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Old 09-11-2013, 12:19 PM   #1
Peter Boylan
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Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

I hope the title is sufficiently inflammatory. Having the role of uke performed properly is critical for anyone who is trying to learn techniques and principles. Until someone really understands the techniques being practiced and the principles involved, letting the act as uke does them a tremendous disservice. My complete thoughts on the subject are at
http://budobum.blogspot.com/2013/09/...hy-is-one.html

And yes, I am wearing my asbestos undies.

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Old 09-11-2013, 12:50 PM   #2
Janet Rosen
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Quote:
Peter Boylan wrote: View Post
My complete thoughts on the subject are at
http://budobum.blogspot.com/2013/09/...hy-is-one.html
[COLOR=black][FONT=Arial]"You can see then why I cringe when I see beginners working together so much of the time in many judo and aikido dojo. A beginner training with other beginners will have a difficult time trying to learn anything useful. The attacks they receive won't help them learn distancing or timing. They may even learn the wrong lessons. If they learn to react to attacks that would never reach them they are learning bad distancing and timing. The same if they think someone has to stand very close to initiate an attack. Attacks that are too weak don't give tori experience with appropriate energy levels, while attacks the are too energetic too early can easily injury tori, or cause them to react with energy they can't control yet, which can injury uke."[/FONT][/COLOR]
Word.

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Old 09-11-2013, 01:23 PM   #3
Robert Cheshire
 
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

I agree that you should try not to have newer/novice students working with other newer/novice students. That's why I try real hard to never allow pairings like that if they can be avoided in my dojo. However, there is much (as you allude to) that can be learned on the part of uke and nage (tori). Uke learns quickly that proper ukemi is important and exactly WHY it is important. The other lesson is for nage to learn they have to take care of uke and adjust the intensity of their throw according to uke's ability to take ukemi. That is where Jigaro Kano's lesson of Mutual Welfare and
Benefit (Jita Kyoei) comes into play.

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Old 09-11-2013, 01:27 PM   #4
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Pretty good idea. It worked for a couple hundred years worth of koryu. I doubt I am alone in still wondering why the hell Takeda taught his stuff ass backwards.
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Old 09-11-2013, 01:38 PM   #5
Ellis Amdur
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Quote:
I doubt I am alone in still wondering why the hell Takeda taught his stuff ass backwards.
Nothing really to wonder about, I think. He was a paranoid man, who wouldn't even trust one of Ueshiba's students to hand him tea without demanding he taste it first. In a recent little article on AJ, I believe, neighbors in his home town described how if they crossed the property line, he'd chase after them and assault them (with many of them getting dislocated arms or wrists).

Can you imagine him allowing anyone to be in an even momentary position of advantage?

Also, the whole selling point of DR, and thereafter, aikido, is different. It's all about being--or appearing invulnerable. Throwing people with a just a twitch of the body. God-like powers. Just like the comic book ad that first got me interested - "throw people with mystical energy!" DR and aikido, at least among it's founders and leading lights, was an exercise in grandiosity, in posturing and impressing both onlookers and one's own students. As Stanley Pranin described to me when he visited the Sagawa dojo, as his students were being thrown, they were, while still in the air, exclaiming, "Subarashii!!!! Subarashi!!!" Quite apart from any level of skill Sagawa might have had, that he didn't tell them to shut the hell up says quite a lot.

BTW - one place that even koryu instructors will not take ukemi is hojojutsu (nawajutsu). I cannot think of any teacher, certainly publicly and even in their own dojo, who would allow their students to tie them up.

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Old 09-11-2013, 01:52 PM   #6
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Thanks for the insight. In general I try to cleave to Hanlon's Razor when examining these types of things. I would prefer the answer to be that it was a mistake or have to do with something specific to the realities of Daito Ryu/Aikido training than because the old man was a budo miser with an napoleon complex who abandoned a multigenerational legacy of transmission in order to never appear weak and reveal as little as possible in front of the inquiring minds of his students. Unfortunately according to every expert I have asked, the latter seems to be exactly the reason.

