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Old 11-30-2011, 04:20 AM   #1
Carl Thompson
 
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The Founder's Teaching Ability

Something I mentioned on the "Osensei Teaching at the Hombu" thread:

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Carl Thompson wrote: View Post
Was he a "great teacher" (an "Osensei") only because he provided the subject to be taught? In other words, I'm asking if he didn't understand basic teaching methods or was too crazy to stick to them. Or did he actually have some degree of pedagogical skill? In the latter case, did he deliberately choose not to use it in order to keep the goods to himself?
What do people think? Better still, can you back it up?

Carl
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Old 11-30-2011, 05:44 AM   #2
Tim Ruijs
 
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Whether or not somebody is a good teacher depends on your take on what exactly constitutes a good teacher. What works for you may not work for someone else, but that does not make the teacher any better or worse. One might argue that a teacher that is able to 'reach' many students on different levels (visual, feel, explanation) is better than one that cannot, but that is only western logic....

The more I read about this subject I start to wonder if Ueshiba did not on purpose 'neglect' to explain things. Perhaps he really felt that he cannot explain the unexplainable, if you know what I mean.

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
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Old 11-30-2011, 07:14 AM   #3
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Tim Ruijs wrote: View Post
Whether or not somebody is a good teacher depends on your take on what exactly constitutes a good teacher.
Of course, for some a "good teacher" is a teacher who lets you sleep in class.

I actually avoided the word "good" but I did refer to the founder's title of "Osensei" as "great teacher". Just to clarify, I meant it as a title, not a personal judgement on what constitutes a "good" or even a "great" teacher. Did he deserve that title because he had pedagogical skill or was it just for providing the subject to be studied?

By pedagogical skill I mean being able to successfully pass on what one has learned which can be measured to an extent, regardless of how "good" one thinks it is. If "good" must be used, let's do so for positive results.

Carl
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Old 11-30-2011, 07:37 AM   #4
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Doesn't the titel o sensei just refer to the fact the Ueshiba morihei was the top of the pyramid?
Isn't it just kind of equivalent to something like kaiso or even soke?

I never connected the term or titel o sensei to certain teching abilities?
Isn't the background in inJapanese just an academic titel which does not necessarily imply that this sensei also is a teacher of whatever?
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Old 11-30-2011, 07:44 AM   #5
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
Doesn't the titel o sensei just refer to the fact the Ueshiba morihei was the top of the pyramid?
Isn't it just kind of equivalent to something like kaiso or even soke?

I never connected the term or titel o sensei to certain teching abilities?
Isn't the background in inJapanese just an academic titel which does not necessarily imply that this sensei also is a teacher of whatever?
In relation to waka sensei maybe?
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Old 11-30-2011, 08:05 AM   #6
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Carsten Möllering wrote: View Post
Doesn't the titel o sensei just refer to the fact the Ueshiba morihei was the top of the pyramid?
Isn't it just kind of equivalent to something like kaiso or even soke?

I never connected the term or titel o sensei to certain teching abilities?
Isn't the background in inJapanese just an academic titel which does not necessarily imply that this sensei also is a teacher of whatever?
Okay was he a "kaiso" only because he provided the subject to be taught or did he also successfully teach it?
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Old 11-30-2011, 08:13 AM   #7
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Carl Thompson wrote: View Post
Of course, for some a "good teacher" is a teacher who lets you sleep in class.
No doubt about that!
Quote:
I actually avoided the word "good" but I did refer to the founder's title of "Osensei" as "great teacher". Just to clarify, I meant it as a title, not a personal judgement on what constitutes a "good" or even a "great" teacher. Did he deserve that title because he had pedagogical skill or was it just for providing the subject to be studied?

By pedagogical skill I mean being able to successfully pass on what one has learned which can be measured to an extent, regardless of how "good" one thinks it is. If "good" must be used, let's do so for positive results.
In that light I would say the title O Sensei is above Shihan and sensei. Sensei would be teacher, shihan example, so O Sensei would supersede all. Not surprisingly as he developed Aikido and is at the top.
Pedagogically speaking, as I have said may times, I am not sure. I do not him personally and cannot seem to get grip on the type of man he was (with ergard to how he felt how you should learn).
I understand he made you work hard, find out yourself and went mystical whenever he (tried?) to explain stuff. Did he really prepare lessons with set goals? I really do not know, but I doubt it.
You really cannot judge that good or bad. It works for you as a student or not: you cannot change the teacher only yourself....

