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Old 01-30-2012, 12:40 PM   #1
DH
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 3,394
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Investment

Investment
I want to be clear that I fully realize that many people are invested in a process and in teachers whom they love. Some have taken my observations of the Asian teaching process and of Aikido to a level far beyond my intent. We all know of and have felt Japanese Aikido teachers who have it and those who do not. My issues are not with the level to which they have it, but whether or not they can or will....teach it. That becomes a difficult problem in that some who have it- really and truly want to teach it- but they don't know how. They learned it, absorbed it through training, without a language or need to teach it through a Western process. This has happened in the Chinese arts as well.

It is important to understand the discussion of connection, moving from center, Internal strength and aiki is not singular to any culture or art, or to any teachers Japanese, Chinese, or otherwise. It is a broad ranging topic and issue going from India or China to Koryu to Daito ryu to Aikido. It is also important to realize that finding active ways to teach it- even within those cultures- has been difficult and inconsistent.

The process becomes muddled in determining who does and who doesn't have it, compounded by the fact that those that do, by the admission of many students, and sometimes themselves, have struggled to find a clear way to teach connection and aiki to the next generation. I think our goals -together- should be first and foremost to get it for ourselves and then secondarily to teach it to others, and in so doing to help the art. The side benefit is that it will help the senior teachers above us as well, by giving them a language and skill set to teach their stuff to their people.

There is a down side for some. There are dearly loved Japanese teachers, who just don't have it. There is nothing I can do about that. But here again, we can help them and help our fellow budo-ka, none-the-less by sharing.

My goals and the goals of those who are working with me
Is not have people leave aikido, Not lord it over others, Not to hide their training and not share. Instead it is to get people to re-invest in Aikido and to make it one of the most powerful arts the world has known-just like it's founder was. This is something we can do, regardless of age and experience.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Communicating in a written format is clearly not one of my strengths. Many senior teachers I train-while they delightfully rib me and roll their eyes at my God awful way of communicating on the net, none-the-less have widely lauded my ability to articulate and create metaphor to a learning process in a hands on environment that truly helped them. One fellow I just got off the phone with said "I just wish I knew a way to get the seminar you.... to write!!"
Can you hear his loud "Sigh??" I could!
Suffice to say that the many wonderful relationships that are being formed will hopefully give people a better feel for what I am like off-line, and what we are accomplishing together, rather than my often times too casual correspondence here. If I did not truly care, were I not so seriously invested myself in a long term plan in helping, I would not spend so much time helping Aikido teachers to eventually go on to teach this without me.

So, we have each invested heavily in what we do. For this reason we sometimes see things with a narrow view. Perhaps for a time, the narrowing of view created something worthwhile for each. Here is hoping that understanding continues to grow.
Dan
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Old 01-30-2012, 01:12 PM   #2
Gary David
 
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Re: Investment

Quote:
Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Investment

Communicating in a written format is clearly not one of my strengths. Many senior teachers I train-while they delightfully rib me and roll their eyes at my God awful way of communicating on the net, none-the-less have widely lauded my ability to articulate and create metaphor to a learning process in a hands on environment that truly helped them. One fellow I just got off the phone with said "I just wish I knew a way to get the seminar you.... to write!!"
Can you hear his loud "Sigh??" I could!

So, we have each invested heavily in what we do. For this reason we sometimes see things with a narrow view. Perhaps for a time, the narrowing of view created something worthwhile for each. Here is hoping that understanding continues to grow.
Dan
Dan
You clearly have the ability to communicate visually and by hands on methods.....that is clear to me from the two times we have met. Writing is something I do at work and it is difficult to communicate in any group environment.......after all how do you get across what a plum tastes like if you have not shared the taste before or if you can't give them a piece to taste at the moment. One can watch another eat a plum and tell if they like it, if it is sweet or sour....things like that if you have enough experience with reading body language and the like.........still nothing beats handing someone a piece and then talking about it. The same goes for the internal work. You got to feel it to get if if you want to quick start your learning down the long road that it is. If not you may stumble on it down the line, but no guarantees.

This is no easy path....our body mind is so full of programmed responses and we don't even realize it. Today as I was walking between buildings at work I turned my head to look to the left and I rotated my upper body some as I continued to walked...... I then looked right on purpose to check and I didn't rotate the upper body...just turned my head..... The rotating of the upper body when looking left is likely a result of one of hte several injuries I have had on that side.....I didn't realize I was doing this until today. so how many other of these little bits of programing do I have that get in the way.....how many do you have?

Just go straight

Gary
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Old 01-30-2012, 02:22 PM   #3
Marc Abrams
Dojo: Aikido Arts of Shin Budo Kai/ Bedford Hills, New York
Location: New York
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Re: Investment

Dan:

You have some great "gifts":

1) precise, analytical mind.
2) willingness to go at something with 150% of available resources.
3) ability to articulate through face-to-face interactions, highly complex & subtle processes.
4) great body sensitivity.
5) Great teaching method.
6) highly evolved body skills.