Last edited by bkedelen : 09-11-2013 at 01:59 PM.
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Old 09-11-2013, 01:58 PM   #7
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Quote:
Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
Nothing really to wonder about, I think. He was a paranoid man, who wouldn't even trust one of Ueshiba's students to hand him tea without demanding he taste it first. In a recent little article on AJ, I believe, neighbors in his home town described how if they crossed the property line, he'd chase after them and assault them (with many of them getting dislocated arms or wrists).
That was this one - Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda in Shirataki

FWIW, here's what Sagawa had to say, from Yukiyoshi Sagawa on Bujutsu and Ki-Ryoku, Part 2:

Quote:
During training Sokaku Takeda sensei would never allow techniques to be applied to him. Because of that, in front of Takeda sensei I only practiced in applying techniques to others. I was told “Would a Bushi ever allow a technique to be applied to them?” by Takeda sensei.
Best,

Chris

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Old 09-11-2013, 02:04 PM   #8
bkedelen
 
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

That is the least sustainable plan in the history of martial transmission. Sagawa is certainly Takeda's true heir.
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Old 09-11-2013, 02:08 PM   #9
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Quote:
Benjamin Edelen wrote: View Post
That is the least sustainable plan in the history of martial transmission. Sagawa is certainly Takeda's true heir.
Well, he did say "in front of Takeda sensei" - I'm not sure what he did when Takeda wasn't around...

Best,

Chris

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Old 09-11-2013, 02:30 PM   #10
Keith Larman
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Quote:
Peter Boylan wrote: View Post
I hope the title is sufficiently inflammatory. Having the role of uke performed properly is critical for anyone who is trying to learn techniques and principles. Until someone really understands the techniques being practiced and the principles involved, letting the act as uke does them a tremendous disservice. My complete thoughts on the subject are at
http://budobum.blogspot.com/2013/09/...hy-is-one.html

And yes, I am wearing my asbestos undies.
Uh, well, you won't see any flames from me. One class I teach has a mix of relative newbs along with experienced folk. I try to get the new people paired up with the experienced as much as possible. I really don't want beginners working with each other since neither knows what the heck they're doing.

I also emphasize repeatedly to nage that when working with a beginner their job is to guide them to the proper ukemi whenever possible; not just play "throw a newbie". I'll get out there and pair up with them as much as I can so I can feel what they're doing. I'll demonstrate on them, but hopefully only enough to demonstrate things they need to adjust. Then it's back to them trying on me and others.

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Old 09-11-2013, 03:11 PM   #11
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

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Ellis Amdur wrote: View Post
Nothing really to wonder about, I think. He was a paranoid man, who wouldn't even trust one of Ueshiba's students to hand him tea without demanding he taste it first.
That sounds like Minoru Mochizuki. I don't remember if he stayed the night at the dojo (I think he did) because Master Mochizuki talked about opening the door to the room he was in and he had the bedding pushed to the far wall from the door and was sitting up against the wall (if memory serves me right without going back to check my sources).

Last edited by Robert Cheshire : 09-11-2013 at 03:12 PM. Reason: quote fixing

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Old 09-11-2013, 03:33 PM   #12
Bill Danosky
 
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

I try to be kind and patient. BUT... New students should join the existing class and do their best to fit in. Personally, I grow weary of spending time paired up to a hack newbie who's never coming back, while my Shodan test draws ever closer.

Doesn't really cast me in a golden light, I know. That's why I do all that meditation- it keeps me from acting like this all the time. Well, I'll get my instructor's certificate next year. I can be generous then.
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Old 09-11-2013, 04:15 PM   #13
Peter Boylan
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Quote:
Bill Danosky wrote: View Post
I try to be kind and patient. BUT... New students should join the existing class and do their best to fit in. Personally, I grow weary of spending time paired up to a hack newbie who's never coming back, while my Shodan test draws ever closer.

