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Old 07-07-2011, 11:58 AM   #76
Chris Li
 
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Dojo: Aikido Sangenkai
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Jonathan Olson wrote: View Post
Hello Peter,
Your history above has me curious of the economics of the current Hombu setup. They seem to have a more or less constant stream of young instructors working their way up to the status of Hombu Shihan. Where do these guys come from and how is the financing of Hombu's teaching staff set up? How does the situation at Hombu compare with the rest of Japan? Are there any lessons or ideas that spring from this example that would be of any use in the West?
The young instructors are generally recruited - usually out of one of the university clubs in the Tokyo area, which are overseen by the hombu instructors.

They are regular salaried employees of hombu. The financing comes from income at hombu, from the clubs around Japan at which they are sent to instruct, overseas seminars, etc.

Not many people outside of hombu can actually afford to do Aikido for a living in Japan (even fewer than in the USA), or can even afford to maintain an exclusive training space.

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-07-2011, 05:20 PM   #77
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
The young instructors are generally recruited - usually out of one of the university clubs in the Tokyo area, which are overseen by the hombu instructors.

They are regular salaried employees of hombu. The financing comes from income at hombu, from the clubs around Japan at which they are sent to instruct, overseas seminars, etc.

Not many people outside of hombu can actually afford to do Aikido for a living in Japan (even fewer than in the USA), or can even afford to maintain an exclusive training space.

Best,

Chris
Dear Christopher,
Hombu finances? Lets not forget the amount of money charged by Hombu to register Dan grade certificates.In some cases the cost of registering a Dan grade could be a large %age of someones wages in an economic underdeveloped country..Certainly its not cheap .Grading certs can cost hundreds of pounds for a document written in Japanese.Only bit you recognise is your name, the rest might be whatever.If I added up the total cost of my own certs amassed over the years I reckon I could have a vacation in a
chalet somewhere nice.Plus change for a few rum and cokes.
Cheers, Joe.
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Old 07-07-2011, 05:30 PM   #78
Chris Li
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Dear Christopher,
Hombu finances? Lets not forget the amount of money charged by Hombu to register Dan grade certificates.In some cases the cost of registering a Dan grade could be a large %age of someones wages in an economic underdeveloped country..Certainly its not cheap .Grading certs can cost hundreds of pounds for a document written in Japanese.Only bit you recognise is your name, the rest might be whatever.If I added up the total cost of my own certs amassed over the years I reckon I could have a vacation in a
chalet somewhere nice.Plus change for a few rum and cokes.
Cheers, Joe.
Well, if I take the last one (which was more than a lot of people pay) and break it down by year (since the one before that) then it works out to around $100/year, which is a whole lot less then the dues for most professional organizations. Previous certificates probably broke down a little more cheaply.

It's no cheaper for certificates in, for example, tea ceremony or calligraphy in Japan.

I had no problem reading the entire certificate .

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-07-2011, 06:12 PM   #79
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Carina Reinhardt wrote: View Post
Very nicely written... here's my reply...

I totally get this perspective... Doing a Japanese art, one should be doubly aware of the issue of change. These arts we have inherited are direct outgrowths of monumental effort on the part of the Budo giants of the post-Meiji period in which interest in Budo and anything tradition in general endangered and in many cases destroyed the transmission of many arts.

Today we hear the we are in the midst of one of histories mass extinctions in which a huge percentage of the world's species died out. The rate at which this is happening may be faster than in previous times. There are many people out there who are devoting their lives to trying to slow this around or even turn it around completely.

One of the unfortunate things about the current extinction process is that many species are simply passing out of existence even before we had a chance to discover them. They came and went and we never knew. In many ways I think that the changes we see today in our society and the demographics which effect all arts involved with the transmission of what I call "Old Knowledge" are potentially endangering much of that old knowledge and doing so before most folks even had a chance to know what that knowledge was.

There was a reason that people felt that something in Budo was important to preserve despite the fact that the warrior class had ceased to exist and modern technology had made traditional fighting skills irrelevant. Those same reasons still exist. O-Sensei went an extra step and created an art in which the old knowledge was given a radically new perspective. It did not throw out the old Budo, it morphed it into something deeper, more vibrant, and potentially more trans-formative.

But, it is clear to me, and others can certainly see it differently, that the foundation of this new Budo was still the old knowledge. So the idea that we simply change with the times and adapt what we do to these changes is fine in one sense and will have to be done. But at the same time, we can't just adjust... we need to give direction to that adjustment. What I am talking about i saving what needs to be saved. Just as with animals that are almost extinct, someone needs to try to keep the few remaining animals alive. Perhaps then later we could clone them or re-introduce them i the wild. But once they are gone, they are gone.

