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Old 07-05-2011, 05:35 AM   #26
carina reinhardt
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hi Joe,
Mr Brown brought the Aikido to the Canary Islands and Cesar Febles, the teacher of mine, who has his Dojo in La Laguna(Tenerife) was his student too, before Mr. Brown left. After that César found Frank Noel Sensei in Toulouse and invites him once a year( since aprox 15 years ago) to give us a seminar in one of the two islands. You will be very welcome to our dojo in Vecindario aprox 15 min driving from the airport, our teacher likes the visits very much
Take care
Carina
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Old 07-05-2011, 05:40 AM   #27
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Carina Reinhardt wrote: View Post
Hi Joe,
Mr Brown brought the Aikido to the Canary Islands and Cesar Febles, the teacher of mine, who has his Dojo in La Laguna(Tenerife) was his student too, before Mr. Brown left. After that César found Frank Noel Sensei in Toulouse and invites him once a year( since aprox 15 years ago) to give us a seminar in one of the two islands. You will be very welcome to our dojo in Vecindario aprox 15 min driving from the airport, our teacher likes the visits very much
Take care
Carina
Dear Carina,
Thanks , if I visit your neighbourhood , you are my first port of call, Best Regards, Joe.
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Old 07-05-2011, 06:06 AM   #28
JO
Dojo: Aikikai de l'Université Laval
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
.
I don't get why it is that in so many other activities, it would be considered absolutely normal for a teacher to demand a certain effort and, if that expectation were not met, the student would be asked to leave. Bela Karolyi taught gymnastics for many years and turned out champions on a regular basis. Does anyone think he accepted just anyone into that training? People had to be "accepted" into that training. They paid a lot of money just to have him demand their best. It was his job to demand their best and show them how to achieve that. Why is Aikido different?

If I were to find myself a top level piano teacher, does anyone think for a minute that he or she would put up with anything less than my full effort? The money I would pay for having such a teacher would be wasted if that teacher did not care enough to demand excellence from me. Is Aikido not at least as valuable as some other practice which has depth and requires great effort to achieve excellence?

.
here we touch on an important issue. In piano and gymnastics, the best of the best expect to really make it big. the best teachers can attract people who will pay them individually enough to cover a yearly salary in the hopes of the big time. the top judo dojos don,t have to put up with lazy students to survive because there are enough people chasing Olymnpic gold to keep the system running.

In aikido, even the highest level professionals can barely get by. There are shihan level guys out there surviving on day jobs. Alos there is no ysytem to train professional level instructors in a timely fashion (meaning they are good enough to make a living out of it by the age of 25). In such a situation it is hard to get quality people to put in the effort. I would love to teach aikido as a living. But don,t know how to get to that level without dropping everything else, which leaves the problem of finding a way for my kids to eat and have a house to live in.

Right now, high level aikido is surviving due to a few fanatics that love the art and sacrifice a lot for it. That is a fragile system.

Jonathan Olson
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Old 07-05-2011, 06:54 AM   #29
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
What we face today is something of a crisis of s different order than what he was referring to. Aikido is in danger of becoming an an that does not attract either the student of great ability or the student who is willing to work hard. It is in danger of losing the very characteristics that make it Budo and morphing into something that is just a hobby done by nice folks in their spare time.
Then bring the Budo back.

New age kumbaya singing in skirts are gone. Welcome to 21 century.

I think the future is in offering the aikido that was taught back in the day by people like Abbe, Chiba, Mochizuki, Abe, etc. People will put the time, effort and sweat if they receive a functional Budo.

The sacrifices done by the people Henry or Joe mentioned in their posts were done because these people received quality training on exchange.

Today's people is not lazy, they are putting similar effort in MMA, BJJ, Kickboxing, etc, because they are receiving what they are paying for: intense, hard and functional martial arts training.

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Old 07-05-2011, 07:01 AM   #30
Marc Abrams
Dojo: Aikido Arts of Shin Budo Kai/ Bedford Hills, New York
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

It is not surprising that many people have a hard time understanding where George is coming from. People need to step back and look at what percentage of the population in Japan were direct students of O'Sensei. How much did these individuals have to sacrifice to learn directly from the founder? How many of those direct students are alive today, yet alone teach every day?

Those direct students have (had) worked hard to pass down a very special legacy. How many of the people in the Aikido world who are associated with any of those direct students, are actually direct students of those teachers, with a substantial amount of time with direct training with those teachers?

If people are luckily enough to have had the opportunity to be a direct student of one of direct students of O'Sensei, how many of them have made the sacrifice and commitment to try and get as much of the "gift" that is (was) being handed to them and are now trying to pass this "gift" on to the next generation?