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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Old 11-30-2011, 08:19 AM   #8
Chris Li
 
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Carl Thompson wrote: View Post
Something I mentioned on the "Osensei Teaching at the Hombu" thread:

What do people think? Better still, can you back it up?

Carl
There are a lot of good questions there.

The one thing that I can say for sure is that he was immensely inspiring. That we are all here talking about this today is proof of that, and that must be an important thing for any teacher.

Of course, he was quite difficult to understand, and came out of a tradition of paranoia and secrecy that probably helped exacerbate the problem. Certainly, if we look around at the actual transmission of ability and skills than there seems to something lacking.

It may be that he was so monomaniacally focused on his own training that everybody else just got left behind.

A mixed grade, to my mind...

Best,

Chris

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Old 11-30-2011, 08:32 AM   #9
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Hi Carl,
I think O'Sensei believed that the impetus was on the student to "steal" the techniques.
If this were the case it would have all sorts of implications.
On one of the Saito sensei seminar DVDs he states that O'Sensei only ever said two thngs about Morote Dori Kokyu Ho, "stand here" and "do this", for 23 years traning its not a particularly detailed explanation of what is regarded as a core technique. If certain Daito Ryu exercises were also not shown it does go some way to explain why there was a lot of trouble in stealing his techniques precisely (By this I mean the inner quality). As for the motivation?
Keith

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Old 11-30-2011, 09:40 AM   #10
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Tim Ruijs wrote: View Post
No doubt about that!

In that light I would say the title O Sensei is above Shihan and sensei. Sensei would be teacher, shihan example, so O Sensei would supersede all. Not surprisingly as he developed Aikido and is at the top.
One must not discount the fact that when there is a waka sensei in the dojo, the elder one is always refer to as O sensei.
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Old 11-30-2011, 06:30 PM   #11
Carl Thompson
 
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Thanks for the comments so far.

Quote:
Keith Gates wrote: View Post
I think O'Sensei believed that the impetus was on the student to "steal" the techniques.
If this were the case it would have all sorts of implications.
This is one often-cited thing about Osensei's teaching style that I'm interested in. Stealing technique or skills is of course not unique to aikido or even martial arts in Japan. A traditional carpenter who takes on an apprentice won't necessarily explain every detail but will rather just let the apprentice help him out and perhaps even deliberately withhold a few secrets to keep on top. The onus is on the student to actively learn in a "teacher-centred" approach. The thing is, in all these other professions, people do actually learn what to do. Also at some points it seems the founder did give explanations regarding technique (the kuden for example).

The "stealing" aspect seems to have two functions:
  1. Produces active learners. In martial arts in particular, fostering the ability to learn what an opponent is doing quickly seems like a good idea to me.
  2. Regulation. The teacher doesn't give everything away and furthermore, can make students focus on things stage-by-stage rather than jumping ahead and missing out something important.

Another thing is, did Osensei learn this way from Takeda? This man was reputed to be even more paranoid than Osensei. If stealing is the "problem" then surely the problem of transmission should be repeated in Takeda's other students too?
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Old 11-30-2011, 08:52 PM   #12
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

It is well know that O sensei saw himself as a shaman. If you study the phenomenon of shamanism, it is fairly common study as an apprentice for 20 years or more. It can be death or life activity,sometimes if shaman is not able to fulfill his duty, tribe simply kills him.

I'm pretty sure that the way of teaching such stuff has nothing to do with our western image of a school teacher.

Last edited by NagaBaba : 11-30-2011 at 08:55 PM.

Nagababa

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Old 11-30-2011, 09:27 PM   #13
graham christian
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote: View Post
It is well know that O sensei saw himself as a shaman. If you study the phenomenon of shamanism, it is fairly common study as an apprentice for 20 years or more. It can be death or life activity,sometimes if shaman is not able to fulfill his duty, tribe simply kills him.

I'm pretty sure that the way of teaching such stuff has nothing to do with our western image of a school teacher.
Well put.

Regards.G.
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Old 11-30-2011, 09:53 PM   #14
graham christian
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Carl, I would say he was O'Sensei (great teacher) for many reasons. He was the founder, a new leader of a new art, admired by others of other arts, a phenomenon in himself, adnired and respected on a government level, almost deified on a shinto (omoto) level, afforded the honour of national treasure on a government and nation level, attracting great interest on a worldwide level, etc.etc.

