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Old 06-21-2012, 11:17 AM   #51
Andy Kazama
 
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

To reverse-engineer this somewhat…From what I have experienced as a student, the best classes have had a logical within-class progression (e.g. going from footwork all the way up to advanced timing and distance). The top level instructors can push the progression to a very advanced level – AND get their students to at least temporarily perform at that high level. In my opinion, the kicker is that some (but not all) of the advanced aikido technicians have difficulty teaching the complete progression and lose students in the process because they have skipped teaching the more basic/intermediate steps. So, in these cases rank does not equal teaching ability.
As far as I am aware, “certification”, typically does not reflect teaching ability, but rather technical ability. (Even in Systema, yes?) I think a formal teaching credential is great so long as one can provide evidence that those instructors are in fact creating better practitioners. Personally, I really like the Federation of Fly Fishers Casting Instructor Program as a model. In this multi-level system, you have to take a year-long casting instructor course, demonstrate technical proficiency on advanced casting, AND be able to demonstrate common mistakes that fly casters make (recreating them, and showing several ways to correct). Obviously, the main caveat is that fly fishing is more concerned with functionality (do my flies catch fish). For better or worse, aikido as a whole tends to argue about how to define “functionality”, so a certification program such as the FFF would likely be limited to an organization.

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Old 06-21-2012, 12:03 PM   #52
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
Hi Chuck,

Anyway, were I to do my own thing... I would do two things. First, I would do what the Systema folks do. You want to have a certified "study group" at your dojo, fine. They'll put you up on the website. Then, they need to see you. You need to have the senior folks to your dojo and you need to show up in Toronto or around the country for training with Vlad or Michael. Your status as an "approved" instructor needs to be re-certified YEARLY. They don't see you actively training and getting better, they take you off the website!

Second, I would not only fail students testing who do not measure up to a standard, but if and when someone failed a test, I would make it clear that it was a failure of his or her teacher, not a failure of the student. I can guarantee that if, for instance, a student showed up for a Shodan test and he or she failed because their sword work was incompetent, and the teacher was chewed out for allowing someone to show up for a test looking that bad, you'd have a whole bunch of instructors falling all over themselves to get better at those skills themselves. Right now one encounters teachers who will actually admit they are not comfortable with whole portions of the curriculum which they are responsible for teaching yet they do nothing to solve the issue. They don't show up at camps, they don't invite teachers that are expert in these problem areas, they just show up each year at those events they do attend, if any, and look just the same each year. Then, predictably, their students look mediocre, at best, when they test.

I think a system of teacher certification and dojo certification would be the way to go. A dojo that was run by non-certified teacher would be a designated as being provisionally affiliated. Then, when the Chief Instructor received his or her teacher certification, the dojo would receive full membership certification. As far as I am concerned, part of the requirements for full teacher certification would be having a couple of students do their Shodan tests at a solid level.

Anyway, that's how I'd do it if I was doing my own thing... but I suspect that if I did something like that, I'd have a very small organization with a small number of excellent people. I do not think it likely that very many people would want to step up and meet such standards when they could affiliate with other groups that didn't have these requirements or go independent where no one would tell you what to do. I admire the fact that the Systema folks are attempting to do this. They already have a problem with folks not meeting their standards, being de-certified as approved study groups but continuing to teach some watered down version of their interpretation of what they learned in their brief exposure to the senior teachers. They get taken off the website but, short of visiting these schools and challenging these bogus teachers, there isn't much that anyone can do about these folks. Aikido is full of folks just like this who run dojos but do not do anything to increase their skills, do not get out and train and who, if pushed on the issue, would simply go independent so they could continue to do their own thing without interference.
What my federation, the USAF, has put into place in the last few years goes somewhat in this direction in that the teaching certificates are renewd yearly and you are required to show up to seminars taught by the shihans of the technical comittee. There is no dojo certification, but a dojo without a certified instructor is not authorized to grade it's own students, even for the lowest kyu grades.

The real test though will be quality control. Will those in charge be willing to deny the certificate to people they judge unworthy or to take it away from those that do not live up the commitments. There is no way of doing this without pissing people off and making a stink. I've seen people get failed for horrible dan tests complain how it was all politics, that they only failed because they didn't go to the "right" seminars (i.e. those taught by the shihans on the testing panel).

Jonathan Olson
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Old 06-21-2012, 12:59 PM   #53
RED
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

Quote:
Jonathan Olson wrote: View Post
What my federation, the USAF, has put into place in the last few years goes somewhat in this direction in that the teaching certificates are renewd yearly and you are required to show up to seminars taught by the shihans of the technical comittee. There is no dojo certification, but a dojo without a certified instructor is not authorized to grade it's own students, even for the lowest kyu grades.