George is one of those very few people. Joe, Henry and others know what George is experiencing. I am at a earlier point than they are, but know full-well the weight of trying to pass on a legacy (in my case, with Imaizumi Sensei). The sad part is a larger reality that very, very few people will chose to try and live up to and pass down a very special legacy. Martial arts were really not suppose to be taught on the large scale that it is today. The people who seek deep transmission will always be few and the available teachers who can do so, will also be few. If you are in the position that George is in, the weight of responsibility only gets heavier as we get older. Who will "wear George's shoes?" Who wants to make that kind of commitment? George has every right to challenge his students to reach as high as possible. George has every right to expect at least a few of his students will try and reach their teacher's level of accomplishments (and hopefully higher). George has every right to expect even the casual student to know that being a casual student in that dojo still has obligations and expectations that exceed a membership at a gym.

People like George really care deeply about their sense of responsibility and obligation. Students of George (and the other teachers like him) should let their students "appreciate" the weight of the endeavor. Being challenged, tested, pushed, goaded, etc. is somehow not seen in the same light as it use to be. Maybe too many people are too soft on themselves and others? Maybe people judging George should step back and recognize that there is nothing more that he and others like him want than to have our students strive like we have, sacrifice like we do, and hopefully take what we have given and go beyond where we have gone. If that is too much for people to understand and appreciate, then they should train at another school where life is simply easier.

Marc Abrams
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Old 07-05-2011, 08:56 AM   #31
carina reinhardt
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hi Marc,
I think everybody understood the point of views of George, Henry and Joe, but as a few people posted times change and we should adapt to them. Would it not have been much better to encourage people to come to the next seminar by telling all the positive things that happened in this one? Just a thought
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Old 07-05-2011, 09:29 AM   #32
phitruong
Dojo: Charlotte Aikikai Agatsu Dojo
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Carina Reinhardt wrote: View Post
Would it not have been much better to encourage people to come to the next seminar by telling all the positive things that happened in this one? Just a thought
i am sure George would have done that already with every seminar. he took his responsibilities seriously. it wouldn't matter though. the U.S culture has become a fast food, instant messaging, entitlement culture. we are spoiled. in many of the third world countries, you open a dojo and you have to keep folks away; membership and participation aren't a problem. i think we should move to third world countries and open dojos, where folks fight for the foods, instead in the U.S. here they want to be spoon fed.
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Old 07-05-2011, 09:35 AM   #33
carina reinhardt
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hi Phi,
Do you think Gran Canaria is in the third world?
Ok we are pretty close to Africa
Best
Carina
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Old 07-05-2011, 10:27 AM   #34
phitruong
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Carina Reinhardt wrote: View Post
Hi Phi,
Do you think Gran Canaria is in the third world?
Ok we are pretty close to Africa
Best
Carina
by the look of Gran Canaria, i think i should move there instead. speedo thong for gi?
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Old 07-05-2011, 10:29 AM   #35
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
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Re:Sacrifice/hardhip

Dear All,
In my Aikido career I have seen at first hand the sacrifices made a some people in promoting / transmitting aikido .
People such as Henry Ellis, DerekEastman, Mick Holloway , George Girvan , Bill Smith, Terry Ezra ,Ken Williams to name a few in the U.K.
sacrificed time , money and energy to promote Aikido.I could name a list of others, but I do not want to make this a whos who.Others overseas included Norberto Chiesa, Daniel Brunner, Juba Nour , Nobu Iseri[sadly missed ] ,Jack Arnold, Gloria Nomura, and many more sensei I know all gave of their time and energy
Many Japanese sensei such as K.Abbe, Chiba Sensei, Tamura Sensei , Murashige Sensei [both father /son] Shibata Sensei, Noro Sensei and others did much to transmit Aikido to Europe/U.K. /U.S.A and eastern europe .Without their industry and commitment to the art , we would not be where we are today.
There are now emerging countries where Aikido is welcomed.These include Tunisia, Algeria, Russia , Turkmenistan , Poland ,Iran etc where there is a growing Aikido community.Maybe these groups will enable to ensure the future of Aikido?I certainly hope so.
Cheers, Joe.
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Old 07-05-2011, 10:41 AM   #36
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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Henry Ellis wrote: View Post
Dear George

I had a wry smile as I read your post, as with Joe I see many of the problems that affect Aikido today.....Today students want a dojo within walking distance of their home with times that fit in with their favourite TV programmes. In the 1950's the first visitors to the Hut Dojo which was the only Aikido Dojo in the UK - Ralph Reynolds and a couple of students would drive down from Birmingham every Sunday morning for a two hour practice - this was a time when there were no motorways and would have been a four hour drive each way..As assitant to Ken Williams Sensei I had to be at the dojo every night - I would get home from work and then run two miles to the dojo...Now I see students arrive just minutes before the class starts and do not seem surprised to find that someone else has put the mats down for them..
Changing values I guess.