The Aikido I was shown by my teacher is endangered. Lots of Aikido is being done, very little has much to do with what I was taught. I think that if this knowledge passes away, it will not re-evolve. Yes, one can easily see that Aikido may change and become something else entirely. This is happening all over the world in every area. But in my own case, my primary concern for the art is that it not lose the very elements that made it worth doing in the first place. Other people may feel free to take the art in new directions, to let the tides of change determine for them what the art should become.

Personally, what I am devoted to is evolving how we transmit the art, how we teach it, how we can keep the art vibrant and alive while making sure it doesn't lose the connection with its "old knowledge" core. There is so much to be learned doing our art. But the principles have to be taught and carried on. I am unwilling to let Aikido morph into something with less depth and breadth just because my society seems to be moving into a "sound bite" culture in which shallow exposure passes for knowledge and age and experience are devalued because what we are looking at is the latest and greatest techno shift.

I do see a day when there will be a different Aikido... I can see it happening. What I am fighting for is making sure that the Aikido of O-Sensei, at least as I have understood it and as it was past to me through my teacher, is still alive and being transmitted. My experience has been that when one can give people a taste of Aikido which contains more depth, they respond positively. People aren't purposely doing Aikido-lite. If there is an alternative, they generally choose the practice with more content. The folks who don't, well. they weren't serious about their Aikido-lite either.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 07-07-2011, 06:14 PM   #80
graham christian
Dojo: golden center aikido-highgate
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Agreed. Clarifying priorities and goals and having them congruent with reality can and should be within the realm of what any adult learner does.

Man, I hate "we all" statements, whether they have to do with consumerism, pop culture, or yeah, martial arts fantasies...Yes I know there ARE some people like that, they may not actually represent a majority....
Not only do I not entertain those fantasies, they have nothing to do with what led me and many students I know to start training nor do they motivate us to continue training.
Janet. Didn't you know, we're all doomed. It's all bad. It's getting worse. (example, example example)

But seriously though, how many people look for the opposite? Dojo's that are doing well?

Plus when you find them how about discovering what they do but you don't? (not you personally)

Complain about the bad or study the good?

In the end the only person we're actually angry with is ourself. I would say it's a matter of 'budo self analysis.'

Regards.G.
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Old 07-07-2011, 08:05 PM   #81
David Orange
Dojo: Aozora Dojo
Location: Birmingham, AL
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
...I do see a day when there will be a different Aikido... I can see it happening. What I am fighting for is making sure that the Aikido of O-Sensei, at least as I have understood it and as it was past to me through my teacher, is still alive and being transmitted. My experience has been that when one can give people a taste of Aikido which contains more depth, they respond positively. People aren't purposely doing Aikido-lite. If there is an alternative, they generally choose the practice with more content. The folks who don't, well. they weren't serious about their Aikido-lite either.
Sensei,

I'm afraid it's too late to worry about these things. Even in the case of Saotome Sensei, whose aikido you revere, the real old-timers (from the original "Ueshiba Juku" and the "Hell Gym") were not that impressed by him. They had the same lament about him that you do about people coming along now--not that he was un-committed or any of that, but that he was promoting a "changed" aikido that was nothing like "the way we used to train."

To tell the truth, I believe the real underlying problem is "organizations". It seems Sokaku Takeda had no organization at all (as in a group with rules and structure). Morihei Ueshiba developed his power before he had an organization behind him.

And even where organizations are "good," it seems they do their best work in the earliest days, when the founder is still a "maverick" doing his own thing from his own heart--i.e., Ueshiba's "Hell Gym" days. The closer he got to death, the more conflicts arose within his organization and, after he died, it splintered and continues to splinter off to this day. (Or you could consider Jesus, with twelve followers, and the contradictory and often hate-filled mess that Christianity has become today.)

I guess it's organizations and ranks that are really the root of the problem. As much as I admire Jigoro Kano, the introduction of the black belt and dankai to aikido seems not to have been so good for the art.

Best to you.

David

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

"Eternity forever!"

www.davidorangejr.com
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Old 07-07-2011, 08:06 PM   #82
Hanna B
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Here's a blog post titled Never make demands of your students and never let students make demands of you - not written by an aikidoist, but by a budoist.

Quote:
It's not your job to make demands of students in terms of attendance, fitness, practice, start assigning them homework or required reading. If a student only turns up once every couple of months or doesn't do any practice or doesn't try to improve his or her poor level of fitness it is not your problem - it is theirs. Doing this brings stress onto yourself and usually works against you.
Perhaps a teacher who gets a little bit more focused on his own training and a little bit less on his students actually does everyone involved a favour? At least I think this kind of teacher is less vulnerable. And I think it makes him a better leader, someone people want to follow. Few people at the seminar? Make sure working on your own stuff, then, and be an inspiration to those who are there.

I always (well, almost) was a very busy seminar-goer. But if seminars were expected of me... perhaps I actually would feel less like going.

Honestly, Mr Ledyard. I don't think you give a good message to your students in that open letter. Not if a "good message" is measured by how much it increases their interest in training.

