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Old 08-22-2004, 02:59 PM   #1
George S. Ledyard
 
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Hungry for Aikido

I think it was 1981 when I left Washington, DC hub of my Aiki Universe for the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. Saotome Sensei, upon hearing that Seattle was to be my new home, told me categorically that if I was going to be out here, then Mary Heiny Sensei was the person to train with.

In those days there were only three or four dojos in Seattle. The late Hirata Sensei had the Ki Society dojo. Mary Heiny had a school not far from the University. There was a club in the International district that had been founded by Bernie Lau Sensei but he had build a beautiful traditional dojo on his own property and was teaching mostly police officers by then.

In those days Mary Heiny Sensei's school was the only one which had much in the way of connection with the outside Aikido world. Because there were a couple of us at the dojo who were students of Saotome Sensei and Ikeda Sensei we would invite them out once a year (Mary Sensei had a good relationship with both of them from her days in Japan). Mary Sensei's own teacher had been Hikitsuchi Sensei so we would regularly host the top American instructors who were from the Shingu tradition (Jack Wada, Linda Holiday, and especially Tom Read).

So in a good year there might be three seminars offered in Seattle. So those of us who were serious about our training had a circle defined by ten hours of travel time within which we hot any event offered. We would go up to Vancouver, BC, down to Arcata, CA, over to Missoula, MT… it didn't matter we were there. Of course we also traveled for the really big events outside our own area like Camps and multi day seminars when we could afford them.

Now I hate to sound like the old fart who complains that this generation of kids has it easy… no, I never had to walk bare foot in the snow to any seminars. But there are fifteen or so dojos in the immediate Seattle area now. Most of them host events of some kind. It long ago became impossible to attend them all. This weekend for instance, I spent Friday night training with Tom Read Sensei at Two Cranes Aikido. Saturday I spent all day with Toby Threadgill Sensei at the Seattle Jiu Jutsu Club. If this weren't a weekend on which I have my two boys, I would have spent Sunday at Puget Sound Aikikai where they are hosting Nevelius and Ostoff, two top notch Aikikai instructors. What really amazed me was, given how large the community of practitioners is here, how small the group of folks is that takes advantage of what is being offered.

It's no longer necessary to travel at all to train with absolutely top drawer teachers. To receive instruction from an uchi deshi of the Founder or a shihan level teacher trained by the best teachers in the world, one merely has to keep track of the calendar and on most weekends with no more effort than a half hour in the car, at most, one can be training with someone at this level. So where are the students?

In the old days, when there were three or four dojos in town, my own dojo under Mary Heiny Sensei had at least 6 -- 8 people who defined themselves by their Aikido practice, not their type of employment. This core group in the dojo trained six or seven days a week, hit the seminars, spent virtually all their discretionary income on training. It was the same at the dojo I came from under Saotome Sensei. A saying by Lovret Sensei seemed to describe these dojos "There are those who train as often as they can, and there are those who train." We were definitely amongst "those who train". I think the best way I could describe these folks is that they were "hungry".

What I don't see these days is that core of folks who want it that badly… There will be a seminar here in town with a world class teacher the participants will be almost entirely from the host dojo. The attitude seems to be "Oh well, Ikeda Sensei will be at our dojo in the Fall so I don't need to see him in the Spring." Is this about training or about punching entries on your dance card? Even within ones own dojo there is a lackadaisical attitude towards guest instructors. Some people seem to feel that they should go to support the dojo, a sentiment which I certainly appreciate. Others will attend once they have determined that the weather forecast that weekend isn't very good so they might as well. Many feel a certain peer pressure to attend so they compromise. They'll hit the Friday night class or the Saturday class then plead other commitments. Out of an enrollment of around 45 to 50 adults at my own dojo, we will typically have about 12 to 15 students still training by the final class on Sunday afternoon.

Now I can understand "other commitments", my ex and I had eight kids between us. But the schedule is done a year in advance in most cases. If one really cared about his training, it's not usually impossible to move commitments around and negotiate a trade with the non-training partner to give yourself that free weekend. It just doesn't occur to a lot of folks to do so. I'll ask if someone is planning the seminar and they'll look up and say, "Oh, is that this weekend? Oh, I'll have to see." That's the mark of someone who hasn't put one iota of thought into his training. If there's nothing happening that conflicts, maybe he'll hit some of it…

My own theory on this is that, while Aikido has grown by leaps and bounds in this country, the number of practitioners numbering in the 40,000+ range by some estimates (more than in the country of origin, Japan), the number of people who are really serious about their practice has not grown at the same pace, perhaps not much at all. The reason that I find it hard to get a group of ten Aikido fanatics to power training at my dojo is that they are now spread out between fifteen different dojos, not concentrated in one or two like the old days.