The real test though will be quality control. Will those in charge be willing to deny the certificate to people they judge unworthy or to take it away from those that do not live up the commitments. There is no way of doing this without pissing people off and making a stink. I've seen people get failed for horrible dan tests complain how it was all politics, that they only failed because they didn't go to the "right" seminars (i.e. those taught by the shihan on the testing panel).
Yamada Sensei from what I've seen doesn't fail people easily and gives a lot of consideration to many different things when testing people. When he does have to fail some one it definitely is very disappointing for him. So for people to say it is politics are being very disrespectful. When Yamada Sensei has to fail some one it is definitely upsetting his evening... at least from what I've seen. And the Sensei's of failing students definitely hear about it.
As for the Technical committee... where Yamada Sensei runs a 10 minute Dan test, I've been seeing a trend of the Technical committee running 25-45 minute test these past few years.
The shihan are the ones who've received full transmission in the art. I think it is a good move to require fukishidoin and shidoin to attend regular instruction from their shihan to maintain their instructor's rank. It is good for all Aikidoka in my opinion to get out there and see the broader world of Aikido in general. Sometimes you can spend so much time in your own little dojo that you start to believe your own hype, and you forget there are giants out there. A reality check is important for all Aikidoka from time to time in my opinion. I think the USAF understands this, so much so officially 1st kyu and higher are also required to attend these seminars if they plan on gaining rank.
Also I've seen lately these instructor's classes Yamada Sensei has been holding at seminars.. Teachers only. I sat in to watch a few. He's become very strict on what he expects people to be teaching at their dojo. And very strict on what he expects students to look like when they come up to test for a dan test. I think this is a very good step.

Last edited by RED : 06-21-2012 at 01:08 PM.

MM
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Old 06-21-2012, 07:13 PM   #54
Chuck Clark
 
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

Quote:
Andy Kazama wrote: View Post
... Personally, I really like the Federation of Fly Fishers Casting Instructor Program as a model. In this multi-level system, you have to take a year-long casting instructor course, demonstrate technical proficiency on advanced casting, AND be able to demonstrate common mistakes that fly casters make (recreating them, and showing several ways to correct). Obviously, the main caveat is that fly fishing is more concerned with functionality (do my flies catch fish). For better or worse, aikido as a whole tends to argue about how to define “functionality”, so a certification program such as the FFF would likely be limited to an organization.
As a long-time fly-fisherman, Andy, this makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. My relatively small group, being independent for the past 28+ years, really has no problem to speak of defining and recognizing functionality. As George Ledyard said, "Anyway, that's how I'd do it if I was doing my own thing... but I suspect that if I did something like that, I'd have a very small organization with a small number of excellent people. I do not think it likely that very many people would want to step up and meet such standards when they could affiliate with other groups that didn't have these requirements or go independent where no one would tell you what to do." ... this pretty closely matches what I did almost 30 years ago now and we have a very close group of dojo spread over the U.S. and one small group possibly starting up soon in Japan.

We have been looking at putting together a simple but well defined system of instruction, testing, and maintaining skills for our instructors and teachers. Lots of good info in this thread to ponder...

Looking forward to more information from those contributing to this thread. Thanks again to all.

Chuck Clark
Jiyushinkai Aikibudo
www.jiyushinkai.org
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Old 06-21-2012, 09:29 PM   #55
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
Yamada Sensei from what I've seen doesn't fail people easily and gives a lot of consideration to many different things when testing people. When he does have to fail some one it definitely is very disappointing for him. So for people to say it is politics are being very disrespectful. When Yamada Sensei has to fail some one it is definitely upsetting his evening... at least from what I've seen. And the Sensei's of failing students definitely hear about it.
This is sort of the problem. I've watched Yamada pass a group of tests and then give a 5 minute speach on how he was being generous, and how his own student embarassed him. Would you want to get your grade under such conditions. I'd rather fail and do it over right.

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
As for the Technical committee... where Yamada Sensei runs a 10 minute Dan test, I've been seeing a trend of the Technical committee running 25-45 minute test these past few years.
The shihan are the ones who've received full transmission in the art. I think it is a good move to require fukishidoin and shidoin to attend regular instruction from their shihan to maintain their instructor's rank. It is good for all Aikidoka in my opinion to get out there and see the broader world of Aikido in general. Sometimes you can spend so much time in your own little dojo that you start to believe your own hype, and you forget there are giants out there. A reality check is important for all Aikidoka from time to time in my opinion. I think the USAF understands this, so much so officially 1st kyu and higher are also required to attend these seminars if they plan on gaining rank.
I tested for shodan at one of the first big seminars where there was a panel of shihan from the technical committee (Yamada, Berthiaume, Waite and Bernath). More than half failed (including the guys I had mentioned in my previous post. They hadn't reaqlized that I had passed at the same seminar when they made their comments, until I told them). Standards seem to have been tightened, but my impression is that they seem to vary somewhat from seminar to seminar.

As far as seminar attendance is concerned, you don't have to convince me. I've more than met the seminar requirements for instructors every year I have trained, even as an unranked beginner thirteen years ago. However, I'm not a certified instructor and for the moment there is no need since we have two senior shidoin at our dojo, but I do think about all this now that I meet the minimum requirements for fukushidoin, including having had a regular class to teach on our schedule all of last year.

