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Old 06-02-2005, 07:29 AM   #1
seank
Location: Victoria
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At a brick wall...

Over the last few weeks I've had a few injuries (near broken arm from a newbie, large toe almost broken by a falling newbie last night) and seem to have hit a training/spiritual brick wall.

I'm finding that whilst I feel my technique is generally getting better, that lately I'm making some rudimentary mistakes, often getting very angry and frustrated whilst on the mat.

I have taken to sitting in seiza and "cooling down" at the side of the mat rather than venting my frustrations, as I believe that there is no room on the mat for this, however I find that I'm not able to talk to people within the dojo (other than my wife) about this.

Not wanting to be disharmonious to the dojo, I have not made mention as to my thoughts and feelings, however a few of my fellow students have made comment that they see something is wrong.

I still love Aikido and am keen to continue my practice, but am facing a crisis of conscience as to the best way to get over this and get on with my Aikido. I was so frustrated last night that I very nearly walked off the mat (I would not normally disrespect my sensei by even considering this - so I see this as being really out of sorts).

Has anyone else been in a similar situation, and what did you do to work around it?

Hoping that someone might be able to help

Kindest regards,
Sean.
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Old 06-02-2005, 07:56 AM   #2
rob_liberti
Dojo: Shobu Aikido of Connecticut
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Re: At a brick wall...

Take two weeks off from training. - Rob
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Old 06-02-2005, 07:59 AM   #3
ruthmc
Dojo: Wokingham Aikido
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Re: At a brick wall...

Quote:
Sean Kelleher wrote:
I'm finding that whilst I feel my technique is generally getting better, that lately I'm making some rudimentary mistakes, often getting very angry and frustrated whilst on the mat.

Has anyone else been in a similar situation, and what did you do to work around it?
Hi Sean,

I think I can safely say that we have all been in this situation I find the best way to deal with it is to shoot down all the assumptions I've made which lead to the feelings of frustration with cool hard logic.

The facts are:

1. You are human and therefore allowed to make mistakes, and you don't have to be perfect all the time. Senior instructors also make mistakes all the time - they're just better at covering them up

2. You have a lifetime to learn Aikido, so does it really matter if you can't do Shihonage today? There's always next week / month / year. What's the hurry?

If you can let go of your need to be right, to be perfect, to have something right now, you will naturally relax and enjoy your Aikido, even when you feel you've done nothing but screw up all class. We all improve by making mistakes, so be happy to make them as it means you are learning!

Ruth (who has been through enough Aiki depressions to be an Aiki optimist these days )
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Old 06-02-2005, 08:18 AM   #4
SeiserL
 
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Re: At a brick wall...

Yep, been there done/do that.

IMHO, part of Aikido training is getting past our own fear, anger, and frustration. The training brings it up. Take a look at how you are taking yourself too seriously or personally, and where you are trying too hard.

Relax, breathe, and enjoy yourself.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 06-02-2005, 08:33 AM   #5
happysod
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Re: At a brick wall...

I'm with Rob, after a few weeks you'll be chewing your own toenails off to get back - not feeling injured will help as pain = depression and toes are a complete bugger for a continuous low-grade niggle.

(Hate to say this, but if you only go through this once during your time in aikido, you'll be doing better than me)
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Old 06-02-2005, 08:46 AM   #6
akiy
 
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Re: At a brick wall...

Hi Sean,

We all have plateaus. In fact, some would say that plateaus are very much a necessary part of our training. George Leonard in his book "Mastery" outlines this process quite nicely. As he says, when golfers who are playing at around 90 strokes wish to break into the 80's, they need to make changes in their game that will probably make them play in the 100's for a while. Getting into the mindset that I'm always going to get better while feeling comfortable has not always been the most productive, in my experience at least.

Also, sometimes, working with the frustration itself is the training itself. I remember a seminar with Nishio sensei several years back -- my first experience with his approach to aikido. By the end of the weekend, my mind was tired and I was feeling extremely frustrated with myself for not being able to get some of the weapons work that he was showing. At that time, I realized that I needed to work with the frustration rather than the weapons work itself. I can't say that I remember much of the weapons work that I did that weekend, but I do remember that lesson...

-- Jun

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Old 06-02-2005, 08:59 AM   #7
Nick P.
 
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Re: At a brick wall...

