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Old 04-09-2004, 04:20 PM   #1
zachbiesanz
Dojo: New York Aikikai; Byakkokan Dojo (Toyama Ryu Battodo)
Location: Brooklyn, NY
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What's up with Colorado?

Jun: I'm counting on you to let me know when I get out of line!

I visited Colorado recently, and made many friends on my visits to Boulder Aikikai, Aikido Nippon-Kan, and Naropa University's Aikido class. It was about the best spring break I could imagine.

One thing that really struck me, though, was the sense of antipathy between Nippon-Kan and Boulder Aikikai. It was shocking to me that some students in each school seemed to have a harsh opinion of the other school but had never even visited it! Two amazing teachers, so close together (Gaku Homma--my teacher's teacher, and Hiroshi Ikeda--one of my personal favorites in the Aikido world), and their students seem critical without visiting?! Baffling to me.

Quick disclaimer: I'm not saying that a large number of people felt this way; I didn't even talk to more than a handful of people about the "other" dojo in either case. However, I think my concern is justified if even one student has negative feelings about a teacher he or she has had no contact with. Further, I'm also NOT saying that this is because of either sensei's influence; though it may be a possibility, I did not witness any such thing and have no evidence that such is the case.

Myself, I try to learn from many teachers, and get very excited about seeing what they're focusing on lately. Perhaps some people see this as a loyalty issue. My sensei continually encourages us to seek out other teachers, learn what we can, and bring that knowledge back to our dojo.

To see people shutting themselves off from such wonderful learning opportunities so close by is weird to me, plain and simple.

Aikido is the art of hitting an assailant with the planet.
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Old 04-11-2004, 05:43 PM   #2
cuguacuarana
Dojo: River Valley Aikido
Location: Bennington, VT
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I was introduced to aikido through one of Homma sensei's beginner courses. He seems like a great man. He was kind and humerous and as best I could tell, genuine. A number of his students beginning through advanced helped teach the class, and my impression was that Homma sensei imparted the spirit of aikido to his students well. I am grateful for my experience there, I believe that I left with a strong foundation upon which to build.

I have no direct experience with Boulder Aikikai, but have heard a number of great things about it as well. I find it disheartening that there would be so much animosity between the two schools. It seems to me that the spirit of aikido is one of mutual respect and a mutual desire to study and train towards an understanding of O-sensei's teachings and budo in general.
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Old 04-12-2004, 08:27 AM   #3
ross_l
Dojo: Genyokan
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Here is an article written by Homma-sensei that may give you some insight:

http://www.nippon-kan.org/senseis_ar...der_iwama.html
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Old 04-12-2004, 10:21 AM   #4
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Your link doesn't seem to work...

Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 04-12-2004, 10:59 AM   #5
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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I thought it was a beautiful article, but it did not explain the situation in the initial post. Perhaps I am missing something?

Ron

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 04-12-2004, 01:19 PM   #6
ross_l
Dojo: Genyokan
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I think the article sheds some light on Homma-sensei's general displeasure with the Aikikai. I think this may have something to do with why some students at the two schools are not on the friendliest of terms.
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Old 04-12-2004, 02:13 PM   #7
JasonB
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I believe that anyone with true insight into this situation would not post details out of respect for their school and their sensei.

I do, however, think that it is reasonable to acknowledge that there are difficulties between these two schools and that they arise from more than the "Team Spirit" of the students.

It is undeniable that Aikido is a very political environment and the individuals near the top are dealing with a lot of mutual history and personal struggle. It appears that sometimes students, out of admiration for their sensei, will take the barest of knowledge concerning these issues and internalize them in forming their views about other schools. I believe that this tendency is not unique to the students of either Nippon Kan or Boulder Aikikai.

I think that it's great that you had a good experience at both schools and I hope that any students that participated in casting aspersions in the other direction will feel a bit of shame over causing doubt in your mind.
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Old 04-12-2004, 02:18 PM   #8
zachbiesanz
Dojo: New York Aikikai; Byakkokan Dojo (Toyama Ryu Battodo)
Location: Brooklyn, NY
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The organization question seems to be kind of "damned if you do, damned if you don't." Those who choose to avoid the complications that come with being part of an organization seem to run into obstacles with others who chose the other way.

I think the lesson is that it is up to the individual to decide whether good aikido is more important than organizational lines. I'd say go for the aikido and forget the artificial borders. It seems more aiki to me.

Aikido is the art of hitting an assailant with the planet.
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Old 04-12-2004, 02:26 PM   #9
zachbiesanz
Dojo: New York Aikikai; Byakkokan Dojo (Toyama Ryu Battodo)
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Quote:
Jason Breitzman (JasonB) wrote:
I believe that anyone with true insight into this situation would not post details out of respect for their school and their sensei.
Unfortunately, I think you're probably right!
Quote:
Jason Breitzman (JasonB) wrote:
It is undeniable that Aikido is a very political environment and the individuals near the top are dealing with a lot of mutual history and personal struggle. It appears that sometimes students, out of admiration for their sensei, will take the barest of knowledge concerning these issues and internalize them in forming their views about other schools. I believe that this tendency is not unique to the students of either Nippon Kan or Boulder Aikikai.

