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Old 08-20-2011, 03:55 AM   #1
robin_jet_alt
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Advice for Stepping Lightly

Dear All,

I am experiencing a bit of frustration at my dojo, and I was wondering if you had any advice for how to deal with the situation.

I moved to this dojo when I moved for a new job last year. I am very pleased with my sensei and it has a great atmosphere. I am really learning a lot, although the stylistic differences are taking a while to get used to.

My issue is that at this dojo they don't place much emphasis on ukemi. I am being careful not to throw people harder than they are able to receive and I think I am doing alright with that. My issue is that at my old dojo they placed a high emphasis on staying 'alive' during ukemi. That means staying aware and feeling the technique from start to finish. The students here aren't used to this kind of ukemi, however, and many of them seem to think I am being difficult when I don't fall over when they haven't finished their technique. I am actually making a concerted effort not to be difficult, and to do things their way as much as possible. I am happy to follow where they are leading, and I'm certainly not resisting them, but it seems a bit silly to me if I am going to be throwing myself on the ground for no reason. A good example is kotegaeshi. People will wrench my wrist around in all sorts of directions and expect me to fall over, but they aren't moving in a direction that will a) take my balance, b) cause pain (I know, it's not necessary, but at least it would be something), or c) avoid the punch that I refrain from throwing with my other hand. This doesn't apply to everyone, and especially not to sensei. Sensei can throw me with no difficulty whatsoever.

I'm actually not writing to complain about people. It's not their fault if they haven't trained with people who can take this sort of ukemi. They are all really nice people too. I just want to know how I should act. I don't want to insult them, and I don't want to come across as a know it all.

At a previous dojo, I have experienced new people joining us, who have trained at other dojos, and insisting that their way is correct and we are all wrong. It is very rude, and nobody appreciated it. I don't want to be that sort of person.

I hope this makes sense, and any advice is appreciated.
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Old 08-20-2011, 04:37 AM   #2
ryback
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

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Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
Dear All,

I am experiencing a bit of frustration at my dojo, and I was wondering if you had any advice for how to deal with the situation.

I moved to this dojo when I moved for a new job last year. I am very pleased with my sensei and it has a great atmosphere. I am really learning a lot, although the stylistic differences are taking a while to get used to.

My issue is that at this dojo they don't place much emphasis on ukemi. I am being careful not to throw people harder than they are able to receive and I think I am doing alright with that. My issue is that at my old dojo they placed a high emphasis on staying 'alive' during ukemi. That means staying aware and feeling the technique from start to finish. The students here aren't used to this kind of ukemi, however, and many of them seem to think I am being difficult when I don't fall over when they haven't finished their technique. I am actually making a concerted effort not to be difficult, and to do things their way as much as possible. I am happy to follow where they are leading, and I'm certainly not resisting them, but it seems a bit silly to me if I am going to be throwing myself on the ground for no reason. A good example is kotegaeshi. People will wrench my wrist around in all sorts of directions and expect me to fall over, but they aren't moving in a direction that will a) take my balance, b) cause pain (I know, it's not necessary, but at least it would be something), or c) avoid the punch that I refrain from throwing with my other hand. This doesn't apply to everyone, and especially not to sensei. Sensei can throw me with no difficulty whatsoever.

I'm actually not writing to complain about people. It's not their fault if they haven't trained with people who can take this sort of ukemi. They are all really nice people too. I just want to know how I should act. I don't want to insult them, and I don't want to come across as a know it all.

At a previous dojo, I have experienced new people joining us, who have trained at other dojos, and insisting that their way is correct and we are all wrong. It is very rude, and nobody appreciated it. I don't want to be that sort of person.