I hope I'm not too impertinent. Just trying to give my honest feedback.
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Old 07-07-2011, 08:31 PM   #83
David Orange
Dojo: Aozora Dojo
Location: Birmingham, AL
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Hanna Björk wrote: View Post
...Never make demands of your students and never let students make demands of you...
It's hard to keep that view when you have a dojo to pay for, but I agree that if the student doesn't train very much, it's not my problem. It's my job to concentrate on developing myself.

Mochizuki Sensei once told me, "Treat your students like guests."

I often saw him turn up his hands and shrug at what some people would do on the mat, as if to say, "Well, he obviously didn't understand what I just told him..."

He had to take his comfort in seeing the few who did get it. Of course, his yoseikan was often criticized for being "not Ueshiba's aikido," but he always said, "Nobody did Ueshiba's aikido except Ueshiba."

To me, in a way, it's the same problem Jesus spoke of about a rich man's getting into heaven. It's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Maybe aikido is too big to pass through the eye of a needle--too rich to achieve the heavenly aim of reaching the student's heart. If it takes years and years just to get the most basic principles down...maybe something is lacking in the formal content of the art or the formal teaching curriculum.

If we try to make sure that all students absorb the entire technical curriculum of aikido, we might miss passing on the most essential nature of the art. I think there's an essence of aikido that can be passed on with almost none of the external appearance of aikido and that it can be passed along very quickly.

Mochizuki Sensei told me "Teach as much as possible as fast as possible" and "Teach something in every lesson that the student can go out and use that very day."

From that advice, I created my "Zero Degree" teaching method. But it's only a five-hour course, it carries no rank (except Zero Degree) and people get tired of going over and over the same five lessons again and again.

But I think it does contain the most important essence of the art of aikido and if I only have five hours to teach them, I want them to at least experience that much. If I have only one hour to give them the best I can, the first one-hour lesson of the Zero Degree program can give them that. So if I only meet them once and never see them again, I'll know I have given them a congruent piece of the best I know to give them.

Still, in trying to maintain everything his teacher gave him, I think Ledyard Sensei is very worthy and admirable. I just think that maybe that really was a thing for that time only--something he and his teacher shared that can't be preserved like a museum piece because it's not appropriate to the current day, much less the times to come.

If we can find the essence, though, and share that...I believe we will have done the best that can be done.

FWIW

David

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

"Eternity forever!"

www.davidorangejr.com
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Old 07-07-2011, 10:12 PM   #84
hughrbeyer
Dojo: Shobu Aikido of Boston
Location: Peterborough, NH
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
The folks who don't, well. they weren't serious about their Aikido-lite either.
Oh, man. Engrave it in gold and write it on my tombstone.

Speaking from the point of view of the student--I very much appreciate the occasional "come to Jesus" talk from my teacher. No, I shouldn't need it. Yes, I should be self-motivated. Yes, it's unfair, mostly unfair to the teacher.

But the fact is, I need the occasional reminder of why I am here and why it matters. I need the occasional infusion of passion from the guy who, after all, I chose as my teacher because I thought he had something to teach me.

So, George Sensei, even if you're not my day-to-day teacher, thanks for the shot in the arm. I return to training re-invigorated.
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Old 07-07-2011, 11:32 PM   #85
George S. Ledyard
 
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Hanna Björk wrote: View Post
Here's a blog post titled Never make demands of your students and never let students make demands of you - not written by an aikidoist, but by a budoist.

Perhaps a teacher who gets a little bit more focused on his own training and a little bit less on his students actually does everyone involved a favour? At least I think this kind of teacher is less vulnerable. And I think it makes him a better leader, someone people want to follow. Few people at the seminar? Make sure working on your own stuff, then, and be an inspiration to those who are there.

I always (well, almost) was a very busy seminar-goer. But if seminars were expected of me... perhaps I actually would feel less like going.

Honestly, Mr Ledyard. I don't think you give a good message to your students in that open letter. Not if a "good message" is measured by how much it increases their interest in training.

I hope I'm not too impertinent. Just trying to give my honest feedback.
Hi Hanna,
What would be impertinent? You saying something different from me? I certainly do not take it that way.

You don't know me and don;t know what I do about my training. My own experience has been that the more I train and the better I get, the fewer folks see themselves as being able to duplicate what I am doing. One assumes that seeing someone model something would be motivational... but it doesn't always work that way.

I had one great student quit right when he got to Brown Belt. He was actually a personal friend off the mat as well and I was able to talk to him about why he was quitting. He told me that he didn't feel as if he was getting anywhere. He looked at me and knew that he would never be able to train as hard as I was and as he watched me getting better he felt that relatively speaking he was actually falling farther behind. In other words, my own training served as a sort of "bar" for him and he felt as if the bar were constantly being raised.

