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Old 08-31-2005, 04:14 AM   #1
Hanna B
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Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

I'd like to comment on the thread Aikido survivors in the Voices of Experience forum, and I do it here since I only have half the experience needed to post there.

Every now and then thay you hear wonder why people quit aikido, making it sound like it is something unnatural - that the only natural thing once you are passed kyu stage is to continue for the rest of your life. Is used to kind of believe that myself, at least what myself regards. I didn't believe there would be a time when aikido was not a part of my life. Well, it happened.

Lots of people drop out never actually "quitting", if you know what I mean. They keep thinking they will come back to aikido, some day. Other things take its toll: work and family being the most common ones, but also other interests of various kinds. Doing aikido doesn't necessarily mean you put it as number one in your like (after family and work, hopefully). Sometimes music or something else takes time from your aikido, and sometimes up to the point that people stop going to the dojo.

I think I understand what Rupert Atkinson means, when he says people stop doing aikido due to worsening skill. The major reason here, I believe, is that these people for a longer period of time have trained very little. Some people can maintain an astounding level and even develop on less than one class a week of wither training or teaching, for years and years - others can not, and their technique detoriorate. This is hard to take, and I believe the choice is like increase dose, or leave - because this dose of training simply doesn't lead anywhere. Some of these people increase their training dose, because aikido is important to them. Others do not, propably because other things in life is more important. Some of these leave training. Some of them come back later. Others don't.

When Peter Goldsbury talkes about yudansha quitting due to politican reasons or simply conflicts with their teachers etc, I think we should remember that these are the people who take a decision to leave. It is a hard decision to take, but you do it and then you quit. I think this group should be distinguished from the group who haven't said to themselves that they have left aikido, but don't show up in the dojo any more.

To Mark's comment I would like to add: no, doing aikido is not as natural as brushing your teeth. Lots of senior aikido people think aikido is a part of life, and this is the only way it could be, period. For us who did leave, and found that there are many other activities with similar features regarding continous learning, learning about yourself and other people, and about control over you body... you have seen that these activities foster similar myths about their uniqueness, as aikido do, and you realise that there are meny roads to Rome - plus, some people actually do prefer Venice.

Probably I have misunderstand what Mark meant, but... I have left aikido, I haven't lost my teeth and my mouth doesn't smell.

Last edited by Hanna B : 08-31-2005 at 04:20 AM.
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Old 08-31-2005, 04:39 AM   #2
crbateman
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

People can find as many reasons to quit as they can find reasons to continue. This is the way with most anything. Why should training in Aikido be different? It's just human nature. Training takes dedication, and many simply don't have it, or must give up because other considerations in their lives take precedence, for better or worse. One thing is certain: Training half-heartedly is not training at all. This "going through the motions" is different, however, from taking the philosophies and spirit of Aikido into other parts of life, to be beneficial to oneself and to others. This is just training on another level from the physical, and it doesn't have to stop when one's days in the dojo are finished, regardless of the reason.
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Old 08-31-2005, 06:27 AM   #3
Amelia Smith
 
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote:
One thing is certain: Training half-heartedly is not training at all.
I disagree. If you are showing up and going through the motions, you are participating. Your body continues to learn, or at least retain its conditioning, even if you're not getting the most out of it. Most people who train over a long period of time will go through periods of less intense training, but that's very different from not showing up for months on end.

--Amelia
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Old 08-31-2005, 11:51 AM   #4
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

I have to admit that im most guilty of this - leaving aikido twice. As much as a martial arts junkie as i am, i kinda seem to have problems juggling all my passions. Maybe its a good thing since it doesnt really apply only to aikido. You see, i'm a drummer and i often have to skip wednesday trainings if the rehearsals happen to be on it too. And this happened far too often until i gradually stopped training altogether just to be on schedule with the band. Things got worse, alot of times when im training aikido i'll be thinking abt my drumming and yes, vice versa. Cant seem to concentrate on one thing unless i shut the other out completely. Kept telling myself training is training and playing is playing. And its only a matter of time before one precedes over the other. Anyhow, im back in aikido, not sure how long im gonna last this time hmm... lets see