I hope this makes sense, and any advice is appreciated.
Hello there!You make perfect sense, i get your point very clearly.Well first of all, ukemi is not just a way of passive rollfall, but also a way to escape once the tori's technique has been applied.But in order to take ukemi you have to have a...reason.Nobody should fall on his own just to make the tori's life easier.It makes the art look bad and fake and it has a bad impact on the tori because that way he can never learn if his technique is effective.That can be even dangerous.If somebody is used to people falling on their own, in a real confrontation he is gonna be...surprised, if not worse.Resisting badly on purpose is wrong, but then again falling on your own is worse.So my advise would be, if somebody's technique is ineffective, if it doesn't break your ballance and feel that you have to take ukemi, don't!If somebody's technique leaves an opening for atemi,show it to him by reaching out and touching him (no need to punch him hard, really).Only an egotistical person that serves his ego above serving his need to learn the art will take that as an insult.Personally i would have thanked you for pointing out my mistake, making me realise that i have to correct it if i don't want to be killed in a real fight and if i want to practice aikido correctly.Aikido is a martial art, it HAS to work, it's not just a sequence of exercises.I think that generally you have a very clear view of how aikido should be practiced and i hope that my post helped you in some way.
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Old 08-20-2011, 05:00 AM   #3
Mario Tobias
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

Hi Robin,

This is a common problem. I have experienced this as well and the funny thing is that I think the issue will continue as long as you practice. Like you, I also do not fall easily if the technique doesn't work but have changed my mindset after practicing with a few dojos.

The best way to deal with it IMHO is always be aware of who you are practicing with and adapt. For me, I am thinking that by not falling easily I am helping my nage learn to think for himself whats not working but after more than 2 decades practice, I've observed different people react to this differently. Even with the best intentions I was doing more harm to my reputation as being difficult even though my original intent was to help. I think its in the human psyche that we blame others if people do poorly or make mistakes.

How I was taught in my previous dojos: Attack sincerely; if the technique doesnt work, don't fall or dont fall easily. You can attack sincerely by not being difficult. This is martial arts anyway. But as I have said some dojos and some people react to this differently.

I normally adapt my ukemi to who I partner with. Some juniors and seniors will complain if you attack sincerely and not fall easily. However some people will also react positively to good attack and ukemi. These people would also tell you off like: "I havnt thrown you yet, dont fall!" (like me telling white belts ). The thing is to note the people who appreciate good ukemi and who dont. It will take some time and know the people on somewhat a personal level to what group they belong. There are only 2 groups of nage: those who want to be helped and those who dont, just choose.

For people who react negatively, do not be difficult. If you sense the technique doesn't work but you sense they want you to take the fall regardless, take the fall. If they dont want to be helped, it is their problem. It is their journey anyway. You'll be surprised this is also applicable to juniors (who know much less than you). Let them find solutions on their own if they dont want to be helped. You've undergone the same path anyway where you didnt know the solutions and you came out OK. The tricky bit is that this side of you who want to help will suddenly kick in and you start helping them: well dont, you'll just make things worse, just shut up and take the fall. Its not a big deal for you, think about it...for them its a different story. I know its a win-lose situation, but hey, you cant please everybody.

For those who appreciate good ukemi, you still need to tailor the resistance to who you partner with. It's not a single intensity attack which you can apply to everybody. It takes some sense and awareness if the resistance is just right for that partner. If you feel your nage struggling because of your resistance, take it down a notch or two so they can work with it. You'll get the correct level after you've practiced with these persons a few times. You can start increasing the resistance and intensity as you partner with them more and more.

But take note these 2 groups sometimes convert at one point, cant explain why this happens so again you need to adapt. It is a never ending cycle.

Lastly, do not correct your sempai, no matter what.

Last edited by Mario Tobias : 08-20-2011 at 05:13 AM.
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Old 08-20-2011, 05:25 AM   #4
SeiserL
 
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

Quote:
Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
At a previous dojo, I have experienced new people joining us, who have trained at other dojos, and insisting that their way is correct and we are all wrong. It is very rude, and nobody appreciated it. I don't want to be that sort of person. I hope this makes sense, and any advice is appreciated.
Sounds like you already know what to do.

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 08-20-2011, 06:37 AM   #5
robin_jet_alt
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

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Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Sounds like you already know what to do.
I think you are right.

To everyone else, thank you. You have very clearly articulated the muddled thoughts that were swirling around in my head for me. It was really giving me a headache after training this morning.
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Old 08-20-2011, 06:44 AM   #6
graham christian
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

Hi Robin.
First thing that springs to mind is the fact of when studying in anothers dojo do as they do and learn what they have to offer.

