut me any slack when it comes to getting the demands of the curriculum down. (Whilst at the same time being totally technically explicit about those same demands.) Which is quite the opposite of my former experience.

Back then, I used to get mad, raving mad for people's lack of investment, their lack of commitment. At the same time these weren't ‘bad' people. Some I still see each year when they come visit my teacher. They are still within the organization I left and are seemingly content with it.
Back then I was trying to be "thought provoking" too (though I went about it in an arrogant/naïve sort of way) but it didn't change a thing. And as I said, they still seem to be ‘happy.' More or less.
But they have only sparsely technically ‘developed' any further from the point where I left them ten years ago.

I'm so thankful to not be part of any organization nowadays (unless you count our three dojo, 18 members an ‘organization'). For the rest, I admit I still feel a similar ‘fire' when it comes to how I would like things to be. At the same time though, I'm too immersed in my own training to even bother…
Hey! That kinda sounds like the approach of a certain MA Founder…

Tongue in cheek folks, tongue in cheek....
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Old 01-10-2011, 02:45 PM   #7
grondahl
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

As a senior instructor in your organisation, I guess it´s just a matter of time before the organisation makes changes in the membership requirements?
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Old 01-10-2011, 02:46 PM   #8
Russ Q
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Hello Sensei,

I won't answer to your original question except to say Janet pretty much said it all. I will say that the "master class" seminar with Saotome sensei in early 2010 was much needed. The best part was it was restricted to intermediate and high ranks (no one below nidan) and thus begat a certain expectation in ability. If one was invited then you'd better represent well re: paying attention and, ultimately, doing what was shown. If one wasn't ready or interested in absolutely taking advantage of that training opportunity then they were a fool. For me, I felt it one of the most worthwhile seminars I've attended. I think everyone there realized the import of the situation.

I believe shihan who are worried about transmission should retool their seminars to include only students of rank (choose your minimum rank....) and conduct workshops annually. These attendees can then take home the knowledge. These same shihan should also be promoting their higher ranked students as well so it is clear there will be something of substance to be got from attending a seminar with you or whoever.....creating seminars where one can attend and not take responsibility for, at least, trying to get what is being taught is happening alot lately.... I've noticed. Folks are allowed to play dumb (it's easier than being frustrated for some) and not take responsibility for learning something deeper about the movement or art as a whole because an instructor who demands more is rare and usually NOT sought after....

That said, I truly appreciate your efforts along this way.

Gassho,

Russ
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Old 01-10-2011, 02:49 PM   #9
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Quote:
Ernesto Lemke wrote: View Post
That said, I do wonder whether you have any hope that this column will help those people you are describing any further (maybe more towards your own standpoint) or that it's mostly an expression of frustration and infuriation.
For me, once upon a time not too long ago, it surely was…
No, Ernesto, I don't actually think it will change.... I am just venting. Since this comes off my Blog, I get to do that. I am however doing some thing on my own that address the issue. I have started doing seminars that are "highly engineered" in that I only publicize them to a group of students I know and teachers that I have a relationship with. I have started restricting the number of students who can attend and necessarily charging more.The result has been some really wonderful seminars in which the students were responsive and the teacher was motivated and inspired.

Frankly, I think the top guys should just devote themselves to instructor training. There is no reason at all they should be spending time teaching beginners. But aside from the events that I organize, I have no control over these things. I can choose to go (and usually I am teaching so it's not really an option not to) or I stay away. But I still get sick of people essentially devaluing this amazing art with their sloppy attitudes and lack of responsibility for their own training.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 01-10-2011, 03:30 PM   #10
Ernesto Lemke
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I still get sick of people essentially devaluing this amazing art with their sloppy attitudes and lack of responsibility for their own training.
I'm not sure whether to insert a beacuse I agree or a because that's the way things are...

Well, I applaud statements like these, especially when being expressed by people from a certain caliber like yourself, and I do think these are exciting times. I think with what's happening now via the possibilities of the internet, aikido will move forward.
Then again, it will surely always be dependend on the investment of commited people.
Looking forward to future columns (and posts). Thank you for your time.
Best regards.
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Old 01-10-2011, 03:32 PM   #11
RED
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Great post. A pin-point on some of my frustrations out and about the Aikido community.
The hobbyist mentality is frustrating. Those who don't value, nor can recognize high level Aikido when they see it. I've met individuals at seminars who are convinced their 1st kyu instructor at the local college aikido-club had a better shihonage than the guest instructor at the Seminar...and that guest instructor was Shibata Sensei. It's like bizarre-world. High level Aikido is viewed as a fable and non-accessible to some folks I've run into. I have the earnest belief that if the Saito's and Shibata's and Yamada's and any number of other high ranked Shihan can do it.... it must be do-able. There is just something wrong with my Aikido if I don't look like that.