Of course this wasn't really true... when he moved away he found that he missed training and looked for a dojo in the LA are where he could start up again. He traveled around checking out various schools and much to his surprise, found that he really had learned quite a bit at our school. He found a great dojo and has been training ever since.

So, I don't think it is necessarily true that just focusing on your own training is motivational for others unless they think that they can duplicate the training themselves.

What I have found is the most motivation for people is showing them that you actually do care if they get better. The whole Japanese thing of "I showed you... you get it, not get it, not my problem." leaves folks completely to their own devices. What I have seen of this has been a generation of folks who simply gave up on thinking they could be as good as the "Shihan". He was "special". The there are the rest of us.

If you can show people that they can do precisely what their teacher has been doing and show them you care if they get it, that you are willing to invest in them, that is by far the most motivational thing I have found. Occasionally, you have to remind them that it's a two way street. There's a certain effort involved that is required because no matter how good the instructions are, if you don't take it to the mat and do it ten thousand times, it won't matter.

I am not trying to motivate people who are not serious to become serious. I am telling the folks who think they are serious what that means. Some folks may realize that they aren't serious and don't wish to make the effort. They may leave or simply not change their behavior at all. The ones who think of themselves as serious sometimes need a wake up call. That's all.

I have to say that, whereas I understand what yo have said and feel that it is a perfectly reasonable approach, one that some of my own teachers have taken, in fact, I do think a statement that indicates that if you were expected to do something, you'd feel less like doing it, is a bit like a kid saying "NO! You can't make me!"

I am a teacher. People come to my school and pay money to learn. If I feel that certain things are important for their progress, it is my job to tel them so. I am the one that sets the standard, no one else. I was told this by my teachers when I asked who set the standards for the folks in our organization. What I was told was that I have the responsibility to set the standard for my own students.

If I am going to set the standards, I have to let them know what, in my own experience, is required to be able to succeed. If I didn't think having several guest seminars each year was important for their training, I wouldn't do it. So, I need to let people know that this is all part of the program. It's part of the expectation when they join up. No one forces anyone to come to my dojo and sign up. There are many other choices in my area. If folks are going to be part of the dojo they need to support the dojo. I don't see that as unreasonable. If some folks find my being straight forward about what is expected to be not motivational, they are probably at the wrong dojo.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 07-08-2011, 03:33 AM   #86
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Well, if I take the last one (which was more than a lot of people pay) and break it down by year (since the one before that) then it works out to around $100/year, which is a whole lot less then the dues for most professional organizations. Previous certificates probably broke down a little more cheaply.

It's no cheaper for certificates in, for example, tea ceremony or calligraphy in Japan.

I had no problem reading the entire certificate .

Best,

Chris
How many certs have you registered? The cost per grade is not the same across the board.The price goes up as the grade goes up.As for you understanding your certificate , good.I do note your surname and your location.Hawaii has /had a lot of Nisei , so even if you could not read the scroll/s I am sure someone local could.I have yet to meet in my neighbourhood anybody who reads kanji.The point I was making that the revenue generated over the years multiplied by the no. of people now dan grade must be
quite a sum of cash for Hombu.Hombu might well be seen by some as some sort of spiritual home but when you look at it objectively its a family business. If you live in a country where the average income is very low, how do you pay for a certificate which might be a relatively expensive item?Do you ask Hombu for a credit card or 2 years to pay or what? I hardly think so.
Cheers, Joe.
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Old 07-08-2011, 03:46 AM   #87
sakumeikan
Dojo: Sakumeikan N.E. Aikkai .Newcastle upon Tyne.
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,159
United Kingdom
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Very nicely written... here's my reply...

I totally get this perspective... Doing a Japanese art, one should be doubly aware of the issue of change. These arts we have inherited are direct outgrowths of monumental effort on the part of the Budo giants of the post-Meiji period in which interest in Budo and anything tradition in general endangered and in many cases destroyed the transmission of many arts.

Today we hear the we are in the midst of one of histories mass extinctions in which a huge percentage of the world's species died out. The rate at which this is happening may be faster than in previous times. There are many people out there who are devoting their lives to trying to slow this around or even turn it around completely.

One of the unfortunate things about the current extinction process is that many species are simply passing out of existence even before we had a chance to discover them. They came and went and we never knew. In many ways I think that the changes we see today in our society and the demographics which effect all arts involved with the transmission of what I call "Old Knowledge" are potentially endangering much of that old knowledge and doing so before most folks even had a chance to know what that knowledge was.

There was a reason that people felt that something in Budo was important to preserve despite the fact that the warrior class had ceased to exist and modern technology had made traditional fighting skills irrelevant. Those same reasons still exist. O-Sensei went an extra step and created an art in which the old knowledge was given a radically new perspective. It did not throw out the old Budo, it morphed it into something deeper, more vibrant, and potentially more trans-formative.