Meanwhile acknowledge what you know for yourself. As the training partner gets better you can make it harder for them to throw you. Bit by bit. It's all good learning for them and for you.

I have noticed some people take great pride in the fact that someone couldn't do a certain technique on them and thus see themselves as superior in some way.

Thus we get some whose purpose is to stop you. This is actually not Aikido for Aikido would be nothing to do with stopping a person but rather to harmonize with and thus as you say the need to be aware of all that is happening as uke in ukemi.

So I would say that while you are there use your advanced knowledge and awareness to help and throw away the 'complaining mind'

It could be a good lessen in harmony for you and then when given a position to teach or show or offere an alternative view then the door will be open to add what you feel would be better or useful.

Regards.G.
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Old 08-20-2011, 07:03 AM   #7
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

If someone at my dojo was having this problem...first of all I would notice and address it. But if I didn't I would appreciate a conversation about it.
Have you asked your teacher about it?
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Old 08-20-2011, 07:09 AM   #8
Abasan
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

IMHO, an average aikidoka would recognize a better aikido from his ukemi. Do as you usually do but perform better as nage. If they see that you have total control in them as nage and they don't over you, they'll respect your role as uke. Gradually they'll figure our that it's themselves that need to change.

But the cue should come from Sensei. If he uses you more as uke, then it'll signal that you have been accepted.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 08-20-2011, 07:13 AM   #9
robin_jet_alt
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

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Graham Christian wrote: View Post

I have noticed some people take great pride in the fact that someone couldn't do a certain technique on them and thus see themselves as superior in some way.
Hi Graham. I'm not one of those people.

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
you say the need to be aware of all that is happening as uke in ukemi.
Actually this is where I get in trouble. As someone mentioned above, I really need to tailor my ukemi to my training partner, but at the same time, even after a year at this dojo, this is a fairly unfamiliar style to me. I am trying to learn techniques from my training partner, who in some cases is of a higher rank than I am, and in others is simply more familiar with this sensei's techniques. As part of learning from them, I try to feel the technique through to the end. I'm not trying to resist the technique, simply to feel it in its entirety. Anyway, I get carried away with trying to feel it and forget to fall. I suppose part of being aware is to think about my partner and when I should be falling rather than simply my own learning.

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Graham Christian wrote: View Post
So I would say that while you are there use your advanced knowledge and awareness to help and throw away the 'complaining mind'
I'm working on it. Obviously not quite there yet.
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Old 08-20-2011, 07:15 AM   #10
robin_jet_alt
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

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Mary Eastland wrote: View Post
If someone at my dojo was having this problem...first of all I would notice and address it. But if I didn't I would appreciate a conversation about it.
Have you asked your teacher about it?
I'm trying to be subtle. Possibly a bit too subtle. I'm really not sure how to broach it with him without sounding like I'm whining about particular people.
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Old 08-20-2011, 08:16 AM   #11
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

I would broach it in a general way using quesions like..."I really love being uke and sometimes it feels like I am expected to fall down without losing my balance...do you have any ideas that would be helpful for me?"

You sound like you would be a breath of fresh air to any dojo and he may appreciate you more than you know.
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Old 08-20-2011, 08:42 AM   #12
Marc Abrams
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

Robin:

This can be a very tricky situation. Cooperative training takes a far higher degree of integrity and honesty than competitive training. In my opinion, Aikido training should not look like a wrestling match, nor should it look like a shared, delusional state of harmony.

Sincere training involves the personal honesty and integrity to acknowledge that what we are doing is not working. We can then be guided by our partners and sensei into making the necessary corrections in order to develop functional and effective techniques (which includes ukemi). We need to have open and trusting dialogue with our partners so that we can trust them to give us honest feedback. In absence of this condition, training tends to devolve into wrestling matched or the shared delusional state of harmony.

I would recommend that you begin to slowly develop the kind of relationships with your fellow students that can allow you both to push your skill levels forward in an honest and rewarding manner. Talking to your partners ahead of time, asking them if it is alright to let each other know when things are not working, in order to provide corrective advice is a good tactic that usually works with me.