It is a shame that people tend to get lost in the frankness of your message on the internet. It is easy to misconstrue what you sometimes say as insulting to other people's teachers and to other people as well. Frankness is not considered an asset in a politically correct society. People who have met you have gotten to know the person behind the words and most become friendly with you and want to continue to learn from you because you have something worthwhile to offer and you are very kind in sharing as much as you can with people. The increasing frequency to which you are requested to teach seminars and instruct high ranking Aikidoka should be clear feedback that more and more people recognize that your greater worth goes beyond your posts on this thread.

Thanks for continuing to dedicate as much time and resources as you do to our community.

In friendship,

Marc Abrams
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Old 01-30-2012, 02:31 PM   #4
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Investment

Dan,
For what it's worth, that was really beautifully put! It was because of people like Ron Tisdale (who I have never met, but whose manner and character has always seemed to shine through) that I was confident the perception often picked up online about you was wrong. The passion you have not just for training, but incredibly sincere training, is something that comes across online, but really impresses in person. I hate to think of how I come across sometimes...particularly considering my pronounced lack of experience. I'm a piss-poor student of my own chosen style, let alone Aikido in general.
At any rate, I have been trying to convince myself that at any moment I'm about to reinvest in my training...for about 10 years now. I'm a bit of a cliche at this point. Live and learn. However, I have very recently discussed this with my wife and we both agree it's time for me to invest what I can when I can, and to set aside definite blocks of time for this. Right now it's very small. Once a week beginning this week is about all we can afford, but it's an investment. Part of my present motivation comes from talking with people like yourself, and meeting you briefly reinforced certain fundemental truths about what I enjoyed in my more serious training days, so I will take this moment to say thank you for that. Only time will tell what I ultimately invest in my own training, and what the returns will be.
As for investing in Aikido, which I have made my own very small efforts at doing, I intend to do my best...and to do better at doing my best. Often this forum has served as the single thread (pun most certainly intended) keeping my mind on "Aikido." In the future I look forward to weaving something more substantial, even though it will still be relatively small I am sure.
All we can do is to keep plugging away and doing our best at doing our best to do better.
Sincerely,
Matthew

Last edited by mathewjgano : 01-30-2012 at 02:38 PM.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 01-30-2012, 03:15 PM   #5
Mark Freeman
Dojo: Dartington
Location: Devon
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Re: Investment

Quote:
Marc Abrams wrote: View Post
Dan:

You have some great "gifts":

1) precise, analytical mind.
2) willingness to go at something with 150% of available resources.
3) ability to articulate through face-to-face interactions, highly complex & subtle processes.
4) great body sensitivity.
5) Great teaching method.
6) highly evolved body skills.

It is a shame that people tend to get lost in the frankness of your message on the internet. It is easy to misconstrue what you sometimes say as insulting to other people's teachers and to other people as well. Frankness is not considered an asset in a politically correct society. People who have met you have gotten to know the person behind the words and most become friendly with you and want to continue to learn from you because you have something worthwhile to offer and you are very kind in sharing as much as you can with people. The increasing frequency to which you are requested to teach seminars and instruct high ranking Aikidoka should be clear feedback that more and more people recognize that your greater worth goes beyond your posts on this thread.

Thanks for continuing to dedicate as much time and resources as you do to our community.

In friendship,

Marc Abrams
Dan,

+1, I think is the modern etiquette?

Which is a lazy way of saying I couldn't put it better myself!

I don't always agree with everything you say about aikido and its practitioners, but if I didn't think that you have a handle on the truth, I wouldn't be looking forward so much to your next visit to these sceptred isles.

Your skill is in having a decent/proper method, which you so rightly point out may be lacking in the asian model. Us westerners want description and discussion as well as teacher show, student do, over and over and one day you might get it.

My own teacher has spent most of his life moving away from the limited japanese teaching method, to the point that we only retain Japanese for the names of the techniques (but in essence, there is no real need for that is there), for everything else we use english.

Keep up the good work, there are plenty of people wanting what you can offer. Personally my own practice and teaching is moving towards the heart of what you do. I will continue to teach what I learn and embody into myself. That is all we can do. We do as teachers though, have a duty to ourselves and to our students, to be as good as we can be. And if that means confronting our own limitations, which could easily be so, because of our own investment in a limited model, then so be it. If someone has something that can help raise your own level of skill and understanding, then why not seek it out and 'steal' it.

regards,

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 01-30-2012, 04:02 PM   #6
Stephen Nichol
Dojo: Aikilife, Canberra
Location: Canberra, ACT
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Re: Investment

Hi Dan,

Admitidly I lurk here more than post. I read everything that everyone puts down. I reflect on all of it in context to my own situation of life, budo training and what I want and need from it. I rarely feel a 'need' to reply or 'contribute' because so much of what I would offer up as something to think about has already been said by others.. although perhaps just worded differently than how I may do it myself.

