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Old 12-30-2004, 01:32 AM   #1
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Article: Transmission in Aikido, Part II by George S. Ledyard

Discuss the article, "Transmission in Aikido, Part II" by George S. Ledyard here.

Article URL: http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/gledyard/2004_12.html
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Old 12-30-2004, 06:57 AM   #2
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido, Part II by George S. Ledyard

Hello George,

Very nice article. After I read it I wondered about its relevance to dojos/groups of dojos outside the US/Canada. A few random thoughts.

I wonder whether "aikido-lite" vs. the "real goods" has not somehow become part of the system, as a result of the "massification" of aikido. I have been meditating on these topics in Stan's Japanese publication, but the English versions of these columns have not yet appeared on the AJ site.

My own thinking starts from my experience of teaching & learning in Japan\in universities and dojos. Basically, teaching and learning in the martial arts seem to follow the frames of teaching & learning in general, certainly at the tertiary level in Japan. I think it is possible to discern three paradigms or stages: elite, mass, universal.

(1) Elite: In universities the training is one-to-one in tutorials, with rigorous testing of the ability to creatively exploit what one has learned.

In the martial arts, such as aiki-budo, the master chooses his students very carefully: they have to be sponsored by 'eminent' persons and convince him that they are 'serious'. The learning process is conceived as genuine 'shugyou' and the students are deshi: they are subjected to a severe learning process of 'stealing' wilfully hidden techniques, but it seems to be part of the paradigm that they will receive the tradition entirely, or as much as they are capable of receiving. In words, they have a 'secret', but grandstand, view of the master's entire spectrum of enlightenment. There are no reasons given as to why learning this art is desirable: that it exists is deemed sufficient. There is no syllabus or system and the master is the sole arbiter of progress. Nevertheless, the graduates can be assumed to have mastered the entire system and I certainly think that this is the way that the Founder's deshi such as Shirata, Mochizuki and Shioda understood this. In no way did they receive, or believe they received, "aikido-lite". Of course, whether they received the entire transmission is a matter for esoteric debate.
An interesting question for me in this context is the extent to which "aikido-lite" vs. "the real goods" was a part of training in the prewar Kobukan Dojo. The "Budo" text is a digest of techniques deemed suitable for the Japanese military, but if you compare "Budo", or even "Budo Renshu", with what has so far been published of the Noma Dojo photographs, both publications show only a small fraction of the Founder's repertoire.

My own feeling is that the Founder regarded "the real goods" as the norm and did not have a concept of "aikido-lite". So training was always at the level of "the real goods" and students had to survive as best they could.

(2) Mass: In universities the syllabus becomes the arbiter of what is taught. In the martial arts, the art is much more freely available and there are no requirements, beyond good physical ability, in order to become a student. Because the initial testing is less rigorous, the training has to be adapted to the needs of a wider student base. Thus, there is a greater emphasis on 'core' techniques and 'principles' and there is a definite shift from 'teacher-centred' teaching & learning to 'technique-centred' teaching & learning. There is also more of a rationale for training, such as that the art is beneficial beyond the narrow parameters of self-defence. This was clearly present in the "elite" paradigm, but was not so clearly articulated.

In daily training there is more emphasis on 'basic' techniques and they are increasingly regarded as 'basic' in the 'minimalist' sense of being a necessary foundation, rather than in the 'maximalist' sense of being 'principle' techniques, which ground a whole range of very interesting creative possibilities. The core texts here are the early manuals written by Koichi Tohei and Kisshomaru Ueshiba, but you would need to consult Saotome Sensei to see to what extent the techniques presented in Kisshomaru Ueshibs's "Aikido" (1975), represent a watering-down of the core techniques he learned as a deshi.

In the Hombu there are those who have attended the 6.30 morning class, 5 days a week for 30 or 40 years. They have probably taken other classes as well, but this means that they have experienced O Sensei, Kisshomaru Doshu and the present Doshu on a daily basis.

(3) Universal: in Japanese universities education is regarded as a right and universities are falling over themselves in the haste to make university education palatable to eveyrone. It is also regarded as beneficial to anyone who undertakes, in the sense that no one is thought to be unsuitable for university education.

In aikido, the art is regarded as available and beneficial to everyone, with aims relating to general health and 'self-realization'. The idea that one will test the effectiveness of techniques outside the dojo is unacceptable, since this would undermine the beneficial effects of aikido to society as a whole. There is still a basic core of techniques, but this is regarded as the norm. At this level, the concept of 'shugyou' has become weakened, such that very little is attempted that will cause injury or unnecessary pain, and the results of training are expected to be more immediate\and pleasurable. Training is meant to have beneficial effects and these can be immediately felt.

