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Old 07-08-2011, 05:44 PM   #101
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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Hanna Björk wrote: View Post
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
The whole point of posting the letter to my Blog, which is linked to AikiWeb, was to generate discussion. I gauge how folks react and who is doing the reacting. If a number of folks I respect have a negative reaction, I reassess my thinking... I may not change but I definitely reconsider. On this one on the whole the reaction has been about 60 / 40 positive, which to me indicates that it's largely a matter of opinion and personal style. Everybody has different ideas and everyone has his or unique ways of dealing with them. Your critique is thoughtful and probably correct in that I assume there are students of mine for whom this was intended that have the same reaction you do. I knew that going in.

I can assure everyone who had various counter suggestions about how to motivate folks, how to communicate, how to lead, etc that since I opened the dojo in 1989, we have pretty much tried everything. Frankly. I have never seen folks change their behavior based on any particular approach we have taken.We did at one point actually incorporate the seminar fees in to the dues. Folks loved that... when they attended the events it felt like they were free. But, interestingly, the attendance didn't change, Folks didn't change their training habits even when they had paid for the event.

I think that this is just a very difficult cycle we are going through. My senior students used to train like crazy. Over the years they have gotten married, had kids, gotten more responsibilities at work, etc. Most of them have a harder time training like they did. It is very difficult to find a way to pass on all that was taught to me simply because no one can train frequently enough to cover all of it well. This is a natural process for any dojo. However, usually, in the past there has been a more steady influx of young new folks coming in to the pipeline who were at the stage in their lives when they could train like total maniacs. Right now I have one student who fits this bill.

So the dojo gets older, the training changes to fit their requirements and the character of the dojo changes with it. If it goes too far this way, it becomes a dojo at which it is not possible to really train hard. At that point it becomes a dojo which can no longer produce excellence. Perhaps it doesn't matter. In the traditional arts, the only real responsibility of a teacher was to pass on the art to at least 1 person, Two or three was better, in case something happened to the first one, but 1 person was needed to carry the art through another generation. So, I have my seniors. Several look to be better than I am down the road and they'll be able to teach effectively as well. So perhaps I shouldn't worry about all these other folks.

Anyway, Hanna thanks for taking the time to provide thoughtful discussion here. There isn't enough of that. No gnashing of teeth and rending of garments... no vituperation, just a discussion. I am quite happy with how it progressed.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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Old 07-09-2011, 06:57 AM   #102
SeiserL
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Osu Sensei,

IMHO, where ever we go we run into that bell shaped distribution curve, where the vast majority of people settle for a average level of competence. There are far fewer who are really bad or really good.

IMHO, its a personal choice where on that curve we want to be. Some of that depends on the motives or intent by which we study or undertake any endeavor.

Many people would like the end result of excellence but do not necessarily believe it is possible for them (argue for our limits and they are yours) or are not committed t the process/work it takes to get there.

I am just please there are a few of you shooting for excellence to be an example for the result of us who want more from our art, ourselves, and our lives.

Looking forward to the next time we share space and time.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 07-09-2011, 12:25 PM   #103
Michael Hackett
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

When I read Ledyard Sensei's original post I took one message from him. His follow-up postings have delivered another. From my perspective he is laying out a roadmap to excellence and clearly telling his students how to become better than he is, better than Saotome Sensei, better than they can imagine. I doubt that all of his students, or all of any other teacher's students, could achieve that level of skill, but some can, and some will if they follow his prescription.

In many ways he is merely an aikido teacher and in some ways he is the head of a sort of koryu art. He's offering both paths to his students and those choosing his most demanding track will have the opportunity to achieve great skill. The others will learn damned good aikido, but will likely never achieve greatness. Damned good aikido is goal enough for most of us and a very few desire something more. To his credit, he offers both pathways.

He makes his living from his dojo, his seminars and his DVDs and doubtlessly has to provide damned good aikido instruction in order to eat. Even if he were fabulously wealthy, I suspect he would still have to provide that kind of instruction as a member of a formal orgainization. That he is successful at doing so and still providing something way beyond for those who wish it is amazing.

In his original post and subsequent postings he has given his students clear instructions how to achieve something greater than damned good aikido. Those who elect to follow that path will have the opportunity. But his doors are open to those who don't. How many dojo operate that way? How many instructors think that way? I suspect very few.

Sometimes Ledyard Sensei comes off sounding like that grumpy neighbor who wouldn't return the ball that fell into his yard. I had the opportunity to train with him at the last Aiki Expo as a brand new 6th kyu. We were doing katatori sumi otoshi and he had no problem at all putting me on the mat. I simply couldn't move him. He worked with me and showed me exactly where I was going wrong and demonstrated patience and interest while doing so. When I finally "got it" and could throw him consistently, I got the impression that he was happier about it than I was. He's not a curmedgeon, but he certainly doesn't suffer fools.