And yes, i do agree with Amelia. The sole effort of pushing urself to the dojo is already training on the mind by itself.
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Old 08-31-2005, 07:04 PM   #5
crbateman
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Quote:
If you are showing up and going through the motions, you are participating.
Sorry you disagree, but if you drag yourself in there with the attitude that you don't want to be there and you're not going to put anything into it, your benefit will be minimal. And if that's good enough for you, then you have already quit on yourself. Training requires and repays discipline, and not just when you feel like it. And the other factor you have not considered is that lack of dedication is contageous, and it is unfair to your fellow students for you to give less than your best. Paying your monthly dues does not entitle you to kill everybody else's buzz. It's not good enough just to show up. Save your money and stay home. If you were my student, I would tell you that very thing.
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Old 08-31-2005, 07:28 PM   #6
giriasis
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote:
Sorry you disagree, but if you drag yourself in there with the attitude that you don't want to be there and you're not going to put anything into it, your benefit will be minimal. And if that's good enough for you, then you have already quit on yourself. Training requires and repays discipline, and not just when you feel like it. And the other factor you have not considered is that lack of dedication is contageous, and it is unfair to your fellow students for you to give less than your best. Paying your monthly dues does not entitle you to kill everybody else's buzz. It's not good enough just to show up. Save your money and stay home. If you were my student, I would tell you that very thing.
I have to agree with Amelia, you have no clue what personal challenges people are facing when they come into the dojo -- or just to get themselves to a dojo. Who are you to say that they are not putting in enough effort. How do you not know that they are not putting in their best. Their best effort might be your least effort, but that doesn't take away the challenges they face. Everyone has their own path to follow, your path is not necessarily theirs. Someone wouldn't go to class if they didn't want to be there no one is forcing them to show up. And I know my sensei would much rather someone show and put forth their best effort, even if its only 20% of their abilities, than not show up at all. If 20% is all they can do, then that's all they can do. It's not me to judge.

Also, I have yet to see an adult show up and not care about their training. I've seen children forced by their parents to attend not care, but not adults.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 08-31-2005, 08:27 PM   #7
rachmass
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

I echo Amelia and Anne Maries sentiments about "showing up".


Edited; babbling and not making sense

Last edited by rachmass : 08-31-2005 at 08:29 PM. Reason: edited due to incoherency
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Old 08-31-2005, 09:21 PM   #8
crbateman
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Quote:
How do you not know that they are not putting in their best.
Because she is talking about "going through the motions" (her words) This does not evoke the feeling of "doing their best".
Quote:
Everyone has their own path to follow
And not all lead through Aikido.
Quote:
Someone wouldn't go to class if they didn't want to be there no one is forcing them to show up
. Wanna bet? I can't count the times I've seen someone "going through the motions" when it was obvious that they would rather have been somewhere else. Open your eyes.
Quote:
It's not me to judge.
Train with somebody whose mind is somewhere else, and then tell me that, especially if you (or they) get injured.

What you are missing is that I am not talking about who is better or more able. I am talking about dedication, without which you should not train, regardless of whether you are able to get yourself to the dojo. Big deal. You owe it to yourself, your teacher, and your fellow students to not be on the mat without your best attitude, and purpose, any more than you should be behind the wheel without maximum sobriety. Not gonna walk the walk? Stay home. "Going through the motions" does not cut it, and I hope your Sensei is wise enough to see it this way. If he does not expect more than that from you, it is regrettable.
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Old 09-01-2005, 12:28 AM   #9
Jeanne Shepard
 
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote:
Because she is talking about "going through the motions" (her words) This does not evoke the feeling of "doing their best". And not all lead through Aikido. . Wanna bet? I can't count the times I've seen someone "going through the motions" when it was obvious that they would rather have been somewhere else. Open your eyes. Train with somebody whose mind is somewhere else, and then tell me that, especially if you (or they) get injured.