Last edited by RED : 01-10-2011 at 03:38 PM.

MM
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Old 01-10-2011, 03:57 PM   #12
Janet Rosen
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
It's not that training doesn't reveal that a given student or teacher has problems to overcome. That's the point of training. But if one is really training, it should never be the same issues over and over.
Funny timing.... spent this afternoon in staff meeting/chart audit reviews and the basic consensus out of the latter was.... errors or deficiencies in charting are at least different than they were three months ago.

Janet Rosen
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Old 01-10-2011, 04:44 PM   #13
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Hello George,

Well, I believe that Morihei Ueshiba had a point, which I believe is to an extent cultural. You show people and even explain--and you have an obligation to make sure that what you show and what you explain is right, but if they do not understand, then it is their responsibility. They need to practise until they do.

The only person of note I have discussed this with is Hiroshi Tada Shihan. He gives seminars at which he always does the same thing, without fail: long and complex ki training exercises, long and intricate footwork exercises, which develop into seemingly random tai sabaki, followed by waza, usually with two ukes at once. He commented that only committed students, with the time to give to individual training, make any progress. Those who come at weekends only, or do not have the time to do the individual training, do not. However, he saw no obligation to change this situation: you get out of training what you put in, and the ratio of individual training you do to dojo training should be 5 to 1.

As for the seminar circuit, I have experience of giving seminars and I know very well that only about 10% of the attendees actually make an effort to do what I am doing. This happens even if I go round and show people individually. With the Netherlands, I suspect that there is a sense of robust individualism and democracy somewhere in the mix, a sort of assumed contract between seminar givers and attendees: you show us something and if we like it, we will do it, but in the way we think fit. I even receive explanations why they are not actually doing what I am showing: 'He attacked me in this way, so I thought it was better to do this (= another, different) technique.'

Best wishes,

PAG

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Old 01-10-2011, 04:53 PM   #14
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Great blog!!! Thanks so much for your imput. I am sad to say that I would have probably been one of the lost students not getting it as I haven't been doing aikido very long. HOWEVER, with that said, I like to think that I am constantly getting better and I make an effort every time I step on the mat. I never get people who seem to think aikido class is a vacation. Sure, I guess one could argue its a vacation from your life, but it isn't a vacation where you just lounge around, relax and not pay attention!!! Put the damn mixed drink down with the pineapple sticking out of it and put some effort into what you are doing!

~Look into the eyes of your opponent & steal his spirit.
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:48 PM   #15
cguzik
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

This post should be a wake up call.

Even folks who consider themselves to be disciplined and diligent in their training should pause for a moment to consider:

- When you go to a seminar, do you bring back a list of things to work on?

- For a given seminar, what are your primary motivations for attending? I really don't understand how people can attend a seminar and not try to practice what the teacher is showing.

- Those who live in areas where there is an abundance of dojo and seminars have a lot to sift through, which can lead to a lack of focused effort. If you are attending a seminar every couple of weeks, how do you decide what to really incorporate into your own training (and what you teach, if you do). Don't get caught trading depth for breadth.

- If you don't have an abundance of dojo and high level teachers in your area, when you attend a seminar, do you make a personal commitment to bring what you experience back to raise the level of your whole dojo?

- It is worth considering hosting your own seminars, if you don't. Consider that traveling by plane to an out of town seminar can easily cost $1000 by the time you pay for airfare, hotel, rental car, and seminar fees. Five dojo mates can pay half that each and cover the cost of bringing in a guest instructor for a weekend of focused training in your own dojo on the topics that your group most needs to work on.
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:55 PM   #16
danielajames
 
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Nice post sensei and incredibly open, thankyou. Also enjoying the followup posts too.

In some ways gratifying other ways disappointing that what was suspected to be just our experience here in the antipodes seems to be the norm.