That being said I am replying here to say that I have read your position on Aikido and the many posts in which you state it in to be highly valuable to myself and others like me who do read them and discuss them, just not on any internet forum. Instead we try to impliment them in our daily practice.

I have a nasty habit of writing walls of text to try and be clear in what I want to say. I read it over and try to edit it for clarity and to be as concise as possible. Sometimes it will still be a wall of text I am not certain even the most patient of us would want to read so I do not bother to post.

Some background on myself if I may, to show how I come to understand your goal and position on this matter... at least as far as I understand it to be anyway. Perhaps I am farther off base than I know. I admit there is so much I do not yet know... which is why I lurk here and read all that I can from everyone and reflect on it.

Stop reading here if you do not care. Look for the last paragraph for the end of it all.

When I started training 14 years ago I honestly had no idea about different styles of Aikido and where they came from. I just knew I had to find a Sensei and start training. Previous training in other arts like Judo, Karate, Jujitsu (Japanese Koryu, not BJJ) and even a little sport style TKD to fill in some time over a few years. My Karate and Jujitsu Sensei's said that I should look into Aikido after training with them a few years. I did not understand it at the time but after reflection of 'how they said it' I understand they saw how my body 'shape' was when doing Karate and Jujitsu and 'knew' I would be better off with Aikido when I had no idea what Aikido was.

My first attempt had me waiting to train at a Dojo in Japan near Hananomiya (southern Japan, near Kobe) however I was still young, 19 years of age and despite years of formal training with oriental instructors... I had been careless and misplaced my letter of introduction so... I had to come and watch each class and show sencerity before Sensei would consider my application. (I found out later he knew in advance I was coming however because I had failed fairly hard already by misplacing my letter of introduction I was deemed... worthy of some form of punishment, rightfully so I must admit.)

By the time I was allowed to start training however my family situation over seas put pressure on me to return home. All I had of Aikido at this point from what I had seen from over a month of watching class several times a week was that I knew I had to find another teacher. So when I got back home I looked up the first Aikido Dojo I could find and signed up and trained for several years, still without knowledge of different styles, political issues and all the other trappings of life in Aikido.

After those years went by I found my life situation changing again and I moved to a place where no Aikido was to be found and I lived there for 12 years. In some cases I would drive an hour and half to the nearest city to try and pick up my training. This proved to simply be to taxing on other areas of my life so I had to accept that my love for Aikido would have to wait for the time being.

Now I live in Australia. There is lots of Aikido here as you may be aware and I have had 12 years to do some research and learn about all those trappings of Aikido. So when I got here I went and watched various Sensei to see who 'had it' and could 'teach it' even though I knew what 'it' was, I could not put that into words as my previous Sensei who had 'it' never taught 'it'.

Feels like 'The Matrix'. No one can be told what The Matrix is, they have to experience 'it' for themselves.

Again, having a few years of experience throughout in my childhood with other martial arts, seeing Aikido in Japan (I know your thoughts on some shihan there but that notwithstanding) and finally some Aikido for a few years I had a sense of what I was looking for and what I was not looking for.

There was a moment in time before I began my training again in Australia when upon reflection I realized what I had experienced with my first teacher. He had it but he did not explain it. He would show a technique before class with one or several of the black belts. He would always demonstrate basic static Kihon, then Nagare-waza and occasionally kimusubi-waza in which the he would hardly make any contact (maybe the slightest graceful touch 'because it suited him to do so') with Uke. This was done so the lower ranks would practice Kihon and get a glimpse of the shape of things to come and understand why they had to develop their foundation and not be bored with that development.

At the end of his demonstration he would say 'Hai Dozo' and that was that.

Always two or more of the sempai would come and help us out with what they had to offer about the details, mechanics of the technique shown. However to get direct instruction from Sensei one had to have shown a great sinserity to learn. Attend every class. Train outside of class and have that reflect during class. Direct training with access to the 'Ura', 'it' and the 'secrets' was not explained to just anyone.

We would always be peeking around while *cough* 'focusing' *cough* on our Kihon at what the higher ranks were doing with the Nagare-waza version and feeling very envious I can tell you.

OK, people who wanted to skip the wall of text could probably start here again.

Now I train with a small Dojo that is growing steadily. I have been wanting to invest myself even more now that I understand what I am trying to 'connect with' inside myself and in others. My current Sensei does not keep her secrets. She shares everything openly and in great detail. She is very inspiring to me as she understands that the technique 'has to work' even you if have to adapt it. She understands so much and most importantly, she knows her own short comings and what she does not understand and needs to learn from her Senei's above her. That last part is what really makes a difference to me about her as my Sensei in that she is open, humble about being 'not sure' and 'I will ask Takeyasu Sensei (or others) next time I am in Sydney.'