What you are missing is that I am not talking about who is better or more able. I am talking about dedication, without which you should not train, regardless of whether you are able to get yourself to the dojo. Big deal. You owe it to yourself, your teacher, and your fellow students to not be on the mat without your best attitude, and purpose, any more than you should be behind the wheel without maximum sobriety. Not gonna walk the walk? Stay home. "Going through the motions" does not cut it, and I hope your Sensei is wise enough to see it this way. If he does not expect more than that from you, it is regrettable.
I'm glad I train at a dojo where the teachers see that sometimes dedication is getting to the dojo and training at all.
If you haven't been in a space where that can take all you have, you may not be able to understand what it takes.

Jeanne
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Old 09-01-2005, 12:42 AM   #10
justin
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

my sensei always has a chat on the mat before we leave and always make the point of reminding us that our time is very valuable and should not be wasted and i think he has a very good point, if you want to train go if you dont then dont.
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Old 09-01-2005, 05:29 AM   #11
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Quote:
Justin Thomas wrote:
...make the point of reminding us that our time is very valuable and should not be wasted
I agree do tell my students the same thing.
Quote:
Justin Thomas wrote:
... if you want to train go if you dont then dont.
That's a bit harsh, although I understand what's between the words. People do train for very different reasons. Some make more of an effort than others because of this. One should remember that, always.
The mere fact that someone shows up at practice must be respected as you have no idea how much trouble that person went through to get there Even if that person attends each and every class and is always on time
The same respect is due to those that 'quit', whatever the reason.
They have undoubtely helped others in past lessons, perhaps not even realising it
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Old 09-01-2005, 05:38 AM   #12
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

This post is more about commitment than about quitting aikido.

I think times have changed so much since the days of the Kobukan, when O Sensei used to require a letter of introduction signed by two sponsors. At that time (up to 1942), the idea of aikido as a general martial art, to be practised and enjoyed by anybody, would never have been seriously entertained and so the commitment that I think Mr Bateman is talking about was never in question.

After the war, aikido was spread in Japan as a 'general' martial art and Japanese instructors went abroad to spread aikido overseas. However, I do not think that any serious effort was made to explain the implications of aikido becoming an essential part of one's lifestyle.

By this I mean that, for example, there are many members of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo who go to the early morning class taught by Doshu and have been doing so for 30 or even 40 years. That is it. Their daily hour on the mat with Doshu is their sole experience of aikido. Are they committed? Certainly. Do they train hard? Probably. If they stopped training, I am sure it would be a major wrench.

It is hard to put this into words, but I think that my experience of aikido in the US is rather more 'existentialist', in the sense that the experience itself was seen to be somehow self-justifying. But to be fully self-justifying, the experience must also be 'full', in the sense that putting everything you have into training must be a public act. So what you do on the mat, at any particular time on any particular day, is seen as a clear indication of your total commitment to the art.

So as a young 1st kyu in the Boston Dojo of the New England Aikikai, I attended virtually every practice and so entered the small group of 'core' students. I had the time; others, perhaps with equal hunger for cracking the 'code', did not and so never entered the core group.

For me in the NE Aikikai in the early 70s, aikido was like cleaning one's teeth. The idea of stopping would have been devastating. Now, 30 years later as an instructor, I have become far less judgmental about my students, especially as I believe that it demands a certain courage to enrol in my dojo.

Steven Seagal, my predecessor as a foreigner running an aikido dojo in Japan, had the advantage of opening a dojo in Osaka, a huge city with an enormous population. My own dojo is situated in in a tiny rural town, part of a fiercely conservative farming district, famous for the quality of it's rice and sake.

The idea that aikido is a general martial art is not readily accepted here, since people either practise traditional koryu, usuallly privately and in small groups, or practise judo and/or kendo, which has been taught in schools since the days of Jigoro Kano and where the idea of quitting, even after shodan, is generally accepted.