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 07-09-2011, 02:52 PM   #104
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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Even if he were fabulously wealthy,
Hah, hah, I almost choked when I read that one. Just remember, you are not really broke as long as you have "balance available".

Chapter One of my book on how to be a professional Aikido teacher will be instruction on how to find and marry someone with a real job.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 07-09-2011, 03:26 PM   #105
Diana Frese
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

After reading Linda Eskin's excellent blog post about this thread, (I had already posted good wishes for her third kyu test before I found her previous blog post) George's most recent comment was enough of a challenge for me to finally post here after skimming through this very fascinating topic and intending to study all the posts later.

Yes I am a dropout! But why do I still care?

Memories of "flying for people"

I joined Aiki Web on the Thanksgiving thread in gratitude to former teachers, training partners and students, and have probably already run out of stories since then.....

But I do want to say something about what some people might call ulterior motives.

On returning from Japan at the age of thirty naturally people were thinking I should go meet people, date, etc..... but somehow I thought a person who didn't know about martial arts in general wouldn't understand me, and understanding is important in marriage.

Later when the publishing company downsized, I thought maybe I should look for a job which wasn't a desk job. How about police work or construction. That moment I was standing in front of the old Town Hall here in Stamford. I figured police work was out, even though I had friends from the Y who were police officers.... because the thought of firing a weapon in the line of duty was scary.

Strangely enough I did end up in construction, and married another friend from the Y who hired me. But we didn't get rich and I didn't continue teaching. But at least it's something a Japanese would understand as a traditional trade .... We practice from time to time and remember with nostalgia the times we did hard training, he in Shotokan, and me in Aikido. So that is why I consider myself a part of both sides of the debate. And I'm grateful to so many on Aiki Web who have assured me one is never too old....

My hat's off to all of you who have persevered!
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Old 07-09-2011, 06:44 PM   #106
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Diana Frese wrote: View Post
After reading Linda Eskin's excellent blog post about this thread, (I had already posted good wishes for her third kyu test before I found her previous blog post) George's most recent comment was enough of a challenge for me to finally post here after skimming through this very fascinating topic and intending to study all the posts later.

Yes I am a dropout! But why do I still care?

Memories of "flying for people"

I joined Aiki Web on the Thanksgiving thread in gratitude to former teachers, training partners and students, and have probably already run out of stories since then.....

But I do want to say something about what some people might call ulterior motives.

On returning from Japan at the age of thirty naturally people were thinking I should go meet people, date, etc..... but somehow I thought a person who didn't know about martial arts in general wouldn't understand me, and understanding is important in marriage.

Later when the publishing company downsized, I thought maybe I should look for a job which wasn't a desk job. How about police work or construction. That moment I was standing in front of the old Town Hall here in Stamford. I figured police work was out, even though I had friends from the Y who were police officers.... because the thought of firing a weapon in the line of duty was scary.

Strangely enough I did end up in construction, and married another friend from the Y who hired me. But we didn't get rich and I didn't continue teaching. But at least it's something a Japanese would understand as a traditional trade .... We practice from time to time and remember with nostalgia the times we did hard training, he in Shotokan, and me in Aikido. So that is why I consider myself a part of both sides of the debate. And I'm grateful to so many on Aiki Web who have assured me one is never too old....

My hat's off to all of you who have persevered!
Hi Diana,
Ellis Amdur, another former student of Aikido who went in different directions, once described Aikido as being like that "old girl friend" that always has a special place in your heart long after you've moved on. And, I suspect that the "old girl friend" wasn't left unaffected either. Anyone who put as much of herself into Aikido as you did, left the art better than when you found it, I am sure.

Just as in our other relationships, some folks move on to new relationships that better suit them, others stay married for fifty years. You even have folks who once got divorced getting together again later and remarrying.

Aikido is an amazing art and the doing of it seriously can reverberate down through ones life, well after mat time has ceased.

- George

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
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Old 07-09-2011, 08:09 PM   #107
Dan Rubin
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

George

Thank you for starting this discussion. It's good for such thoughts to be aired and discussed by the wide variety of people who inhabit AikiWeb. I would like to comment on a few things that have been brought up.

First, in other threads you have insisted that the training you grew up with was injurious and counterproductive. You've gone so far as to state that your earlier training had been a waste of time. From this I assume that you don't expect--or even allow--your students to train like you used to train.

Second, you've noted with approval that many of today's best aikido students are invigorating their aikido with what they've learned from other arts.

