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Old 10-26-2013, 09:49 AM   #1
Bill Danosky
 
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Unifying the theories

I have occasionally advocated the "Bagger Vance" (derived from the Bhagavad Gita) form of development, and noted how Yoshinkan Aikido follows it's path. As I'm being exposed to other points of view, I'm now considering that it makes room for both opinions to be right.

Briefly, for the un-indoctrinated, it's given within a golf simile where players struggling with moving forward are encouraged to break it into stages and not try to skip straight to mastery. In the first, they practice the strokes. The physical part. Then they study the rules of the game and how they affect play. The intellectual aspect. In the third, they study the wisdom- the philosophical how and why. In the 4th stage, you surrender to the love and transcend the game.

In Yoshinkan Aikido, we spend virtually the entire kyu rank development on the physical techniques and drill the kihon until we only function one way- the "correct" way. This would be akin to the driving, putting, chipping, in golf. Then, we get into the application, how those movements fit into jiyu waza, henka waza, etc. as we are interacting with uke at a higher level.

Then, probably somewhere around Ni or San Dan it seems to start looking more like the IP/IT training as you get into the wisdom stage. By the time you become a Shihan, it's pretty easy to see how you become more like O Sensei. Love is easier to find when you know you can hand out death and destruction. Someone was saying one can only truly be a pascifist when they have the ability to destroy their opponent, but can choose not to. O Sensei? Also like when Musashi Miyamoto started using a bokken instead of a katana.

So maybe there's room for Aiki magic later on. The troubling assertion I'm going to make, is that you can't get to step two without really mastering step one. But it wouldn't be a very good thread without something to disagree with. So don't disappoint me...
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Old 10-26-2013, 11:04 AM   #2
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Unifying the theories

Bill,
By "physical techniques," do you mean martial techniques and applications? When you reach nidan or sandan, are any new kinds of training introduced to you that are something new -- not variations on those physical techniques?
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Old 10-26-2013, 12:06 PM   #3
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Re: Unifying the theories

Bill,

If the assumption is that, in general, learning externally driven kata is mandatory for properly preparing a student to be able to undertake internal training, then that's not true. Exhibit 1: there are several proven IT methodologies / martial arts that expressly eschew use of forms and start off with solo training and static paired testing of internal skills.

If you're specifically asking whether external first, internal later is the best way to go for aikido, then I don't know if there's a universal right answer. A handful of aikido dojo have largely or completely switched to an IP-centric training model within the past few years or months, and so time will tell how the students introduced to and coming up in aikido via such models turn out (maybe some others will chime in on that). Something as foundational to aikido as Shomen-uchi Ikkyo/Ikkajo is relatively complex for a beginner from a conventional or IT perspective.

Also, don't Ki Aikido folks start internal training from the get-go?

Last edited by Mert Gambito : 10-26-2013 at 12:10 PM.

Mert
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Old 10-26-2013, 01:50 PM   #4
Bill Danosky
 
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Re: Unifying the theories

The essence of what I'm saying is that you can't successfully mature if you were never a baby, child, adolescent, etc. I think Aiki- at least as it comes to me in my path- arrives with experience. Let's stick with this golf metaphor because most people are familiar with the factors. (I don't golf, so forgive me the technical errors.)

I'm not going to use IP/IT here because it seems to mean different things to different people. But Ai Ki is probably involved with the intelligence and wisdom of playing the game. How Uke and Shite/Nage inter-relate. What we are studying in Yoshinkan dojos is what golfers would call "mastering the strokes". Head down, arm straight, pause on the backswing types in nuance.

Neither by itself is going to get you on the Pro Tour. You can get pretty far with sloppy technique if you have good tactics. If your waza is precise and powerful you can also do fairly well, but it's still not mastery without proper application.
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Old 10-26-2013, 02:05 PM   #5
Bill Danosky
 
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Re: Unifying the theories

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
Bill,
By "physical techniques," do you mean martial techniques and applications? When you reach nidan or sandan, are any new kinds of training introduced to you that are something new -- not variations on those physical techniques?
Yes. I mean specific waza, ie: "Shomenuchi Ikka jo Osae Ichi", and the like.

And also yes, in Yoshinkan the saying goes that all your kyu practice is preparation for the real training that starts at Shodan.

Quote:
Mert Gambito wrote: View Post
there are several proven IT methodologies
Proven IT methodologies? Proven how?