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
Also I've seen lately these instructor's classes Yamada Sensei has been holding at seminars.. Teachers only. I sat in to watch a few. He's become very strict on what he expects people to be teaching at their dojo. And very strict on what he expects students to look like when they come up to test for a dan test. I think this is a very good step.
The official big seminar with Yamada that I go to is the May seminar in Montreal and I haven't seen any mention of an instructor class there. I've been kind of curious as to what is taught. Please give details if you can.

Jonathan Olson
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:05 PM   #56
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

Quote:
Jonathan Olson wrote: View Post
This is sort of the problem. I've watched Yamada pass a group of tests and then give a 5 minute speach on how he was being generous, and how his own student embarassed him. Would you want to get your grade under such conditions. I'd rather fail and do it over right.

I tested for shodan at one of the first big seminars where there was a panel of shihan from the technical committee (Yamada, Berthiaume, Waite and Bernath). More than half failed (including the guys I had mentioned in my previous post. They hadn't reaqlized that I had passed at the same seminar when they made their comments, until I told them). Standards seem to have been tightened, but my impression is that they seem to vary somewhat from seminar to seminar.

As far as seminar attendance is concerned, you don't have to convince me. I've more than met the seminar requirements for instructors every year I have trained, even as an unranked beginner thirteen years ago. However, I'm not a certified instructor and for the moment there is no need since we have two senior shidoin at our dojo, but I do think about all this now that I meet the minimum requirements for fukushidoin, including having had a regular class to teach on our schedule all of last year.

The official big seminar with Yamada that I go to is the May seminar in Montreal and I haven't seen any mention of an instructor class there. I've been kind of curious as to what is taught. Please give details if you can.
Yamada Sensei is a generous man in my opinion. I saw a group of testers he out rightly failed. It sort of pained him to do so. You can read the disappointment.

The instructor's classes I watched were pin pointing it seemed a lot of pet peeves that Yamada Sensei seemed to have with black belt exams. He discussed attitudes about training. He covered a lot of finer points to techniques. He had Donovan Waite Sensei demonstrate a technique for the class in one of these classes, then proceeded to correct Waite sensei's technique in front of the class. Was sort of priceless. No one is beyond correction. I hope he does do a lot more of these classes. They were very inspiring to watch.

MM
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Old 06-21-2012, 10:59 PM   #57
PeterR
 
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

The attending seminar requirement has been mentioned several times along with the supposition that Shihan have the full transmission. Not sure I can agree with that last point - or maybe that it is not a given.

Attending a certain number of seminars by itself is only useful in that it keeps a connection and as your rank (ability?) increases helps provide an example for the other attendees making the Shihan's job easier.

The aikido equivalent of the "Master Class" where attendance is limited to a certain dan grade on up and the intention is to teach what normally gets lost when teaching a mass seminar. How to teach should not be part of this at all.

Instructor seminar - dedicated to instruction and defining what the standard is.

Too often all three types are mixed (ie. general seminar, advanced techniques, instructional) with the end result being the latter two less useful than they could be.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 06-22-2012, 12:14 AM   #58
Andy Kazama
 
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

Rehse Sensei, I agree that it may be difficult for instructors to dissociate advanced techniques, from pedagogy. However, I think many of us are concerned with transmission due to issues like keeping training/work/family balance (Our current dojo model is: happy wife, happy life). Thus, many are limited in the number of seminars they are able to attend. However, I actually really like the idea of a strictly pedagogy-themed seminar. This seminar could be for those who occasionally are forced to lead class, even though they may not have advanced technical skill (I’m speaking of myself here…). The content would be limited to teaching strong basics, and how to create a solid class outline (e.g. defining within-class goals; structuring an entire class that will result in students reaching that goal). How many people do you know who have taken a chemistry class, taught by a professor who – despite being a fantastic chemist, can’t explain what a mole is? Believe me, there are plenty out there. These instructors exist in aikido, too. Teaching is an art.

One really useful tool Emory University implements for all of its instructors is video analysis. I think aikido instructors could greatly benefit from not only watching themselves teach, but receiving constructive feedback on their teaching. Master instructors like Clark Sensei would then be able to view a class and give honest feedback. We do this in our dojo off and on, mainly for the purposes of analyzing one’s own technique, and I can say that once I got past the realization that I am much slower in “real life” than I am in my own head, it was a highly useful tool! I don’t think we need to come up with anything highly original for Aikido, just apply already proven pedagogical principles. Thank you all for an interesting thread! I look forward to hearing other’s ideas.

Aikido South
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The basic fundamentals, refined to perfection, are your most advanced techniques.
-Bill Koll (1923-2003)
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Old 06-22-2012, 12:32 AM   #59
Andy Kazama
 
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

Clark Sensei, just to clarify - I do not mean that individual organizations have difficulty defining functionality or that there is not cross-over from one organization to the next. Rather, the branches of aikido are spread so wide that for some, functional means aligning your ki to better one’s health; for others it may be disarming an attacker. To briefly go back to fly fishing, imagine going to a website to hire a guide only to find that there is not one single picture of said guide (or clients) holding a fish in his/her hand? With nothing so tangible as a large rainbow, aikido is going to have a difficult time with generalized certification. As an aside, everyone I have talked to that is familiar with your art says it is amazing. I hope to experience it one day.