So if you no longer want your students to train like you did, and you value the new aikido enhanced by other arts, why do you lament the passing of the old way of training? If your students do not show the enthusiasm and commitment that you showed when you were a young man, perhaps it's because you are not providing them what you were provided with. Perhaps you should expose them to an aikido that is simpler, less subtle, less internal, more muscular, more athletic, more dangerous, more macho.

But if you choose to teach a different aikido--albeit a "better" aikido--should you not expect your students to receive the training differently than you received it?

And you might consider the following: Think back to how things were when you first started practicing. Think about the great training, the great social life, the great energy in the dojo. Now think about what that energy would have been like had the dojo been run by fifty- and sixty-year-olds. Because that's who's running dojos now. If my calculations are correct, when you met Saotome Sensei he was 39 years old. Ikeda Sensei was in his 20s. Now, Saotome Sensei is in his 70s and Ikeda Sensei is in his 60s. And you're no spring chicken yourself.

You're older and wiser. Ironically, that might be a problem.

I've missed the past three summer camps, but I'll attend this year. I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks.

Dan

Last edited by Dan Rubin : 07-09-2011 at 08:11 PM.
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Old 07-10-2011, 12:28 AM   #108
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Dan Rubin wrote: View Post
George

Thank you for starting this discussion. It's good for such thoughts to be aired and discussed by the wide variety of people who inhabit AikiWeb. I would like to comment on a few things that have been brought up.

First, in other threads you have insisted that the training you grew up with was injurious and counterproductive. You've gone so far as to state that your earlier training had been a waste of time. From this I assume that you don't expect--or even allow--your students to train like you used to train.
Waste of time is too strong. I learned an awful lot. One thing you can say about the generation I trained with, you can't make them back up, they go straight at the threat. You can't overstate how important that is. So many folks these days can't do that.

On the other hand, we trained with too much tension, mentally and physically for too long. How we trained was never going to result in an understanding of what our teacher was doing. It shouldn't take 25 years. But I do think some period of time, necessarily when you are younger and can do it, is an important part of ones development in Aikido, It just shouldn't last too long... four or five years at most. And not perhaps at the very beginning of ones training.

Quote:
Second, you've noted with approval that many of today's best aikido students are invigorating their aikido with what they've learned from other arts.

So if you no longer want your students to train like you did, and you value the new aikido enhanced by other arts, why do you lament the passing of the old way of training? If your students do not show the enthusiasm and commitment that you showed when you were a young man, perhaps it's because you are not providing them what you were provided with. Perhaps you should expose them to an aikido that is simpler, less subtle, less internal, more muscular, more athletic, more dangerous, more macho.

But if you choose to teach a different aikido--albeit a "better" aikido--should you not expect your students to receive the training differently than you received it?
I do not lament the fact that people do not train in the same fashion as we trained. As I have said, I do not think it was a very effective or efficient way of figuring out what the higher level folks were doing.

I do lament the fact that it seems difficult to find as many folks who wish to train with the same commitment. What one is doing in Aiki training is burning in a whole new mental and physical paradigm. No matter how clear the instruction, no matter how well one does following the exercises at some seminar, the fact is that without a fair amount of practice, including at some point practice under pressure, the new paradigm will not become ones "default setting". The fact that we should train differently than I did doesn't mean we don't train hard or we can train less.

Quote:
And you might consider the following: Think back to how things were when you first started practicing. Think about the great training, the great social life, the great energy in the dojo. Now think about what that energy would have been like had the dojo been run by fifty- and sixty-year-olds. Because that's who's running dojos now. If my calculations are correct, when you met Saotome Sensei he was 39 years old. Ikeda Sensei was in his 20s. Now, Saotome Sensei is in his 70s and Ikeda Sensei is in his 60s. And you're no spring chicken yourself.

You're older and wiser. Ironically, that might be a problem.
Yeah! Yeah... go ahead and remind me. I'll be sixty next year, which has always been officially "old" in my book. But I am told sixty is the new forty so what the hell. You could be right but I do think there is a demographic shift taking place. My own experience is limited, essentially being part of the first generation of American Aikido students training under a Japanese Shihan who had moved here after training with the Founder. I haven't observed a couple of generation cycles.

But arts with longer history than ours have been passed down over hundreds of years. Clearly at any point in time there were old timers and there were the young folks coming up the pipeline. But I think it is different now. It is not just Aikido but rather almost all the traditional arts which are experiencing a falling off of interest on the part of younger folks. I have heard this from any number of teachers of martial arts and traditional cultural arts (I am talking Japanese arts right now).