In promotion of the art, there is much greater emphasis on why aikido is necessary to counter the ills of present-day culture. Thus, (i) aikido is always promoted in Japan as a means to achieving world peace, but in a postwar sense, and not in the way the Founder himself understood this term and (ii) practitioners are expected by the moral demands of the art to be in the forefront of such activities as earthquake relief efforts etc and the aikido deshi will spend much time in such relief efforts, perhaps as much as training in the dojo.

For me the question is how in the "mass" paradigm do you teach the technical and emotional requirements requirements expected of a deshi in the "elite" paradigm. I have seen what Chiba Sensei requires of his kenshusei\they are on his dojo's web site and they seem to me to be an attempt at the recreation of the parameters of the "elite" scenario, when O Sensei taught at the Kobukan. Do you have a kenshusei system in your own dojo?

I have gone on too long, so please regard this as Part 1, to be continued.

All good wishes for 2005,

PAG

P A Goldsbury
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Old 12-30-2004, 07:12 PM   #3
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido, Part II by George S. Ledyard

I went to a lecture recently where university education as a universal right was strongly defended. This is fine, but the lecturer did not discuss the other aspect of the matter, which was how to create an opportunity for genuine shugyou type learning in this new scheme of things. To take a similar example, my own university experience was of one-to-one tutorials, where the professors adapted the training to my own concerns. It was very productive and far superior to university education in large impersonal classes, such as occurred in France before the student riots in 1968. I entered tertiary education in 1962 and I was very happy to be where I was at the time. However, a method of one-to-one teaching by the tutorial method was not financially viable as a way of university teaching in general.

Similarly, in the martial arts, specifically aikido, the "real goods" are best experienced in one-on-one training with the shihan, or in a very small group in the shihan's home dojo. Perhaps this was the situation at the Kobukan in the very beginning, or at the Hombu and in Iwama just after WWII. It would not have been economically viable, however.

In the lecture I mentioned above, elite, mass and universal education were seen as stages in the evolution of university education in Japan. However, the three terms can also be understood as frames or paradigms and as such the teaching & learning transaction they connote can take place simultaneously. Thus, you could have regular private lessons at the Aikikai Hombu with a shihan, if he agrees to teach you, or with one of the members of the Instruction Department. This would be intensive, but expensive, much more expensive than the regular classes. Much less expensive and perhaps as demanding would be to take all the regular classes offered. I think there are 5 or 6 classes offered daily and a smaller number at weekends, and the beauty here is that you would experience the teaching styles of the entire Instruction Department. I think very few people choose either of these training methods, but they are available. More usual is to take fewer classes, but at regular times and then one's partner can be anyone from a beginner to an 8th dan shihan\and they do not change partners at the Hombu.

In Hiroshima I trained for many years at the main dojo of the resident shihan. Training encompassed much more than basic techniques and it was common to have a similar spectrum of training partners as at the Hombu. Here also we do not change partners during a class unless the instructor tells us to, so it was sometimes possible to train regularly with a 5th or 6th dan student. However, more of my 6th dan colleagues have opened their own dojos, as I have, and so it is now more unusual for people of such rank to train together. There is also an idea that at 6th dan level you should not need regular training with the shihan: in other words, that you should have acquired the means to create your own ways of self-development.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 12-31-2004, 02:30 PM   #4
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Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido, Part II by George S. Ledyard

I don't think there is any problem with transmission. Folks who have a real desire to serious study with a Master will find a way. Others, who are content with less profound study, can study with local instructors. Even in shihan's dojo there is only small group of ppl wanting serious instruction.

Natural selection(instead of introduction letters) still does its job.

Nagababa

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Old 12-31-2004, 08:27 PM   #5
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Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido, Part II by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote:
I don't think there is any problem with transmission. Folks who have a real desire to serious study with a Master will find a way. Others, who are content with less profound study, can study with local instructors. Even in shihan's dojo there is only small group of ppl wanting serious instruction.

Natural selection(instead of introduction letters) still does its job.
Hello Szczepan,

Happy New Year!

Of course, you are right. In the early days O Sensei never advertised. He attracted people by word of mouth, or in the case of Chiba Shihan, by a photograph. And the selection process was rigorous. However, in the early days of the Kobukan I do not believe that aiki-budo/do was ever intended as a martial art available for everybody. I think it was Kisshomaru who thought of the possibilities after the war. On the other hand, in the last days at the Kobukan, the Founder taught a large variety of people, especially the military, and so the early one-to-one situation of the Kobukan ceased to be possible.