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Old 06-22-2012, 12:12 PM   #60
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

Quote:
Andy Kazama wrote: View Post
Clark Sensei, just to clarify - I do not mean that individual organizations have difficulty defining functionality or that there is not cross-over from one organization to the next. Rather, the branches of aikido are spread so wide that for some, functional means aligning your ki to better one’s health; for others it may be disarming an attacker. To briefly go back to fly fishing, imagine going to a website to hire a guide only to find that there is not one single picture of said guide (or clients) holding a fish in his/her hand? With nothing so tangible as a large rainbow, aikido is going to have a difficult time with generalized certification. As an aside, everyone I have talked to that is familiar with your art says it is amazing. I hope to experience it one day.
There was a time when, if you had a dojo, you had to be able to handle yourself with anyone who came through the front door. Those days are long gone... probably for the better but it creates problems.

Often a given organization or teacher has standards that are really about passing on a certain physical form or style. As I have stated elsewhere, Aikido as an art, has developed a kind of ukemi which is designed to make their teacher's technique work. So, when you see even an excellent test, you are still seeing application of technique against attacks that are designed for that those techniques to work. This is fine and even necessary for testing. But a solid transmission of basic skills has very little to do with the ability to apply technique outside of the Aikido paradigm.

Arts with competition solve some of this issue. For instance, my wife Genie is a former national champion fencer. She finds the lack of real verification of skills in Aikido to be quite frustrating. In fencing, it didn't matter that her teacher, who was a French fencing master, bemoaned the Russian reworking of the art and loss of style he loved. In competition it was simple. If you depressed the little switch on the tip of your epee by striking your opponent before the other guy did, then you scored. If you did that more times than the other guy, you won your match. Period. Folks who wanted to pretend to be better than they really are had to stay away from competition because their technical deficiencies become instantly obvious because they can't score.

Now I am not saying that we should institute a system with competition in Aikido generally. As in Western fencing, Judo, or Tae Kwon Do you can see a loss of form in favor of the tricks that can score based on how the rules shape what works and does not work in competition. The form of Aikido is important, in fact it is precisely the form of Aikido that makes it Aikido and not just Aiki. You can see how someone like Dan Harden, whose "aiki" is at a very high level, moves and manifests his technique. His focus is very much on what works, and works against opponents who might be from any given style of martial art. So his "aiki" doesn't have the form that would make it Aiki-do.

Because everyone seems to agree that various factors contribute to ones suitability for promotion and even to teach, it is simply a fact that the vast majority of Aikido dojos are not run by folks who could fare very well if a practitioner of another art such as karate, judo, kung fu, or whatever came through the door and offered a challenge. Most of the folks I know excuse this lack of practical ability, if they are willing to admit it, by saying that Aikido isn't about fighting. I think one is hearing just that, an "excuse". But I do not see the art doing an "about face" and focusing on martial application. So, when I teach, I am focusing on trying to make our ukemi better. I point out those things that Aikido ukes routinely do that no one in any other martial art would ever do. I try to insist that the uke be aware of and point out to nage where the "openings" are in his or her technique. We stay within the Aikido form paradigm but try not to lose an awareness of the larger body of knowledge that exists cross martially. I think that any hope for getting better quality Aikido requires that we completely redo our Aikido ukemi. We need better striking, we need to understand the function of grabbing, we need to insist that our ukes strike us anywhere in a technique where we are open.

What I am talking about is "pan-style". I care not a wit for ones foot position or the particulars of the hand grip on a kotegaeshi. What I do care about is the ability of the practitioner to do a particular kotegaeshi without uke being able to knock them cold with his off hand before or even during the throw. Ukes have not been trained to look for that opening... the result has been a group of practitioners at all levels, even instructors, whose technique is totally open for counter strike. Most folks practicing do not have a precise idea what the lines of force or the lines of attack are in their kihon waza. The ukes have been taught to take the ukemi. not to perceive and exploit the openings in the partner's technique.

I think if we can change the ukemi paradigm, we can start making Aikido martially more effective without losing the form that makes it Aikido or the form that makes a certain teacher's Aikido specific to that teacher. Testing would then be what it should be, namely a demonstration of mastery of the form but, because daily training was done differently, the form would have content. That's the issue we have now and testing isn't the place to fix it... we have form without content. This has nothing to do with any style or organization. There is no group I have seen that is immune to this issue. It is largely left to the individual teacher as to whether he or she thinks this is an important issue to resolve or even that it is an issue.

And it is up to the students to decide if it is important to them and look for teachers who are capable and not settle for the wishful thinking that currently exists on an endemic level.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 06-22-2012 at 12:16 PM.