Anyway, I'll see you at camp. I am looking forward to it very much.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 07-10-2011, 07:58 AM   #109
oisin bourke
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Yeah! Yeah... go ahead and remind me. I'll be sixty next year, which has always been officially "old" in my book. But I am told sixty is the new forty so what the hell. You could be right but I do think there is a demographic shift taking place. My own experience is limited, essentially being part of the first generation of American Aikido students training under a Japanese Shihan who had moved here after training with the Founder. I haven't observed a couple of generation cycles.

But arts with longer history than ours have been passed down over hundreds of years. Clearly at any point in time there were old timers and there were the young folks coming up the pipeline. But I think it is different now. It is not just Aikido but rather almost all the traditional arts which are experiencing a falling off of interest on the part of younger folks. I have heard this from any number of teachers of martial arts and traditional cultural arts (I am talking Japanese arts right now).
I think that arts that adapted to the lifestyles of the "boomer" generations in the 60s to 80s are suffering. Previous generations didn't have the same time or money available to train daily for decades, and the current/future generations are/will be unable to do so. Traditional arts that didn't change with the times are probably doing the same as they always were. The current generation of "shihan" instructors across the arts (ikebana. chado, budo etc.) are managing to maintain some level of committed students/income, although it's becoming increasingly difficult. IMO, it will be the current generation of mid to upper level instructors who will face serious issues in ten or twenty years (when they become Shihan). They will have invested a huge amount of time and money to learn something that most people will not be willing or able to invest similar levels of commitment.

An interesting article on this social shift can be read here:

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features...0701003914.htm
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Old 07-10-2011, 10:06 AM   #110
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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Oisin Bourke wrote: View Post

An interesting article on this social shift can be read here:

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features...0701003914.htm
Really fascinating... thanks so much.

In our own society, I would argue that a quite intentional "culture of fearfulness" has been encouraged. It has allowed the ruling elite to push through security measures that would previously have been considered far too intrusive and something out of 1984.

It has also allowed the large business community to systematically destroy organized labor and to keep the work force feeling that they are lucky to have jobs at all and therefore need to put up with whatever conditions their employers wish to impose. Every time we hear about economic growth due to so-called "productivity gains" you are hearing about folks doing the same work with fewer people. So either folks are working longer hours for less money, which is the case, or technology has replaced some workers, which also serves to keep the workers feeling insecure about their job prospects.

So, the number one reason you hear that folks can't train more, at least in my area which is fairly affluent, is so-called "lack of time". But, as I have pointed out elsewhere, we have exactly the same amount of time anyone ever had. We have simply convinced ourselves that we have to fit more stuff into that time.

It is getting crazy. Globalization is increasing the pressure on everyone to work harder just to get by. Recently, the Univ of Washington, a State school, announced that it was reserving a portion of each entering class for foreign students because they would pay tuition at the full non-resident rate. So, the rich from other countries can push out potential students from our own state even though the school is a state school.

I have friends who went to Harvard. They recently contacted the school to ask what they should be doing with their kids to make sure that they can be accepted into the school when they are ready. They were told that the process of preparation starts in elementary school now. The "power Elite" as C Wright Mills referred to it, is now globalized. The pressures that this puts the middle class under is enormous.

Anyway, it is really about choices. We spend as much on cosmetics or pet food as some countries live on. We are still the richest society in the world. If there was ever a society which should be able to support activities which are geared towards personal growth, it is ours. Instead we choose to engage in military interventionism which makes a huge amount of money for a small group of people while costing the society as a whole massive amounts both psychologically and financially.

When I talk about people not being willing to train as we did when we were younger, I do not mean to infer that they are lazy. In fact they are most likely working harder than we felt we had to. They have more "stuff" to support, larger mortgages of nicer homes, the kids have a thousand activities that seem to be imperative these days. Life was considerably slower when I was younger. I had a good job and a family but managed to train a lot.

I think that as a society we should be considering the direction we've taken. Wealth is increasingly concentrated and the mass of folks live under considerable stress and fear which allows the folks that "run the show" to pretty much do as they please. I do not think that our current direction is maintainable over the long run. I believe we have the wealth to support an entirely different life than we are creating for ourselves but we need to set a whole new set of priorities. And there is a vast propaganda / marketing machine out there which is geared towards making sure that doesn't happen.

As a number of folks have stated "times change". No question, but are we powerless to effect that? Do we just get blown around by the winds of change or do we give some direction to that change? Do we just accept the fact that we don;t have time any more for the things that we find most fulfilling? Or do we try to shape our priorities to allow us to pursue the things that are truly valuable rather than working ourselves to death so that the small group of folks at the top get richer than ever?