Henry Ellis
British Aikido
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/
Hi Henry,
When I periodically reach my limits and sound-off, it's always the old-timers who seem the most sympathetic. I usually get several PMs saying some version of "right-on".

I go back to 1981 in Seattle. Back then there were three dojos, not the twenty + there are now. Only one of those dojos had a seminar or two in a year. My buddies and I hot anything that was held within a ten hour drive, which was Vancouver, BC down to Arcata, CA (Tom Read) over to Mizzoula, MT. If it happened within that circle, we were there.

I had a demanding job as a men's wear buyer for Eddie Bauer. I bought all their sweaters at one point. When they re-located me from DC where I was training with Saotome Sensei, he told me to find Mary Heiny Sensei in Seattle. They knew each other from Japan. So I trained with her. But Heiny Sensei didn't do weapons work nor was she interested in the martial application side of the art so when Bookman Sensei came back from Japan, I trained at both dojos, paid dues at both, and hit every seminar I could get to.

Seattle grew like crazy back then... My commute to the dojos in Seattle got longer by ten minutes or so each year. By 1989 when I finally opened my own school, it was taking an hour and ten minutes to get to class in Seattle. I could get on the mat just as warm-ups were ending. I did this 6 - 7 days a week.

I had every VHS tape on Aikido available and owned and read every book on Aikido that had been printed up to that time. This represented a substantial investment in those days. The amount of good information available today compared to back then is off the charts.

So, when I teach a seminar and ask who has read anything by the Founder and three people raise their hands, I find it rather incomprehensible. I'll have folks who run dojos who haven't read any of the writings Peter Goldsbury has posted here in AikiWeb. Nor have they ever had a subscription to Aikido Journal. They know little or nothing of our art's history. They have only the foggiest notion of the philosophical / spiritual underpinnings of the art. And these folks are teaching.

One of the teachers whose seminars I attended recently stated that Aikido would be far better off if half the people were training than currently are and they trained twice as seriously as they currently do.

Comments have been made that folks are doing MMA and other styles rather than Aikido because they feel they get what they pay for, i.e. some demonstrable competence martially. I think that is true. You can feel like you get capable in MMA in a very short period if you train hard. The guys we see on prime time TV have mostly trained for four or five years, if that. You simply can't do that in Aikido.

I think more people would be patient and stick it out if their teachers were actually martially competent. But the fact of the matter is that they aren't. Basically, at least here in the States, young men, who used to provide the bulk of the new student population, simply are not doing Aikido (very small number of exceptions). So we have a steadily aging population. This changes the art. You end up with a population of folks who are physically past the point at which they can continue to train hard physically.

This is the natural progression of things. Martial arts has always had its population of experienced oldsters, who paid their dues when young and now impart their hard earned wisdom to the young men and women who train like maniacs, perhaps unwisely in some cases as I think we did. The smartest of these youngsters actually pay attention to these seniors despite their suspicions that perhaps they are over the hill. Every once in a while an uppity junior finds out just what 40 years of experience actually means and that too is a part of the learning.

But now, I teach at dojos at which the average age is in the 40's. New students come in to sign up who are already past the point at which they could do they kind of training we did. Then, the small number of young students who do train get drawn away by Systema or MMA, or whatever. The see that other arts offer capability faster, other arts offer greater depth of knowledge, even offer up a deeper possibility of personal transformation than what Aikido, as it currently exists seems to offer.

There is some amazing stuff happening right now in Aikido. You have 6th and 7th Dans actively taking their art, after 35 or 40 plus years, into whole new areas. These folks are drawing from Daito Ryu, from Systema, from T'ai Chi, even MMA. They are revitalizing our art. Aikido has the potential to regain what it had back in the day when O-Sensei was alive. But there have to be students who are hungry, who REALLY want it, or we will end up with teachers who have made huge jumps and no for them to pass the knowledge off to.

I was watching some old summer camp video of Ikeda Sensei teaching back in 1896. He has taken his Aikido to several dimensions beyond that... completely different now. Yet, what struck me most forcibly was that very, very few of the folks I know have even managed to get as good as he was then, much less up to where he is now. That's 25 years of training and little to actually show for it. And the folks I am talking about are mostly teachers. What does that say about their ability to shepherd a younger generation of students to a future in which Aikido is anything but a nice social exercise, a hobby for middle aged folks to do in their spare time?