Doesn't really cast me in a golden light, I know. That's why I do all that meditation- it keeps me from acting like this all the time. Well, I'll get my instructor's certificate next year. I can be generous then.
Bill, the thing is, I find I learn nearly as much assisting beginners with their training as I do practicing with fellow established students. As I noted, the beginners will progress far quicker with good ukes than they will with other beginners. If you want good partners, you have to actively train them. And I always remember that Omori Sensei (8th dan iai/7th dan kendo) always took the beginners to teach. He focused on bringing the lowest in the dojo along the fastest. He would train everyone, but he took special care to focus on the new students. The result was they learned quickly and didn't stay new students for long.

The care and attention might also contribute to a higher retention rate.

Peter Boylan
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Old 09-11-2013, 06:24 PM   #14
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Obviously, it is better for a beginner to train with a senior. In fact, in most Aikikai dojos I have ever been to, people change partner every time the technique is changed and so people get to train with all types. Except at Honbu dojo - of all places, though I heard that has changed (not sure). I think this is one great benefit of the Aikikai system. When I did Yoshinkan I often trained with the same partner for an extended period. Likewise, Jujutsu. In fact, in one Jujutsu school I was at it was considered beneath you (as a senior) to train with beginners. Pathetic, so I thought.

Last edited by Rupert Atkinson : 09-11-2013 at 06:26 PM.

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Old 09-11-2013, 06:42 PM   #15
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

I see nothing wrong with beginners practicing together. This is aikido, the art that can be practiced until your long in the tooth, so you got time to fix any problems. I haven't suffered from it. Besides, what's an instructor to do when starting up a new dojo.
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Old 09-11-2013, 07:47 PM   #16
Peter Boylan
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Quote:
Mike Braxton wrote: View Post
I see nothing wrong with beginners practicing together. This is aikido, the art that can be practiced until your long in the tooth, so you got time to fix any problems. I haven't suffered from it. Besides, what's an instructor to do when starting up a new dojo.
In a new dojo it is excusable as an unavoidable necessity. Once you have some trained people though, I really can't see any excuse for inflicting substandard training on your students. Particularly when that training can teach them bad habits that may take years to unlearn.

We want our students to make as much progress as possible, so loading them down with the weight of easily avoided bad habits seems counterproductive.

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Old 09-11-2013, 11:27 PM   #17
Janet Rosen
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

We don't do separate beginner's classes. Our basics classes generally have enough folks with experience that newbies don't have to pair up. The general rule is the usual aikido one of the senior starting as nage....but if I'm with a newbie I'll generally just take the nage role once, on one side, to observe protocol, then switch to being uke and not switch back to nage unless there is a reason to (and yes, we change partners with each technique, so I'm not just taking ukemi all night). I never feel my practice suffers doing this...I feel I"m better serving the newbie and I'm improving my ukemi skills, my understanding of the technique, and focusing on my structure very nicely.

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Old 09-12-2013, 01:06 AM   #18
Stephen Nichol
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Quote:
Peter Boylan wrote: View Post
Bill, the thing is, I find I learn nearly as much assisting beginners with their training as I do practicing with fellow established students. As I noted, the beginners will progress far quicker with good ukes than they will with other beginners. If you want good partners, you have to actively train them. And I always remember that Omori Sensei (8th dan iai/7th dan kendo) always took the beginners to teach. He focused on bringing the lowest in the dojo along the fastest. He would train everyone, but he took special care to focus on the new students. The result was they learned quickly and didn't stay new students for long.

The care and attention might also contribute to a higher retention rate.
+ 1 on all of this.

I learn a lot from how my technique is actually going by slowly practicing it on someone who has not had their body reflex 'conditioned' to it.. so they do not move 'as expected' unless I do everything correctly. It is a wonderful opportunity to practice and refine the lines/angles of your waza.