My Sensei, myself and others share your goals of trying to grow Aikido
Quote:
and to make it one of the most powerful arts the world has known-just like it's founder was
and to do so in a positive, friendly, encouraging atmosphere at the Dojo. My Sensei is very particular about this as am I, in that we believe people simply learn better when 'remember to smile and have fun' in injected into the process even though practice is 'serious business'... remember to enjoy yourself.

Train with sincereity, honesty, resistence when being Uke (no giving your centre away, over extensions etc.. and proper 'attacks' with 'controlled' intent.) and explain to the newer people why these things are important and what they should be trying to take away from it, one small piece at a time.

Be open to other aspects of Aikido and learn about them and 'from' them. Guest instructors, seminars are hosted, attended towards this goal. Learn the differences but look for the similarties.. find that common ground to work from and build on.

Do not limit ourselves blindly 'just because' and equally do not have 'blind faith' about a part of Aikido 'just because', always 'honestly' question a technique's validity, purpose... your Sensei's ability to demonstrate it and your own ability to understand and learn it.

Be honest within yourself. Find the centre within yourself. Hold on to those connections.

Keep up your efforts on these forums Dan. I for one greatly appreciate them.
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Old 01-30-2012, 04:36 PM   #7
graham christian
Dojo: golden center aikido-highgate
Location: london
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Re: Investment

Dan,I totally disagree.

Ha, ha, gotcha!

No, not really. I thought it was a very well written post.

Keep up the good work.

Regards.G.
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Old 01-30-2012, 05:56 PM   #8
gregstec
Dojo: Aiki Kurabu
Location: Elizabethtown, PA
Join Date: Jun 2004
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Re: Investment

Quote:
Marc Abrams wrote: View Post
Dan:

You have some great "gifts":

1) precise, analytical mind.
2) willingness to go at something with 150% of available resources.
3) ability to articulate through face-to-face interactions, highly complex & subtle processes.
4) great body sensitivity.
5) Great teaching method.
6) highly evolved body skills.

It is a shame that people tend to get lost in the frankness of your message on the internet. It is easy to misconstrue what you sometimes say as insulting to other people's teachers and to other people as well. Frankness is not considered an asset in a politically correct society. People who have met you have gotten to know the person behind the words and most become friendly with you and want to continue to learn from you because you have something worthwhile to offer and you are very kind in sharing as much as you can with people. The increasing frequency to which you are requested to teach seminars and instruct high ranking Aikidoka should be clear feedback that more and more people recognize that your greater worth goes beyond your posts on this thread.

Thanks for continuing to dedicate as much time and resources as you do to our community.

In friendship,

Marc Abrams
Well said Marc - however, you left out he is such a handsome guy! (OK, maybe not, but I threw that out anyway to make him feel better )

Concerning investment: I do not think there is anyone that has invested more of themselves into the pursuit of aiki than Dan - we can only hope to emulate that same level of personal commitment - it has certainly paid off for him.

Concerning written communication and online personalities: well, yes, he can be extremely frank at times, but he is not malicious nor intentionally demeaning; he just calls it as he sees it. IMO, this is refreshing at times because you know exactly where you stand with him and his views - no sugar coating here; and it is honest. I understand that it is difficult for the true individual to come accross in correspondence. Recently, it has been brought to my attention that a lot of folks complained that my stuff was coming across as extremely authoritative. Well, that certainly is not my intent - the only excuse I can make it that I am ex-military and an ex-government employee where most of my correspondence from then was directive and authoritative in nature - I guess old writing styles are hard to change. Anyway, based on this feedback, I am trying to throw in as many IMO and IME as I can; because that is really where I am coming from. Truth be known, next to Phi, I am probably the most warped goofball hanging around aikiweb; just ask anyone that really knows me Point is, Dan is not really what he comes across as either in some of his posts - you just need to understand that.

Concerning the politically correct point: IMO, and IME, that term has to be the ultimate oxymoron - there is absolutely nothing correct in anything political - as you can see, there is no smiley face here and this is one of my rare serious moments - IMO, politics is a disease that is destined to doom society as we all know it.

Greg
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Old 01-31-2012, 07:28 AM   #9
Diana Frese
Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
Location: Stamford Connecticut
Join Date: Nov 2010
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Re: On Civility, Political Correctness, Honesty, and Frankness

Yikes! I can't believe I am just jumping into this thread with both feet. My own writing style is usually simple, convoluted and often awkward. Usually just some reminiscences from years ago.

But this, going back to the original post, is just a geographical point and maybe a different perspective from the subsequent comments.

Marc's teacher was teaching at the local Y here several years after my group joined with the Norwalk group, so I was the one who provided the recommendation in answer to his phone inquiry from the Yellow pages. The main road closest to us goes directly up to Bedford Hills .

Shortly after I joined Aiki Web Marc was kind enough to write a PM and invite me to a seminar he hosted. Dan also kindly invited me to where he teaches further north in CT from here. Yes I am curious but Fairfield county is expensive to live in and the building trades (which we are in) have been down for several years... so transportation is a problem, hard as it may seem for many to understand. We share with others.