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 07-10-2011, 12:36 PM   #111
Dave de Vos
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
But arts with longer history than ours have been passed down over hundreds of years. Clearly at any point in time there were old timers and there were the young folks coming up the pipeline. But I think it is different now. It is not just Aikido but rather almost all the traditional arts which are experiencing a falling off of interest on the part of younger folks. I have heard this from any number of teachers of martial arts and traditional cultural arts (I am talking Japanese arts right now).
Although Go is not a martial art, it is a traditional eastern art and I can see some parallels between your story and the history of Go in my country. In Go too there has been a steady decline in numbers of active players in the Netherlands for the past 20 years or so. The player population gets older on average. Many started when they were young adults in the seventies and eighties. They had the time then but today they have jobs, family etcetera.

What I have seen in go (but also in darts and poker), is that growth occurs in booms. The last Go boom was triggered by the anime series "Hikaru no go" about 10 years ago which attracted many young and enthusiastic players. Some of them put in enough effort to become strong players, so in recent years there is a surge of strong players under 30 (but numbers are dwindling again).

So these periodical booms causes the "pipeline" to have narrow sections and wide sections. It may not be life threatening to an art, as long as the inflow of new students doesn't dwindle too much (but I think this extinction threshold is quite low).
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Old 07-10-2011, 01:01 PM   #112
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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Dave de Vos wrote: View Post
Although Go is not a martial art, it is a traditional eastern art and I can see some parallels between your story and the history of Go in my country. In Go too there has been a steady decline in numbers of active players in the Netherlands for the past 20 years or so. The player population gets older on average. Many started when they were young adults in the seventies and eighties. They had the time then but today they have jobs, family etcetera.

What I have seen in go (but also in darts and poker), is that growth occurs in booms. The last Go boom was triggered by the anime series "Hikaru no go" about 10 years ago which attracted many young and enthusiastic players. Some of them put in enough effort to become strong players, so in recent years there is a surge of strong players under 30 (but numbers are dwindling again).

So these periodical booms causes the "pipeline" to have narrow sections and wide sections. It may not be life threatening to an art, as long as the inflow of new students doesn't dwindle too much (but I think this extinction threshold is quite low).
Interesting.. thanks for posting. What I know about Go could fit on the head of a pin with 20,000 arch-angels.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 07-10-2011, 03:01 PM   #113
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Interesting.. thanks for posting. What I know about Go could fit on the head of a pin with 20,000 arch-angels.
I won't blame you, Go is hardly know in the west

And my post was merely intended as a comment on the "pipeline" and the survival of traditional arts anyway.

Last edited by Dave de Vos : 07-10-2011 at 03:05 PM.
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Old 07-10-2011, 04:09 PM   #114
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

I agree with so much in both Hanna's and Dan Rubin's posts...

With Hanna, I agree - to me, being chastised in this way would be very demotivating, and I can only take people's word that there are other people who would find it motivating.

You mentioned few beginners came to your seminar -- aren't beginners usually the most loosely tied? It takes time for something like Aikido to become an important part of your life, and time to get the basis in class to begin to feel comfortable looking even further to another teacher who will likely confuse you even more. I would be more worried if it was mostly beginners who came, and only a few seniors.

I think Dan has really hit on something also - on the one hand, you seem to wish you had more young, intense people (and you more specifically mention young men several times) - on the other hand, you want people who will train subtle, rather non-physical things, very hard to explain things...

Perhaps it's not that people or 'society' are changing but that they aren't? I think young intense people have always been drawn in much larger numbers to altheticism and physical intensity. It's the nature of youth.... And especially if they have never experienced anything different to compare what you are doing to, can they really understand enough to even understand why your way would be beneficial? Would the people you trained with when you were young even have been drawn in the same way to the way you train now? Would you have been?

Personally, I think in life you generally can't control any other people's behaviour or choices or attitudes, and you only drive yourself crazy (and often them) if you try too much to do so. Of course you can choose your own behaviour, and often you do have an influence on others', but I think one mostly has to step back on some level and just accept that other human beings often just won't act how you want them to.
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Old 07-10-2011, 04:32 PM   #115
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
. On this one on the whole the reaction has been about 60 / 40 positive, which to me indicates that it's largely a matter of opinion and personal style.
Of all the feedback I'd be interested to hear if its different for people that teach and run dojo. Sitting in the 'hot' seat tends to change perspective I imagine.

best and love your work

dan

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Old 07-10-2011, 04:55 PM   #116
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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Of all the feedback I'd be interested to hear if its different for people that teach and run dojo. Sitting in the 'hot' seat tends to change perspective I imagine.