In itself, this might make little difference to training methods, for, after all, Chiba Sensei was a deshi of Kisshomaru Ueshiba and mainly trained at the Tokyo Hombu, where training was as rigorous as at Iwama. Nowadays a shihan perhaps has to consider the needs of a wider spectrum of students than the Founder had to do.

Yours sincerely,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 12-31-2004, 10:02 PM   #6
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Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido, Part II by George S. Ledyard

In comparison to the previous replies, I am going to probably sound like a heretic.

I think Sensei Leydard's proposal is a very good one, at least in the U.S. Our dojo was for a time right at the beginning of my current training associated with one of the large organizationsl in the U.S. This organization had/has teaching committees, and they seemed to try and address the issue Sensei Leydard is raising. We are now affilated with another organization, and I think it is just coming to grips with this issue.

I would love to have a structure where the ranking senseis in regions periodically "get dipped" and then bring that back. Also, regional "friendship" seminars would help.

However, at some point, and this is probably the heretical part, technique is technique is technique, even in it subtlest detail. Much of what, I think Leydard sensei is talking about is also concerned with the subtlties that come from the individual's integration of shown technique, and their own exploring. For instance, there are certain aspects of aikido that I see from my head instructor, that I wonder if I will ever master, and it is not because of the subtlety, but because his physical body is different that mine, and I will never have some of the attirbutes he has. So, from a physical point of view, I try and learn as much as I possibly can and then generally have a protracted amount of time in which I am trying to see how that technique interacts with my body so that I can achieve the desired result. So, I haven't changed the technique insofar as its intent, movement and deisred result, but it is subltly different to fit my body.

Also, encouragement should be given for instructors in the hinterlands to keep exploring the subtlties of the art themselves. Much of any worthwhile pursuit is discovered by the individual taking what they have learned, thinking about it, and exploring. In fact that is the only way the student will ever pass the master, which is needed for any art to survive. Of course this exploration needs to have some guidance so that what is portrayed as aikido really is aikido.
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Old 01-13-2005, 10:19 PM   #7
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Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido, Part II by George S. Ledyard

Thanks for your replies everyone, especially Peter Goldsbury for taking the time for such a deep analysis of the way in which the whole conception of the transmission has changed.

Szcepan, as usual you are contrary, especially so in this case as you are on record in dozens of posts saying that everyone else's Aikido is just wishful thinking, New Age fantasy or some such... then you turn around and say there's no problem with the transmission. Can you say "disingenuous"? Sure... I knew you could.

Anyway, I don't have a problem with those who have consciously decided to settle for "aikido-lite". They know they aren't trying to get to the top level, open a dojo, teach, etc.

Where I do have a problem is with the fact that there are folks all over teh United States (the World?) who are doing their level best to master this art. They are putting in the time, sacrificing their bodies, making the trade offs with their partners, spending every dime of their disposable income on trying to be the best that they can be in this art. If you ask them, they will tell you that they don't want Aikido-lite, they want the whole thing, no matter how hard that might be.

When those who have been fortunate enough to have had training along the lines of what Peter describes in the "elite" model begin to assume responsibility for the transmission of the art I think it is their responsibility to "deliver the goods" so to speak. Our teachers were responsibile for the phenomenal growth of Aikido from a number of uchi deshi whom you could count usin your fingers to a world wide art with hundreds of thousands of practitioners. Most of them have managed to create a small group of students whom they personally trained in whom they ostensibly have placed their confidence that they can carry on their teachings adequately into the next generation.

But the generation into which we are stepping as teachers is completely different than the one our own teachers taught in. Our teachers came to America, Britain, Italy, France, Gremany, wherever hwne there were virtually no students of Aikido. They brought the art into an Aikido wilderness, started their dojos, watched as their own students went out and started schools and in turn created their own students.

In the old days you had a small group of Japanese Shihan (Yamada, Kanai, A. Tohei, Chiba, Saotome, Hirada, Imaizumi, etc.) who presided over the training of a few hundred students. That few hundred has grown to forty thousand or so in the States. The organizations which grew up to give some structure to this mass of Aikido aspirations have proven inadequate to the task of passing on the deep and vast experience of the students of the Founder to the larger community. Yet, I do see that the skill is there. I see a secind generation of instructors coming into theor own who are acheiving a really high level of skill. Thier training hasn't become stultified. They are developing and changing even though they have hit the top levels of rank and recognition.