I do read the discussions, when I have a chance, but want to thank Marc for his straightforward advice to all that you have to be there to know what it's about.

Yes my friends and I are interested, doing our best in daily life in the meantime, but will have to wait until we can get something together to attend... hopefully Dan will still be offering the lessons...

Thanks again Marc for your offer of hospitality at your dojo, and thanks Dan...

Marc, let me say again that that is one of the greatest concise recommendations of anyone I have ever read, it shows your talent and sincerity
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Old 01-31-2012, 07:29 AM   #10
Diana Frese
Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
Location: Stamford Connecticut
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Re: On Civility, Political Correctness, Honesty, and Frankness

jon reading posted while I was writing, so now I am going to read his post...
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Old 01-31-2012, 07:37 AM   #11
Diana Frese
Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
Location: Stamford Connecticut
Join Date: Nov 2010
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Re: On Civility, Political Correctness, Honesty, and Frankness

Me again, just to say that Cady Goldfield also gave a glowing recommendation on the threads and in a PM replying to a post of mine about my friend who lives in the town Cady grew up in. Cady had studied with Dan years ago...
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Old 01-31-2012, 11:32 AM   #12
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Investment

Thanks Dan!
I think a lot the "discomfort" that folks often feel is simply symptomatic of the fact that Aikido finds itself is a period of intense and rapid change. There are people out there who have 30, 40 , even more years in the art. Many have invested their time in mastering and later in their careers, representing or championing, a certain style or the Aikido of a particular teacher.

For many of the most senior folks, their position in the Aikido hierarchy is dependent on their on-going relationship with a given teacher. For instance, one of my good friends was a student of a certain teacher and a member of one of the major organizations. He chose at one point to leave his teacher and therefore his organization. He went from being a teacher who traveled internationally, instructing at events sponsored by his organization to teaching almost exclusively at his own dojo, independent but isolated.

Back in the day, there was very little information available about what other styles of Aikido looked like, almost no information about arts like Daito Ryu, no videos at all, no internet, etc. A small group of folks traveled to Japan and did multiple martial arts... some of these folks, teachers like Ellis Amdur or Larry Bieri were Aikido folks and a few of them have continued with at least some connection to the art throughout the years. So, if you were lucky enough to actually know one of these teachers and could train with them... you would get a take on Aikido that was quite different than you might otherwise have encountered.

Stan Pranin's three Aiki Expos for many people represented a radical shift in perspective. A whole group of very senior Aikido practitioners got to see and train with a number of other Aikido teachers from styles they might not have ever seen. In addition, they got what for many was their first exposure to a number of aikijutsu teachers from styles related to the roots of our modern day Aikido.

Couple all of that with the explosion of the internet, exchange of views on web forums, digital video, YouTube, etc and you have a level of awareness of other martial arts and other ways of doing things within Aikido that simply was impossible before. Now, combine that with the fact that you now find teachers who have been working hard on various arts or kinds of training for many decades and have attained a very high degree of mastery of what they do. These teachers are now traveling around and people have access to instruction coming from teachers with a very high level of mastery who are native speakers of the language and perhaps have different paradigms operating for what a teacher actually does than the Japanese model many of us grew up in.

The old pioneers of Aikido are retiring or passing away. Their students have to look out into the near future and ask themselves what their place in that future will be? For many folks, they have spent most of their adult lives achieving a level of expertise in a particular style of Aikido. All of a sudden, the whole notion of styles is shifting. Folks are less interested in any particular style or approach and are more inclined to pursue an eclectic approach to their training, understanding that no single teacher has it all, either technically or in his or her ability to teach what they know. This has profound implications for traditional notions of the teacher / student relationship and transmission of the styles of Aikido from specific teachers.

This can make things very uncomfortable. I have friends who trained for 25 - 30 years under a teacher, reaching a very high level of competence on his way of manifesting the art. Then, in a very short period of time, that teacher went and changed his Aikido from top to bottom. All of a sudden, these folks who were very senior and experienced in one way of doing things are now relative beginners at another. This is extremely hard for most folks.

Change is a very difficult thing to manage. Most folks don't like change. Change means an uncertain future... where will all this change take us? Most folks take the "box" approach to their training. Aikido is a "box" which they attempt to fill over time. Defining this "box" in a very limited way, as in some particular style or teacher's specific way of doing things, makes people feel very secure. It also makes them feel as if Mastery, defined by eventually filling the "box" is attainable.

What's happening now is a combination of seeing any number of teachers doing things in their Aikido that makes it clear that there is no "box" in Aikido and folks with an understanding of how "aiki" really works who are showing us that many of us were busy filling the wrong "box" entirely. For the junior folks in the art, this may be a bit confusing but it isn't terribly threatening. They don't have much of a stake in any particular approach. But for folks who have been in the art for many years, who are now teachers in their own right, and especially for these folks, have actually been quite happy with what they've been doing this change can make these folks very uncomfortable.