best and love your work

dan
It's a style issue mostly. Some folks feel it's better to be "motivational", some take the approach that one should simply lead by example, and others sympathize with the occasional let the students know exactly what's expected. This time and in the past when I have made statements that seemed a bit demanding to some folks, it was the real old timers who seemed to get what I was talking about. The folks with 30 to 40 years in. I think that's because a lot was expected of us. We didn't question it, we just did it. I'm not saying that everyone back then felt the way we did, it's just that the ones who didn't left. So the ones that are still here have a bit more "old school" attitude. But it isn't simply that. People have widely differing communication styles and that doesn't necessarily correlate with time in or seniority. Francis Takahashi goes back to the flood in American Aikido but he has a very positive and diplomatic style. I am frequently more direct than he would do himself and often I feel he is too nice. On the other hand I have seen and heard him do a verbal wrath of God and I have at times been quite diplomatic when I thought that's what would be best.

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Old 07-10-2011, 06:34 PM   #117
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hello,

I'm an aikido instructor and I run a very small dojo in Portugal.

It's so small that even if all of a sudden more students would join the dojo it just wouldn't do for everybody.

On top of that, I don't have nearly the experience that George Ledyard sensei has since I only teach since 2007 (when I was 18 years old). And I am certainly not a professional.

This little context of me aside, all I have to say is that I understand the problematic George Ledyard sensei brought here. Not only regarding the lack of interest, dedication and commitment with the art but also the reduced number of students in our art.

It's actually funny since I wrote not long ago on my blog a post titled "Nobody knows what's Aikido". http://pe-de-atleta.blogspot.com/201...-o-aikido.html

Even though I only speak about the reality of aikido in Portugal (the one I know the best, of course) the bottom line doesn't go too far from what sensei has written on his blog and posted here (the 1st post and subsequent responses).

It's in portuguese but you could give it a try by translating it on google or something

What happens in Portugal is that almost 10 years have passed without the number of practitioners having raised.

Regarding commitment, same happens. I am not 60 years old nor did I train 30 years ago, but even 10 or 15 years ago the commitment and dedication was undoubtedly higher.

Now people say "they have no time". Sometimes it's actually true since people have to work a little bit more in this recession country not only doing extra hours, a second job, you name it.

So, sometimes really "there's no more time" (or normally, no more patience after a hard day's work). But hell, that's not even the majority of the cases. I too believe the "no time" excuse is a lousy one. Even though each case is a unique case, of course if one really wants, if one really prioritizes it, there's always time for aikido (or anything else, for that matter).

Today the society is too "McDonaldized" for my taste (there's a good read about it from the author George Ritzer).

Now in Portugal, and Europe I believe, to graduate in university it downgraded from 5 years to 3 years, for instance.

Everything is getting "easier" and certainly faster.

Thing is, aikido ain't fast. It takes time and dedication, even when the learning curve is mitigated, such as sensei George aims for.

Today I see too many people using aikido like they chew gum. Also, they want too many "candies". Candies that keep the interest up. When I say candies I'm talking about more tangible stuff, like belts and such, when aikido (or budo?) is not really about that also.

So, like I was saying, if I remember right, 10/15 years ago there was more commitment.

People are way too stressed with their lives. They wanna relax. And because aikido requires dedication, hell, that's a pain, right?

Well, ok.

I should add that I've shared your text, Ledyard sensei, with my sensei (which have a bigger dojo than mine but have suffered a decline in attendance also) and he replied to me this way (I'm sure there's no problem sharing this):

The text is magnificent…

Personaly, I subscribe it almost fully…

At least, the thoughts about what's going on in practice are completely true…

I feel it everyday…

Which is a big problem, as you know…

Thank you for sharing.

But… Gambatte kudasai…


Succinct, but I felt the same.

Now, what Oisin Bourke said made me think and worry. Because I'm a young guy and if this state of decline continues, aikido could be endangered indeed (specially in my country where the number of practitioners are just incomparable with the US ones for example).

Regarding what the students of Ledyard sensei may think about this text, well, it's like sensei said, it's his style. Good thing he sticks with his style. There's no "right" style, so, some students might have been touched by his text and probably will think about it and others may feel somewhat... pressed in some negative way.

But, normal thing people react differently.

Personally, I think Ledyard sensei did good with being honest and direct about his feelings and thoughts about the matter and sharing his concerns.

I am no oldschool like yourself but I sure do share the same concerns. And if it's a professional, more experienced instructor saying it, the better. It means people like you, who dedicate an entire life to the art, are willing to fight for it even on darker times. Maybe this sound too much like chit-chat, but I don't think that way.

You say you have no power to change things. Me neither. But step by step, who knows, things can change (for the better).