It's possible that the whole enterprise is doomed. It's possible that the world as currently constituted simply isn't suited for Budo or the pursuit of ones personal "Michi". Certainly one can see that most folks have an expectation that what is demanded of them in their practice be adjusted to what they feel they can or wish to do and not the other way around. I constantly get people saying, "I'll get back to class as soon as things ease up at work." Well, things aren't gong to "ease up" at work. By the time your kids are out of the house, you are well past your prime for training. So if you are waiting until they are out of college to get back to the training you say you love so much, you will never be as good as you could have been and will never take your training to a very high level.

Every time I post something like this, a number of folks reply that they are doing what they can and that it isn't really their intention to be instructors or open dojos, etc. They just like training and fit it in as they can. While that is fine for any given individual, even a whole base group of individuals, the art requires that the majority be striving for excellence or the art declines. There has to be a critical mass that can train intensively and is willing to train frequently enough that they can actually get to what I call the "goodies" in the art. I don't see that happening currently.

I have absolutely no "power", no "authority" to force any change. I can't even do that within my own dojo much less in the broader Aikido community. I write to try to get the dialogue going. Perhaps there are some folks who might be influenced by this but I expect not. Most folks will probably just think I am being bitchy and unreasonable. It is what it is... But I am disinterested in pretending that things are ok when they aren't. As far as I am concerned there's been far too much smiling and nodding, too much I'm ok, your ok, going on when the standards were steadily declining. The folks who really did have some power, some authority to effect this decline failed to do so. Folks from my generation simply do not have the kind of investment from the general population that would allow us to push things in a different direction.

But I will not go along pretending that everything's just fine. I won't do it just to be popular or get more seminar invitations. I won't do it to grow my dojo population at the expense of the quality I have personally spent my whole adult life seeking. I posted the letter to my students on the Blog. not because I thought that many folks would agree and take it to heart, but because I expected very few to do so. People need to be clear about what they are and are not doing and how their own decisions actually do effect the art.

It still comes down to that old saying, "If not me, then who? If not now, then when?" If we are all just too busy to save the things that are really worth saving, then what are we doing? What will we look back open at the end of our lives?

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 07-05-2011, 10:44 AM   #37
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Carina Reinhardt wrote: View Post
Hi Phi,
Do you think Gran Canaria is in the third world?
Ok we are pretty close to Africa
Best
Carina
Dear Carina,
Your not in the third world. We might qualify for that distinction here in the U.K.With our extremely open borders I do wonder at times whether I am living in the U.K. or elsewhere.To say Britain is a multicultural society is an understatement of the decade.
Cheers, Joe.
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Old 07-05-2011, 10:51 AM   #38
carina reinhardt
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Dear Carina,
Your not in the third world. We might qualify for that distinction here in the U.K.With our extremely open borders I do wonder at times whether I am living in the U.K. or elsewhere.To say Britain is a multicultural society is an understatement of the decade.
Cheers, Joe.
I know, I have an EU passport And as Phi said, many people would like to live here!
Cheers,
Carina
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Old 07-05-2011, 10:51 AM   #39
ninjaqutie
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I have attached a document which has been posted on the board at the dojo for several years. It is supposed to be given to each new member when they enroll but this has fallen into inconsistency. So I am attaching it now for folks to read. I would especially point out the requirements that be met in order to be promoted past 4th Kyu. People are totally free to determine how much they train etc. But it is my job to set the "standard" for the dojo.
Sorry George, I took you TOO literally I guess.

I think what George is striving for would certainly be the ideal. The problem is, not many people are willing to live the way needed to make aikido their way of life. I am ashamed to say that I am nowhere near this "ideal" student. Unlike many others, I have no kids and my husband also does aikido. I do have a dog that needs to be cared for, so that does take a bit of planning. I do have a full time job working in a forensic lab and my husband and I do our best to fit aikido in.

The dojo has classes five days a week and I am only able to train three days (though I used to train four before I got injured- my body can't handle four days again yet). I live about 18 miles from the dojo, which takes me about a half hour to make. When I was mandated to take two months off from class, I still paid dues and went and watched when my husband trained and I also helped out with cleaning and fundraisers if there were any. The issue I had, was that I could not justify driving that far, sitting out and watching the classes that my husband wasn't able to attend due to work. My husband and I are struggling financially to make ends meet and like others have mentioned, I choose save the gas money in order to have the bills paid instead of putting in mat time.