I wrote some blogs awhile back exploring the roles of nage and uke. I hope that they can provide some better understanding of where I am coming from and I how view this subject matter.

http://aasbk.com/blog/the-role-of-na...tember-8-2008/

http://aasbk.com/blog/week-of-septem...le-of-the-uke/

Good Luck!

marc abrams
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Old 08-20-2011, 08:57 AM   #13
graham christian
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

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Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
Hi Graham. I'm not one of those people.

Actually this is where I get in trouble. As someone mentioned above, I really need to tailor my ukemi to my training partner, but at the same time, even after a year at this dojo, this is a fairly unfamiliar style to me. I am trying to learn techniques from my training partner, who in some cases is of a higher rank than I am, and in others is simply more familiar with this sensei's techniques. As part of learning from them, I try to feel the technique through to the end. I'm not trying to resist the technique, simply to feel it in its entirety. Anyway, I get carried away with trying to feel it and forget to fall. I suppose part of being aware is to think about my partner and when I should be falling rather than simply my own learning.

I'm working on it. Obviously not quite there yet.
Hi Robin.
I can see by what you say you are not one of those people.

I wonder what you mean by feeling and then forgetting to fall. By harmonizing I don't mean just feel and fall. I mean feel and go with thus you would only go down or 'fall' if that's where you are being led to. If you don't feel like you are being led to the floor for example then inform the partner. It shows a lack of something and thus you can help the partner find out what's missing.

There is no 'should fall' so it would be quite right to not go. Once again it's not a matter of making the partner wrong but it is a matter of integrity. So I would say don't give up your own integrity and thus learn how to point things out with humility so to speak.

I don't think you're carried away with trying to feel it.

I do believe you could get a insight by having an open private conversation with your teacher though, telling him your thoughts.

Regards. G.
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Old 08-20-2011, 10:47 AM   #14
Shadowfax
 
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

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Graham Christian wrote: View Post
Hi Robin.

I do believe you could get a insight by having an open private conversation with your teacher though, telling him your thoughts.

Regards. G.
I second this. Any time I am not sure about my own responses or take on a subject I just find a time before or after class to have a quiet chat with my teacher on the subject. I have found these chats to be some of the most valuable parts of my training experience.

I have been really working on that sensitivity to gauge just how much to give away and how much to resist in order to provide my partner with a useful training experience. Everyone in my dojo knows that I never give away a technique but for some it is good to move when they enter the ball park instead of waiting for them to hit the home run. Over time increasing the expectations as they learn to feel when they are in the right neighborhood to have a true effect.

lol I can totally understand the forgetting to fall thing. I have sometimes been so caught up in experiencing and analyzing what nage is doing I sort of forget to tap out or move with the technique.
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Old 08-20-2011, 12:13 PM   #15
crbateman
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

Aikido is, after all, much ado about blending...
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Old 08-20-2011, 06:48 PM   #16
robin_jet_alt
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post

I wonder what you mean by feeling and then forgetting to fall. By harmonizing I don't mean just feel and fall. I mean feel and go with thus you would only go down or 'fall' if that's where you are being led to. If you don't feel like you are being led to the floor for example then inform the partner. It shows a lack of something and thus you can help the partner find out what's missing.
Yes, this is what I am doing. It's just that certain people are not used to this, and they get frustrated when uke doesn't fall over. I think being honest is good up to a point, but I probably need to dial down the frequency and directness of my honesty with some people.

Marc: Thanks for the articles. They are very good, and agree entirely.