I am in a similar position as Bill with feeling like I need to focus on Shodan grading etc... however it is activity encouraged and practiced to not let new people train together and more so to stagger the relative experience as much as possible. So higher kyu's pair up with with new people and when they are taken care of, then lower kyu's will pair up with any remaining higher kyu's. The result is generally well balanced and the 'middle kyu's' will sometimes end up together. In the end, I get a lot of valuable information regardless who I train with and it is all useful heading towards Shodan.

It is a very enjoyable way to practice.
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Old 09-12-2013, 06:46 AM   #19
IvLabush
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

It's nice sentence in the beginning of thread but it looks like game with only one goal. All talks are about how to make training more effective for rookies. However no one mentioned about seniors training in that case.
Pay a lot attention to rookies is important to keep their interest to practice. Even in such case some of them quit practice maybe next week or next month. So bet on rookies isn't good time spending, IMHO. They don't prove the seriousness of their practice in one week. On other hand is seniors who had to practice with guys "near by zero" level. How they suppose to increase their skills with rookies? I know "rule" how to increase own skills. It's "if you'd like to be more skillful you had to practice with guys that more skillful that you are now". Obviously that for rookies practice with seniors is the best way. Seniors get a bit more than nothing of that. Yes, it's totally selfish wish to be better than yesterday, but isn't budo created as a tool that makes you better?
I found one way to solve this problem. Rookies start from basics of the basics like ukemi and other that they could do without a partner. Friend of mine had half year ukemi, taisabaki, atemi and combinations of taisabaki and atemi at the beginning of his aikido practice. Of course there are many more exercises in aikido to build strong basics for techniques. And rookies have time to prove the seriousness of their wish of long term practice.
Proper ukemi and attacks are keystones of this as I call it "rookie course". Good ukemi serves for safety in further practice and attacking skills they need for correct techniques. Both of it's make at least good uke from rookies. Another friend of mine spent few months to ukemi only when he had started judo. After that group has kind of ukemi test -- coach throw all of them few times. Students with good ukemi starts practice but students with not so good ukemi continue with it.
Back to the problem as far as guys becomes good uke they should start to practice in pairs. This is nice time to the most skilled senior to lead them and show them "pictures" of techniques. Why it's only one person? Different persons with different personalities have different points of view to aikido practice and pays attention to different things. As for me the worst thing to rookies progress been taught by different persons. They started to know many but did nothing solid. Senior has rare chance to try skills on guys who don't know "rules of the game". It helps to improve senior's skills also. The last step is mix group of new students with seniors. It moves new students from "picture" to ideas of techniques. Different seniors shows them rich field of different points of view to ideas.
Of course I don't think that such program will be popular and draw a lot people into training. I only think that it helps to create students with good enough skills.

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Old 09-12-2013, 08:03 AM   #20
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Quote:
Peter Boylan wrote: View Post
Bill, the thing is, I find I learn nearly as much assisting beginners with their training as I do practicing with fellow established students.
This is an oft-repeated aikido truism. I'm not challenging it, exactly, but I'd really like it if people would elaborate on it and say something about exactly what they learned from assisting a beginner -- and then, what they learned from assisting the next beginner making the exact same mistakes. I think the truth is that there are occasional insights to be had from teaching beginners, but if we're being honest and realistic, there are also times when the experience is just a lesson you've had before. That's life, that's training, and I have no beef with it -- but I also don't think we need to pretend that the experience of training with a beginner is always a golden opportunity just waiting to shower epiphanies upon us.