So people come to my dojo fully aware that it is on the outer margins of traditional Japanese culture and probably are more prepared to quit than those in a more traditional dojo run by Japanese.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 09-01-2005, 06:54 AM   #13
rob_liberti
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

I guess I just always try my best. If that happens to be just going through the motions but it's the best I got, then that's what I do. If I feel I'm unsafe I get off the mat. There is a value of having a practice and always doing your best. I think that certain things trump aikido. There are an infinite number of reasons why not to come to class. They cannot be argued with. Yet, some people make it to class every class (or almost every class) and those are the people I'm there to do aikido with.

I have no problem if someone needs to take time off then there is no need to judge them as far as I am concerned. However, I think Clark is taking the bold move of helping (those who might waiver). They get some external (his) help in making the decision to get to class. To that end I think he is doing them a favor. That kind of compassion isn't in me just yet. If you don't want it as much as I do, then that's your business. I won't typically promote someone like that, but they are welcome to come and be a part of our class for as long as I have any say about it. I have had students for a long time who would have loved to be "clients" as opposed to "students" and I just simply refused to treat them as anything other than a student. They are always welcome, but I always expect them to do their best (which includes getting to class). It's just that I do accept that their best might not be the minimum requirement for Clark's dojo and I'm currently okay with that.

Rob

Last edited by rob_liberti : 09-01-2005 at 07:00 AM.
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Old 09-01-2005, 07:07 AM   #14
giriasis
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Your words were in response to Hanna and part of which Amelia quoted:

Quote:
People can find as many reasons to quit as they can find reasons to continue. This is the way with most anything. Why should training in Aikido be different? It's just human nature. Training takes dedication, and many simply don't have it, or must give up because other considerations in their lives take precedence, for better or worse. One thing is certain: Training half-heartedly is not training at all. This "going through the motions" is different, however, from taking the philosophies and spirit of Aikido into other parts of life, to be beneficial to oneself and to others. This is just training on another level from the physical, and it doesn't have to stop when one's days in the dojo are finished, regardless of the reason.
emphasis added

Nope, they were your words first. Amelia was responding to you, and you were replying to Hanna. Were you some how reading "going through the paces" in Rupert's post (the first post in the thread to which Hanna references) who referred to people "bumbling"? I didn't see "going through the paces in Hanna's posts. Since you said "she" and not "he" I can only infer you meant Hanna or Amelia and not Rupert, unless somehow Rupert has become a female name.


This is the entire context of Amelia's post:

Quote:
I disagree. If you are showing up and going through the motions, you are participating. Your body continues to learn, or at least retain its conditioning, even if you're not getting the most out of it. Most people who train over a long period of time will go through periods of less intense training, but that's very different from not showing up for months on end.
I agree with her statement here. There are times where you so daggone exhausted or maybe in a bad mood, when just being there is all you need. I've had those days, but once class is over I was really happy I went to class. I held no expectations of what I should learn so I just let go what ever was bothering me and was able to enjoy myself for 90 minutes. I think that is what Amelia is talking about. I see nothing wrong with this.


Quote:
What you are missing is that I am not talking about who is better or more able. I am talking about dedication, without which you should not train, regardless of whether you are able to get yourself to the dojo. Big deal.
No, I'm not missing your point. I'm questioning your notion of "dedication" and am refering to "just showing up" as an example of what might appear to be the least dedicated action, to an outside viewer, might actually be the most dedicated action, inside the mind of the particular individual. It is a big deal, just showing up can be a challenge in a person's life. Since you think it is not, then you have obviously not walked in that particular path.

I'm sorry but I'm not as cynical about people as you seem to be. Showing up is dedication. We have one man who shows up 6-7 times month and has to sit on the side of the mat a couple times a class because that is what his body allows. To an outside viewer he doesn't look dedicated, but he is. Would he be a waste of your time to train with? We have people who suffer depression and showing up is just such a challenge. Would they be a waste of your time to train with? We have some adults where the real-world life demands of being a single parent, of runnning their own business and of raising their own children but they do manage to show up once a month. Are they not worth your time to train with?