Sean,

These are all good pointers, and hopefully one or many will work for you.

It took almost a whole year to realize the source of my unease but I eventually identified that 1-The "honeymoon" phase was over (around 4-5 years into my training) and 2-There was something I wanted (my?) Aikido to "be". Note how both of these are completely my own issues.

The result (for me) was 1-it can't all be infatuation and bliss all the time and 2-give yourself a goal and strive for it, but Aikido is after all a LIFETIME pursuit. Trust your Sensei and fellow students, and enjoy the ride.

Part of the process involved a rather unflinching self-introspection of my goals, desires and fears (and that was only in relation to my training and my place in the dojo). Now that was fun. Ugh.
I went down that road mostly because nothing else was working for me.

We are often our own harshest critics (I certainly was), and that can be vicious cycle to get out of, and I am not only talking about technique.

Does everyone go through these (as my Sensei and I have come to call them) peaks and valleys? I think it is pretty obvious you are not alone in this. And there will be several over your training lifetime, as mentioned above.

Remember that you enjoy (love?) Aikido, and to smile during class. These 2 simple things helped me a great deal.

PM me if you would like to talk more about this in private, and good luck.
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Old 06-02-2005, 10:35 AM   #8
crbateman
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Re: At a brick wall...

Sean,

It happens to everybody. Always try to begin every practice with an open, joyful, "beginner's mind". Don't be afraid to make mistakes, or afraid that your training partners will. Perfection should be aspired, not required. And most importantly, RELAX. There is a reason that Koichi Tohei Sensei lists "relax completely" in his list of four basic principles of Aikido.

If you are not relaxed, you will tense up waiting for something bad to happen, and you will grow frustrated when it does. I am constantly reminded of this when I watch top instructors train in somebody else's class. Any screw-up usually brings a smile or a laugh, and a better effort the next time. If that philosophy is good enough for them, it's good enough for you and me.

And remember, you're in Aikido class. Think of all the bad places you could be, and all the stupid things you could be doing...
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Old 06-02-2005, 01:31 PM   #9
aikidoc
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Re: At a brick wall...

We all make mistakes-hell, I tripped over my hakama last night and fell flat on my face (I'm the instructor and haven't done that in years-I wear mine real long-no excuse). However, if you represent them to yourself negatively they can snow ball. Self talk can be distracting. If you have a problem and do not let it go, but rather keep focusing on it and talking to yourself it will continue to grow for you. A couple of my favorite sayings from going to seminars with self help people or reading their books are: Stop "shoulding" all over yourself. "What you think about expands for you."

On they the physical realm, I always encourage my students to go back to basics when they are frustrated-I do that and it works for me. It usually helps me jump a plateau. Often because I see what I need to do but I have started getting sloppy with basics and it prevents me from doing what I need to do. Most of my correction on the mat is for basics errors and not for general things-i.e., I look for flaws in the basics when techniques are being performed. When they are present the technique falls apart or is not as effective.

Last edited by aikidoc : 06-02-2005 at 01:33 PM.
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Old 06-02-2005, 01:40 PM   #10
giriasis
Dojo: Sand Drift Aikikai, Cocoa Florida
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Re: At a brick wall...

I don't think it would be disharmonious to talk to someone else in the dojo, your sensei or a sempai, about your feelings. Talking to someone else who also trains with you (I'm assuming your wife doesn't train in aikido -- I could be wrong) really does help. Telling your sensei that this is something you want to work on and work through lets him know that you are aware of what is going on. He could even help you.

I'm experiencing a similar situation. When I started aikido (6 years ago), the challenges were very physical -- learning to roll, to breakfall, to lose weight to increase my stamina, etc. But now, I've found that my aikido has become more mental and emotional. It's almost as if practicing aikido churns up all the negativity left in the bottom of our emotional/ mental pond and we have to deal with our own self in that particular moment. It's part of the learning process except the learning process is about our own mind and emotions rather than (or in addition to) learning the physical techniques.

Talking to someone really helped me begin to work through things and figure out what is going on in my head. I'm getting better, but it's still a long way to go.

Last edited by giriasis : 06-02-2005 at 01:43 PM. Reason: darn grammatical errors. :-(

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 06-02-2005, 04:54 PM   #11
Lan Powers
Dojo: Aikido of Midland, Midland TX
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Re: At a brick wall...