Simplistically I suspect smaller seminars might reduce this as a problem and great to hear of its success within your own network (and seem to be on the rise over here), costs associated with running seminars and the requirements to generate income and grow /develop organisations seem to preclude this at least in our neck of the woods.

In our school it seems there is a 'give up on learning', stagnation point or ceiling for many seniors. It reached subconsciously and is sadly the dominant culture I think. Its most often once we start teaching and it seems no new idea can permeate and only witnessed in the wild at seminars.

Seminars seem then to be less about transmission and more about other important issues of ones aikido career, such as being seen, catching up, going through the motions to maintain a position in the dan grade queue/ hierarchy, seeing who's the biggest dog, bringing the most students or sharing their own latest thing they want to show everybody take priority of continuing transmission.
I recall a visiting senior at one of our seminars (who seemed more interested in showing what he knew) put too much water in his tea such that it spilt over being asked quietly "cup too full sensei" - honestly why both coming?

Daniel James, Brisbane Aikido Republic: AikiPhysics, Aikido Brisbane news,
ph 0413 001 844, 1593 Logan Rd, Mt.Gravatt, Brisbane, AUSTRALIA
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Old 01-10-2011, 09:10 PM   #17
kane hollins
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Question Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

I'm not sure this is the proper place to inquire but I have similar questions. Five years ago my wife gifted me a three month intro to the local dojo and I went. I really enjoy it. Maybe informally I "picked up" much about aikido. I tested to 3rd kyu and since some injuries have cleared up, I continue. I need to figure out how to plan my training as I feel I'm being urged to "move up" with my practice. I'm 52 and I need to know if my body will be able to support my advancement. Especially Ukemi. I feel the responsibility to provide others with comparable ukemi to allow them to practice effectively. I have the highest respect for my sensei and the other dan students and feel I would like to talk about this plan aside from the 10 minutes between classes. So how do I aproach this situation so that I don't feel like some suburban slob with nothing better to do evenings?
Kane,
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Old 01-10-2011, 10:35 PM   #18
Janet Rosen
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Kane, that is a great question/topic (as a somewhat disabled person a few yrs older than you I definitely have ideas...). I am going to go ahead and copy and paste your above post into a NEW thread so as to avoid thread drift here.

Janet Rosen
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Old 01-11-2011, 01:40 AM   #19
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
I've met individuals at seminars who are convinced their 1st kyu instructor at the local college aikido-club had a better shihonage than the guest instructor at the Seminar...and that guest instructor was Shibata Sensei.
Hi Maggie,
You'll appreciate this... Back in the seventies Saotome Sensei would periodically go out to California to teach seminars for a couple weeks at a time. One time, he took Ikeda Sensei and he sued Ikeda Sensei for ukemi. It was all atemi waza and Ikeda Sensei basically tried to kill him and he did his thing.

After the demo, a shodan level hippie lady who had a dojo somewhere in CA came up to him and informed him that he hadn't understood O-Sensei's message of peace and love. This to a person who had spent fifteen years as an uchi deshi from a person who had never even met the Founder. You can imagine Sensei's reaction...

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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Old 01-11-2011, 01:47 AM   #20
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Quote:
Kane Hollins wrote: View Post
I'm not sure this is the proper place to inquire but I have similar questions. Five years ago my wife gifted me a three month intro to the local dojo and I went. I really enjoy it. Maybe informally I "picked up" much about aikido. I tested to 3rd kyu and since some injuries have cleared up, I continue. I need to figure out how to plan my training as I feel I'm being urged to "move up" with my practice. I'm 52 and I need to know if my body will be able to support my advancement. Especially Ukemi. I feel the responsibility to provide others with comparable ukemi to allow them to practice effectively. I have the highest respect for my sensei and the other dan students and feel I would like to talk about this plan aside from the 10 minutes between classes. So how do I aproach this situation so that I don't feel like some suburban slob with nothing better to do evenings?
Kane,
Kane, you are actually fairly typical. This is something Aikido is going to have to deal with. There aren't many twenty somethings starting these days. Everywhere I go the average age is rising. I don't know what style of Aikido you practice, but many styles emphasize large projection techniques and lots of break falls.Your body isn't going to put up with that in your fifties and beyond.