But, it is clear to me, and others can certainly see it differently, that the foundation of this new Budo was still the old knowledge. So the idea that we simply change with the times and adapt what we do to these changes is fine in one sense and will have to be done. But at the same time, we can't just adjust... we need to give direction to that adjustment. What I am talking about i saving what needs to be saved. Just as with animals that are almost extinct, someone needs to try to keep the few remaining animals alive. Perhaps then later we could clone them or re-introduce them i the wild. But once they are gone, they are gone.

The Aikido I was shown by my teacher is endangered. Lots of Aikido is being done, very little has much to do with what I was taught. I think that if this knowledge passes away, it will not re-evolve. Yes, one can easily see that Aikido may change and become something else entirely. This is happening all over the world in every area. But in my own case, my primary concern for the art is that it not lose the very elements that made it worth doing in the first place. Other people may feel free to take the art in new directions, to let the tides of change determine for them what the art should become.

Personally, what I am devoted to is evolving how we transmit the art, how we teach it, how we can keep the art vibrant and alive while making sure it doesn't lose the connection with its "old knowledge" core. There is so much to be learned doing our art. But the principles have to be taught and carried on. I am unwilling to let Aikido morph into something with less depth and breadth just because my society seems to be moving into a "sound bite" culture in which shallow exposure passes for knowledge and age and experience are devalued because what we are looking at is the latest and greatest techno shift.

I do see a day when there will be a different Aikido... I can see it happening. What I am fighting for is making sure that the Aikido of O-Sensei, at least as I have understood it and as it was past to me through my teacher, is still alive and being transmitted. My experience has been that when one can give people a taste of Aikido which contains more depth, they respond positively. People aren't purposely doing Aikido-lite. If there is an alternative, they generally choose the practice with more content. The folks who don't, well. they weren't serious about their Aikido-lite either.
Dear Ledyard Sensei,
I share your views on the future of Aikido.The message you have written is one that I and people like Henry Ellis [we the dinosaurs ] have been saying for some time now.You are one of the few people who clearly see this happening.Some may say you are being pessimistic, however if modern teachers do not watch out Aikido will [as we know it ] will end up as dead as a dodo.
Cheers, Joe.
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Old 07-08-2011, 05:11 AM   #88
Dazzler
Dojo: Templegate Dojo, bristol & Bristol North Aikido Dojo
Location: Bristol
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 638
England
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Re Joes reply....+1

I'm in an organisation, I care passionately about that organisation and go the extra mile to see the the organisation fulfills its obligations to students in providing a supporting framework to enable their Aikido development.

Its a thankless task...Sometimes this brings me into conflict, usually this is handled well, not always....sometimes I wonder why its my job. But because I care I do it. No one forces me....but it can be hard work and the rewards are often hidden.

For me organisations can be good and through collective power can enable access to resources that otherwise wouldn't have been available due to cost.

If not for collective grouping for instance Alister & I and others would have been unlikely to meet Dan Harden recently.

Not everyone is an organisation person, but surely everyone can recognise Ledyard Senseis absolute dedication to providing the best scenario for the training of those within his organisation.

Clearly his frustration at this good seed being ignored by bad ground has resulted in this open letter.

Would I have posted it myself? Probably not but I've posted similar ones on my own groups website born out of exatly the same frustration.

George Ledyard is for me the best Aikido poster on this forum, his posts are always sincere, heartfelt and more importantly educational.

I find the open letter similar, as I do his replies.

At no point is there ever a sniff of someone with a vested interest in protecting the status quo. Just someone with a desire to share.

We've never met apart from here...but thanks for the continued input George...it is much appreciated.

Regards

D

ps. Joe

Perhaps you could translate those certificates into 'glasgae' dialect and send them back..or geordie for that matter. I'm sure that would give the hombu mandarins something to think about.!

pps. I'm not old enough to qualify for a 'dino club' badge...how about something younger...sabre toothed chicken perhaps ;-)

Last edited by Dazzler : 07-08-2011 at 05:13 AM.
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Old 07-08-2011, 10:02 AM   #89
jonreading
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
The problem is we all envision ourselves wandering through California righting wrongs (a la Kung Fu) or confronting muggers in a dark alley. Previous posts concerning the assumed ability to harmlessly disarm and neutralize would-be attackers is evidence of the unrealistic expectations we hold. Two minutes in a cage cures those notions; or, honesty with your commitment.
Quote:
Man, I hate "we all" statements, whether they have to do with consumerism, pop culture, or yeah, martial arts fantasies...Yes I know there ARE some people like that, they may not actually represent a majority....
Not only do I not entertain those fantasies, they have nothing to do with what led me and many students I know to start training nor do they motivate us to continue training.
Janet, I apologize for not being clear on this point. I usually tend to stay away from "all" comments, but I am pretty confident in this one. My point is that human nature is to imagine, to create fantasy. Our creativity, our perseverance, our hope; fantasy helps us to transform what is not into what is. I do not deter fantasy, heck two or three times a day I am fighting off ninjas or Magneto or something. I am simply advocating that fantasy should not be an expectation of commitment.