[quote=John Riggs] We all make mistakes-hell, I tripped over my hakama last night and fell flat on my face (I'm the instructor and haven't done that in years-I wear mine real long-no excuse).

And you were the first one to laugh!!
The joyous aspect of practice is not mentioned very much, but very present in training in our little group.
Hell, who isn't our own worst critique?

Here grab my wrist......
Lan

Last edited by Lan Powers : 06-02-2005 at 04:57 PM. Reason: more to say

Play nice, practice hard, but remember, this is a MARTIAL art!
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Old 06-02-2005, 05:45 PM   #12
maikerus
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Re: At a brick wall...

Sean...just want to jump on board and be another person to tell you you aren't alone in this. I've been through it as well <wry grin>

One of my instructors told me often that studying Aikido is a spiral. You train --> you don't understand --> you get better --> you understand more --> You train --> you don't understand --> you get better --> you understand more --> You train --> you don't understand...

Frustration is a big part of learning something we care about. Try not to let it rule you, but acknowledge that it is there and try and work through it by looking back and realizing/understanding/believing that the last time you were frustrated you got through it and understood more.

I think Rob had a good suggestion...take a couple of weeks off just so you don't have to worry about it. Of course...then you'll have the frustration of *not* training but when you go back your head will probably be clearer.

Good luck,

--Michael

Hiriki no yosei 3 - The kihon that makes your head ache instead of your legs
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Old 06-02-2005, 09:54 PM   #13
seank
Location: Victoria
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Re: At a brick wall...

Thanks for all of the replies everyone, it's a great comfort to know that others have been through similar situations.

All of the advice is greatly appreciated, it's given me something to really think about.

Cheers,
Sean.
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Old 06-03-2005, 05:51 AM   #14
bbleeker
 
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Re: At a brick wall...

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote:
And remember, you're in Aikido class. Think of all the bad places you could be, and all the stupid things you could be doing...
I love this! I must remember that next time I have a 'bad' class.

Berna Bleeker
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Old 06-03-2005, 06:07 AM   #15
bbleeker
 
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Re: At a brick wall...

Quote:
Nick Pittson wrote:
Does everyone go through these (as my Sensei and I have come to call them) peaks and valleys?
I certainly do! I'm in a 'valley' right now, in fact. My technique sucks, my ukemi sucks, and what sucks the most is that I've this nagging feeling that I'm going about this the wrong way, that there is something I'm doing - or not doing - that should change, if I don't want to keep training the same way for years without making any progress...

Berna Bleeker
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Old 06-03-2005, 06:47 AM   #16
Holly Nesbeitt
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Re: At a brick wall...

I know what you mean, Sean. I'm a perfectionist too (aikido seems to have a disproportionately high number of them, actually...).

About specific problems with technique: try looking at it backwards. Instead of "How can I do this better?", "What could I do to make this problem worse?"

More generally, though - for me, frustration is like a wrapped-up gift. It's only a matter of time and training before I get to unwrap it, ie get better at whatever is giving me trouble. Maybe weeks, maybe years or decades, doesn't matter; whether I get to tear the thing open in one go or peel back a corner every few days doesn't matter. And the feeling of making progress is one of the many addictive things about aikido. To bring up golf again, it's like how Rabbit Angstrom feels about golf in John Updike's books - it offers the potential for unlimited improvement.

And for unlimited improvement, you need unlimited problems. Every problem, given enough time, will be a breakthrough.
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Old 07-19-2005, 07:28 AM   #17
seank
Location: Victoria
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Re: At a brick wall...

I'd like to say thanks to everyone's suggestion of taking some time away to appreciate where I'm at.

I'm well and truly back in the swing and am enjoying where things are going again...

I think on quiet reflection that something as important to me as my Aikido training needs to be balanced out every now and then so that I don't get too caught up. The small time out has given me the space I needed to appreciate being on the mat

So thankyou again to everyone.
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Old 07-19-2005, 02:12 PM   #18
ElizabethCastor
 
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Re: At a brick wall...

It's great to hear that you're back in it to win it

My good friend gave me a quote last week that I want to repeat to myself often:
Quote:
The PEAKS are for reflection and to celebrate the achievement of the hard climb...
but its in the VALLEYS where all of the lush growth occurs.
Have fun and train on!
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