Why has there been such growth without a commensurate growth in the number of "hardcore" students? I think because we have made it so easy for people to train. I used to travel one hour at rush hour to get to Mary Heiny Sensei's dojo. I did that six days a week. Most people weren't willing to do that so the growth of Aikido was slowed simply be the unavailability of dojos within and easy commute. Now, there are multiple dojos to choose from within a twenty minute drive.

Seminars were so unusual in the old days that virtually everyone at the seminar was from the "hardcore" group. We'd always have a group from Portland and Vancouver, BC with a few folks from Montana. Even the less committed would attend because they knew that there might only be two seminars in the entire year. These days we can have a seminar with a world renowned teacher and by Sunday afternoon the number of folks from outside the dojo outnumbers those from within. The composition of the seminar was my own hard core group, a group of hard core students of the guest teacher from around the country and then my regular students who came and went at different times. Virtually no one from the immediate area attended. In other words, there were more students there who had flown in or had driven many hours to get there than there were students who could have popped into their cars and been in the mat in a half an hour.

I find this fascinating. I suppose that one could look at it from the micro economic standpoint. In the old days the supply of top notch Aikido did not match the demand. Nowadays it seems that the supply of high level Aikido has met or exceeds the demand. There is simply so much of it that folks don't need to think about it any more. They don't have to make any special effort to get it. So they don't have any sense of how excited we got when we went to a seminar with someone who had trained directly with the Founder. Now I hear folks saying, "No I'm not going to that seminar. Sensei so and so is a bit weird, I don't like him that much." What does like have to do with it? We'd train with the Darth Vader of Aikido if it meant that we could get some more training from someone at that level.

I only mention this to perhaps create an awareness in the students of today what their own teachers have gone through in order to get to where they are. Huge amounts of time, money, and physical effort have gone into creating this current generation of senior instructors. The effort and commitment required has given their practice a depth that is lacking in many students today who have not had to work so hard to be presented with far more resources than we had. Take these things seriously and take advantage of every opportunity you possibly can to train. Don't just wait for it to be handed to you, go after it. Be one of the "hungry" ones. Your practice will be deeper and your dojo will benefit from your efforts as well. And I can say categorically that, as a teacher, having a bunch of students who are "hungry" in this way provides an inspiration to progress, innovate and grow that isn't there when you feel like people don't care enough to even get what you already have to offer them.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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Old 08-22-2004, 03:45 PM   #2
aikidoc
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Absolutely a well timed statement. However, there are a lot of schools and organizations that do not believe in students going to seminars by instructors not in their own small circle. I agree with you. When I was in California, a small group of us were constantly at the dojos. I trained at 3 to get my fix and tried to do seminars about once a month when I could afford them. Bad fog, California fires, it did not matter. We made the effort to be there.
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Old 08-22-2004, 04:09 PM   #3
akiy
 
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Hi George,

Great sentiments expressed extremely well. Thanks for putting them down into words and for posting them here.

Relatedly, perhaps, from my own experiences recently, I find it kind of sad when a class that is regularly taught by our chief instructor or one of our senior students gets a substitute instructor due to that person going out of town, the attendence drops to almost nothing. One of my friends commented on "teacher dependency" and I can see what he means.

In any case, for my own aikido experience, I can say that I have benefitted greatly from going to classes and seminars taught by many different instructors from different lineages over the years. Now that the number of people who have studied directly with the founder is rapidly diminishing, I think it's time for both students and teachers to shed the sort of "discriminatory" tendencies that George and John mention above.

Thanks again, George, for your thoughts.

-- Jun

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Old 08-22-2004, 06:21 PM   #4
maikerus
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

George,

Very well said. Thank-you for bringing that back home and reminding me that not only is it important to focus 100% and train well while on the mat, but also to find and take advantage of all the training we possibly can.