As to teaching? When you look at him as a great keeper of national tradition and culture and identity despite Americas attempts to change it then you will have to notice that there was culturally and historically a way of teaching such martial disciplines. As quoted here many times, not spoon feeding.

He thus taught as was traditional for masters to teach and as students of such expected. Part of that way was teaching extra to maybe uchideshi or those 'behind closed doors'.

Westerners not used to this get all suspicious and talk about holding back and not giving the real goods.

Thus he taught as all great teachers in the field had taught before, with his own flava of course, ha, ha.

The benefits of this way are probably totally missed by the western mind, or indeed other types of mind. Maybe a great teacher knows something and that something is he isn't a babysitter.

Good students will follow him. Other students will admire but question him. Great students will understand him.

Regards.G.
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Old 12-01-2011, 12:59 AM   #15
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
As to teaching? When you look at him as a great keeper of national tradition and culture and identity despite Americas attempts to change it then you will have to notice that there was culturally and historically a way of teaching such martial disciplines.
Culturally and historically, most martial disciplines were taught only to a select few -- a particular lord's retainers, for instance -- and lives depended on making sure that students actually did learn what they were being taught. I wouldn't call it "spoon feeding," but there was a step-by-step pedagogy by which people could learn what they needed to learn to advance in the art. It might take a lifetime to achieve "mastery", but a school that couldn't produce competent swordsmen in a much shorter period probably wouldn't last very long.

Katherine

Last edited by kewms : 12-01-2011 at 01:01 AM.
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Old 12-01-2011, 02:22 AM   #16
Tim Ruijs
 
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
David Yap wrote: View Post
One must not discount the fact that when there is a waka sensei in the dojo, the elder one is always refer to as O sensei.
So it is a (relational) title used by others...like shihan?

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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Old 12-01-2011, 03:03 AM   #17
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

My teacher always says:
please do copy me and thus show me you do not understand.
you must steal my technique to understand.
So first you learn to become a good thief!

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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Old 12-01-2011, 03:21 AM   #18
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Tim Ruijs wrote: View Post
So it is a (relational) title used by others...like shihan?
Relational as in "kinship"? What has that got to do with Shihan which is a honorific title.

May I direct you to this thread:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6176
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Old 12-01-2011, 04:31 AM   #19
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
David Yap wrote: View Post
Relational as in "kinship"? What has that got to do with Shihan which is a honorific title.
Not kinship. In Japan the relationship one has with another person is important. I understand that someone cannot say to be shihan: others refer to you as such.
From the thread you referred to I understand (accoring to Jun) that the O means grand, not older.

Quote:
If you look at Morihei Ueshiba's kyoju dairi certificate you will see that it's signed "Takeda Sokaku Dai-Sensei". The "dai" is the same kanji used by Kisshomaru Ueshiba for the "O" in "O-Sensei", but with a different reading.
To me this makes sense: sensei (teacher: self proclaimed), shihan (example:according to others), O Sensei (grandmaster: according to others)

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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Old 12-01-2011, 09:19 AM   #20
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
Carl, I would say he was O'Sensei (great teacher) for many reasons. He was the founder, a new leader of a new art, admired by others of other arts, a phenomenon in himself, adnired and respected on a government level, almost deified on a shinto (omoto) level, afforded the honour of national treasure on a government and nation level, attracting great interest on a worldwide level, etc.etc.
Now you're mentioning it, he was really awarded with this.

Put this Order of the Sacred Treasure in proper context and tell me what you think.

Last edited by Demetrio Cereijo : 12-01-2011 at 09:27 AM.

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Old 12-01-2011, 10:35 AM   #21
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Tim Ruijs wrote: View Post
Not kinship. In Japan the relationship one has with another person is important. I understand that someone cannot say to be shihan: others refer to you as such.
From the thread you referred to I understand (accoring to Jun) that the O means grand, not older.

To me this makes sense: sensei (teacher: self proclaimed), shihan (example:according to others), O Sensei (grandmaster: according to others)
Not really, not when 大 is used. 大 as in big or elder. This is what I get from Google Translate for "Great Teacher" 偉大な教師

Last edited by David Yap : 12-01-2011 at 10:42 AM.
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Old 12-01-2011, 11:55 AM   #22
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Morihei Ueshiba is referred to in Japanese as "O-sensei" in a couple of different ways (from more common to less): 「大先生」and 「翁先生」.「大」, in this case, means "big," "grand," or "great." I don't know of a context in which that character would mean "elder." 「翁」 (also read as "okina") means "old," "revered," or "venerable."