We do give up a lot in order to pay our $200 a month dues, but I am sure someone could easily state that we could be more frugal in order to go to more seminars and train more often. We could give up cable and internet and oh.... get rid of the dog and I'm certain we would be able to afford a bit more.

Despite the fact I can not be as dedicated as I would like, I try to make an effort to be the best student I can be. I am one of the students that used to be very reliable. If it was Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday, you would see me on the mat. For a while, there were only about three students who would show up on a regular basis and there were many times where my instructor and I had private or semi-private lessons because no one else showed up.

My biggest hope is to return to my previous schedule once I am finally able. My foot just can't handle the training schedule that I had before. If I had the time and money, I would love to ditch work all together and join an unchideshi program or kenshusei program, but unfortunately, neither of those is in the cards for me at the moment. As it is, I hardly see my husband and if I were to take on a kenshusei program when I am able, my husband would never see me. Would he understand, I believe he would, but my marriage is very important to me.

I am truly inspired by those who can and are able to dedicate their life towards aikido. It is an admirable thing and when I walk in and see my dojo more or less empty, I am saddened. There is another aikido dojo not too far from mine and their mats are always packed (or so I hear). It is my impression that they run their dojo with a completely different attitude and that things are a bit more laid back then ours, but I can't say for certain since I have never gone. It is a shame that there are so many excellent teachers with empty mats... or they have a student population that chooses not to train on a regular basis for one reason or another.

I guess the bottom line is we all have choices. Some of our choices we have various options to pick from. Others we do not. Some choices just... are. For those of us who truly can't afford to go to seminars or train as often as we'd like because we need to pay bills, get new tires, work late, etc a bit of leniency would be appreciated. Then again, most instructors know who those students are and appreciate those students presence when they can make it.

All in all, great blog George.... a lot to think about. Thanks.

Last edited by ninjaqutie : 07-05-2011 at 10:55 AM.

~Look into the eyes of your opponent & steal his spirit.
~To be a good martial artist is to be good thief; if you want my knowledge, you must take it from me.
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Old 07-05-2011, 11:15 AM   #40
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
Today's people is not lazy, they are putting similar effort in MMA, BJJ, Kickboxing, etc, because they are receiving what they are paying for: intense, hard and functional martial arts training.
I think you are absolutely correct that it isn't that folks today are "lazy". Clearly, they are willing to train at certain things quite hard and take it to the limit i doing so.

My generation pioneered the spread of Aikido. We were coming off the Viet Nam War and that infused my generation with a certain sensibility. I truly believe that the reason Aikido spread so quickly and so broadly was that people really did find O-Sensei's message of a Budo that was about creating Peace, that was non-violent (whether correctly understood is another thing) to be very compelling.

I think it is interesting and perhaps just a bit distressing that the young folks today are more interested in "fighting" and less interested in the content of an art. It isn't just Aikido that is hurting. All traditional training has experienced a decline of interest as MMA has caught the imaginations of the younger generation.

I could see it coming way back when Brad Pitt was in "Fight Club". It was a sensibility that was largely absent from much of my generation. It wasn't that there weren't fighters around. If you did martial arts in one of America's urban areas, especially back when the crack cocaine epidemic hit, you were probably most interested in functional self defense. That meant poking, gouging, breaking, and finishing things quickly and brutally. The whole beating the crap out of each other as recreation simply wasn't part of the zeitgeist.

The Koryu have taken care of this problem by keeping their numbers really small. There are arts in which the total number of practitioners in the country number under fifty or so. When you are that "exclusive" you can usually find enough folks willing to be really serious about an art that the training can be kept at a high level. Folks are simply expected to meet a certain standard of commitment and skill or they don't get promoted. The standard doesn't get adjusted to the preferences of the students. And the shifts in demographics simply do not have the same effect in the koryu because they simply do not require o even want the kinds of numbers we have in Aikido much less the kinds of numbers one sees in MMA etc.

There are folks who have set up smaller sub communities within the larger Aikido community and treat what they do almost like a koryu. I think a teacher like Chuck Clark Sensei is a fine example. His network of dojos isn't huge but the quality level is uniformly strong and consistent. He has a methodology that is demonstrably effective in passing on what he wishes to pass on. he has created a "transmission" that has ensured that after he passes the process will continue. Once again, it's quality over the numbers.

I really believe that, if we do our jobs properly right now, today, those young folks who are off pursuing their "fighting" arts will eventually return to us. For one thing, doing what they are currently doing, they won't last more than ten years before they are physically trashed. I have friends running dojos who are already seeing young men coming in with knees and shoulders blown out. It's taken them seven to ten years to do what it took me 35 years to accomplish.