--Michael

Hiriki no yosei 3 - The kihon that makes your head ache instead of your legs
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Old 08-22-2004, 08:18 PM   #5
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
Absolutely a well timed statement. However, there are a lot of schools and organizations that do not believe in students going to seminars by instructors not in their own small circle. I agree with you. When I was in California, a small group of us were constantly at the dojos. I trained at 3 to get my fix and tried to do seminars about once a month when I could afford them. Bad fog, California fires, it did not matter. We made the effort to be there.
Hi John,
I am working on an article for either aikiweb or aikido journal, haven't decided, which will touch on the subject of transmission and the function of organizations(or lack therof).

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 08-22-2004, 09:17 PM   #6
NagaBaba
 
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
So where are the students?
I don't think it is necessery to have very many students hungry for aikido. In good old days, back in Japan, there was a quite strict selection BEFORE any student could start practice. Presently, this selection is more natural, only a couple students make an effort to train, and selection existe AFTER few years of practice. In my opinion it is very good system, cos everyone can at least try aikido.

This natural selection develops strong circle of students around a person with strongest skills and charismatic personalities. One may see this process in shihans dojo. Others, very good, but not having enough skills or charisma to attract gifted and fidel students, well, they will continue to practice at their level.
In the end of the day, we will see only very few but extremly high level instructors.
That's how life works.Nothing to cry about

Nagababa

ask for divine protection Ame no Murakumo Kuki Samuhara no Ryuo
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Old 08-22-2004, 09:53 PM   #7
Charles Hill
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

I see two separate issues here. One is the rate of "hard core students" not increasing even though the overall number of students has increased. The other is about training outside one's "circle." When I was at the Aikikai Honbu, it was basically the non-Japanese who trained everyday regardless of instructor. We thought we were being "hardcore", but for some of us, it interferred with our progress as we were too busy doing "Aikido" and not learning what one specific teacher was teaching. It could be an "us vs. them" mentality that keeps people from training with various teachers or it could be that some are looking for a kind of transmission from one specific teacher. This, I feel, is the Japanese way. That is not to say that it is better (although I now kind of lean that way.) If a person has found their "teacher" and that teacher has limited classes, I don't think it is necessarily a good idea for the student to go to another dojo the other days of the week.

Charles Hill
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Old 08-22-2004, 10:46 PM   #8
aikidoc
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

George, I look forward to your article. Still awaiting my article on atemi to get published in Black Belt magazine. They tell me to be patient. I hope they don't do like JAMA and wait a year to tell me I need to rewrite it. Which I did but for another magazine.
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Old 08-23-2004, 03:34 AM   #9
ruthmc
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Nice post!

I think it all comes down to choosing what you want to commit to. Many folks won't make that choice in favour of Aikido - fair play to them. Those few of us who do make that choice for Aikido get a lot more depth to our training and ultimately get more out of it, IMHO.

Personally I have virtually always put Aikido first - a choice that has been criticised by my employer, my family and my friends at different times. They don't understand my choice and I can't explain it to them - you either get the bug or you don't

Two months ago I spent money I didn't have to go to Amsterdam to a seminar with Ikeda Sensei. It will take me three months to recover from that debt, but it was totally worth it. (The way I saw it, it was still less expensive than going to the USA to see him!) My Aikido has moved up a notch since that seminar, and I'm grateful every day that Ikeda Sensei made that trip to Europe, and I was fortunate enough to train under his instruction (and even grab his wrist a couple of times!).

So there are a few of us who will travel long distances, spend money and time, to do that which we truly love.

If other folk don't get it, it's their choice

Ruth
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Old 08-23-2004, 08:13 AM   #10
ian
 
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

erm - I think everyone has to work at their own pace. I'm not an obsessive like Ueshiba (or George?) and therefore realise that I will have limited attainment. This is because I'm only willing to sacrifice a certain amount for aikido. I found living in more violent communities tends to spur on your training because there is a necessity for it.
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Old 08-23-2004, 09:12 AM   #11
Devon Natario
 
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Mr. Ledyard,
I have always been hungry for "Martial Arts" and knowledge. I understand your point in that aspect. I just started Aikido about 7 months ago now. I have already been to a camp and I am planning on going to a Seminar in Missoula to see Saotome Sensei. Anyways, I don't think the lack of "hungry" students is the issue. I think it's the lack of knowledge that instructors are passing down. My instructor here has told me about Saotome Sensei, what to expect, how great he is in skill etc etc. It made me enthusiastic to go. Had he not explained or told me about it, I wouldn't have thought about going.