I think that it's great that you had a good experience at both schools and I hope that any students that participated in casting aspersions in the other direction will feel a bit of shame over causing doubt in your mind.
Great points here. Maybe some unity-minded doka in Colorado can improve relations. I know Nippon-Kan has an annual bowling tournament against a local Karate school. Everyone dresses in dogi and hakama when applicable. The losers' dojo's uchideshi get ice cold water dumped on them at the end and they exchange a trophy. Martial arts schools need more friendly relations like that!

Aikido is the art of hitting an assailant with the planet.
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Old 04-12-2004, 02:51 PM   #10
tedehara
 
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At least these are people from two different organizations. When the dojos are from the same organization, things really seem strange.

We may practice aikido, but we remain human.

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
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Old 04-12-2004, 03:53 PM   #11
Dan Rubin
Dojo: Boulder Aikikai
Location: Denver, Colorado
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Zach

I'm glad, and not surprised, that you enjoyed your classes at Boulder Aikikai and at Nippon Kan. I have a few comments on your post:

First of all, Boulder and Denver seem "so close together" when you live in Minnesota, but not when you live in Boulder or Denver. Boulder Aikikai and Nippon Kan (in Denver) are at least 45 minutes apart in driving time, longer if you're trying to get to class during rush hour.

Second, I don't think it would occur to me, when visiting a dojo, to ask students for their opinions of another dojo. What was your motivation for doing that? Or did these students from both schools volunteer this information spontaneously.

Third, you state that you spoke to only a handful of students at each dojo, yet it appears from your post that a significant portion of that small population had an opinion of the other dojo. If I were to choose a few people at random at each dojo, I would be surprised if any of them had any opinion of the other dojo at all. In fact, I would expect that some members of this random set would not even be aware of the other dojo or teacher.

In my eight years at Boulder Aikikai, and my previous eight years at Denver Ki-Aikido, I've rarely heard any discussion about other schools. Yet in your one visit at two dojo, you managed to hear negative comments about the other.

So I guess I'm a little mystified by that portion of your experience.

Nonetheless, people said what they said. You feel that your "concern is justified if even one student has negative feelings about a teacher he or she has had no contact with." To the contrary, I don't think that your concern is justified. It's just human nature. I am more concerned when a student has negative feelings about a teacher that he or she did have contact with.

Dan Rubin
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Old 04-13-2004, 11:40 PM   #12
zachbiesanz
Dojo: New York Aikikai; Byakkokan Dojo (Toyama Ryu Battodo)
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Dan, thanks for your input. Let's see if I can address your questions.

I've trained at most of the dojo within an hour and a half of my own, and none of the teachers around here have nearly the reputation of Homma-sensei or Ikeda-sensei.

I think the subject came up through normal conversation. I probably mentioned that I was visiting the other dojo that week, and asked if that person had ever visited there. The rest was volunteered.

As for your third inquiry, I was a little surprised. I sometimes forget that the visits I make to other dojo aren't common to all aikidoka. I've trained at most of the dojo within an hour and a half of my own, and none of the teachers around here have nearly the reputation of Homma-sensei or Ikeda-sensei. I have no problem packing up for a 7-hour drive to Chicago to see one of Ikeda-sensei's seminars. So that's why 45 minutes seems like so little time to me. Of course, my work, school, aikido, band, etc schedules are pretty flexible, so I can do that--not everyone can.

Please understand that when I see concentration of such high quality teachers, I get all giddy like a little kid in a candy store. There's a neighborhood in Chicago where two great teachers (Kevin Choate and Keith Moore) have dojos about 2 blocks apart. If I lived there I'd go crazy trying to balance my time between them. As it is, when I go to a seminar at one of them, I usually spend the lunch hour practicing at the other dojo.

Maybe this is all just me. I'm starting to notice that I'm nuts.

One last thing: I don't put any blame on either Ikeda-sensei or Homma-sensei if they don't get along. I don't know if they do or not, but I readily admit that I don't know their mutual history, and if they don't get along, maybe there are good reasons. Still, it shouldn't stop thier students from learning as much as they can.

Aikido is the art of hitting an assailant with the planet.
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Old 04-13-2004, 11:48 PM   #13
zachbiesanz
Dojo: New York Aikikai; Byakkokan Dojo (Toyama Ryu Battodo)
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OK, I was wrong about that being my last thing. Here's a stylistic observation that my traveling companion and I have made. Feel free to agree or disagree!