Best regards,
from this youngster,
André

Last edited by FiuzA : 07-10-2011 at 06:43 PM.

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Old 07-10-2011, 07:08 PM   #118
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Oisin Bourke wrote: View Post
I think that arts that adapted to the lifestyles of the "boomer" generations in the 60s to 80s are suffering. Previous generations didn't have the same time or money available to train daily for decades, and the current/future generations are/will be unable to do so. Traditional arts that didn't change with the times are probably doing the same as they always were. The current generation of "shihan" instructors across the arts (ikebana. chado, budo etc.) are managing to maintain some level of committed students/income, although it's becoming increasingly difficult. IMO, it will be the current generation of mid to upper level instructors who will face serious issues in ten or twenty years (when they become Shihan). They will have invested a huge amount of time and money to learn something that most people will not be willing or able to invest similar levels of commitment.

An interesting article on this social shift can be read here:

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/features...0701003914.htm
Hello Oisin,

I have read the Yomiuri article and I have some reservations. However, I have not done any research based on my own, pretty extensive, experience of teaching the children of the yakeato generation. I suspect that the yakeato generation form a large proportion of the membership of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Japan. They fit their training patterns to their jobs and home life, but, given these constraints, their attendance is regular and can last for decades.

I also believe that it is very difficult to compare Japan with the United States, more difficult than I myself thought at first. One of the problems is that comparing aikido in the US with aikido in Japan is like comparing apples and oranges.

One of the major differences is that in the US (and the UK to a lesser extent), as far as I can see, aikido is able to be 'counter-cultural'. One sense of this term is that there is no prior tradition of 'US martial arts', of which aikido sees itself as a part--or not. So, when I trained in the UK, along with the obligatory Tohei and Westbrook & Ratti, people also read The Teachings of Don Juan and Alan Watts.

In Japan, the only sense in which aikido can be said to be counter-cultural is in the much narrower sense of being originally tied to one of the 'new religions', but this aspect has largely been forgotten, consigned to the Aikido Museum of Antiquities. As one of the postwar 'budo', aikido promotes itself very actively and is increasingly taught in schools. And the budo ideology has been refashioned to go with this. I think it is no coincidence that the many references in Morihei Ueshiba's writings to aiki (合気) as aiki (愛気) are postwar: "You see, postwar aikido is all about world peace and love--and the Old Man thought so, too."

Occasionally, I talk to some of the Japanese yakeato shihans who went to live abroad. They are frustrated that aikido is changing (in Japan), but that they have no place in the change. They accept that times must change (because they always do), but have no answer to the dilemma this poses for them: times must indeed change, but the way in which they themselves were taught must also be preserved.

Best wishes,

PAG

P A Goldsbury
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Old 07-11-2011, 03:04 AM   #119
Tim Ruijs
 
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
It is very difficult to find a way to pass on all that was taught to me simply because no one can train frequently enough to cover all of it well. This is a natural process for any dojo.
What exactly do you mean by this? You simply cannot pass on everything you have learned. Everything that you have learned was done by you as the person you are. Nobody is the same as you. You can pass on the methods, way of learning, point out the most important aspects and help them on their way.

When you feel something might get lost, but you think is important to pass on...
The concern about who will follow in your footsteps is also natural to any dojo(cho). I really believe motivation is important. Once people have entered your dojo, show what you are about, show what road lies ahead. Some will leave, some will stay. Some progress more than others. But the heart of the dojo will be healthy and spirits will be up.
Your Aikido will then have found a place.

Last edited by Tim Ruijs : 07-11-2011 at 03:06 AM.

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* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
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Old 07-12-2011, 01:10 AM   #120
dps
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Ahh the old lament: this generation does not know what it was like in back in the day.

Why in my father's day he had to walk to school in two feet of snow ( all year round ) with no shoes, no coat and up hill both ways.

Whereas I had a coat and shoes and the two feet of snow was in the winter.
It was still uphill both ways.

My kids don't even have to leave the house. There are home schooled over the internet.

dps

Last edited by dps : 07-12-2011 at 01:12 AM.
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Old 07-12-2011, 01:16 AM   #121
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
Hello Oisin,

I have read the Yomiuri article and I have some reservations. However, I have not done any research based on my own, pretty extensive, experience of teaching the children of the yakeato generation. I suspect that the yakeato generation form a large proportion of the membership of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Japan. They fit their training patterns to their jobs and home life, but, given these constraints, their attendance is regular and can last for decades.

I also believe that it is very difficult to compare Japan with the United States, more difficult than I myself thought at first. One of the problems is that comparing aikido in the US with aikido in Japan is like comparing apples and oranges.