So the question is how do we structure a system that does a better job of delivering a wider, deeper Aikdio to a much wider group than was ever envisioned at the beginning of the art. There are no models for this within Aikido as no one who has gone before has had to do it.

What I see is that we have the teachers who have the knowledge and teaching skill and we have thousands of willing and eager students who have not decided that second best is good enough. It is our mission to bring these folks together so that that art of Aikido does not degenerate into something that can't recover from the loss of knowledge and experience over several generations of incomplete transmission. To do this we, as instructors, will have to work together rather than compete with each other. We need to support each other and collectively work out the best way to pass on our experience to the next generation.

It's not just passing on some set of knowledge and technique. It's more about passing on a set of principles and a way of training oneself so that one can keep developing long after one has left ones teacher. People need to be given permission to add their experience to the art, not just pass on teachnique mechanically. Then Aikido can grow in a healthy manner, then it can keep pace with its own spread to "the masses" without becoming a watered down imitation of itself.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 01-14-2005, 01:33 AM   #8
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Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido, Part II by George S. Ledyard

Hi George,

Thank you for a thought-provoking piece, and thank you too Peter for the same as well.

George, not that I disagree with anything you said, but I was curious about the following. You said:
"To do this we, as instructors, will have to work together rather than compete with each other. We need to support each other and collectively work out the best way to pass on our experience to the next generation."

I can see how that makes sense. But from another point of view, don't most things survive just fine through competition and/or other forms of antagonism - especially things that are large and dynamic? Sure, things may not survive the way we would like them too, but don't things still press on? Contrarily, whereas sometimes, when a "cooperation" is imposed upon something, some very important things tend to get lost. For example, communisim in economic models and/or species introduction in various habitats, etc. I know this is way out there, and maybe isn't related all that much to what you wrote, but maybe you can talk about how much impact a loss of cooperation can really have on something that is so marked by individuality, contrast, and other things of specificity, etc., because, for me, the negative effects of antagonism (as they pertain to transmission) are not all that clear.

thanks in advance,
david

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Old 01-14-2005, 01:56 AM   #9
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Re: Article: Transmission in Aikido, Part II by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
"To do this we, as instructors, will have to work together rather than compete with each other. We need to support each other and collectively work out the best way to pass on our experience to the next generation."

I can see how that makes sense. But from another point of view, don't most things survive just fine through competition and/or other forms of antagonism - especially things that are large and dynamic? Sure, things may not survive the way we would like them too, but don't things still press on? Contrarily, whereas sometimes, when a "cooperation" is imposed upon something, some very important things tend to get lost. For example, communisim in economic models and/or species introduction in various habitats, etc. I know this is way out there, and maybe isn't related all that much to what you wrote, but maybe you can talk about how much impact a loss of cooperation can really have on something that is so marked by individuality, contrast, and other things of specificity, etc., because, for me, the negative effects of antagonism (as they pertain to transmission) are not all that clear.

thanks in advance,
david
I am not talking about the type of so-called "cooperation" which might be imposed by an organization or a style in which the talents and ideas of the individual get subsumed by the need to put forth a unified plan of some sort. I am actually talking about the opposite approach. Individuals can support each other precisely because they are different. I bring in teachers to me dojo who can offer alternative approaches to what we normally do. The teacher is supported and we grow. They in turn do the same thing with me. I am supported and their students benefit from my knowledge. This makes much more sense than squeezing people into a box so that they all are on some "same page" as far as technique and no one can grow outside that box without running afoul of the "style police".

While I don't think there is anything wrong with competition per se, I do think that for most of us as teachers things are fairly precarious. I can't teach in a vacuum. If no one invites me to teach at their dojo or I am not asked to instruct at summer camp or winter camp, then I am limited to my own small dojo and the number of people I can reach is therefore very small. But if I get those invitations I can have a positive effect on many people over time. I in turn do the same thing by inviting instructors with whom I am impressed to my dojo. I also do what I can to tell others about teachers who I think "have the juice" so to speak. So I think that instructors do better in a symbiotic type arrangement rather than a competitive one. We all benefit when we support each other.

However, no matter how much mutual support one gets and gives the bottom line is still on the mat. If I teach a seminar or work with people at a camp, I have to be able to give people instruction that will be meaningful to them. If I can't help them, if they don't get something out of training with me then I am done as a teacher. That's where the rubber meets the road. We are not competing with each other we are competing with ourselves to be as good as we can be.

George S. Ledyard
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