I really should talk to sensei about it, but I think I need to do it at a time when I'm not feeling frustrated. It's just a bit difficult because I still feel like an outsider here. One thing that is helping me with that is training more. My wife has a reduced schedule during August and that has allowed me to train at least 3 times per week. It has made a big difference.
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Old 08-21-2011, 08:21 AM   #17
kyu mg
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

Robin....
Im new to Aikido....
But I have the same problem as your having....
I do not like it when the Uke just anticipates the move and falls down, I tell them to let me do the move and throw you....
And Im learning who to go to when we pick partners to practice with....I have favorites and not so favorite....
The other nite we had to get in groups of 3, Im standing looking around and two women, Ruby and one I call smiley call to me to train with them....I was happy....LOL.
Seriously though, you will learn each students level of Ukemi....
And I have noticed already, that the other students already know I like to do it right....Or should I say try and do it right....Still learning.
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Old 08-21-2011, 10:33 AM   #18
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

If you are at a new dojo I doubt they will welcome any changes from a ` newcomer `. Others have said that you should talk this over more with your fellow student off the mat.
This is what is wrong with a lot of Aikido - breakfalling often before contact is made - hence the ``magic of Aikido ``. Ukemi is not natural to most people, to some yes, I have seen others that still roll like a brick...That is also a bad habit to have ``my favourites `` how are going to learn if you don't work with those awkward ones.

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Old 08-21-2011, 10:59 AM   #19
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

The most difficult training partners are the ones I learn the most from. When I find myself feeling disinclined to work with a particular person I make myself work with them even more.
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Old 08-21-2011, 11:49 AM   #20
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

Quote:
Cherie Cornmesser wrote: View Post
The most difficult training partners are the ones I learn the most from. When I find myself feeling disinclined to work with a particular person I make myself work with them even more.
That is a good approach for someone of your grade.
Always remember you can pick your opponent in the dojo but invariably your opponent in the street will pick you.

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Old 08-22-2011, 12:04 AM   #21
Mario Tobias
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

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Cherie Cornmesser wrote: View Post
The most difficult training partners are the ones I learn the most from. When I find myself feeling disinclined to work with a particular person I make myself work with them even more.
I avoid the accident prone though. Usually, my gut feeling is strong when I see one and would confirm other people get injured because of these people in later practices. There are signs. The tricky thing with Aikido is although you need to be fully aware and defend yourself, there are times you dont have full control over your body as you take ukemi. A moment's lapse and you find yourself injured.
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Old 08-22-2011, 07:19 AM   #22
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

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Mario Tobias wrote: View Post
I avoid the accident prone though. Usually, my gut feeling is strong when I see one and would confirm other people get injured because of these people in later practices. There are signs. The tricky thing with Aikido is although you need to be fully aware and defend yourself, there are times you dont have full control over your body as you take ukemi. A moment's lapse and you find yourself injured.
Ahh and you see these are the ones I often will be sure to grab first. It forces me to pay careful attention to their safety and not get overly strong. There is so much one can work on within themselves when working with someone like this. Not to mention taking my role as their senior seriously in helping them to learn. And my awareness can protect me from injury while I help them to improve. In a way I look at it as I am protecting and helping not just that person but any other junior who will work with them because maybe I can help them to become better training partners. That said I have been injured by someone like this.

Last edited by Shadowfax : 08-22-2011 at 07:24 AM.
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Old 08-22-2011, 08:34 AM   #23
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

Robin, you've written about how other students react to your style of ukemi, but how does your sensei react to it? Is this really a case of "we don't do ukemi like this dojo", or a case that that's the goal but other students aren't there yet?
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Old 08-22-2011, 08:57 AM   #24
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

Quote:
Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
Yes, this is what I am doing. It's just that certain people are not used to this, and they get frustrated when uke doesn't fall over. I think being honest is good up to a point, but I probably need to dial down the frequency and directness of my honesty with some people.
Robin,

Henry Kono has a great story about this. When he went to the Aikikai honbu in the sixties, Seniors teaching the class would grab him and immediately fall onto the mat! At first, he was thinking: "What's going on here? I haven't done anything!" Eventually, he realised that they were moving and he was expected to follow their movement. This way, he was expected to internalise the movement of the technique. Sunadomari sensei's writings on "kasutori" may help you here. Ellis Amdur has an excellent commentary on this style of practice in his book: "Hidden in Plain Sight"
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Old 08-22-2011, 09:32 AM   #25
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Re: Advice for Stepping Lightly

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Robin Boyd wrote: View Post
I hope this makes sense, and any advice is appreciated.
Looks like you are wasting your time threre. Time to look for another dojo.

Nagababa

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