I would check out the soft ukemi folks, Frank Ostoff and Jan Nevelius. If Aikido were to meet Systema in terms of ukemi, I think it would look like "soft ukemi". If you can take the impact out of your ukemi, you'll be able to train quite a lot longer without getting trashed.

Check out the Systema as well, if there's anyone near you who is good... Getting the tension out of your body is the key to not being injured and they do a batter job of that than anyone.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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Old 01-11-2011, 02:31 AM   #21
Eva Antonia
Dojo: CERIA
Location: Brussels
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Dear all,

as a 3rd kyu with no special abilities and a slow learning rhythm I read through this and come to the conviction that I would certainly be one of the persons whose attendance at high level seminars would not really be desirable. I have all the defaults George Sensei observed. The last seminar to which I participated was with Osawa Sensei, and I am not so dumb that I don't see that I was in most of the cases NOT able to replicate what he showed us but was stuck in repeating what I knew from my dojo. The seminar was about the basics, just doing the basic movements and showing us some new approaches that could change them slightly to make them much more efficient.

At the seminar there were LOTS of people like myself, and he did NOT get angry with us. He came around and tried to correct individually each of us...quite patiently and sometimes successfully (not with myself...I didn't get that particular technique notwithstanding special teacher care). Maybe he knows that we were just trying our best, but this "best" is limited for many people.

Here in Belgium, if there is a seminar with a great shihan (not only Japanese! If Tissier comes, it's the same, and certainly a high level American would be equally appreciated), you have easily 200 - 300 people on the mat. Many of our local teachers, among whom we also have a good number of 6th and 7th dan, assist, but obviously the largest number are lower dan and all sorts of kyu grades. But there are also some master classes (like "only for dojo cho" or "only for yudansha") in Belgium, but these are something like 2 - 3 per year.

I never had the impression we, the lower grades, were not welcome, or that our low proficiency level was considered as an insult to the teacher. As a relative beginner, I think even people at my level can learn lots of things at the seminars, although we cannot pick up everything the teacher shows and are often stuck with our own ways. And it gives us an idea of the greatness of aikido, the difference of styles, approaches, possibilities etc. We get out of our dojos' routines, and we can see where we might get one day if we practice hard and well. But how could we practice more and better in order to get a technique we are doing wrong if no one shows or explains us? We would just repeat our errors.

So, maybe from the point of high level aikidoka it is not so nice to have a lot of beginners swirling around during a good seminar, but still for us it is a necessary experience we are getting something out, be it limited, and I think we should be encouraged to go to those seminars.

Best regards,

Eva
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Old 01-11-2011, 03:35 AM   #22
Ernesto Lemke
Dojo: Seikokan , Leeuwarden
Location: Leeuwarden. the Netherlands
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Hello Peter,

Aahh totally forgot you where the one exception whose seminar I did attend. Apologies. ☺
Since you bring up the Netherlands as an example, allow me to use one of Chris' questions as a way to address a couple of points based on my humble experience. Oh and btw, these are in no way referring to your seminars.

- For a given seminar, what are your primary motivations for attending? I really don't understand how people can attend a seminar and not try to practice what the teacher is showing.

Well, it seems to me that A) as a student, especially early on in your aikido career (and by saying that I by no means am implying I have passed that point, far from it) your major point of reference are the reflections, point of view and social interactions you receive/perceive within your own dojo, from your teacher (and seniors), thus, this is what partially explains the attitude one brings to a seminar (initially), and B) to me this also very much depends on how ‘good' of a job the teacher is doing. I've been to seminars where there was hardly any explaining and techniques where just shown, in fact, most of the aikido seminars I attended (though not that much I admit) followed this pattern. I think that only now with a little more experience would I be able to ‘see' past the omote and pick up any possible ura.
Still, in my experience, I have seen little evidence of teachers being succesfull in conveying material that could be functional or applicable to those attending that are not part of the same organization.