Quote:
You owe it to yourself, your teacher, and your fellow students to not be on the mat without your best attitude, and purpose, any more than you should be behind the wheel without maximum sobriety. Not gonna walk the walk? Stay home.
Obviously this is the standard you have for yourself. And those are fine goals, for yourself. Why is it so important that everyone else train just like you? Others have different goals, and different challenges to face in their aikido training.

"Walk the walk?" Who's "talk" does that person must "walk"? Has this person been preaching to you that you must show up and give 110% every single class and then show up and only give 20%? Who is lecturing you then not following through with what they advocated? The phrase "walking the walk" refers to people who do a lot of preaching of doing the right thing but never actually do it. I really hope you "walk your walk," though.

I hardly agree that showing up a little tired, in a bad mood (not with a person's best attitude) is as bad as someone driving drunk. I've seen accidents and injuries happen in the dojo. They seem to be a result of someone either just taking a mistep, pushing themselves too hard, or by being a "stoic 'dedicated' martial artist" not listening to their body when they need to rest because they are injured. As a result, they have to take several months off of training instead of a week or two off to heal. However, I have seen people come in tired, or in a bad mood and leave energized and feeling better. I've been one of those people. Admist all your hyperbole is that what you are really talking about? People who say that "they don't want to be there" because they're sick(not contagious), injured (but can train), tired, or in a bad mood, but show up anyhow. Usually, they say that before class starts, and usually after class they say, "man, I'm sure glad I came to class today...that sure was a great class." Should they not come because they were moody or tired because you think they are not worth your time to train with? I don't think so. Actually, that really is when a person should come. I learn quit a bit when tired or moody.

Quote:
"Going through the motions" does not cut it, and I hope your Sensei is wise enough to see it this way. If he does not expect more than that from you, it is regrettable.
Actually, my sensei has high standards of what he expects from me but he is wise enough to understand that some people have bad days. He is wise enough to understand that every person is not capable of giving their 110% every single time they show up to class and is wise enough to understand that just by being there the student will benefit to some extent. He doesn't pass judgment on why a person is there. He just teaches them aikido.

Anne Marie Giri
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Old 09-01-2005, 07:27 AM   #15
Hanna B
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Dedication

Just to add more fuel to the fire

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote:
This "going through the motions" is different, however, from taking the philosophies and spirit of Aikido into other parts of life, to be beneficial to oneself and to others.
Not everyone believes that taking the philosophies and spirit of Aikido into other parts of life, to be beneficial to oneself and to others is a necessary part of aikido, needed for your aikido to be complete. I might be misunderstanding what the expression "going through the motions" means (English is not my first language) but If your commitment is to the movements of aikido with attention to your body and to your partner's, then IMO you are committed to aikido. If you are in your dojo neglecting your partner, then we can start questioning if you are actually there or not. On the other hand, as Jeanne and Anne Marie have pointed out everyone has bad or stressful stretches in their lives (which we handle in different ways) and everyone have bad days even on the tatami.

I have seen some people who train an enormous amount of classes, sometime even three classes in a row but actually are not really present. The train kind of lazily - I guess that is the only way to survive three class in a row as a standard protocol. From the usual training dose-measuring perspective, they are very dedicated students. From my point of view... well, I question the value of this and think that two classes really being there is at least equally valuable to five classes done with half attention.
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Old 09-01-2005, 07:32 AM   #16
Michael Cardwell
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

"Though you may train it this sword work or that, what does it matter unless you do your utmost."

- Morihei Ueshiba

My sensei is good about letting us slack off a lot also, but at the same time he expects us to be putting forth our best effort. He says that when you're tired you do your best aikido, and bad moods have no place on the mat. As you step onto the mat leave whatever happened to you during the day
on the edge and just train in aikido.
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Old 09-01-2005, 08:23 AM   #17
Ed Stansfield
 
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

In (nearly) the words of The Simpsons:

Quote:
Hypnotist: "You will give 110% . . ."