I think there may be an issue of communication. Yes, a hungry student may perhaps find out information. But in all honesty, there are some people who just need a push in the right direction.

Then you have another issue of "why". What is the point to be hungry? Patience is a virtue. The knowledge will come when we are meant to have it. The light will turn on when we are meant to have it. I know that sounds ignorant, and I am not speaking in temrs of myself, but in terms of what people may think. Americans need to be motivated to do something. What is the point of someone searching for knowledge when they will get nothing for it. No offense to Aikido, but it's one of the slowest arts for promotion that I have ever been in. The better you are means nothing. The faster you learn means nothing. It all has to do with inner growth. Dont get me wrong either. I am an instructor of Jujitsu, I dont need the rank in Aikido. I learn things, and that's all that matters to me. But had I been a student with no experience. I would have been bored of this art already because there's no goal. 7 months without a promotion would be pretty boring to me as a beginner.

Again dont get me wrong. I just dont see a point, except for self growth, which I am sorry is far less important to Americans than self gratification is. If there were some way to gratify students, maybe they would attend more Seminars and be more hungry.

It's funny. I run forums a lot. And when I put rank for number of posts, it increases the number of posts people make. It sounds really stupid, but it's all about showing off. Maybe if these "so called" great instructors allowed photographs, autographs, a certificate of attendance, etc for students they would be more hungry to attend.

I know this isnt your point at all. I guess Im just used to coming up with a solution before I complain, and that's my solution to your complaint. We as instructors need to make people hungry to seek us out, not expect them to seek us out.

You can believe if O'Sensei were alive, you'd see many more hungry students at his seminar. However, he never expected it, it just came.

Devon Natario
Instructor
Northwest Jujitsu
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Old 08-23-2004, 09:15 AM   #12
John Boswell
 
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Having the luxury of multiple dojo's is something I for one am not familiar with.

Welcome to Midland, Texas! Population: 95,000+ and home to fewer than 10 aikidoka.

http://maps.yahoo.com/maps_result?ed...w=1&name=&qty=

When seminar's take place, Shihan come for a visit, aikido camps are required for rank... guess what? We got a LONG way to go!

I agree with Sensei Ledyard that its nice to see a group of people that are "hungry" for aikido and really want it. For the most part, that's what 99% of us are in Midland. Hell, we get excited when we meet new shodans from two hours away!

Many back west, and east for that matter, are spoiled for having Shihan living in the same city as they do. To train under Saotome, Ikeda, Yamada and Mary Sensei... on an everyday basis? DANG!

One classmate of mine, who is a nidan, has a son going to Stanford in California. He had been trying to get his son interested in aikido for a long time. And now... with so many high ranking instructors just around the corner, he wanted his son to train even more so! Well, the son is now starting to look into it and hopefully will stick with it. Many of us just wish he understood what a goldmine he's sitting on out there.

Sensei Riggs is an excellent instructor and we're glad to have him. But for those in Boulder, Washington D.C., New York, San Fransico and L.A.... you have no reason to sluff off on training. At least you don't have to drive 10 hours for a seminar or have the expense of plane tickets ON TOP OF seminar fees and dojo dues.

Sensei Ledyard, stay on everyone! Get em out and keep em training! And as soon as the money is avalible, count on Midland (me?) coming out to learn what you have to teach about Randori! We always drool just thinking about the randori class you teach.

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Old 08-23-2004, 10:29 AM   #13
aikidoc
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Devon.

I think one of George's points was that even when the opportunity presents itself within the person's dojo people just brush it off. We all have responsibilities and obligations but his point is well taken when there is considerable advanced notice. I used to see this lassitude in one organization I trained in among instructors. I hit the seminars a lot when living in the southern California area. I would rarely seen any of my instructors at seminars with top people like Saotome, Ikeda, etc. It was discouraging.

Thanks for the plug John .
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Old 08-23-2004, 01:33 PM   #14
Devon Natario
 
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

I understand the point to his plug John, and Im not dogging the concept surrounding his theory. Where I come from, you don't complain or theorize without a solution to the issue. Anyone can complain. I can complain that there seems to be more Akido practitioners that think only knowledge can be found in Aikido, when in all actuality all arts have a great deal to offer. There are and were other greats to see like Professor Wally Jay, the late Professor Presas, the late Leo D. Wilson, Hanshi George Dillman etc etc. However, the closed minded people in Aikido refuse to go outside of the box.

