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Old 05-24-2004, 01:49 PM   #1
"Triple 5 a"
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Question Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

I was looking forward to an upcoming seminar, and now I have doubts.

In the last seminar with this Shihan he lectured 80% of the time. His english is fractured, and after much reflection I concluded attendees heard what they wanted and assembled the message to suit themselves. What little training time we spent on the very crowded mat reinforced this conclusion, as my most experienced partners gave me a different spin on what I thought was said. Usually after their 4 turns and it was my time to try it, they stalled me (from implementing the idea) and then it was time to sit down.

Repeat this scene over and over and maybe you can see why I have second thoughts about this 3 day seminar this year. The mat will be crowded again, and if I decide not to attend, I should do it quickly to open up a slot.

As for me, I have practiced for 8 years under three organizations and have taught for four years. I've attended seminars and summer camps and have experienced many different teachers. I have my biases and opinions and I am open to suggestions.

What do you think? Should I give this seminar a chance?

Thanks...

- assimilated aikidoka absent an agenda
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Old 05-24-2004, 03:28 PM   #2
GaiaM
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

If you tell us what shihan it is people might be able to give you some feedback about whether he is always like that or if it might be different this time.
Personally, if I expected to be constantly frustrated and unable to train during class I would probably put my energy/funds/time towards a different seminar...
Good luck!
Gaia

___________
Gaia Marrs
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Old 05-24-2004, 03:46 PM   #3
Jim Sorrentino
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

Have you taken other seminars or classes with this shihan? If not, or if you have had other, more positive experiences with his teaching, and if what he is teaching interests you, then you should go.

Is your current teacher asking or directing you to attend this seminar? If so (and you don't want to go), you should tell your teacher why you're not interested in attending. While "voting with your feet" sends a message, it seems to me that you will send a clearer message if communicate your doubts directly to your teacher with reasonable discourse.

If you are not currently studying under one specific teacher, and you don't want to go, you should communicate your doubts directly (and respectfully) to the teacher of the dojo hosting the seminar.

You may also wish to communicate your doubts directly to the shihan in question. If you choose to do so, I suggest that you do it in writing, respectfully and discretely. If you are in the shihan's organization, you should alert your teacher of your intentions, and allow him or her to read (but not censor) your letter. You may not get a response, but at least the shihan in question will have no doubts about why you're not there.

As for me, I've come to the conclusion that crowded seminars aren't worth the increased risk of injury, even if there is more training than talking. At my own dojo (Aikido of Northern Virginia), we limit attendance to 80 people, which is a comfortable number for our mat-space about 1,745 square feet with no obstructions. People who sign up for the entire seminar get preference over people who only attend part of the seminar. In the past 4 1/2 years, we have either filled or come close to filling all available spaces (and we have turned people away when we met our limit). The questionable charms of a crowded seminar wear off long before the injuries heal.

Good luck!
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Old 05-24-2004, 11:50 PM   #4
"aaaaa"
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Thumbs down Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

Gaia: I think the problem may be me so I hesitate to implicate my dojo or the Shihan in question hence the anonymous nature of my post. I hesitate because there are many people (on the mat and on this board) who don't seem to see what I'm seeing; hence I heartily question myself knowing I have to be fair to everyone, including myself. But I will discretely ask around the dojo to see if this year is expected to be like last year. That is a good suggestion and I will take it, thank you.

Having said that, at my dojo 9 out of 10 classes are not as constipated as I anticipate this seminar to be. The exception is 1 from a guest teacher who seems bent on showing, demonstrating, teaching and getting onto the next thing ASAP. Last week his class precipitated this post: up and down and no time to develop, got it great, next! Next week same Aiki-channel, same Aiki-time.

So most of the classes are excellent; this cult of personality about the Shihan bothers me. Don't we all learn by doing? I can't begrudge a master from talking; maybe it all makes sense to him! Can he impart this in action? Can he trust us to manifest his thought in action? Give me a little pedantic instruction because I'm slow; then give me the time (and room for mistakes and rediscovery and self-correction) to do it. Less talk more action. Less reference to Osensei and the kojiki (which everyone agrees none of the deshi totally 100% got) and more about space, time, intent and luring your uke. Just give me something practical so I can spend less time out of seiza at least!

Jim, I can't tell the master this directly. Nor my teacher. No matter how discretely, I just don't see it as a positive. This Shihan is regarded a demigod, good or bad. I have spoken to him just once, informally, last year: he seems very nice though a bit detached from what a student may think; forget about bringing up an opinion about the inadequate nature of his lecture/classes. Besides I don't think this is really about me. I do think changes are coming in regard to teaching methods once the uchi deshi era has passed. I'd like to think I've touched on why, yet I digress.