As for the beginners themselves, I think we can distinguish between "acting as uke" and "learning to take ukemi". A brand-new beginner needs to learn to take ukemi, and there's no other way than to do it - but for a while, they're not functionally "acting as uke" (as nage desperately tries to keep "uke" from hurting him/herself or patiently guides "uke" away from a situation that would lead to one's clock getting well cleaned in a hostile situation).
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Old 09-12-2013, 11:43 AM   #21
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Sounds like a good plan to me. But good luck convincing the aikido establishment that the teacher should be the one taking ukemi (at least in the beginning stages, as the teacher would be the most qualified to give feedback to the student; I mean how the heck can a beginner know if what they feel is correct or not?).
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Old 09-12-2013, 11:56 AM   #22
aikijean
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Why some aikidokas don't like to practice with beginners?

Because when you practice with a (very big) new beginner, then you know what is your real level in aikido not the level you think you are. A (big or not) new one does not know where to go since he does not know the technique, you have to lead him. Sure it is easy to break his face or something if he does not do what you want but to my taste it very low level aikido.
A beginner is a perfect test for your aikido. After the practice with him or her, you know what you have to work on to better yourself.
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Old 09-12-2013, 12:06 PM   #23
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Quote:
Jean Hardy wrote: View Post
Why some aikidokas don't like to practice with beginners?

Because when you practice with a (very big) new beginner, then you know what is your real level in aikido not the level you think you are. A (big or not) new one does not know where to go since he does not know the technique, you have to lead him. Sure it is easy to break his face or something if he does not do what you want but to my taste it very low level aikido.
A beginner is a perfect test for your aikido. After the practice with him or her, you know what you have to work on to better yourself.
So just do the waza, regardless of uke's ability? Ok. That will really improve my practice. Thanks!
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Old 09-12-2013, 12:12 PM   #24
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Quote:
Jean Hardy wrote: View Post
Why some aikidokas don't like to practice with beginners?

Because when you practice with a (very big) new beginner, then you know what is your real level in aikido not the level you think you are. A (big or not) new one does not know where to go since he does not know the technique, you have to lead him. Sure it is easy to break his face or something if he does not do what you want but to my taste it very low level aikido.

A beginner is a perfect test for your aikido. After the practice with him or her, you know what you have to work on to better yourself.
That's good in theory, but in order to lead them, they'd have to be totally compliant, right? So how is that "a perfect test for your aikido"? And if they're not totally compliant, and they don't know how to take ukemi, how do you practice your techniques -- really practice them, not just wave your hands -- without injuring them?
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Old 09-12-2013, 12:16 PM   #25
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Re: Beginners should not be allowed to act as uke.

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
This is an oft-repeated aikido truism. I'm not challenging it, exactly, but I'd really like it if people would elaborate on it and say something about exactly what they learned from assisting a beginner -- and then, what they learned from assisting the next beginner making the exact same mistakes. I think the truth is that there are occasional insights to be had from teaching beginners, but if we're being honest and realistic, there are also times when the experience is just a lesson you've had before. That's life, that's training, and I have no beef with it -- but I also don't think we need to pretend that the experience of training with a beginner is always a golden opportunity just waiting to shower epiphanies upon us.
.
Mary, the reason I learn a lot from working with beginners is that I can focus on doing things perfectly. It is a chance to pick apart my technique, but as uke and tori, and remove every bit of unnecessary movement, speed and energy and focus on the most basic (and thus most important) aspects of my training. I have to refine my understanding further so that I can share it with the beginner at their level. For me, it is never an experience I've had before, because I'm coming to it at a new place in my training, so whatever I have learned since the last time I was there will be tested, refined and polished. If I am acting as tori, I use the least powerful grip and the most minimal connection I can while still being able to perform the technique. If acting as uke I can practice and experiment with subtle changes in body structure and placement that I frequently don't have time to practice with more senior students who want to go at a faster pace (nothing wrong with that. I need practice at faster speeds too). It is also a chance for me to work on my awareness of tori in ways that feedback to what I do with senior students. When I work with beginners I can force myself to train at a minimum of energy to find out where that is, and how I might be able to apply it to more senior students.

Does any of this make sense?

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