Let he who has no sin, right?... Of course we have all imagined winning a fight, or proving someone wrong on a point, or resolving some issue that no one else could. How many times has our spouse been completely wrong... in our mind? You could have totally pulled of the nikyo on that gorilla, but you took the high road and let it go so no one would get hurt, right? That guy is a complete jerk and was resisting your excellent technique, that's why it didn't work, right? Maybe you were not a Shaolin monk in your fantasy, but everyone has imagined something that was not realistic. My extreme examples were specific to martial arts because I am advocating to maintain realistic expectations in martial arts. Obviously, I am not contesting your response, simply offering a point of reconsideration.
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Old 07-08-2011, 10:16 AM   #90
Cliff Judge
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Aikido is a budo, which is supposed to be a system of personal transformation and improvement. Attention to the dojo, the responsibility you have to your teachers, students, seniors and juniors, are very much a part of that. If your teacher says something like "it is very important to me that we make a good showing at this upcoming seminar" and you are not suddenly dismembered or dead, and you don't show up, you are doing the whole thing wrong. That's not your teacher making a personal request, that's your teacher embodying the collective spirit of the dojo making a request.

That's something that Americans can tend to miss though. I think the elephant in the room when we worry about the future of Aikido or talk about declining membership is that Aikido has all of this integral Japanese baggage that is tough to sell to Americans and some other Westerners, but that we can't get rid of.

Aikido is a great art to get into for anybody who is looking to invest time and energy into a long-term endeavor that engages your full self and returns very subtle, but highly integrated improvement of the self. In America, this is going to be a small set of people. I was talking to Wendy Whited Sensei last week about this and she opined that American culture is not into depth of experience these days, everybody wants to do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

But even if American culture got to a place where everybody (not just people who self-identify as "kinda weird"), at age 18, found some main activity outside of work or family life that they were going to stick to for life and plumb the depths of, Aikido is likely to still be limited by its Japaneseness. There are still going to be things to invest your life in that don't require strange clothes, basic physical skills like sitting in seiza that you did not spend your entire childhood developing, sublimation of self-interest for the good of the group, or faith that despite the fact that you have NO idea what just happened when Sensei threw that guy, that you may be able to do that at some point in the future, even though your sempai can't do it.
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Old 07-08-2011, 10:25 AM   #91
Chris Li
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
How many certs have you registered? The cost per grade is not the same across the board.The price goes up as the grade goes up.As for you understanding your certificate , good.I do note your surname and your location.Hawaii has /had a lot of Nisei , so even if you could not read the scroll/s I am sure someone local could.I have yet to meet in my neighbourhood anybody who reads kanji.The point I was making that the revenue generated over the years multiplied by the no. of people now dan grade must be
quite a sum of cash for Hombu.Hombu might well be seen by some as some sort of spiritual home but when you look at it objectively its a family business. If you live in a country where the average income is very low, how do you pay for a certificate which might be a relatively expensive item?Do you ask Hombu for a credit card or 2 years to pay or what? I hardly think so.
Cheers, Joe.
Well, the price goes up, of course, but the years between promotions goes up too. If you do the math it pretty much works out as I said before, it compares pretty favorably with the dues you'd pay to belong to any professional organization. Both the Japan Association of Translators and the American Translators Association, for example, have yearly dues that work out to more than that. Plus, the certificate fees are heavily discounted for overseas organizations through fourth dan.

Yes, it does generate income, but I'm not sure why you're implying that there's something wrong with that, or with certificates written in Japanese. I was born in New York, btw, and got my first promotion in Ohio . Yes, I can read Japanese (a learned, not inherited, skill), but anybody with a kanji dictionary can puzzle their way through the certificates if they really want to.

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-08-2011, 11:43 AM   #92
sakumeikan
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Well, the price goes up, of course, but the years between promotions goes up too. If you do the math it pretty much works out as I said before, it compares pretty favorably with the dues you'd pay to belong to any professional organization. Both the Japan Association of Translators and the American Translators Association, for example, have yearly dues that work out to more than that. Plus, the certificate fees are heavily discounted for overseas organizations through fourth dan.

Yes, it does generate income, but I'm not sure why you're implying that there's something wrong with that, or with certificates written in Japanese. I was born in New York, btw, and got my first promotion in Ohio . Yes, I can read Japanese (a learned, not inherited, skill), but anybody with a kanji dictionary can puzzle their way through the certificates if they really want to.