So Jim and Gaia, I see the logic in your answers, and I appreciate the care you've taken in expressing them so carefully.

Still I would like to hear more from you all.
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Old 05-25-2004, 02:51 AM   #5
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

Yes, I think I would be very reluctant to tell a senior shihan to his face that he talked too much at seminars, for it would be extremely impolite to do so. There is one Japanese Shihan X who is famous for the lengthy discourses he gives during seminars and I suspect that he believes that they truly serve a purpose. I last heard that he likes to supplement these discourses with actual lectures.

Once, during a conversation with another shihan, Shihan Y, now passed away, who never stopped to talk during seminars (he simply did it while throwing his ukes), the talkative Shihan X came up in the conversation. Shihan Y smiled and simply remarked, "Ah, good seiza practice for you, eh."

On the other hand, the discourses on the Kojiki that O Sensei used to deliver and nobody understood were given during regular training or special seminars. So I suppose the talkative shihan thought he was following a good model.

I myself am not a fan of special seminars attended by hundreds of people. The only value is training with people you would never normally train with and sampling new techniques, or techniques done in a different way. But, of course, you have to be close enough to the instructor to see what is going on...

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 05-25-2004, 03:50 AM   #6
Hagen Seibert
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

Once a friend of mine went to a seminar,
it was horribly crowded on the mat, no place where you could give your uke a safe landing,
he went to the organizers and asked his money back...

Some teachers/styles donīt think about that,
or perhaps say the more people on the mat the more people paying,
or perhaps want to give a chance to everybody.

A crowed mat bothers, itīs a waste of time to attend.
If you canīt practice, you wonīt remember.

So my advice: If itīs not worth for you, donīt go.
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Old 05-25-2004, 03:44 PM   #7
Jim Sorrentino
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

Jim, I can't tell the master this directly. Nor my teacher. No matter how discretely, I just don't see it as a positive. This Shihan is regarded a demigod, good or bad. I have spoken to him just once, informally, last year: he seems very nice though a bit detached from what a student may think; forget about bringing up an opinion about the inadequate nature of his lecture/classes. Besides I don't think this is really about me. I do think changes are coming in regard to teaching methods once the uchi deshi era has passed. I'd like to think I've touched on why, yet I digress.

I'm not surprised that you believe that you can't speak with the shihan. And frankly, if you were going to do so, I'd advise you to tread lightly, and do so in a way that would not cause the shihan to "lose face". A letter might be better.

But I am surprised that you can't bring the matter up with your own teacher. It seems to me that a teacher who discourages his or her students from asking questions (at the proper time and place) is not helping the students learn.

It will take more than the demise of the uchi deshi to change the teaching methods (such as they are) in aikido. I'm afraid that to the extent that most students behave like sheep, most teachers will treat them accordingly.

Please let me know if you attend the seminar, and if you do attend, whether the shihan does well. Again, good luck!
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Old 05-25-2004, 08:01 PM   #8
"Anonymous"
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

I say go for it, especially if your teacher is planning to attend. It shows a unity within your home dojo and reflects well upon your teacher.

I've noticed that as we develop as Aikidoka, we become more and more capable of getting more out of the seminars. Perhaps, if your last experience was negative, then maybe this time, you will get more out of it.

Moreover, if your sensei is planning on attending, certainly the techniques and the focus of the classes for the next week or two after the seminar will all deal with what he or she picked up from the seminar. If you attend, then you will have a better base of understanding for those techniques and perhaps your sensei will be able to make them accessible to you.

And ask yourself this: In five or ten or even twenty years, will you regret having gone? Or will you regret having missed the opportunity to have attended?

(sorry for being anonymous/unregistered)
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Old 05-25-2004, 09:17 PM   #9
PeterR
 
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

Personally I never seem to get that much out of seminars beyond the obvious social benefits.

Too many students, teacher shows too much, teacher shows too little, etc. Far better to travel to your Shihan's dojo for a period of time.