Mr Burns' Baseball Team (hypnotised): "No one can give 110% . . . By definition 100% of something is as much as someone can give . . ."
I have never been, and am not likely to ever be, as dedicated as my teachers were in learning Aikido. So if I look at their example as "100%" then where am I?

Or if I say "my job is only to give 100% of what I can give", then who determines that? Do I set my own limits? If I do, am I really giving 100%?

And anyway, part of the role of teacher is to get you to go beyond what you think you can do; does that mean you weren't giving 100% in the first place?

Even if we could establish what any of this meant, do you really want a dojo where only the people who are "100%" dedicated can practice? Maybe some people do - I'd be thrown out of mine . . .

Beyond saying that people should try to practice seriously and with commitment, how can we pass judgment?

Ed

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Old 09-01-2005, 10:37 AM   #18
Nick P.
 
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote:
You owe it to yourself, your teacher, and your fellow students to not be on the mat without your best attitude, and purpose, any more than you should be behind the wheel without maximum sobriety. Not gonna walk the walk? Stay home. "Going through the motions" does not cut it, and I hope your Sensei is wise enough to see it this way. If he does not expect more than that from you, it is regrettable.
If my 100% is greater than your 100%, I will tell you to stay home. You asked for it.

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Old 09-01-2005, 11:48 AM   #19
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

"We must strive for perfection. Though we know we will never be perfect, unless we try to achieve it we will never be the best we can." (close) by Someone smart I can't name offhand.

I have to agree with a little bit of everyone on this post. Sometimes getting in at all was a large challenge for me (hence my temporary absence). And occasionally once I got in I was far from "my best". And having been gone for a time I am fully aware that when i return my best will not be 100% of what I could give physically the day I left, much less 110%.

I believe however that this falls under potential rather than dedication to an extant. I'm well aware that my 110% may be equivalent to someone else's 20%. Once I change and step out on that mat however I will do my absolute best to accomplish what I came there to do, even though I may not be up to my full potential due to exhaustion, illness/injury, or just a bad day. We all have bad days and random thoughts that can seriously disrupt training can't always be compartmentalized. I've had days where I've excused myself from a class and sat to the side because my body could not perform what my mind needed to (this was from an injury by the way) and days where my mind wouldn't focus like it should, but I gave 110% of what I had. I don't expect anyone to perform at the same level as me, but to perform at their own. I would hope however that fellow students (while they may not push as hard as I do) would show that they are also there to learn, and more importantly that they care, no matter how much faster or slower they are going than me. Even if your body isn't working (unless you're contagious) drag it in and open your mind. No offense intended to anyone, just the way I do things. I don't "do" Aikido for anyone else, I do it FOR ME and if it loses it's meaning and importance TO ME it's time to stop. Thanks for reading.
Brian
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Old 09-01-2005, 12:03 PM   #20
p00kiethebear
 
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

It's the same way with any art.

I played percussion for 7 years. I thought i would do it forever when i started. But honestly. I haven't even touched a drumstick since I got out of highschool.

Obviously no one has to commit to aikido for life. If everyone did we'd have hundreds if not thousands of shihan out there (hey, you can't do something for 40 years and not become somewhat competant at it)

A dojo is lucky if they keep 10% of all the people that walk in the door for more than three months. I tend to think that if enough genuine desire to get better is there, and the instructor is good, a person will stay on for a while.

"Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity"
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Old 09-04-2005, 10:38 PM   #21
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Mr Goldsbury's post has elicited some thoughts from me. I will say upfront that I have no direct experience of japanese culture, only from the media, books, history etc. and what I have experienced in martial arts.

I find the delination between aikido as a "way of life" or as a "practice/general martial art" very interesting. I must be careful to choose the words that describe or label the art/practice.

To me the concept is more of a spectrum with "way of life" being on one ends (total commitment), to " practice/general martial art" (the existenial experience) on the other.

I wonder how much culture plays into the equation? Probably a great deal!

I think you get into the concept of monasticism when you start talking about this type of thing. Something we have never really established in the United States, and which fell from grace in Europe somewhere around the protestant reformation. (although, you can still see the remains of that societal order/tradition through out Europe today).