Im sorry my point is that it's a generalization and anyone can do it. It takes away from the rest of us that are hungry for knowledge, and it misrepresents the new pratitioners in Aikido. A real practitioner of the arts never stops being a student anyways. So there shouldn't be much of a change from those days to these days unless everyone has passed away.

Devon Natario
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Northwest Jujitsu
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Old 08-23-2004, 03:19 PM   #15
suren
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Quote:
Devon Natario wrote:
Americans need to be motivated to do something.
I think everybody needs that.

Quote:
Devon Natario wrote:
What is the point of someone searching for knowledge when they will get nothing for it.
What is the point of searching anything if we all finally die? What you can get from doing any art except some satisfaction from what you are doing?

Quote:
Devon Natario wrote:
No offense to Aikido, but it's one of the slowest arts for promotion that I have ever been in. ...
But had I been a student with no experience. I would have been bored of this art already because there's no goal. 7 months without a promotion would be pretty boring to me as a beginner.
What would you say about my previous karate school where first promotion happens after about 4 years whey you really don't care about ranks and promotions? And guess what, almost all students I started with, were still there when school was closed. Actually what amazed me in America was how easy you are getting promoted here.

Quote:
Devon Natario wrote:
I just dont see a point, except for self growth, which I am sorry is far less important to Americans than self gratification is.
Right! For all 290 millions of Americans! I think more travel could show you that there are places where people more interested in their daily food than in self growth.

Quote:
Devon Natario wrote:
Maybe if these "so called" great instructors allowed photographs, autographs, a certificate of attendance, etc for students they would be more hungry to attend.
I personally don't think so.

Quote:
Devon Natario wrote:
We as instructors need to make people hungry to seek us out, not expect them to seek us out.
That's a great idea, but how do you propose to make people "hungry"? People's nature is so that you can't just make a person hungry. They become hungry when their stomachs tell them so. I believe the same is true about hunger for knowledge. Something inside the person should drive him into dojo. I don't think autographs or free coffie can help.
On the other hand probably some more information about the art (TV, magazines), demonstrations (which I would prefer more since TV shows mostly are too merchandized in their nature), etc could catch people's interest and bring them into dojo. But to keep them in there... I believe there need to be more than just interest.
How to develop that "something" that keeps people interested even after years of practice, I don't know. But from my experience that can't be developed from outside.

I don't like confrontations overall and sorry if my post is too offensive, but that was my original reaction which I wanted to share.
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Old 08-23-2004, 03:36 PM   #16
John Boswell
 
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Quote:
Devon Natario said: "Im sorry my point is that it's a generalization and anyone can do it."

True. But, when it's said by a 6th Dan who has been training for almost 30 years, shouldn't you at least give him the benefit of the doubt?

Re-read Sensei's last paragragh:
Quote:
Sensei Ledyard said: "I only mention this to perhaps create an awareness in the students of today what their own teachers have gone through in order to get to where they are. Huge amounts of time, money, and physical effort have gone into creating this current generation of senior instructors. The effort and commitment required has given their practice a depth that is lacking in many students today who have not had to work so hard to be presented with far more resources than we had. Take these things seriously and take advantage of every opportunity you possibly can to train. Don't just wait for it to be handed to you, go after it. Be one of the "hungry" ones. Your practice will be deeper and your dojo will benefit from your efforts as well. And I can say categorically that, as a teacher, having a bunch of students who are "hungry" in this way provides an inspiration to progress, innovate and grow that isn't there when you feel like people don't care enough to even get what you already have to offer them."
He's not just complaining. He is giving us something to think about in the hope of creating the hunger in others. Okay, so you say you have it already... then what about those around you? You might not be the target audience of this article, but I bet you know someone that could benefit from it... hmm?

Just a thought.

Have a nice day!

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Old 08-23-2004, 05:04 PM   #17
Devon Natario
 
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Suren:
Hey I dont blame yah. Your post isnt offensive at all. Its your opinion. You may be misunderstanding me at times. I am not speaking in temrs of "me". Im speaking in terms of a "whole".

Obviously, I hunger, obviously I understand things or I wouldnt be an instructor of Jujitsu. I am simply stating my opinoin of why. And I was in the military. I spent two year in Korea and 80% of that time learning the culture. I spent a few months in Japan, learning its culture. I am well rounded in understanding cultures, thats why I commented about "Americans" (which I am) not the entire world.