The solution to this that most folks take is to simply not pay any attention to what is happening outside their dojos or their organizations. But this is getting increasingly difficult to do. Their students are on the internet, they are reading the threads on Aikiweb, etc. In many cases they are going off to one or more of the seemingly infinite numbers of seminars being offered and coming back to their dojos with new ideas that challenge the assumptions operating there. I know a number of teachers who have lost students because the students started to ask for more than their own dojos were offering. They felt they had to leave in order to grow their Aikido. This is often a painful thing for both student and teacher.

My point here is that change is a process. It never happens all at once. Even when it seems to be rapid, it really is a complex mix of folks who are the cutting edge innovators, the radicals, the inventors, along with the folks who will simply follow along with whatever the current trends are, all mixed in with the folks who seriously resist change, who are the conservatives, the traditionalists, etc. Typically, the innovators look at everyone else and wonder why the hell they don't just get on board? The value of the changes taking place is self evident to them. Yet, to the Conservatives, even the need for change is not apparent. The art is fine as it is, doesn't need to be changed, and all these new fangled ideas about what it should and should not be are missing the real point.

Well, change is happening... like it or not, it is happening. Managing that process is something all of us who are in positions of influence in the art must do. We can be aggressive about how we go about the process, which is likely to cause the folks who are uncomfortable with change at all to hunker down and resist even more, or we can proceed to pursue our own Aikido in the hopes that the value of what we are doing should be self evident and folks will simply change at their own comfort levels.

I understand the issues going on here on a very personal level. I have trained under Saotome Sensei or over 35 years. I am a senior instructor in the ASU, teach at our events, visit many of the member dojos to teach, etc. But I have always cross trained, was at all three of the Aiki Expos, have been profoundly affected by teachers like Kuroda, Ushiro, Angier, Amdur, Vasiliev, Popkin and Harden Senseis. My Aikido today isn't anything like what it was ten years ago... simply in another dimension. Yet I constantly see students who, rather than really understand how and why something works, would rather be told how to do "what Sensei did on the video" i.e. the "small box" approach. A number of times over the years, I changed my direction and focus as I encountered new things to investigate. Each time I lost a few people who didn’t want to change. They were happy doing what we had been doing.

Fortunately for me, my own teachers not only do not interfere with this process, they actively support it. Ikeda Sensei himself made connections at the Aiki Expos that inspired him to change his Aikido entirely, a process that continues even now. Saotome Sensei has repeatedly gone on record saying that he is proud of the fact that his own students do not look anything like him. He actively supports the different directions his seniors have taken, even when he doesn’t quite understand them himself. I think he really is interested in where the process is taking them. So it has been relatively easy for me, if not my students, to pursue my own path within this art. Many other folks are not so lucky.

When you look at the forums, you are pretty much by definition looking at folks who are not just "hiding out" and ignoring what's happening around them. They wouldn't be ion the internet if that's what they wanted to do. But we can still see how one person's ideas about things can push the bounds a bit as to what another person wishes to absorb. Folks are clearly "stretching". I am watching as folks with very clear ideas about things are learning to deal with points of view that are different. I am watching as folks who normally take the "It's all good" approach get pushed towards better defining their thoughts about what Aikido really is. You can see right here how uncomfortable this process of change and exchange really is. But on another level, this is where it’s all happening. The folks who are willing to come up on the net on Aikiweb and hang in there with each other are the very folks engaged in defining what Aikido is and where it is headed in the future. For every person who posts, there are hundreds, if not thousands, who never post anything. The discussions are influential in ways that are hard to appreciate.

So, we go forward. I think it is important to be mindful of where we came from and how, as Takahashi Sensei always says" we are standing on the shoulders of giants." But at the same time, in our own training, as individuals on the Path, we are always at sea level, each day at a new starting point. In that sense the only issue is, are we standing still, or are we moving forward? And for each person that "forward" will be different.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 01-31-2012 at 11:38 AM.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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Old 01-31-2012, 12:12 PM   #13
Marc Abrams
Dojo: Aikido Arts of Shin Budo Kai/ Bedford Hills, New York
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Re: On Civility, Political Correctness, Honesty, and Frankness

Quote:
Diana Frese wrote: View Post
Yikes! I can't believe I am just jumping into this thread with both feet. My own writing style is usually simple, convoluted and often awkward. Usually just some reminiscences from years ago.

But this, going back to the original post, is just a geographical point and maybe a different perspective from the subsequent comments.

Marc's teacher was teaching at the local Y here several years after my group joined with the Norwalk group, so I was the one who provided the recommendation in answer to his phone inquiry from the Yellow pages. The main road closest to us goes directly up to Bedford Hills .