One of the major differences is that in the US (and the UK to a lesser extent), as far as I can see, aikido is able to be 'counter-cultural'. One sense of this term is that there is no prior tradition of 'US martial arts', of which aikido sees itself as a part--or not. So, when I trained in the UK, along with the obligatory Tohei and Westbrook & Ratti, people also read The Teachings of Don Juan and Alan Watts.

In Japan, the only sense in which aikido can be said to be counter-cultural is in the much narrower sense of being originally tied to one of the 'new religions', but this aspect has largely been forgotten, consigned to the Aikido Museum of Antiquities. As one of the postwar 'budo', aikido promotes itself very actively and is increasingly taught in schools. And the budo ideology has been refashioned to go with this. I think it is no coincidence that the many references in Morihei Ueshiba's writings to aiki (合気) as aiki (愛気) are postwar: "You see, postwar aikido is all about world peace and love--and the Old Man thought so, too."

Occasionally, I talk to some of the Japanese yakeato shihans who went to live abroad. They are frustrated that aikido is changing (in Japan), but that they have no place in the change. They accept that times must change (because they always do), but have no answer to the dilemma this poses for them: times must indeed change, but the way in which they themselves were taught must also be preserved.

Best wishes,

PAG
Peter,

That's a very good point about Aikido being seen as "countercultural" outside of Japan. From those I know practicing Aikido where I live, there seems to be the "old school Japan" group and the hippies. However, Hokkaido has an interesting dynamic. A growing number of Japanese (and foreigners) who are fed up with the state of things are moving up here to pursue a lifestyle: growing blueberries and snowboarding etc. Also, people up here are all relative newcomers, apart from the Ainu, so traditional ties aren't as strong as they are in other parts pf the country. You also still have the DR people with roots back to Sokaku.

RE: the article: I have absolutely no idea as to the accuracy of the analysis, other than my personal observations, but it seems to strike a chord with the mood of the country. I have noticed how one is much more defined in terms of one's generational cohort in Japan compared to Europe and the states, down to the Kanji used in one's name, one's political outlook, etc. I know this happens in other countries, of course, but it seems much more apparent over here.

RE:Your overseas"Yakeato" friends: What are the problems that they see with Aikido in Japan,?
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Old 07-12-2011, 05:25 AM   #122
sakumeikan
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

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David Skaggs wrote: View Post
Ahh the old lament: this generation does not know what it was like in back in the day.

Why in my father's day he had to walk to school in two feet of snow ( all year round ) with no shoes, no coat and up hill both ways.

Whereas I had a coat and shoes and the two feet of snow was in the winter.
It was still uphill both ways.

My kids don't even have to leave the house. There are home schooled over the internet.

dps
Dear David,
So if you asked your children to emulate your fathers days
would they be capable or willing to suffer to the degree your father did?Having had it easy I think not.Only if circumstances changed dramatically would the children adapt to harsh living.
Cheers, Joe.
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Old 07-12-2011, 06:57 AM   #123
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

George,

Looking at the post for your upcoming group seminar it seems that the spots are filling in nicely. I know Dan keeps his seminars small on purpose, so I'm sure you have no issues with those. What about other seminars by people like Ushiro, Ikeda, Threadgill, etc? Do you have any issues with filling those? If not, do you feel that says something about the one that prompted you to write this letter?
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Old 07-12-2011, 07:42 AM   #124
phitruong
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

thought to throw this in

First Generation - Build
Second Generation - Use
Third Generation - Abuse

I am the first generation of immigrant to the U.S. so i build the foundation. my children will use that foundation and expand it. my grand children will surely abuse what the first two generations put together. It's a repeating pattern exist through out history. no different for Aikido.
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Old 07-12-2011, 09:49 AM   #125
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Re: Open Letter to My Students

Quote:
Phi Truong wrote: View Post
thought to throw this in

First Generation - Build
Second Generation - Use
Third Generation - Abuse

I am the first generation of immigrant to the U.S. so i build the foundation. my children will use that foundation and expand it. my grand children will surely abuse what the first two generations put together. It's a repeating pattern exist through out history. no different for Aikido.
Dear Phi,
Did this not happen to mayor civilisations such as Rome , Egypt, China, Japan, India to name but a few. The west was populated by early pioneers who suffered greatly[read the Oregon Trails books].Later carpetbaggers thieves and vagabonds took over, now we have had the Bush administration, Blair in the U.K.
The pattern is the same.The quicker the current Aikido groups fade into obscurity and a new breed of fresh guys come in and build on the success of the older groups [and avoid/learn from the mistakes] the better.Isnt sad that we build houses on less than solid foundations , and repeat the mistakes of the past over and over again.We never seem to learn from history.
All the best , Joe.
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