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Old 06-22-2012, 12:28 PM   #61
Conrad Gus
 
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
There was a time when, if you had a dojo, you had to be able to handle yourself with anyone who came through the front door. Those days are long gone... probably for the better but it creates problems.

Often a given organization or teacher has standards that are really about passing on a certain physical form or style. As I have stated elsewhere, Aikido as an art, has developed a kind of ukemi which is designed to make their teacher's technique work. So, when you see even an excellent test, you are still seeing application of technique against attacks that are designed for that those techniques to work. This is fine and even necessary for testing. But a solid transmission of basic skills has very little to do with the ability to apply technique outside of the Aikido paradigm.

Arts with competition solve some of this issue. For instance, my wife Genie is a former national champion fencer. She finds the lack of real verification of skills in Aikido to be quite frustrating. In fencing, it didn't matter that her teacher, who was a French fencing master, bemoaned the Russian reworking of the art and loss of style he loved. In competition it was simple. If you depressed the little switch on the tip of your epee by striking your opponent before the other guy did, then you scored. If you did that more times than the other guy, you won your match. Period. Folks who wanted to pretend to be better than they really are had to stay away from competition because their technical deficiencies become instantly obvious because they can't score.

Now I am not saying that we should institute a system with competition in Aikido generally. As in Western fencing, Judo, or Tae Kwon Do you can see a loss of form in favor of the tricks that can score based on how the rules shape what works and does not work in competition. The form of Aikido is important, in fact it is precisely the form of Aikido that makes it Aikido and not just Aiki. You can see how someone like Dan Harden, whose "aiki" is at a very high level, moves and manifests his technique. His focus is very much on what works, and works against opponents who might be from any given style of martial art. So his "aiki" doesn't have the form that would make it Aiki-do.

Because everyone seems to agree that various factors contribute to ones suitability for promotion and even to teach, it is simply a fact that the vast majority of Aikido dojos are not run by folks who could fare very well if a practitioner of another art such as karate, judo, kung fu, or whatever came through the door and offered a challenge. Most of the folks I know excuse this lack of practical ability, if they are willing to admit it, by saying that Aikido isn't about fighting. I think one is hearing just that, an "excuse". But I do not see the art doing an "about face" and focusing on martial application. So, when I teach, I am focusing on trying to make our ukemi better. I point out those things that Aikido ukes routinely do that no one in any other martial art would ever do. I try to insist that the uke be aware of and point out to nage where the "openings" are in his or her technique. We stay within the Aikido form paradigm but try not to lose an awareness of the larger body of knowledge that exists cross martially. I think that any hope for getting better quality Aikido requires that we completely redo our Aikido ukemi. We need better striking, we need to understand the function of grabbing, we need to insist that our ukes strike us anywhere in a technique where we are open.

What I am talking about is "pan-style". I care not a wit for ones foot position or the particulars of the hand grip on a kotegaeshi. What I do care about is the ability of the practitioner to do a particular kotegaeshi without uke being able to knock them cold with his off hand before or even during the throw. Ukes have not been trained to look for that opening... the result has been a group of practitioners at all levels, even instructors, whose technique is totally open for counter strike. Most folks practicing do not have a precise idea what the lines of force or the lines of attack are in their kihon waza. The ukes have been taught to take the ukemi. not to perceive and exploit the openings in the partner's technique.

I think if we can change the ukemi paradigm, we can start making Aikido martially more effective without losing the form that makes it Aikido or the form that makes a certain teacher's Aikido specific to that teacher. Testing would then be what it should be, namely a demonstration of mastery of the form but, because daily training was done differently, the form would have content. That's the issue we have now and testing isn't the place to fix it... we have form without content. This has nothing to do with any style or organization. There is no group I have seen that is immune to this issue. It is largely left to the individual teacher as to whether he or she thinks this is an important issue to resolve or even that it is an issue.

And it is up to the students to decide if it is important to them and look for teachers who are capable and not settle for the wishful thinking that currently exists on an endemic level.
I like the way you describe good ukemi training, but I think you might be over-generalizing when you say most people don't train that way. It doesn't sound different from the way I am used to being taught ukemi.

That's just my personal experience.
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Old 06-22-2012, 02:22 PM   #62
Andy Kazama
 
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

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George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
There was a time when, if you had a dojo, you had to be able to handle yourself with anyone who came through the front door. Those days are long gone... probably for the better but it creates problems.