Let me turn this around. What could the primary reasons be for teachers to teach ‘outsiders?' One of the reasons I stopped going to seminars was my growing disinterest in picking up yet another way of, for example, doing a shiho-nage (most times taught with the implicit message that this was actually a better way to execute it then versions a, b, c, d, etc. sometimes made even very explicit when these where said to be the way teacher a, b, c, d etc. executed them). My perception is that there was (is?) a lot of talk of ‘principles', ‘ethics', ‘spirituality' even, but these where (are?) hardly made explicit. Sometimes it was the hierarchic distance between teacher and student that refrained people from questioning the statements from the teacher, sometimes it was disinterest or ignorance. Sometimes this in itself was a no go area…
But I have often wondered, sometimes openly, whether this was merely a way to ‘cloud' the fact that the teacher wasn't able to make these things explicit or applicable. Not always, but more often then not.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not implying teachers need to feed the lazy and or serve the consumer type attitude. There is a very important investment required on the part of the student (which has been described in detail in George's post and some peoples responses). I'm talking about what aikido is lacking (which has also been the topic of various posts) from a teaching point of view. The current interest in IT seems, to me, partially the result of people's desire of do wanting to know these things but not having had the teaching methodology (made) available and or the vocabulary to make these things explicit. I'm not implying things where deliberately made obscure, but considering to what is currently happening as a result of people making IT a part of their aikido, things where obscure. Speaking for myself, my interest and investment in IT has drastically changed my aikido (for the better) and these are things that can be taught explicitly and are applicable also to ‘outsiders.'

One of the reasons I respect and admire my own teacher is that to me, being a teacher by profession myself, I can clearly see his experience pedagogically and didactically, him also being a teacher by profession. That plus I regard him as a wonderful human being (which in my book, comes first).

I understand these are not sentiments to be addressed during a seminar. That is one of the reasons why the internet can be such a powerful and wonderful medium. Still, even that requires an investment. In the end it does all seem to come down to that.
When I observe the quality of the interactions on the Dutch Aikikai forum, the topics that are raised, and the communication ‘styles' people use, I feel absolutely no interest whatsoever to contribute anything. At all. I become tired even scrolling through what is posted. Thus far, it has done nothing to make me reconsider attending aikido seminars in Holland again with the exception of one or two people. But my current curiosity in those few people has been made due to Aikiweb…

Best regards,

Ernesto
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Old 01-11-2011, 07:41 AM   #23
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

At my first summer camp Maruyama Sensei noticed I could only do back rolls on one side..he followed me down the whole length of the mat yelling (i didn't understand it at the time) "other side, "other side".
After people explained he was saying "other side"...i cringed because I had been avoiding my left side because it was so difficult for me.....and spent the next 6 months practicing the "other side" so that would never happen again.
Maybe you could ask for advanced seminars?
Interesting read. Thanks.
Mary
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Old 01-11-2011, 07:51 AM   #24
Amir Krause
Dojo: Shirokan Dojo / Tel Aviv Israel
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

George

I would like to suggest a simple solution: have 2 groups- "basics" and "advanced". Only those who can should be allowed to the second group, regardless of rank, and even visitors should be screened in order to only have very few who have similar experience.
Any who does not qualify may only watch it.

Acting this way, people would have to acknowledge the consequences of their own actions, and decide on their own way.

Personally, I was in the group that worked twice as hard for a long time. But, currently, I am in "conservation only mode", until my kids grow up. I am aware of the consequences of the change in mode, in my own progress (from considerable to slow degradation). It is a choice I made. I would not have expected others to pay for it.

Amir
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Old 01-11-2011, 11:32 AM   #25
RED
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Re: What Is Your Responsibility in Training?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Hi Maggie,
You'll appreciate this... Back in the seventies Saotome Sensei would periodically go out to California to teach seminars for a couple weeks at a time. One time, he took Ikeda Sensei and he sued Ikeda Sensei for ukemi. It was all atemi waza and Ikeda Sensei basically tried to kill him and he did his thing.

After the demo, a shodan level hippie lady who had a dojo somewhere in CA came up to him and informed him that he hadn't understood O-Sensei's message of peace and love. This to a person who had spent fifteen years as an uchi deshi from a person who had never even met the Founder. You can imagine Sensei's reaction...
Hehe.
I've ran into this attitude like I've said. I'm not sure where people get the gusto to make these sort of statements(especially to a Shihan's face!), or what exactly is going on in their heads that would even lead to this sort of thinking.
Which is sort of my annoyance. I'm NO shihan myself; but at what point do people stop recognizing high level Aikido, even as they are seeing it?
I think everyone has their own idea about what Aikido should be. Some people think it should be a Budo, others consider it interchangeably with macrame...a hobby for their spare hours. Makes them feel more cultured maybe. I don't know.

MM
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