Best,

Chris
Dear Chris,
The rate for grading certs from Hombu increase as the grade increases.I take the view that the increased cost is for some people prohibitive.I note you did not take me up on the point I was making about poorer countries. I am not aware of Hombu offering discounts to these people. I also think that since the unit cost of producing any grading cert. and subsequent admin. costs are likely to be the same I hardly imagine a sixth Dan Cert manufacturing cost to be higher/or cost more to register than a Ist Dan, the price of said certificates should be the same across the board.I did not say anywhere that generating income was bad.
Put it another way if you go into a supermarket and buy a tin of beans for a dollar, would you go into the same supermarket and buy another tin of beans [same size/same tomato sauce] and pay
3 times the price? Explain to me how any group can justify the differential in costs ? Cheers, Joe.
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Old 07-08-2011, 11:58 AM   #93
Chris Li
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Dear Chris,
The rate for grading certs from Hombu increase as the grade increases.I take the view that the increased cost is for some people prohibitive.I note you did not take me up on the point I was making about poorer countries. I am not aware of Hombu offering discounts to these people. I also think that since the unit cost of producing any grading cert. and subsequent admin. costs are likely to be the same I hardly imagine a sixth Dan Cert manufacturing cost to be higher/or cost more to register than a Ist Dan, the price of said certificates should be the same across the board.I did not say anywhere that generating income was bad.
Put it another way if you go into a supermarket and buy a tin of beans for a dollar, would you go into the same supermarket and buy another tin of beans [same size/same tomato sauce] and pay
3 times the price? Explain to me how any group can justify the differential in costs ? Cheers, Joe.
Well, most professional organizations have different levels of membership with varying costs. A sixth dan ought to have a higher level of commitment and involvement than, for example, a sho dan.

I'd say it's much the same. And most of the professional organizations that I've seen don't have discounts for members from poorer nations.

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-08-2011, 12:04 PM   #94
Basia Halliop
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

I don't actually object to paying grading fees... I guess the organization has to make money somehow...

But I'm not sure the comparison to professional dues works 100%, because part of the point of professional dues is that they help you get a paying job and earn a good living .
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Old 07-08-2011, 12:27 PM   #95
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

My friend, Greg O'Conner Sensei sent me this. He hasn't posted on AikiWeb and sent it to me with permission to post. If you don't know O'Conner Sensei you can see a short bio here:
Greg O'Conner Sensei

His letter:

Hi George,

I hope all is well with you my friend. I saw your post to your students and it inspired me to write a comment to post but I do not have one of the required profiles so I thought I'd pass it on anyway via this email. If you'd like to post it in the comments on your blog then feel free...

Well said George. And, yes, I have expressed the same many times over the years for our own dojos. Keeping a dojo vital without "dumbing down" is, indeed, an on-going challenge. Bringing each person along according to their appropriate level of commitment and potential I guess I can say, actually gets my juices flowing - both as their teacher and as the one responsible for the direction and nuturing of the dojos.

And I have never focused on numbers. When someone asks me "How many students do you have?" I feel it is a shallow question and I am reduced to taking a guess or giving the honest answer of "enough". Whether it's five or five hundred it still requires the same level of dedication to both the individual and the whole.

I often think over the years that there is truly no way that I'll be able to transmit all that I have been blessed to acquire from my training and travels. You and I came to Aikido at a very unique period - a time we can say is now "gone with the wind". To use another cliche - "Those were the best of times. Those were the worst of times." An Aikido seminar was a rare event, teachers were fewer and farther between and those teachers were in a physical prime that over-shadowed their human shortcomings. Knowing what we know now about the true purpose behind Aikido or any discipline, that the development of one's character and spirit is the only true worthwhile and lasting goal of value, inspires me to continue to recover when necessary and grow. Life and Aikido training both have their ups and downs and when it's hardest to come up to one knee that is exactly the time when you must. Only with the experience of how to do that can I bring credibility to my efforts to help others grow because, as you know also, there's a big difference between describing someplace like you've been there (when you've only seen the postcards) and actually having been there.

I also do not compromise my expectations on the quality of technical achievement nor on the level of awareness of one's self and how one relates to those they train with. True training goes on whether on the mat or off and "good" technique without the depth of our shared human experience remains shallow to say the least - and can even go beyond simple futility into creating an on-going cycle of insideous self deterioration.

So, as for what we can offer and what we can benefit from through our inclusion of Aikido in our lives let's continue to accept and even enjoy the inevitable changes that come along and do so with a slight shrug if needed and a smile, small or big, and the assurance that we will continue to preserve and polish those aspects that hold true and lasting value. It's the good fight - and a good fight, regardless of duration, is worth the effort.

I look forward to the next time we're together - both for the shared talking as well as the comfortable silence when all talk is done and we are left with shared presence and all that comes along with that.

All my best,

Greg O'Connor
Chief Instructor
Aikido Centers Inc.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 07-08-2011, 01:58 PM   #96
sakumeikan
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Christopher Li wrote: View Post
Well, most professional organizations have different levels of membership with varying costs. A sixth dan ought to have a higher level of commitment and involvement than, for example, a sho dan.

I'd say it's much the same. And most of the professional organizations that I've seen don't have discounts for members from poorer nations.