Shortly after I joined Aiki Web Marc was kind enough to write a PM and invite me to a seminar he hosted. Dan also kindly invited me to where he teaches further north in CT from here. Yes I am curious but Fairfield county is expensive to live in and the building trades (which we are in) have been down for several years... so transportation is a problem, hard as it may seem for many to understand. We share with others.

I do read the discussions, when I have a chance, but want to thank Marc for his straightforward advice to all that you have to be there to know what it's about.

Yes my friends and I are interested, doing our best in daily life in the meantime, but will have to wait until we can get something together to attend... hopefully Dan will still be offering the lessons...

Thanks again Marc for your offer of hospitality at your dojo, and thanks Dan...

Marc, let me say again that that is one of the greatest concise recommendations of anyone I have ever read, it shows your talent and sincerity
Diana:

I am the one forever indebted to you as a result of that phone call so many years ago. You were honest, straight-forward and very, very helpful. You helped to start me on a path that I am on and am working harder today, than when I started! My door is always open to you and anyone who mentions your name.

Cordially,

Marc Abrams
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Old 01-31-2012, 01:21 PM   #14
SeiserL
 
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Re: Investment

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Stan Pranin's three Aiki Expos for many people represented a radical shift in perspective. A whole group of very senior Aikido practitioners got to see and train with a number of other Aikido teachers from styles they might not have ever seen. In addition, they got what for many was their first exposure to a number of aikijutsu teachers from styles related to the roots of our modern day Aikido.
Yes agreed Sensei.

I was at all three too. Changed me and my Aikido.

I often think of the bell-shaped distribution curve where the majority of whatever hovers around the center as average and where the extremely good and the extremely bad flow out from there getting fewer and fewer as it goes.

Not everyone has the interest, intent, or investment to put in the effort to find those extremes of possibilities in anything or everything they do. That is their not-so-comfort zone and their right.

And some of us are invested in our curiosity and want to see how far we can go.

Looking forward to the opportunity and experience of sharing 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 01-31-2012, 02:53 PM   #15
Tyson Walters
 
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Re: Investment

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote: View Post
Yes agreed Sensei.

I was at all three too. Changed me and my Aikido.

I often think of the bell-shaped distribution curve where the majority of whatever hovers around the center as average and where the extremely good and the extremely bad flow out from there getting fewer and fewer as it goes.

Not everyone has the interest, intent, or investment to put in the effort to find those extremes of possibilities in anything or everything they do. That is their not-so-comfort zone and their right.

And some of us are invested in our curiosity and want to see how far we can go.

Looking forward to the opportunity and experience of sharing space and time.
Curiosity really is something special... I'm doing my best to nurture it and follow where it leads me.

There really are a lot of great ideas, experiences, and stories here on AikiWeb to get people thinking. I've been enjoying the process of working through them because they really are making me think about myself and my training in ways that I would not be if this resource was not available. Its nice to have access to something that can create change in that way, and its even better to have it available with such a great community that obviously has so much to offer in terms of experience and wisdom.

I know that Dans focus of this posting was directed more towards Teachers, but reading it got me thinking a little bit about what this means for the student and community of a dojo.

Investment is an interesting theme for the student of Aikido to consider, and what their involvement in Aikido actually means to them. People are complicated creatures, and come into martial arts training for many different reasons. However I think you could argue that most beginning students work through a continuum of investment training in a martial art... starting with being invested in themselves, to being invested with their Teacher and training partners, to being invested in the community, and then to being invested in the art and what it means to them on a personal level. Either way I think reflecting on the idea of investment really helps a person think more about their practice, and what it means to them.

I remember a few months ago when George posted his open letter to his students. A well written piece from my perspective, that encouraged some good conversation about the future direction of Aikido, and the students role in that. I remember reading it and walking away with ideas of what it meant to be involved with an Aikido community, and how one could be a active contributor instead of a passive learner or participant. The take home message for me in that one was to take a look at oneself and figure out how you could be invested and contribute towards the dojo and your own learning. The measure of it not important, but the idea and the shift it creates in the student being the more valuable part. Almost like the formation of a positive learning culture carried inside of the student if they embraced the ideal.

Investment I think should be balanced with perspective though... because without it you could become incredibly invested in just one direction. As is being written about quite a lot here on AikiWeb the winds of change are blowing.

I guess this brings me to think that if a student invests in the idea of change as it relates to their Aikido training is that progressive... or does it walk them down a road where they have little opportunity to gain mastery.
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Old 02-01-2012, 08:03 AM   #16
SeiserL
 
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Re: Investment

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Tyson Walters wrote: View Post
I guess this brings me to think that if a student invests in the idea of change as it relates to their Aikido training is that progressive... or does it walk them down a road where they have little opportunity to gain mastery.
IMHO, perhaps the investment in training no matter which road it goes down could be progressive. Not assessing if your investment in a specific road is bringing progression, stagnation, or regression may be unwise.

IMHO, mastery is too elusive goal. Its the process of improving/mastering at one level and moving on to the next that is an interesting curious investment.