Quote:
Mert Gambito wrote: View Post
Something as foundational to aikido as Shomen-uchi Ikkyo/Ikkajo is relatively complex for a beginner from a conventional or IT perspective.
This (Ichi/linear version) is the first lesson we teach, because it's important for a prospective student to get a "takeaway" immediately. I often say anybody can learn it the first night and use it if they got mugged on their way to their car. There's enough nuance to polish it for the rest of your life, but it's not hard to "get": Get a good lock; don't slack on it. Cut deep. They can work on the rest for the following 30 years.
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Old 10-28-2013, 11:05 AM   #6
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Re: Unifying the theories

In general, I believe our early foundation instruction should be simple, clear and generalized to meet the basic functions of training. This curriculum should include body awareness, defense, offense and kata. I think there is some variance in the specific curriculum from dojo to dojo here as the curriculum may be tailored to cover the spectrum of education not present in the dojo. I think once a student shows competence in these basic concepts, you can get fancy.

I have no opinion yet whether internal focus or external focus carries an advantage in training. I think that is largely dependent on the makeup of the dojo members. I know a couple of dojos moving more aiki and less kata. I'll be happy to share anything that I learn from those dojos.

I think a good curriculum should cover a spectrum of topics relevant to overall competency. When I was in college, we called these core curriculum and regardless of your eventual choice of major, you were required to demonstrate competency in a basic core of educational topics. I also definitely believe there is an order of things - that is, a time in our training when we are most receptive to comprehending certain subject material. I think often aikido programs screw this up and put a run before walking aspect to training.

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Old 10-28-2013, 01:33 PM   #7
Janet Rosen
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Re: Unifying the theories

Quote:
Mert Gambito wrote: View Post
If you're specifically asking whether external first, internal later is the best way to go for aikido, then I don't know if there's a universal right answer. A handful of aikido dojo have largely or completely switched to an IP-centric training model within the past few years or months, and so time will tell how the students introduced to and coming up in aikido via such models turn out (maybe some others will chime in on that). Something as foundational to aikido as Shomen-uchi Ikkyo/Ikkajo is relatively complex for a beginner from a conventional or IT perspective.

Also, don't Ki Aikido folks start internal training from the get-go?
Yep and I've long been in favor of an integrated approach. To use pedagogical models from outside martial arts....best foreign language learning I've experienced integrates getting you listening/talking immediately PLUS learning alphabet, sentence structure, etc immediately...when I've taught beginning sewing and beginning painting, I have people immediately work on basic hands-on projects AND do exercises that build on principles, like examining the phenomenon of color in the natural world or experiencing different fiber and fabric types.

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 10-28-2013, 01:51 PM   #8
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Re: Unifying the theories

The problem is, there are few theories to unify in Aikido. Generally, people go to the dojo, warm up, do a few waza, then go home. Then repeat for ever, hoping that one day, "It'll just happen." All the while, they have no idea what that 'it' actually is.

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Old 10-28-2013, 02:07 PM   #9
Cliff Judge
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Re: Unifying the theories

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote: View Post
The problem is, there are few theories to unify in Aikido. Generally, people go to the dojo, warm up, do a few waza, then go home. Then repeat for ever, hoping that one day, "It'll just happen." All the while, they have no idea what that 'it' actually is.
They don't get better at anything each time they practice? The picture you paint sounds like how all the koryu systems work.
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Old 10-28-2013, 02:13 PM   #10
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: Unifying the theories

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
They don't get better at anything each time they practice? .
Better at what?

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Old 10-28-2013, 02:33 PM   #11
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Re: Unifying the theories

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Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
Better at what?
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Old 10-28-2013, 04:46 PM   #12
Cady Goldfield
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Re: Unifying the theories

In the "traditional" Daito-ryu approach, students start with jujutsu - just the regular ol' Ikkajo-Nikkajo-Sankajo-etc. curriculum. Next, they learn very specific, narrow aspects of IP and aiki, to apply to those jujutsu waza... Aikijujutsu. The "pure" internal training, Aiki-no-Jutsu is introduced last. The environment where I came up was more of a mixed approach, however, with an informal rotation of jujutsu, aikijujutsu and aiki-no-jutsu practice over the course of a season.

I like I Liq Chuan's approach of focusing on first unifying the mental and the physical (developing awareness, learning how to use intent to operate the body; learning the principles and qualities of movement, and unifying the body through them (aiki within oneself). Next, students learn to "unify" with a partner, through a series of hands-on practices that develop connection, sensitivity toward what the other person's body and intent are doing, and the first stages of martial interaction (application of aiki on another body). The jujutsu (qin-na) and freestyle martial engagement come later.