Best,

Chris
Dear Chris,
So to encourage the shodan you charge a lower fee for his/her certificate, and at the same time the higher charge is levelled against
students who in most cases have already displayed a higher level of commitment and involvement?I for one do not think you penalise anyone financially for simply being a higher grade.As one contributor points out , aikido grades are not exactly the equivalent of a B.SC. or an Harvard/Oxford degree.As it happens most of my certs have been
dumped in a corner in my attic.No doubt the moths /critturs are getting more value /appreciation from them than I .
Cheers, Joe
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Old 07-08-2011, 02:04 PM   #97
Chris Li
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Joe Curran wrote: View Post
Dear Chris,
So to encourage the shodan you charge a lower fee for his/her certificate, and at the same time the higher charge is levelled against
students who in most cases have already displayed a higher level of commitment and involvement?I for one do not think you penalise anyone financially for simply being a higher grade.As one contributor points out , aikido grades are not exactly the equivalent of a B.SC. or an Harvard/Oxford degree.As it happens most of my certs have been
dumped in a corner in my attic.No doubt the moths /critturs are getting more value /appreciation from them than I .
Cheers, Joe
Looked at the other way, the higher grade ought to be expected to commit to and support the organization at a higher level. In any case, if you look at the fee structure of any professional organization, the top level fees are generally more than the bottom level fees.

Anyway, if you're dumping them in the attic, then why take a promotion at all? Then you don't have to worry about fees.

Best,

Chris

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Old 07-08-2011, 04:35 PM   #98
Hanna B
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hi George,

of course I don't know you and I don't know what you do about your training. I just judge from what I read. And from that reading, if I was your student I would not be encouraged by it but rather the opposite. Would it ever be possible to make you happy with my level of commitment, I'd wonder. I would probably feel that way even if I was one of those who comes to almost every class... it's some time ago now, but my staple level of training used to be 3-5 classes a week, plus seminars. But I wouldn't match you anyhow... so how could I ever please you, regarding commitment?

If my teacher would write to his group of students what you just wrote to yours, I think I'd loose a bit of courage. Then I'd say "OK, I am not the kind of student he really wants, the one to bring the his art to future generations of exponents". And then quite probably my attendance would drop, because I would feel what I do is not enough for my teacher and never will be.

But I am not your student. Some students and some teachers are not good matches. Perhaps your students don't react like me at all. On the other hand - maybe some of them do?

Of course I have no clue what your IRL interactions with your students look like. Perhaps they interpret your text quite differently than I do simply because they know you and I don't. But I would be wary to tell my students I was unhappy about attendance rates. I just don't think that is going to change things for the better. That was my main reason for linking to that blog post.

Probably you can't know for sure what it is that makes your students feelings that you get more and more inimitable, or unreachable as an ideal. You interpret it as it being your level. But what if - just if - it is actually something in your attitude and some things you say that makes them feel this way?

I'm not saying you are not paying attention to your own training (what would I know about that, and talk about being impertinent!) I am saying that to me, it has been a big inspiration to see my teachers working on their own development, and taking part in that as "training dummy" or what have you, in ways that clearly showed this was what they were doing. On your level you to a fairly large degree teach yourself things - right? Otherwise you'd stop learning when your teacher passes away, and I don't think that's the case. You don't need somebody's guidance all the time - or as Toby Threadgill has put it, regarding his now deceased teacher, "he is still guiding me, he always will". But the investigation of that guidance is to be done by you yourself - and that is also something to show a student, that it can be done. That at some level, one learns how to somewhat teach oneself, investigate what one has learned so far and find new things in it. To me it opened up the can of possibilites, kind of. And this is something best done in small groups. A small group is a golden opportunity to teach some precious things. A big group is a golden opportunity to do something else. Ceasing the opportunity rather than letting the students hearing complaints... that's what I would think would be more rational, and also one of the things in that blog post I linked to.

If your text was originally written for Aikiweb, with a different title, I probably would have reacted differently. Web forums can be a great place to vent things one doesn't necessarily shout all over the place in one's own dojo. Of course some of your students would have found it anyhow, but still it is different when the text is written directly for your students, I think.

Of the comments on your blog post on its original location, I like Julian Harel's.

I still fear being impertinent. What I am writing is - um. Speculative criticism. But since you put that text not only on your own blog but also here on Aikiweb, I suppose you want some feedback - and this is mine. Take it and do with it what you wish. If I have just misunderstood the lot, of well. Then throw it in the scrap bin after reading.

Best,
Hanna

Last edited by Hanna B : 07-08-2011 at 04:39 PM. Reason: small addition and fixes
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Old 07-08-2011, 05:04 PM   #99
graham christian
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hanna.
I'm not going to say if I agree or disagree with your response only to say it was a fine response.

Regards.G.
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Old 07-08-2011, 05:28 PM   #100
jbblack
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hanna,
Excellent post!
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