John: No offense to the 6th Dan. I am not trying to compare my 20 years of experience to his 30 in no way. I was simply stating my opinion.

You have a great point as well. I dont teach because Im into money. I teach to pass on the art and find those eager hungry students. This is why I teach in my home, or at a Church. It's where people are hungry to learn. Will I ever make millions? No! Will I ever be on Black Belt Magazine? No!. But you know what? Ill always have the kind of students he is talking about because those are the only ones I will ever teach.

Maybe in the past, this was true for the teachers and the great ones before us. Maybe they werent in it to make money. Maybe they were in it to teach those who "hungered" to learn. Instead of worrying about starting a chain of McDojos around the world for instant fame and wealth, maybe we should bring the arts back to the Japanese Culture where it was only passed down to family members, and only given to a select few. I think Ive said it before. Americans want what they cant have. Make it to accessible, and they arent into it. Make it untouchable and theyd give their leg to have it.

It's not something you really fix, because you cant change the entire Martial World. You can only keep your own standards in who you teach.

It's just my opinoins too guys/gals. Its not a big deal. I disagree with certain things, you guys disagree with certain things I say. Sorry

Devon Natario
Instructor
Northwest Jujitsu
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Old 08-24-2004, 03:09 AM   #18
ruthmc
Dojo: Wokingham Aikido
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Of course the down side of having lots of people at seminars is that you can't get close enough to see / hear the instructor sometimes, much less have him / her comment on what you're doing, so please don't forget there's another side to this coin!

Ruth
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Old 08-24-2004, 04:51 AM   #19
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Quote:
John Boswell wrote:
True. But, when it's said by a 6th Dan who has been training for almost 30 years, shouldn't you at least give him the benefit of the doubt?

Re-read Sensei's last paragragh:


He's not just complaining. He is giving us something to think about in the hope of creating the hunger in others. Okay, so you say you have it already... then what about those around you? You might not be the target audience of this article, but I bet you know someone that could benefit from it... hmm?

Just a thought.

Have a nice day!
Thank you John. You described my intention perfectly.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
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Old 08-24-2004, 05:09 AM   #20
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Quote:
Ruth McWilliam wrote:
Of course the down side of having lots of people at seminars is that you can't get close enough to see / hear the instructor sometimes, much less have him / her comment on what you're doing, so please don't forget there's another side to this coin!

Ruth
Hi Ruth,
It sounds like you are saying that you don't mind if many people aren't serious because that means that the seminars you attend won't be so full and you can get more out of them.
I understand this. That's why we do some seminars that are limited to 14 people precisely so the attendees can get the maximum out of their experience.

It is also true that often, the seminars which are absolutely packed will be the ones by the famous Japanese instructors. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry will turn out for one of those. Then an absolutely fabulous teacher who is non-Japanese will do one and a fraction of the folks will turn out. I see this time and time again. We call it the Japanese "mystique".

If you take a look at a seminar taught by a 5th or 6th Dan you will normally find that the folks attending are very serious about their training. They don't care if the teacher is Japanese or not, they just want the knowledge. If you want to escape the crowds, look for seminars taught by the senior non-Japanese teachers and you will find great training and might atually have room on the mat to fall.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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Old 08-24-2004, 12:24 PM   #21
ruthmc
Dojo: Wokingham Aikido
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
Hi Ruth,
It sounds like you are saying that you don't mind if many people aren't serious because that means that the seminars you attend won't be so full and you can get more out of them.
I understand this. That's why we do some seminars that are limited to 14 people precisely so the attendees can get the maximum out of their experience.
Hi George, that's a great idea! But who to allow to train? I guess you make sure that those who missed out last time get the first chance next time?

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
It is also true that often, the seminars which are absolutely packed will be the ones by the famous Japanese instructors. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry will turn out for one of those. Then an absolutely fabulous teacher who is non-Japanese will do one and a fraction of the folks will turn out. I see this time and time again. We call it the Japanese "mystique".
Sometimes, not always. I've been at big seminars with both Japanese and British instructors where you couldn't move on the mat!