Personally, I find working on the internal development - awareness, intent, unifying within the body - first, is pragmatic, mainly because I have been exploring martial arts for 40 years now, and already have plenty of martial tools. For someone who is entering martial arts for the first time, if he/she is anxious to acquire fighting skills quickly, an internal art with a "unify your body first" approach will not provide what they want. However, someone who wants to build a really solid foundation and is willing to invest the time -- a couple of years, on average -- to lay the basic bricks and mortar, this approach will pay off greatly down the road, IMO.
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Old 10-28-2013, 05:14 PM   #13
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Re: Unifying the theories

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
They don't get better at anything each time they practice? The picture you paint sounds like how all the koryu systems work.
Actually, beyond a certain level, you are dead right. They/we just plateau at showing off good kata with mostly compliant ukes.

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Old 10-28-2013, 05:16 PM   #14
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Re: Unifying the theories

Quote:
Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
Better at what?
Spot on. Better at what!

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Old 10-28-2013, 05:59 PM   #15
Bill Danosky
 
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Re: Unifying the theories

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
They don't get better at anything each time they practice? The picture you paint sounds like how all the koryu systems work.
We actually get worse at the things we practice the wrong way.
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Old 10-28-2013, 06:39 PM   #16
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Re: Unifying the theories

Quote:
Bill Danosky wrote: View Post
We actually get worse at the things we practice the wrong way.
That is so true it's scary. I don't pretend to know what is right, but having studied, worked, lived and trained in Asia for 16 years I sometimes cannot believe what I see.

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Old 10-28-2013, 09:28 PM   #17
Mario Tobias
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Re: Unifying the theories

In my experience, there are 2 routes to mastery. There is the long way and the short way.

Specific to aikido:

1. Typically we do endless repetitions until we "get it". The human body is an amazing machine. With countless repetitions, mastery of an art/competency is not a steady incline leading to higher competency but a series of steps and bursts similar to stairs where one plateaus a long time and competency suddenly bursts at the end of the plateau. (IMHO this is the reason why you should not quit when you are plateauing, you don't know that you will suddenly have a step up). The amazing thing is that you do not know how you suddenly got more competent, you just know you had a step up but you don't understand how you got there. You then move on to the next plateau and step up until you get it completely. I think 99% of practitioners take this approach (just guessing of course).

2. The intellectual approach. I believe every art (no matter what it is) has it's own unique set of theories and these are seen in what we call principles. In dance for example, you know tango when you see one and you know the difference between ballet and tango. Understand the principles behind the art and it'll be a shorter (but not necessarily easier) path to mastery. For me, I formulate these theories and validate them in practice. I no longer need to do blind repetitions or do lesser of them before I get it since doing repetitions without thinking mean you are hoping that "something" will give you a hint about what you are looking for. It's mostly a hit and miss approach. The perfect example of these are techniques. Techniques are there only to offer the practitioner a glimpse of aikido principles but in itself is not aikido. IMHO 1% go through this path.

Actually there is the 3rd path which is first go through the long route and realize that there is a shorter route.
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Old 10-28-2013, 10:08 PM   #18
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Re: Unifying the theories

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
In the "traditional" Daito-ryu approach, students start with jujutsu - just the regular ol' Ikkajo-Nikkajo-Sankajo-etc. curriculum. Next, they learn very specific, narrow aspects of IP and aiki, to apply to those jujutsu waza... Aikijujutsu. The "pure" internal training, Aiki-no-Jutsu is introduced last.
Are you talking about Kodokai, here?
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Old 10-28-2013, 10:12 PM   #19
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Re: Unifying the theories

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Rupert Atkinson wrote: View Post
Spot on. Better at what!
Anything. They don't get better at anything? I don't understand why this is a confusing question.
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Old 10-28-2013, 10:19 PM   #20
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Re: Unifying the theories

I prefer a holistic approach to learning Aikido. Tie the internal and external together early and often.

Quote:
Bill Danosky wrote: View Post
We actually get worse at the things we practice the wrong way.
Only if you are incapable of adapting as you gather experience of what works and what doesn't.

I love the game of chess. I have two friends who I've been playing against for decades. We became enamored of Bobby Fischer in the seventies and decided that the Najdorf Sicilian was the be all and end all of chess openings. I so wanted to master its intricacies, but the opening leads to a type of game that I'm just not comfortable with. The result was that I piled up a mountain of losses with both the white and black pieces. I continued to beat my head against the wall for a long time and my game continued to deteriorate.