Now I reallize that its not always so easy to do but my point is that it's a little bit much to expect the seminar to be crafted exactly to your needs.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 05-25-2004, 09:20 PM   #10
"maki otoshi"
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

To the original poster - if you told us who this shihan is, we might be able to offer informed second opinions. You've got us groping in the dark here. This is an anonymous forum, so why not?
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Old 05-26-2004, 02:03 PM   #11
"aaaaa"
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

Quote:
if you told us who this shihan is, we might be able to offer informed second opinions...This is an anonymous forum, so why not?
It wouldn't be constructive and I have gotten informed opinions. I suspect Prof. Goldsbury knows of whom I lament; no doubt others do too. He is popular. If you have a good idea, you're probably right.
Quote:
that it's a little bit much to expect the seminar to be crafted exactly to your needs.
I agree. Fortunately I am not that particular. I need a chance to do the technique at least once, take ukemi at least once.
Quote:
if your sensei is planning on attending (and) If you attend, then you will have a better base of understanding for those techniques and perhaps your sensei will be able to make them accessible to you.
True dat.
Quote:
But I am surprised that you can't bring the matter up with your own teacher.
This shihan has said 'students have no opinions' in regards to the proper attitude students should bring to aikido training.

Hey, it's not a democracy, indeed I vote with my fee, and no one is forcing me to go. I have heard that this year is going to be more geared to training, so I am going to go, and soak up and steal what I can. Hopefully I can use it, incorporate it, assimilate it, make it mine and maybe even elevate my understanding. I'll report back.
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Old 05-26-2004, 03:19 PM   #12
BC
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
Once, during a conversation with another shihan, Shihan Y, now passed away, who never stopped to talk during seminars (he simply did it while throwing his ukes), the talkative Shihan X came up in the conversation. Shihan Y smiled and simply remarked, "Ah, good seiza practice for you, eh."
Hah! That is classic! I think I have an idea who Shihan Y was...

Robert Cronin
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Old 06-01-2004, 10:27 PM   #13
Choku Tsuki
 
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

Quote:
"Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind."
--F. Scott Fitzgerald
I hope your Shihan is effectively a genius. Perhaps it'll manifest in waza this year. Or next. And probably that's too much to expect. If you wind up disappointed maybe you should move on. What do your dojo mates think?

--Chuck
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Old 06-02-2004, 11:03 AM   #14
Mark Balogh
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

This is a strange situation. I know of something similar to what you describe, but the results are weird!!! The instructors close to this teacher seem to really know their stuff and get a lot out of the seminars. When they explain it to me, I think "jeez that is clever!!!". I have also met and talked to students of this teacher's dojo, and they know their stuff and seem to have a nice handle on it. I just can't really figure it out!!!!!!!! It's almost like the teacher is very inaccessable at first, but if you get on the 'inside' as it were, you will get loads out of it.

My advice, go for his senior students, ask them pertinent questions and you may get an inside angle on this mysterious teacher!!!

If not, there are some real top shihan's/senior instructors out there so take your pick!!!!!
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Old 06-10-2004, 12:52 PM   #15
"aaaaa"
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

Before the seminar I did bring up the question of what to expect this year. I was glad to discover I was not alone in my opinions. It was good to know my sempai have a view on reality more like mine than not. So at the end of the first class, when the Shihan promised he wouldn't be talking so much in the next, I wondered if he heard about this thread.

The methodology was more accessible than last year. I think the idea was to give us a lot of things for a year of exploring under a cohesive philosophy. The progression of technique was inspired and constructive, punctuated by mini lectures with no economy of time. Then to waza.

We were up and down a lot. Fortunately my partner and I optimized the time and did 2&2 instead of 4&4. I got more hands on than last year. I sat cross legged; very little seiza practice. A lot of new faces, different body types, range of experience varied greatly, a fine large group of people: the mat was crowded and everyone seemed glad to be there.

One thing I did not like. The Shihan would lecture (light philosophy tangently supporting the waza) and occasionally ask "You understand?" demanding a vocal response. I found myself saying "Yes Sensei" despite it being a lie more than not. What bothered me is the psychology of reinforcement behind this question/response dynamic. You hear yourself saying "Yes" so then you think you do. May I instead just file it away under "Research" for the time being? May I give my body a chance to remember the context and feel of it for reference? A petty thing perhaps. But then came the life lessons! If I wanted a guru I'd join a cult [no I don't and no I haven't].

But overall, in summary: good stuff, a lot of little gems sprinkled everywhere, too many to remember, lost under the mat for me to slip on.
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Old 06-11-2004, 03:09 AM   #16
Mark Balogh
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Re: Seminar Doubts - Your Advice?

That's great to hear Anonymous, I bet your learning capabilities are developing as well because you are having to search for the answers. Top stuff, enjoy your practise.
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