I recently listened to a lecture by Robert Thurman, (Uma's dad, and one of the leading tibetan scholars) who proposes the monastic model as a way for us to evolve into a more "civilized and peaceful" society. Won't go into it, but very interesting.

What is my point?

Well I think that the Japanese culture and the asian culture in general is more in line with monastic society than we are in the west. Therefore, it stands to reason that the model/order/hierarcy of aikido is centered around this model.

Basically in a monastic society, you have an organization that is sponsored by it's members, which is all of the society. Some will take vows and give their lives over to it in hopes of reaching a higher understanding, being closer to god, becoming enlightened, to better serve mankind...whatever the reason. The commitment is fulltime and complete.

Others will be lay people supporting those that represent the hope of the society.

I think we have this model in aikido...even in the U.S and throughout the rest of the world...even if it is somewhat unstructured and loose.

I think it is a good model.

Not everyone has to be Ushi Deshi, or a monk....the world needs good Aikido laypeople to!
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Old 09-05-2005, 06:29 AM   #22
Amelia Smith
 
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Kevin's post, above, comparing aikido to monasticism is very interesting and revealing. I think that the vast majority of people who do aikido today (here in the US, for sure, and probably around the world) are aikido "laypeople." That is, our practice is an important part of our lives, but not the indisputable organizing force and focal point of everything we do.

I want to say one more thing about the "going through the motions" issue. The idea that you have to bring 100% mental focus to every single moment of every single class in order to benefit from it is fairly extreme. It's also based on the idea that the conscious mind is running the show, which is a very "Western" post-enlightnement perspective. Consciousness and awareness flow in many ways. The body (by movement, etc.) can train the mind, as well as vice versa. Mental and physical focus and attention come from practice, and I really don't believe you need to have it all together before you step on the mat. (Of course, if you're a danger to yourself and others, then you should get it together a bit more before throwing people around).
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Old 09-05-2005, 07:39 AM   #23
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Mr Leavitt,

Many thanks for your response. As with my earlier post, I am concerned with commitment, rather than the question of people leaving aikido (so there will be some inevitable thread drift).

I am not sure whether one can construct a spectrum in the way that you have suggested. I would like to furnish several examples and leave you to judge whether the spectrum model will fit.

1. The case of a prewar Japanese uchi-deshi. The only direct disciples of O Sensei with whom I have discussed this question in depth are H Tada and K Chiba and with Chiba Sensei this was 20 years ago. I believe that Chiba Sensei's decision to become a Hombu deshi is closely related to the aftermath of World War II. He camped outside the Hombu until they let him in and embarked on a lifestyle that we might call monastic, except that there is a wide cultural difference between eastern and western concepts of this state (and I speak with four years of direct experience of the western version). However, Tada Sensei and Chiba Sensei entered the Aikikai Hombu directly after the war and Kisshomaru Doshu told me personally that O Sensei had no postwar uchideshi. Thus, perhaps total, lifelong commitment to aikido can no longer be expressed in terms of the concept of 'uchideshi'.

For Tada Sensei and Chiba Sensei, to talk of an 'aikido lifestyle' would make immeditate sense, but I suspect that this would have no ethical connotation. The primary way in which they understood whether aikido would or would not work as a 'lifestyle' is parallel to the degree to which a samurai would be ready for ANY attack, no matter whence it came. We know that O Sensei's uchideshi regularly, though secretly, went out to test their prowess, and that O Sensei silently acquiesced in this practice (boys will be boys). However, there are no ethical issues here.

2. The case of a presentday Japanese uchideshi in Japan. In the Aikikai Hombu there are no uchideshi, period. So this is quite different from the days of O Sensei. However, there are several dojo outside the Hombu, but connected to the Hombu, that accept uchideshi, even foreign uchideshi. However, I have grave doubts whether such a system is really authentic (i.e., can actually reproduce the conditions that the prewar uchideshi of O Sensei actually experienced).