He is also sometimes (not commonly) referred to as「老先生」 (which I would pronounce as "rou sensei"). 「老」 basically means "old."

He is also very commonly referred to as 「開祖」 which basically means "founder."

-- Jun

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Old 12-01-2011, 12:02 PM   #23
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

While I believe that Osensei was obviously a great visionary, I don't think he was a good teacher, particularly when it came to transmitting to his students how the physical principles of his art aligned with the spiritual principles.

In the book of interviews of living students who trained under the direct guidance of the founder edited by Susan Perry called "Remembering Osensei" (not to be confused with the biographical article of the same title by Fukiko Sunadomari) I noted a common reflection that could be paraphrased as: "We could all do everything Osensei was doing physically, but it never felt the same when anyone else threw you than it did when you were thrown by Osensei."

I imagine that this is because when Osensei made his shift from martial artist with the intention of killing to the intention of resolving conflict in a way that manifests "loving protection" there was no shift in the way he taught. Therefore he was teaching what he later called a spiritual art the same way he taught martial art.

The tradition of teaching through technique emulation is problematic at its core when one is ultimately desirous of practicing the highest level of aikido, that is take musu aiki, or the spontaneously manifesting aiki in which partners are truly joined and together reflect the workings of the universe rather than nage imposing something on his partner.

In our dojo, practice beyond the most basic beginning level is always from random attacks, so students never know what kind of attack will be coming from their partner. Since rejecting the technique emulation model and adapting a model that stresses an understanding of the spiritual nature of attack, I have seen my beginning and intermediate students perform aikido at dan levels from unprescribed attacks - including demonstrating classic aikido forms they were never taught or even shown. That is not to say that there are never any attempts by students to use the physical force or leverage advantages provided by body mechanics that come into play during an aiki interchange, but those attempts are quickly seen to be futile in attaining the ideal expressed by the Founder.

While all paths may lead to take musu aiki, are there routes that are shorter than the one offered in Osensei's dojo? I think so... and wasn't it Osensei's edict that we all continue to find the deeper levels of aikido that he himself did not live long enough to uncover?
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Old 12-01-2011, 12:03 PM   #24
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Jun Akiyama wrote: View Post
Morihei Ueshiba is referred to in Japanese as "O-sensei" in a couple of different ways (from more common to less): 「大先生」and 「翁先生」.「大」, in this case, means "big," "grand," or "great." I don't know of a context in which that character would mean "elder." 「翁」 (also read as "okina") means "old," "revered," or "venerable."

He is also sometimes (not commonly) referred to as「老先生」 (which I would pronounce as "rou sensei"). 「老」 basically means "old."

He is also very commonly referred to as 「開祖」 which basically means "founder."

-- Jun
Gozo Shioda often used "old" 「老」 - most of the time that Kisshomaru wrote it he used 「大」, which is the same character used by Sokaku Takeda (but pronounced "Dai-Sensei").

"O-Sensei" is actually not all that uncommon in Japan, sometimes even just referring to the main instructor in a group of instructors - but it can be kind of jarring for US Aikido students to hear.

My personal theory is that the whole thing started when a reporter interviewing Ueshiba was called "Sensei" by Ueshiba and then replied "Well, if you call me sensei than I will have to call you O-Sensei". But that's just my hunch.

Best,

Chris

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Old 12-01-2011, 12:11 PM   #25
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Re: The Founder's Teaching Ability

Quote:
Corky Quakenbush wrote: View Post
The tradition of teaching through technique emulation is problematic at its core when one is ultimately desirous of practicing the highest level of aikido, that is take musu aiki, or the spontaneously manifesting aiki in which partners are truly joined and together reflect the workings of the universe rather than nage imposing something on his partner.
This teaching approach also doesn't scale. How on earth is anyone supposed to learn the subtle movements inherent in high level aikido when their hands-on contact with a top level instructor is measured in minutes or even seconds? If Ueshiba Sensei's direct students had trouble reaching his level, and the direct students of the uchi-deshi had trouble figuring out what their teachers were doing, what hope is there for those of us who are three or four steps away from the Founder?

Katherine
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