Anyway, I think that as these folks mature, they will start to see what depth there is in an art like Aikido. They will want to keep training but will need to find something less physically destructive. If there is an Aikido that has quality and depth waiting for them, they will return to the art. But they won't come back to an art in which they cannot find that depth, in which they walk in to a given dojo and know just from looking at what's going on that they could take the teacher and not break a sweat. They may come around looking for an art that won't trash them the way their "fighting" has done but they won't be willing to pursue something that is simply wishful thinking taught by folks who don't know what they are dong martially.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 07-05-2011, 11:20 AM   #41
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Dear Carina,
Your not in the third world. We might qualify for that distinction here in the U.K.With our extremely open borders I do wonder at times whether I am living in the U.K. or elsewhere.To say Britain is a multicultural society is an understatement of the decade.
Cheers, Joe.
Hi Joe,
It's the price you guys are paying for owning half the world back in the day. We don't do that... we just go in and blow stuff up for while then go home. We tell ourselves that we did it for their own good and that they should be grateful that we did and we don't take much of any responsibility for them later on. Works well...

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 07-05-2011, 11:24 AM   #42
Hellis
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hi George
It is like our own kids, you try to give them all the things we never had - it just does not work.
In the 1950s our dojo was the only Aikido dojo in the UK - Initially the students did not come to us, we had to go out and find em - Can you imagine how tough it was visiting Judo Clubs and showing them Aikido for the first time - those guys would not fall down on request - I can just imagine if we had turned up doing Aikido with ribbons, we would have been strangled with them.
We owe so much to the Judoka who allowed Aikido classes in their dojos - we travelled all over the UK to teach for free, often sleeping in the car . Last year Chiba Shihan invited the last three Aikido pioneers to lunch at the Hut Dojo pub ( next door ) He said that todays Aikidoka have no respect or appreciation for what we had achieved in those early days - I agreed with that - at the same time I no longer care as I know that it was a wonderful time in my life..
Sadly for me I am seeing so many of my old Aikido brothers pass away almost monthly. I have no regrets.

Henry Ellis
British Aikido
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Old 07-05-2011, 11:51 AM   #43
Janet Rosen
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

George, as one of the middle aged, way past prime beginners, I totally get what you are saying - I know I'm not the future of the art. And yes, multiply me by many many others and it isn't a pretty picture....IF one expects the art to grow in numbers or to stabilize in numbers. I have a feeling you may be right that there will end up being a de facto schism between a larger number of dojos essentially offering "aikido lite" and a smaller number of dojos able to adhere to more rigorous and correct aikido. The saving grace will be that, thanks to the internet, it will be easier for the latter folks to keep finding each other, sharing resources, training together, etc.

Personal note....I've pretty much structured and lived my life in such a way as to have accumulated neither money nor regrets when my life ends...but there is no getting around one HUGE regret - that I didn't come to aikido when I was a very healthy, active, strong 20 year old w/ no other responsibilities.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 07-05-2011, 12:09 PM   #44
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Ledyard sense I, I think you hit on some very good points and observations in post 36. I really cannot comment much other than to say I agree with your observations.

My own experiences as I have discussed with you on occasion over theyears have pretty much death with many of these issues. Mainly how do i best spend my time in budo.

As you know I split my time between BJJ and Aikido.

I have discussed many of the same issues you raise with Lasky sensei over the last couple of years. He tells me stories of t it used to be like in the old days with Saotome sense I and how hard you guys used to train. It is absent in many respects as you know for a number of reasons you raise aove some good and some bad.

I think there are alot of factors going on there the reasons and again. I agree with your assessment above.

I have been fortunate to be able to spend my time wih the folks at A here in DC..the guys you grew up with and they all have much to offer. Like you it escapes me that there are so many that fail to see what these old guys have to offer.

That said. I think for better or worse the modern things like systema and BJJ are hitting a demographic that is taking the young guys in and providing them with the level of energy and fight that they are looking for. for. from the stories that Mike Lasky has told me, I feel many of these guys would have been in the Takoma dojo in the old days. However, I don't think that outlet or dynamic is there today.

Anyway. I appreciate your insights and thanks for sharing as usual.

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Old 07-05-2011, 12:12 PM   #45
Aiki1
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hi George:

"I have only one expectation of our students... that they are trying to be better."

A simple statement, but really, not at all. Clearly, and understandably, you have something in mind as to what this means. You later state:

"We hold three Aikido seminars each year.. just three. Participation of the membership in those three events is expected."