3. The case of a Japanese who never lives in the house of the Master, or in his 'ie', but has a committed and lifelong commitment to training. The case of the deshi who trains every day in one class for 40 years is an example. Katsuaki Asai, resident in Germany, is a good example of this model, but he actually trained as often as the uchi deshi in (1), mentiomed above.

4. The case of a Japanese who makes a total commitrment to aikido as much as he/she can, given family repsonsibilities. In Japan, this pattern usually takes the form of a young man, who practises aikido as a high school student and, when he is young and single, devotes his entire life to aikido. However, in Japan, even the monastic life is a married life and so the young deshi is constrained to find a life partner and marry. Actually, the uchideshi mentioned above in (1) must also marry, but I suspect that the expected commitment of the wife to her husband's aikido calling would not be acceptable in the west. In the case of this guy, the commitment to aikido is very strong, but he has chosen to put his wife and family first. I mention this because you are in the US military. How do you distinguish between those men who want to train for the hell of it and those who have an deeper commitment to aikido, but find themselves in the US military.

Now, transpose these scenarios to a western context.

5. Recently, I was asked by an instructor in the US if I accepted uchideshi. The instructor was a member of the US Marine Corps and wanted me to look after his student, who would be spending three years in Japan. Of course, I replied that there was no way that I could accept uchideshi, but that I would be happy to look after his student, on the understanding that he would be able to train at my dojo regularly. Well, the student and I have met, we have trained togather and I have told his instructor, who is now in Iraq, that I will take responsibility for his student for the time he is under my care in Japan. However this student is in no way an uchi-deshi.

6. In Japan there are various schemes available for students to become uchideshi. There are at least two questions here: (1) whether the uchi dehsi experience can be compared to that experienced by O Sensei's prewar uchideshi; (2) whether it is possible to become an uchi deshi for a limited period and still have an 'authentic' uchi deshi experience. On the boards we hear that people claim that they came to Japan and were 'uchideshi' for six months. I think that, given the idea of uchideshi with which I am familoiar in Japan, this is impossible. An uchideshi does not make a six-month contract: he/sje signs a blank cheque.

7. Then you have the Japanese version of the member of a lay religious organization like Opus Dei: who is committed to a lifelong commitment to aikido. I know that the members of the Byakko Shinkoukai (created by Masahisa Goi, who became a close aquaintance of O Sensei) were commited members of that organization, but there is no specific organization of 'lay' aikido members. So I can well imagine members of Byakko Shinkoukai who choose toexpress their commitment to their organization through their aikido training. I have no idea whether there are aikido organizations outside Japan that could correspond to Byakko Shinkoukai or Opus Dei members.

8. Then you have individual aikido practitioners who have a wife and familiy and who train as hard as family commitmentd allow. In my opinion these are different from uchi deshi and Opus Dei types. Their commitment is different.

Now, I can think of people in all these categories stopping aikido praqctice, but their reasons for stopping might be quite different. But this is another issue.

But this post has become very long, so I will end it here. Please feel free to pursue issues further, if you think I have not covered your immediate concerns.

Best regards,

Peter Goldsbury

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Old 09-05-2005, 08:12 AM   #24
Dave603
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Well, having only been training in aikido for four years, I don't know much about this topic from a personal perspective. However, there is a member of my dojo who is about 75 years old, and did not begin training in aikido until he was around 56. He has had two (recent) knee replacements and (recent) shoulder surgery (and he can still do front and back rolls). He still teaches his beginner's class and an intermediate class, and is one of the most respected teachers in the dojo. His physical abilities may not be what they once were, but I think he is by any measure an example of dedication and commitment to aikido. The best part is that when I was a brand-new, wide-eyed beginner in my fresh white dogi, he actually told me that he knew the secret to aikido, and would tell it to me. When I asked him to go on, he said simply, "keep showing up." (True story)
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Old 09-05-2005, 09:19 AM   #25
Mark Uttech
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Re: Aikido survivors (Voices of Experience)

Thanks for the wonderful story Dave. 'Encouragement' is a real part of understanding what Aikido is.
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