Often a given organization or teacher has standards that are really about passing on a certain physical form or style. As I have stated elsewhere, Aikido as an art, has developed a kind of ukemi which is designed to make their teacher's technique work. So, when you see even an excellent test, you are still seeing application of technique against attacks that are designed for that those techniques to work. This is fine and even necessary for testing. But a solid transmission of basic skills has very little to do with the ability to apply technique outside of the Aikido paradigm.
I wholeheartedly agree. If you watch judo exams, you will notice beautiful effortless throws with uke whose sole purpose is to make the throw look outstanding. Collusion at its finest! However, unless you watch a really mismatched pairing (e.g. Koga vs anybody), it will look like tussling. In my opinion, aikido could use a little more regular "tussling". Following your lead (and others) we have been really focusing on ukewaza, lately. We joke that we are aiming for a 100% failure rate. Morale was a little low until one of us brought up the point that if both uke and nage are practicing "aikido" that means that one of you (uke) is achieving 100% success! Glass half full! It is humbling to get brought all the way back to a 6th kyu level, but we are slowly getting the techniques back and when we do get them back we know they are functional with resistance. Bringing it back to teaching/transmission, I wonder if anyone feels like it would be beneficial for higher dan grades to "test" their lower grades for functionality, and what this might look like? When my father was testing for his shodan in Hongwanji-style kodokan judo, in addition to demonstration throws (collusive), he had to throw his instructor three times (competition). This meant having to train at other dojos in the hopes of picking up a technique his instructor wouldn't be expecting. I think aikido would be well-served to adopt this mentality.

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Old 06-22-2012, 05:45 PM   #63
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

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I wholeheartedly agree. If you watch judo exams, you will notice beautiful effortless throws with uke whose sole purpose is to make the throw look outstanding. Collusion at its finest!
This is a common experience in all martial practices in my experience. If what we're trying to learn is "problem solving" while at the same time we may be also "practicing for the sake of the practice", then we should also make sure that we have a problem to solve. In my understanding that's uke's primary job description. Delivering an "attack" with the intent of disrupting the tori's posture/balance enough that they must make a recovery. Of course, this must be appropriate to the situation. The inherent danger that's possible in this attack is understood. Within proper maai tori takes control (sente) of uke with waza. Going slow, fast, soft, hard makes no difference. Of course, during this practice, the goal is to also take care of each other while we take part in the practice.

We, in my practice, should always be "testing" each other to keep it "real." This is difficult to be sure. If my uke isn't really motivated to do this all the time and recovering postural integrity, balance, etc. in order to keep the ability to continue attacking if possible, then we will be doing some sort of dance routine of a martial flavor, or what Noro sensei developed in France which he calls Ki no Michi. (pairs yoga) I have lots of respect for that, but it isn't budo.

This is, of course, my attitude about the uke/tori relationship in my ideal budo practice. Everyone has a choice about their own practice.

Chuck Clark
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Old 06-22-2012, 05:50 PM   #64
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

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Conrad Gustafson wrote: View Post
I like the way you describe good ukemi training, but I think you might be over-generalizing when you say most people don't train that way. It doesn't sound different from the way I am used to being taught ukemi.

That's just my personal experience.
I get around a lot... between Bridge Seminars etc it isn't any single teacher or organization or country. And often, even when it is in an organization like my own, in which I know how I personally was trained, it isn't necessarily what is done out there in the hinterlands. I don't think I am over generalizing... you might just be fortunate to have some excellent training.

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Old 06-22-2012, 06:21 PM   #65
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

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Andy Kazama wrote: View Post
Following your lead (and others) we have been really focusing on ukewaza, lately. We joke that we are aiming for a 100% failure rate. Morale was a little low until one of us brought up the point that if both uke and nage are practicing "aikido" that means that one of you (uke) is achieving 100% success! Glass half full! It is humbling to get brought all the way back to a 6th kyu level, but we are slowly getting the techniques back and when we do get them back we know they are functional with resistance.
I think what you are referring to is different than what I actually mean. "Training" is entirely different from "Testing" and both are totally different from "Fighting".

Training is about learning, about developing skills. You only develop proper skills by "succeeding". I have talked at length in other places about "resistance" in training and how it is most often a detriment to developing proper skills.

The uke's job is to facilitate the learning of the nage. That is a) providing an attack that is appropriate to the technique or principle being taught. b) the uke doesn't do anything that is martially inappropriate in his own attack (i.e. being stupidly strong and resistant) c) takes the proper ukemi when nage's technique is correct and doesn't take the ukemi when it isn't (that means not changing up on your partner, not actively trying to counter them).

Testing is much the same but the purpose is to allow the person testing to execute technique under pressure with speed and power. The ukes are still not actively trying to screw you up but if you miss a move they'll hit you or counter throw you.

Fighting skills are the end point of the whole process and shouldn't be the focus of training until a fairly high level, perhaps above 3rd or 4th Dan. I am assuming that training has been excellent up to that point and ones skills are fairly deeply imprinted. Focusing on fighting, i.e. performing technique against people who are actively trying to hurt you and will beat any technique attempted before one has really imprinted proper skills will only cause one to imprint the wrong habits in ones training. Too much mental tension, which in turn produces physical tension, will virtually guarantee that one will not develop anything beyond strong muscular technique and will not develop technique with "aiki". One will simply get good at forcing technique against partners who aren't good enough or strong enough to know how to counter that kind of strength.