So, that's one thing that, to you, seems imperative to "trying to get better." That's great. But I see it as Your responsibility, as the instructor, to see that carried out in action, because it's Your expectation. Nothing wrong with it in my mind, but it's perhaps unrealistic at some level to put the responsibility for your own expectations on others without making it extremely clear that their adherence is a necessity - the course of events bears this out. And if it isn't a necessity, then either people will feel they are getting mixed messages and be confused, and/or you may continue to be disappointed.

Later you also state:

"But I am asking for folks to do the minimum required to progress."

Again, to me a reasonable thing to "ask" of people, but unless it's explained explicitly, and your expectations made clear as requirements, I see a lot of different potential responses from people in their behavior.

You also write:

"I am asking that folks treat their membership in our dojo community as something important to them and not just an after thought."

Absolutely. Right on. But - this may mean something different to each and every person in the dojo - indeed, it may not even be understood by some. Although I am not particularly a "follower" of D. M. Ruiz, in his book "The Four Agreements" he states something I think relevant, and applicable here:

"Be Impeccable With Your Words

Don't Take Anything Personally

Don't Make Assumptions

Always Do Your Best"

To go on, something you wrote early in your piece stood out for me:

"Sensei's mission has been to create a line of "transmission" for the teachings of his teacher and to try to prevent the decline that often sets in after the Founder of a given art passes on. Josh Drachman and I have been greatly honored to be a direct part of this "transmission". We have been admitted to a select group which Sensei refers to as the Ueshiba Juku (named after O-Sensei's first dojo back in the 30's). To Sensei this represents the fact that we are in the direct line of transmission from the Founder, to himself, and then to us."

I find this…. difficult. Not in concept or context, but in….. what I find to be universal assumption. To me, each person that studied with O Sensei passes down the art that they perceived from his teaching and their experience. I am somewhat familiar with Saotome's teaching over the last 30 years, and what I have learned and what I do and teach is rather different. My style originates very directly from O Sensei as well, and contains aspects of Aiki that I still have not seen…. many others doing. Does that make mine the true lineage? Not to me. Perhaps I'm reading something that isn't there, but if any of your expectations of your students come from some sense that you are the holders of the truth of what O Sensei taught, this is a setup for disappointment. To me, it is A truth, not The truth, as is what anyone else with any credibility is likely teaching, in their own way. There's another issue here to be sure, but I am pointing to what I consider to be an assumption that might be cause for reflection.

Lastly, you wrote:

"It is a unique art. It is not a "hobby", it is not a "sport", it is not a "workout", it is a Michi, a Way."

This is how I see things as well. But if you have an expectation that every one of your students feel this way, than personally, I would screen them to make sure they do, and not let anyone in the dojo who feels differently. Because not everyone is even capable of feeling this way, let alone will. It's your choice to set things up the way you want to, and this includes how you relate to other people's experiences and perspectives, and the boundaries that you are willing to both create and put up with.

Sincerely,

Larry Novick
Head Instructor
ACE Aikido
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Old 07-05-2011, 12:29 PM   #46
Aiki1
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

One more thing. I see things this way. As an instructor, it is my duty to teach people to be at least as good as I am at Aikido, otherwise I haven't passed down the art to the fullest extent, and the next "generation" will lose something, and so on, and the art get's diluted and dies. However, as good as some people are getting in my dojo, I am really ultimately only looking for one person to get it fully. One day, that person, whoever it ends up being, will be better than me, and my style will be passed down and evolve intact. The good thing is, there are actually several who are really getting it, and a very high level. And much sooner in their training than ever before. This is a good thing, and reinforces my sense that the teaching/transmission is getting better as well. The more the merrier….

Larry Novick
Head Instructor
ACE Aikido
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Old 07-05-2011, 12:55 PM   #47
graham christian
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hi George.
Glad you received my response in the spirit it was given.

On reading the posts and your responses I would like to run an idea past you.

I see how the world and times and cultures have changed etc. and how it could be better in another part of the world. Also how students attitudes compared to the past are different. All these 'reasons'

Now I'll say the general complaint is that the 'budo' must be maintained or put back in but the problem is how and then as you say how comes other fields don't have this perceived or real problem?

Well I think the answer is staring everybody, I mean teachers, in the face but are they willing to do it? The answer is indeed under the banner of budo and can be seen if we look at budo as discipline.

Now everybody agrees that discipline isn't what it used to be. why? It can only be that teachers aren't putting it there. The question is how to do it, how to get students to put it in and the answer I'm going to give you is to do with organizational structure.

One aspect of it only. What is the aspect of organizational structure which brings about discipline?

Rules, specific rules called policy. Policy is operational rules. Those rules which everyone has to abide by. They are thus different from me or you saying something, that may be opinion, orders etc but not policy. Nothing to do with 'let's make more money' but everything to do with showing these are the disciplines to be followed or don't come.