Nippon-Kan's aikido seems to focus on the strength of nage's position (and maybe a little more dramatically), while ASU's aikido seems to put more interest in the weakening of uke's position (perhaps with more subtlety). They both have the same relative effect, and the difference isn't drastic, but I think it's a compelling reason to gain at least a little exposure to both.

Note: we did NOT base this on just a week of training. Qualifications also include: several years of study under a student of Gaku Homma, three ASU seminars, and all four of Ikeda's videos.

Aikido is the art of hitting an assailant with the planet.
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Old 09-17-2004, 01:16 PM   #14
Amendes
Join Date: Jan 2002
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Re: What's up with Colorado?

I have no bad thoughs on Nippon-Kan and was even going to sign up to be a Ushedeshi there after looking into it for about two years and doing lots of research.

Mind you its very far away from where I live, but I relly wanted to give it a shot.

They were very helpfull with information they provided.

However after talking to one of the black belts on the telephone there I felt very unwelcome and stupid. They basically said "If you want to come then come, but if you have all thesse questions don't waste my time." I also felt they were sort of saying "I am better and my school is better" I know I may have gotten the wrong impression and this was one particular student but it relly soured my experiance and I promtly droped the whole idea of being a ushedeshi at nippon-kan.

Besides where I train I am very welcome and everyones is happy to see me or train with me. If I am not there people ask. If me or another student goes out of town or on trips we even phone long distance to let Sensi know we are ok and made it safe.

I just sort of assumed all dojos were like that. Maybe i'm sheltered becuase I been at the same dojo that I started taking aikido and tai chi for years. Ehhhssh...

I guess moving to a new school is like moving to a new neighbourhood. You should see what your neighbours are like before you move in. You should try a free trial as well for this. I know nippon-kan also has daily fees. Or something of the like for visitors, so I am sure you can try this out.

There is so many horror stories of people that go to the wrong place.

Also as already mentioned be carefull with Nippon-Kan. It is a great school but be prepared to drop everything you know when you join, as they strongly stressed to me. You have to assume everything you have learned is now wrong and start with shoshin.

Cheerio.

Last edited by Amendes : 09-17-2004 at 01:21 PM.
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Old 09-17-2004, 02:47 PM   #15
NagaBaba
 
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Re: What's up with Colorado?

Quote:
Andrew Mendes wrote:
Also as already mentioned be carefull with Nippon-Kan. It is a great school but be prepared to drop everything you know when you join, as they strongly stressed to me. You have to assume everything you have learned is now wrong and start with shoshin.

Cheerio.
That is true for ANY teacher that developped his own system of teaching. One can't learn two systems at the same time. it is a nonsens to mix everything up. Teachers with strong personalities develop very specific teaching tools, and you must simply accept it all or nothing. That's why soshin is a must.

You may feel it as "I am better and my school is better" idea, but it is only very superficial feeling. In reality, in any good system of teaching everything is like in a puzzle. If you take some technique, or exercies out of system, it will be not only useless, but completly misused and misunderstand by outsiders. They will never understand why and how to use it without understanding whole system.

Unfortunatly beginners don't know that instructor use system of teaching, and they form and express some opinions based on their partial understanding.

Only instructors with not enough training can tell you that you can take things from different systems.It is illusion at beginners level. Only ppl with very many years of experience can absorb some part from other systems, because they know what role plays this part, what is the goal.

That's why, interaction between different aikido dojo are sometimes difficult.

Nagababa

ask for divine protection Ame no Murakumo Kuki Samuhara no Ryuo
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Old 10-13-2004, 02:24 PM   #16
Allan Kaplan
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Re: What's up with Colorado?

Having been a student with Ikeda sensei at the inception of the Boulder Aikikai in 1980 and about 6-7 years thereafter, I was present when Ikeda sensei and Homma sensei met at a dinner specifically arranged by a student of Homma's who frequently trained (with Homma's disapproval) with us in Boulder. Let's just say that things never really got off the ground that well between the two of them, despite the arrangement of reciprocal classes at the two dojos.

I add that I spoke with several people back then who were at both Hombu Dojo and in Iwama at the times that Homma sensei mentions he was there, and the recollections differed somewhat from his.

I'll leave it to you to connect the dots.

Allan
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Old 10-13-2004, 02:53 PM   #17
James Giles
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Re: What's up with Colorado?

Good post NagaBaba.
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Old 10-13-2004, 02:54 PM   #18
JasonB
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Re: What's up with Colorado?

Apparently you haven't noticed yet but the act of "connecting the dots" in Aikido politics is a bit more complicated then talking to a couple of people about personal recollection.

Good information though; I suppose now that I can tell people that I heard from guy, who talked to someone who says that he remembers something from 40 years ago that implies (when you "connect the dots") that someone else remembers something different from 40 years ago.

If you would like to state something then I recommend that you come right out with it and stand behind your statement. This game of implying scandalous things with vague referance to unlikely conversations with unnamed individuals who had unnusual insight as valid sources seems...stupid.
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