It's like learning to drive... imagine that you are taking driver ed. Each time you put the car in gear, the teacher steps on the brakes or turns off the ignition. You will never learn to drive by not driving. You have to drive and do so for some time in order to be a good driver. Engaging in racing is absolutely the last thing one would do, would involve a lot of advanced training, and lots of practice under controlled conditions before one would even consider doing a real race.

So, I do not advocate "resistant" training in the way that most folks mean it. Most folks folks who are "resistant" thinking they are being "martial" in their attacks are simply quite open, unable to move or respond freely due to their tension. I know people like this and after many decades of training they are very good at showing other people they can't do their technique but are completely unable to do anything worth while themselves. If and when an uke is being stupid in this fashion, I expect the nage to show them how they are open and I do not expect my students to manhandle their partners into some form I demonstrated when their partner is giving them an attack that makes it impossible for that technique to be appropriate.

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Old 06-23-2012, 03:33 AM   #66
Darren Shaver
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

Guys - My question here goes back to the colored belt issue (Sorry about that). But basically I know that in Aikido there are no ranks, traditionally that is. And I'll be just starting Aikido next month, (new to everything. so please bear with me a moment)… Anyway my question is this: Does the ASU (Aikido Schools of Ueshiba) organization in Aikido have a belt ranking system and if so. could you tell me what they are. My soon to be instructor- will be Mike Pollak with the ASU here in Tulsa Okla. And I was wondering, because I'm going to order a belt wall display from Century Martial Arts come next month when I order my uniform. I am now 47 and really don't care what they are really, but figured it would be a great incentive to continue my training once I get started outside of the mat. And by the way, I really can't wait to started in August, mainly for 3 reasons. For 1: I like how Aikido is set up. (that its a non violent martial art system designed for multiple attackers, 2: I think it will be a fantastic experience. Because right now I now nothing if even that, of the japanese traditions pertaining to this art and the traditions surrounding the Bushido Code, and Budo in general. Any help would be extremely welcomed. Thanks, --Darren. (darren.shaver09@gmail.com)
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Old 06-23-2012, 11:27 AM   #67
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

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Darren Shaver wrote: View Post
Guys - My question here goes back to the colored belt issue (Sorry about that). But basically I know that in Aikido there are no ranks, traditionally that is. And I'll be just starting Aikido next month, (new to everything. so please bear with me a moment)… Anyway my question is this: Does the ASU (Aikido Schools of Ueshiba) organization in Aikido have a belt ranking system and if so. could you tell me what they are. My soon to be instructor- will be Mike Pollak with the ASU here in Tulsa Okla. And I was wondering, because I'm going to order a belt wall display from Century Martial Arts come next month when I order my uniform. I am now 47 and really don't care what they are really, but figured it would be a great incentive to continue my training once I get started outside of the mat. And by the way, I really can't wait to started in August, mainly for 3 reasons. For 1: I like how Aikido is set up. (that its a non violent martial art system designed for multiple attackers, 2: I think it will be a fantastic experience. Because right now I now nothing if even that, of the japanese traditions pertaining to this art and the traditions surrounding the Bushido Code, and Budo in general. Any help would be extremely welcomed. Thanks, --Darren. (darren.shaver09@gmail.com)
Darren,
I'd recommend skipping the Belt Display... The ASU doesn't use colored belts. It has the standard Kyu rank / Dan Rank system. Somewhere around 3rd or 2nd kyu you can wear a Brown Belt. Then it's that until Black Belt. So you'll have an empty display for a few years and then you'll have a white Belt on your display rack until Black Belt.

- George Ledyard

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Old 06-23-2012, 11:49 AM   #68
Adam Huss
 
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

Speaking of testing regulations and QC; do any of you have specific set guidelines for passing students? As in a grading sheet with all the requirements listed, broken down aspects of the requirements, and either a pass/fail per requirement (with passing the grading requiring a certain ration) or an A/B/C or percentage rating system with a required passing grade?

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Old 06-23-2012, 12:56 PM   #69
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

Years and years ago a group I was with had a promotion board of examiners who had a list of skills and a grading scale with 3.0 to 5 passing criteria. I always felt it was wrong because the examiners, of course, had different values. I prefer having instructors and teachers having the responsibility of promoting to within two levels of their own. Mistakes show themselves for sure, and then learning takes place relatively quickly in our small group. I've understood for a long time that the only way we learn is by doing it and paying attention. The "right and wrong" of it will work itself out. If not, it's hopeless anyway.

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Old 06-23-2012, 11:37 PM   #70
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

That is a really good system and even better when there is a clearly defined curriculum along with an outline of what is being looked for at each level. This of course brings the discussion around full circle to teaching qualifications. Are they necessary under those conditions where the qualification is instilled by default.

It was made clear to me to what level as a Shodan in isolation (ie Quebec City) I was allowed to promote whereas in Japan we all travelled to Honbu for testing so the point was moot. The Honbu testing of my students was in fact my own testing (also made very clear). Generally the two levels below is the rough guideline but not hard and fast.