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
If you take a look at a seminar taught by a 5th or 6th Dan you will normally find that the folks attending are very serious about their training. They don't care if the teacher is Japanese or not, they just want the knowledge. If you want to escape the crowds, look for seminars taught by the senior non-Japanese teachers and you will find great training and might atually have room on the mat to fall.
These days I just get a bit pushy at big seminars - sit near the front, insist I get a turn to throw if we're in large groups, talk to the instructor, ask questions. I always get a lot out of seminars now Earlier in my training I didn't have the confidence to do these things, but now I know I have every right to, as a dedicated Aikidoka. At one recent seminar with a 6th dan instructor who I'd never seen before, I got called up as his uke one time - so I guess that means my new attitude works!

Ruth
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Old 08-24-2004, 12:56 PM   #22
AsimHanif
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

I think Mr. Ledyard makes some very thought provoking arguments as usual. I too see a lot of disciple-ism in aikido but like Charles I'm not sure that is a bad thing. It may be, if it becomes a form of cultism or if you become isolated. At one time I tried to attend every seminar within 12 hours of me but I found that it was taking away too much time from my own training. It's good to attend seminars to see what the neighbors are doing but at the same time you don't want it to interfere with you learning the way as defined by your own teacher or system. So now I don't try to attend every seminar but discriminate more carefully as to which ones I think I can most benefit from. I also agree that we are now losing those direct "Links" to O'Sensei so it is important that we try to learn something from Them while we can.
As far as training hard, I wouldn't equate not attending seminars with not training hard or being committed. However I do agree that overall, many of todays aikidoka do not train as hard, deligent, or consistent as in the past. To me the key is finding a teacher who is a mentor and constantly working at what they lay out. I believe in leaving my blood, sweat, and tears on the mat. Many instructors don't want to push new students too hard or make demands of them for fear that they will leave. Where karate can give too many belts, aikido can give too much philosophy. Nothing can take the place of hard training to forge the spirit in my opinion. I think that I'm with most on this thread in saying that I feel out of place at times because I don't think many others understand how much this practice means to me. I can't say where I end and aikido starts. It is intergrated into all that I do. It's not a 9-5.
I applaud Mr. Ledyard for speaking out to incite a hunger in us for the art. To me that is what I get when I do go to seminars. Not just to see another way of doing ikkyo, nikkyo, sankyo, etc. That's nice but to me getting the message behind a Shihan's interpretation of a technique is what gets me amped. It tells me about that Shihans view of aikido and how it relates to his/her own growth within the art. I can then see the possibilities that lay ahead. That is the goal of my aikido. Not rank or throwing someone. Exploring the potential within me and pushing the limits is what I enjoy. O'Sensei left us a road map. Why shouldn't we surpass him?
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Old 08-24-2004, 03:50 PM   #23
MaryKaye
Dojo: Seattle Ki Society
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

For whatever reason, the average age in my dojo is mid-forties, beginners and senior people alike. (I'm 41, started when I was 39 and a couch potato.) If you come to aikido later in life, while the hunger is still there, neither your body nor your lifestyle can so easily adjust to training every day.

I do the four days a week that my dojo offers, and occasionally one more somewhere else; but for me, where I am in my life right now, the hunger to do more is a temptation rather than a virtue. Physically, I don't bounce back the way a younger or fitter person might--after a seminar I'm wiped out for days, and in danger of botching my ukemi if I train at all. Personally, I have a web of family and work obligations which deserve my attention just as much as aikido does.

Life is short, the art is long; everyone has to come to terms with that in their own way.

This week I'm looking at the Nevelius and Ostoff seminar, and at the schedule of my own dojo--put together that's Thursday through Tuesday without a break. I *really* want to do all that, but when am I going to hit the point of exhaustion where I'm a hazard to my own safety? (Monday, I'd guess. If I'm lucky.) I sure couldn't do this every week; my home-dojo training would suffer, and my personal life would too.

Mary Kaye
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Old 08-30-2004, 03:39 AM   #24
Natasha Bradley
Dojo: Aikido School Leiden
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Re: Hungry for Aikido

Hello Ruth,

We must have met when you came to Amsterdam to Ikeda Sensei's seminar, weren't you staying in Utrecht with a friend?
I remember thinking at the time that it was very dedicated to come all the way over here to a seminar.
At Tissier Sensei's seminar in Amsterdam I met some Irish folk who had come over specially, so admirable.
So far I haven't been abroad for a seminar but I must have been to all those I can get to which have been organised by our federation practically since I started aikido.

Natasha.
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