Sometimes I meet people who are very invested in perpetuating someone else's skill level or lineage/tradition without really looking at or being invested in improving their own.

I agree. A lot on AikiWeb, even if I don't agree with, gets me thinking to find what I do agree with. I like that.

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 02-02-2012, 07:58 AM   #17
oisin bourke
 
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Re: Investment

Quote:
Dan Harden wrote: View Post
Investment
I want to be clear that I fully realize that many people are invested in a process and in teachers whom they love. Some have taken my observations of the Asian teaching process and of Aikido to a level far beyond my intent. We all know of and have felt Japanese Aikido teachers who have it and those who do not. My issues are not with the level to which they have it, but whether or not they can or will....teach it. That becomes a difficult problem in that some who have it- really and truly want to teach it- but they don't know how. They learned it, absorbed it through training, without a language or need to teach it through a Western process. This has happened in the Chinese arts as well.

It is important to understand the discussion of connection, moving from center, Internal strength and aiki is not singular to any culture or art, or to any teachers Japanese, Chinese, or otherwise. It is a broad ranging topic and issue going from India or China to Koryu to Daito ryu to Aikido. It is also important to realize that finding active ways to teach it- even within those cultures- has been difficult and inconsistent.

The process becomes muddled in determining who does and who doesn't have it, compounded by the fact that those that do, by the admission of many students, and sometimes themselves, have struggled to find a clear way to teach connection and aiki to the next generation. I think our goals -together- should be first and foremost to get it for ourselves and then secondarily to teach it to others, and in so doing to help the art. The side benefit is that it will help the senior teachers above us as well, by giving them a language and skill set to teach their stuff to their people.

There is a down side for some. There are dearly loved Japanese teachers, who just don't have it. There is nothing I can do about that. But here again, we can help them and help our fellow budo-ka, none-the-less by sharing.

My goals and the goals of those who are working with me
Is not have people leave aikido, Not lord it over others, Not to hide their training and not share. Instead it is to get people to re-invest in Aikido and to make it one of the most powerful arts the world has known-just like it's founder was. This is something we can do, regardless of age and experience.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Communicating in a written format is clearly not one of my strengths. Many senior teachers I train-while they delightfully rib me and roll their eyes at my God awful way of communicating on the net, none-the-less have widely lauded my ability to articulate and create metaphor to a learning process in a hands on environment that truly helped them. One fellow I just got off the phone with said "I just wish I knew a way to get the seminar you.... to write!!"
Can you hear his loud "Sigh??" I could!
Suffice to say that the many wonderful relationships that are being formed will hopefully give people a better feel for what I am like off-line, and what we are accomplishing together, rather than my often times too casual correspondence here. If I did not truly care, were I not so seriously invested myself in a long term plan in helping, I would not spend so much time helping Aikido teachers to eventually go on to teach this without me.

So, we have each invested heavily in what we do. For this reason we sometimes see things with a narrow view. Perhaps for a time, the narrowing of view created something worthwhile for each. Here is hoping that understanding continues to grow.
Dan
I've been thinking about writing a comment to this post for a few days now.

Nothing came out particularly well, so, I'll just keep it simple

All credit to you Dan.I realise that you didn't have to post this for any objective reason.

It certainly won't make a difference to your abilities and skills, or your practice, or the personal relationships you have formed through teaching and sharing, but, to me, it shows you are willing to engage with others who have invested in ostensibly different paths. I hope they (and I include myself) are prepared to reciprocate, for the good of the arts many of us cherish. It's a long road that we all must walk.

So, with all my respect.
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Old 02-02-2012, 09:15 PM   #18
hughrbeyer
Dojo: Shobu Aikido of Boston
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Re: Investment

"Investment" is a good word. What are we invested in? And do we respect the investment of others?

When a man (or woman) has invested years of his life in an activity I care about, he earns my respect. What level of disrespect would be implied by my pretending to be at his level when he's paid dues I haven't?

If his evaluation of my art is harsh, but it's based on his investment in the integrity of the art itself, how can I not listen? Unless I'm less invested in the art than he is. Will that be my judgment on myself?

And what am I invested in? In my status? In my tradition? In my teacher? Or in my art itself? If the last, I can't afford to be invested in my ego at all--the art comes first or not at all. I consider myself blessed to have found teachers who themselves are invested in the art, not their own position or ego.

What does it mean to be invested in the art? For me, spiritually and practically, it means to be invested in reality. Accept no substitutes. It works, or it doesn't. You get hit, or you don't. Reality is a gift--it ensures you don't keep smoking your own exhaust. As a consultant, I help my clients or I don't. If I don't, I don't eat. No room for ego there. No room for ego in budo.

Investment means: Seek the best. Stick to them like burrs. If it's uncomfortable, stick harder. And surpass them if you can.

(I, also, have been pondering a response on this thread for a few days. I found Sam Adams Double Bock to be a good... investment.)
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