Thus they need to be written down as policy or else students will make up their own. That's the simplicity of it I think.

The necessity is greater because youngsters are not used to taking responsibility and those that are will look at them and it will make perfect sense to them.

The biggest barrier to doing so is us. However, if we feel that something is needed and beneficial and that all will benefit from it then we must make it policy or else we are denying them the discipline for which they seek. Policies can be to do with timekeeping, behaviour, attendances and to what, etc. etc.

In my humble opinion this is the hard part of leadership unless you are fortunate enough to live in a time or place where others don't need to be told.

It's our own giving in to that leads to these situations no different to giving in to a child with sweets and ending up with a spoilt kid.

My 2 cents more. G.
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Old 07-05-2011, 01:24 PM   #48
jonreading
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

I saw this post elsewhere and I appreciate Ledyard Sensei's comments. It's sometimes difficult to voice the elephant in the room and it certainly makes you a target.

Church attendance is down. Charity is down. Everywhere you turn we advocate that someone else should fix our problem. Give me money. Give me food. Give me cable TV. Give me. Give me. Give me. Give me aikido? What happened to teach me how to care for myself?

When you have to ask a student to make themselves better, doesn't that already highlight the problem? When you have to remind a student to pay dues or attend class, doesn't that tell you what they would rather not do? Hell, I got an app on my iPad that reminds me to watch my favorite programs. Do I really need sensei to remind me to pay my dues?

I do not entertain these types of argument because frankly I do not wish to validate the array of excusatory answers that one hears. Many serious aikido people sacrifice much in order to excel at their training. I do not allow others who sacrifice less the satisfaction of comparison.

Prioritize where aikido stands in your life. Truthfully express that priority with others so they may account for it in their actions. Why is this so difficult? I see seminar after seminar where students train and cannot understand what sensei is doing. I may see these students at the same seminar year after year NOT getting the same techniques over and over. What should Sensei take away from watching a student unsuccessfully perform techniques for years? A friend of mine has a saying about any of the ASU camps where you are in front of the big guys. Whatever you do not pickup during the seminar, find one thing and work on it until you get it so next time Sensei sees you, you'll have improved in at least one aspect.

My instructor says that you cannot hide who you are on the mat. You can talk and gesture, and drop names, and go to seminars, and in every respect falsify who you are. But when you step on the mat you cannot hide who you are. I asked Hooker Sensei one time why he starts so many of his seminars with ikkyo or another simple technique. He said it was because he could evaluate the level of everyone in the room with such a technique.

Budo is a personal endeavor. Somehow we have turned sensei into a Richard Simons-esque cheerleader that we pay to stay at our side and cheer us on. Regardless of we make any progress, pay our dues and keep moving along and Sensei will cheer us on. Well, no class tonight so I can't budo; I'll just see what's on TV. Sensei not in class? Well, he's the only one that can teach so I'll skip class. I knew about a seminar 3 months in advance but something came/will come up. Bullshido. Sensei is trying to impress his capitalist attitude on me so I will retort by ignoring my financial obligations. I am not chastising anyone for their commitment to aikido, I am simply saying that we need to be honest with our level of commitment and our level of expectation.

Last edited by jonreading : 07-05-2011 at 01:29 PM.
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Old 07-05-2011, 01:45 PM   #49
Mark Gibbons
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

If I can't live up to my Sensei's expectations - I'm done.

If I can't live up to my own expectations - I'm done.

Why waste everyone's time?

Mark
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Old 07-05-2011, 02:39 PM   #50
Tim Ruijs
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Jon

I took some highlights from your post
Quote:
Jon Reading wrote: View Post
What happened to teach me how to care for myself?

Prioritize where aikido stands in your life.

What should Sensei take away from watching a student unsuccessfully perform techniques for years?

...find one thing and work on it until you get it .... you'll have improved in at least one aspect...

...it was because he could evaluate the level of everyone in the room with such a technique.

... be honest with our level of commitment and our level of expectation.
I believe that part of the problem is the level (or lack) of commitment of the teachers. A teacher should motivate and inspire his/her students. In the early days a (relative) handful of teachers were available and were of high quality. Those wanting to learn Aikido followed them wherever, whenever and however possible. Nowadays there are much more 'teachers'.
The base of the pyramid has grown a lot. Today those who want to learn Aikido often locate the nearest (cheapest?) dojo and start.
Back in the day chances were good you end up with a proper teacher, chances are not so good anymore today.

I also firmly believe that those really committed to learning Aikido will find their way.

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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