When I finally had the realization that this particular opening just wasn't for me I adapted. I began playing the Nimzo-Larsen attack with the white pieces and the Caro-Kann defense with the black pieces. Both of these openings lead to games which I am more comfortable with and as a result my play steadily improved.

Due to the nature of the game, feedback from chess takes a long while to make a sufficient enough imprint for me to realize that some serious adaptation is required if my game is to improve. With Aikido, OTOH, feedback regarding what works and what doesn't comes often, with jarring clarity. I'm is able to gather lots of experience in a relatively short time and use that experience to alter my interaction with uke in ways that will improve my Aikido. Practiced with lots of self awareness, Aikido is marvelously self correcting.

Ron

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Old 10-29-2013, 02:05 AM   #21
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Re: Unifying the theories

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Anything. They don't get better at anything? I don't understand why this is a confusing question.
From what I have seen over 30 years of training, many people reach a certain level - doing the techniques pretty well - and then they just stay there. And many slowly get worse over time due to not training hard or often enough. They teach but rarely train. It is very common. If they do well, they maintain what they have, though they may improve in other directions - like being a good teacher, or stretching, or whatever. If they didn't have high dan grade status (being in with the in crowd) to keep them up there they would have likely been ignored long ago. Students often can't spot this until they have been around awhile.

It is very hard to spot or admit in the self. Heck, might even be me!

Last edited by Rupert Atkinson : 10-29-2013 at 02:12 AM.

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Old 10-29-2013, 06:10 AM   #22
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Re: Unifying the theories

There are those who think that there's only a finite and concrete curriculum to be learned, and once done, you can only "coast" and teach that curriculum. There are others who are students their entire lives, always trying to learn more, discover the nuances of their art, and refine and increase their skills.

When one is a perpetual questing student, the day may arrive when others call that person a master, though the individual thinks him/herself a student.
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Old 10-29-2013, 06:37 AM   #23
Walter Martindale
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Re: Unifying the theories

Quote:
Bill Danosky wrote: View Post
We actually get worse at the things we practice the wrong way.
Another way of expressing that would be that we get better at doing what we practice. If our practice is of "wrong" things, we get really good at doing the "wrong" things, and it is very difficult to unlearn these.
Walter
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Old 10-29-2013, 08:45 AM   #24
Bill Danosky
 
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Re: Unifying the theories

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote: View Post
From what I have seen over 30 years of training, many people reach a certain level - doing the techniques pretty well - and then they just stay there. And many slowly get worse over time due to not training hard or often enough..
Yes, that is the issue behind The Legend of Bagger Vance. Ranulph Junuh is a great golfer who has lost his swing and Bagger Vance is a mysterious caddy, who appears and helps him find it. What you're describing is really the fate of many Aikidoka, who master aspects of the game (particularly the later aspects), but never reach a level of complete mastery.

That is probably also why teaching offers a burst of growth in the beginning, because you have gone back and worked on your basics, which you missed as you rushed impatiently toward Black Belt. So all that kata training is like spending time on the driving range, putting, chipping, etc. There is not a second way to drive a ball off the tee. And you can't be a truly great golfer unless you have perfected your swing, your putt, your chip, etc. no matter how good your grasp of the game is.

Wringing out that golf simile, if you first "master the strokes", then the knowledge of the rules and tactics, then the wisdom of play, THEN you will avoid the inevitable plateau and staleness, because you can proceed to the 4th level of true mastery (transcendent love) instead of going back to correct the elements you missed on the way up.

I'm not sure if it was by design or accident, but this seems to be the path O Sensei took. Banging out Daito Ryu and all those other martial arts for the first 40 years, then spending the next 20 years working out the intelligence and wisdom of it's application, he did finally transcend it and arrived at a place of peace and love. But you can't just pick up where he left off. You have to get there first.
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Old 10-29-2013, 12:04 PM   #25
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Re: Unifying the theories

Quote:
Cady Goldfield wrote: View Post
There are those who think that there's only a finite and concrete curriculum to be learned, and once done, you can only "coast" and teach that curriculum. There are others who are students their entire lives, always trying to learn more, discover the nuances of their art, and refine and increase their skills.

When one is a perpetual questing student, the day may arrive when others call that person a master, though the individual thinks him/herself a student.
Spot on.

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