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Chuck Clark wrote: View Post
Years and years ago a group I was with had a promotion board of examiners who had a list of skills and a grading scale with 3.0 to 5 passing criteria. I always felt it was wrong because the examiners, of course, had different values. I prefer having instructors and teachers having the responsibility of promoting to within two levels of their own. Mistakes show themselves for sure, and then learning takes place relatively quickly in our small group. I've understood for a long time that the only way we learn is by doing it and paying attention. The "right and wrong" of it will work itself out. If not, it's hopeless anyway.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 06-30-2012, 08:44 PM   #71
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

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Chuck Clark wrote: View Post
I prefer having instructors and teachers having the responsibility of promoting to within two levels of their own.
I can agree with that and it was they way most people used to do it when I started. Sometimes, it was even one grade below the teacher, though commonly, his teacher would be there anyway. It works because if you promote someone too easily, your own instructor will later criticise you, which in the end, means you'll be pretty tough on grading.

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Old 07-09-2012, 03:39 AM   #72
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

i would like to follow on from Sensei Ledyard's excellent (as always) post. I am a student rather than a teacher but I am hoping i can contribute positively. I was also a semi-competitive fencer and I can appreciate the analogy. In comparison, with aikido I sometimes feel like a golfer hitting invisible balls. I can feel that I am hitting the ball but I don't know in what direction or how far. To improve I can try to imitate my sensei's swing, and aim to copy the sound he makes when he strikes the ball. And then, there's a sensei down the road whose swing is different and whose club-strikes sound different. They both can't have a perfect swing can they? And if one of them is wrong, are they both wrong because I don't know how far each of them hits the ball!

Through a troublesome back I have become interested in what sports science may have to say in providing some objective assessment of form and posture. Sports science has come a long way in the last 15-18 years - i was hoping to say 'last decade' there, but turns out I am getting old

There is now some useful research and techniques used in athletics that can help us assess form, and I am not talking form for form's sake. This is form that prevents injury and improves function, at least for competitive athletes.

Stuart McGill has done some interesting work with athletes and martial artists. He has some really interesting ideas on spine and posture and on "super-stiffness". This pdf summarises his work, which is also in his book Ultimate back Fitness

http://www.backfitpro.com/pdf/select..._exercises.pdf

I have been trying to interpret Stuart McGill's work through a heaven-earth posture paradigm and it seems consistent to me (I am not an IP practitioner but seek improved performance through imitating the good posture described by IP and Tai chi practicioners)

I think Stuart McGill's work is the introduction and starting point. the FitsToronto website has some excellent discussions on assessing movement patterns. This is an excellent simplified system for assessing posture and form by looking at 5 points on the body and how they are aligned. If you are interested, have a look at the pdf link as it contains two simple tests but be sure to read the common movement dysfunctions as it is a more in depth head-to-toe assessment of problem areas.

Common movement problems
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/03/c...-dysfunctions/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2011/01/p...antastic-four/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2011/01/p...four-revealed/

short pdf of movement screen and description of how to test
http://www.fitstoronto.com/wp-conten...9analized1.pdf

some extra stuff on core testing for interest's sake
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/02/the-core-2/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/02/the-core-part-two-2/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/02/t...-part-three-2/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/02/t...unk-exercises/

Although many of my teachers have commented occasionally on form and posture they haven't made it a huge focus, or it has been something that one is supposed to improve oneself with time and practice. It would be fairly easy to integrate working on form in every class and periodic testing of good form/function (see Fit-5 from Fitstoronto). A few individual activities may need to be added but most of this could be reiterated and reinforced during warm-up, tai sabaki and kata practice. Students could pair up and assess each other for solo practice or work in 3s for paired practice. The use of video could be used then teachers could assess their own form

The advantages I see to such a system
  • at the very least, would reduce risk of muscuolskeletal injury for students in the dojo and in their life outside the dojo
  • educates students (and sensei) about their body and how to look after it
  • could form the basis of teaching how to teach (or at least how to "coach")
  • the above system is quite simple with only 5 areas to assess
  • it is consistent with what my sensei have told me about posture
  • is the source of an individualised "prescription" for improvement
  • provides objective assessment of a student's progress and for them to measure their own progress
  • an objective means of analysis of some components of form for examination
  • an objective means for assessment of video footage of technique
  • a means by which sensei could assess their own form on video footage
  • training in this area could form part of certification for teaching
possible disadvantages;
  • western scientific paradigm which may not appeal to some
  • its the boring bits of training (not throwing people around)
  • may require some additional posture tests and training exercises to be added to class
  • teachers may need to learn a range of exercises to teach students, most of the remedies involve strenthening and endurance exercises.

Last edited by davoravo : 07-09-2012 at 03:43 AM.

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Old 07-09-2012, 04:05 AM   #73
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Re: Teaching .... I have a question.

edit - oops, forgot some links on stiffness which i think are also important and not (as they may seem at first glance) to be in conflict with our usual ideas of needing to relax

http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/11/s...es-the-series/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/11/s...ing-stiffness/
http://www.fitstoronto.com/2010/11/s...ample-program/

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