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Old 11-17-2005, 08:22 PM   #76
L. Camejo
 
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

Great thread. A bit long winded at times, but some interesting concepts and reactions.

I'll reserve comment on the pics, but I think the subject of the pics was well chosen. Imho the only person who could have been better at demonstrating rank Aikido in a photo other than the Doshu would have been Ueshiba M. himself. It helps us understand that the issue is not limited to any one person, style or group but can be an endemic pitfall that we encounter in practice and it can affect us at the highest levels.

In the end, only those who seek to practice honestly and ask themselves the hard questions that come with serious Budo practice may attempt to deal with and avoid these sorts of pitfalls where one's Aikido can only be effective in a false construct of shared delusion.

An interesting manifestation of rank Aikido is often seen also in multi-style seminars and camps, where Aikido shares an equal floor with Judo, Jujutsu etc. What one often sees are groups of Aikidoka (not many) who only train with each other and often take great pains to not train with folks from the other styles who don't help in creating the illusion of effective waza.

I can understand the differentiation between training and demonstration for rank Aikido and that choreography and showmanship are often primary elements of demos. From my experience however, demonstration does not automatically mean unsound technical principles and Ukes taking a dive for otherwise empty technique. The audience is not always folks who don't know what they are looking at or what to look for as regards effective waza. Also, we cannot always depend on our Ukes to behave like trained Poodles in a demo, hence our martial edge and technical precision must still be maintained to deal with the spontaneous and unexpected even in the midst of a demo.

In training there is a place for cooperative practice of waza. This is a necessary stage in learning. But even in this place of cooperation, sound technical principles and structures must be adhered to, else one's practice becomes empty and false imo and movements have no cause and effect. The effects of this sort of practice is easily revealed in the lowest levels of zero resistance randori, where the Tori with poor structure hopes that the contract of shared martial illusion is maintained here and Uke takes a dive without having been influenced by correct tactical movements that result in an honest throw or lock etc.

It is important for us to always seek an honest answer for the hard questions that affect our training and work towards evolution beyond our limitations, even if it is hard to admit our weaknesses. If we start (especially as Yudansha and Instructors) to believe the illusion that what we do in cooperative/polite kata practice in some way relates to serious martial application without some means of error-checking, then all we are doing is aiding in Aikido's martial degeneration. Without Bu, can we still call it Budo? Without honest Aiki, can we still call it Aikido?

LC

--Mushin Mugamae - No Mind No Posture. He who is possessed by nothing possesses everything.--
http://www.tntaikido.org
http://www.mushinkan.ca
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Old 11-18-2005, 03:36 AM   #77
philipsmith
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

I've been following this thread with interest and would like to make some observations:

1 Its difficult to judge technique from still photographs (or even video)
2 What I call demonstration Aikido is VERY different from training Aikido
3 There is in many instances an "Emperors new clothes" syndrome in all associations
4 There is a tendency to assume that we as Aikidoka have degenerated and are not as proficient as our forbears. This seems to occur in all societies who lokk back to a mythical Golden Age which was much better than now.
5 Peoples prejudices often get in the way of objectivity ( I train with X therefore my Aikido is the best)
6 (Last point) We can have a "Tall Poppy" attitude to individuals who stand out from the crowd. Sometimes we like to think that they are only in their position because of outside i.e. non-technical factors such as nepotism etc.

In saying that I think that criticism is healthy provided it is constructive.

Sorry to be so long-winded.
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Old 11-18-2005, 09:58 AM   #78
senshincenter
 
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

Again, I think that folks that practice Rank Aikido end up missing the bigger picture here because they cannot see the observation as anything more than a criticism - which is an attempt to suggest that it is not an observation. It is not a criticism to say that today, Nov. 18, is Friday. It is an observation. However, it has to be a "criticism" for someone that wants to say that today is not Friday. See how this works?

This resistance to the observation is making folks just focus in on one part of this thing. The other part of how we as senpai uke act differently toward kohai nage is totally being ignored - WHEN THIS IS PROBABLY THE LARGER AND MORE SPIRITUALLY DETRIMENTAL PART OF THE PRACTICE. Moreover, because we cannot get this far in the observation we are missing an even more spiritually detrimental part to our training - that which comes with our expectation of Rank Aikido.

I am here referring to those times when we are senpai nage feel affronted when kohai uke either out of experimentation and/or ignorance end up doing something as that presents a "resistance" to the waza being practiced. When this happens, we very often proceed to thrash them, make them pay, show them how they just jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, force them into the technique, do atemi, etc. - you see that kind of advice offered all over the place on this site. Yet, what do we do when a senpai uke does such a thing, or when a teacher does such a thing, all of a sudden it stops being a martial challenge deserving of conquest. Instead, it becomes some sort of physical riddle that we are supposed to figure out in as pristine a way as possible. All of a sudden, there is no affront - there is only a great learning experience we are having difficulty grasping (for the time being) - there is only this great honor of being given so much needed attention, etc.

The other day I had a meeting with the Judo club's teachers. I showed up early to watch part of the class that evening. While I was watching the class, another spectator showed up to watch. He was interested in training in Judo. One of the senior practitioners came over to talk to him after he pulled out from the third hour of training. They proceeded to have a conversation about past training and what Judo might offer, etc. It came out that the spectator had done Aikido.

Upon hearing this, the Judo player said, "Well, Aikido is a beautiful art. It offers a lot of positive things. My younger daughter has actually opted to train in Aikido over Judo - the rest of the family does Judo. However, there are a lot of assumptions you have to accept in Aikido in order to train and sometimes those things get in the way of a great deal. In Judo, you know what you get. A throw is a throw, and when you are thrown, you are thrown. This allows folks to get along - as you can see. You can even have the toughest match of your life and then go out to get a beer with that person - laughing and talking the night away."

To this the spectator said, "Yes, I can see how helpful everyone is being (which was true) to each other. It is really great to see."

Later the senior Judoka left and the spectator started a conversation with me. It turned out that he had done some training with me as a teenager, when I used to instruct in Kenpo - when I used to travel around to dojo to instruct, etc. - he was at one of those dojo. We started doing some catch-up. The topic of past training came up and of course then so too did Aikido. Somewhere in there I told him that he should not think that there is only one Aikido - that instead he should realize that there are many types of Aikido - yada yada yada. Anyways, he ends up telling me this story:

"So I am at the Aikido dojo, taking one of my first classes. I don't know anything, and I certainly don't know what to do. At this place they all line up and have the nage throw everyone in the line before they go to the end. It is my turn to be thrown, only I have no idea what to do. I wasn't trying to resist anything, I just was ignorant of what all was going on. The person being nage was an upper-intermediate student. He could not move me at all, let alone thrown me, but rather than offering me some direction, he just got really angry at me for messing him up or for not cooperating or something. I took that as a bad sign."

If we are honest in our training, and if we have any mind at all for spiritual reflection, we are going to be able to look at how we have different emotional responses (and thus tactical responses) depending upon the relative rank of the person offering us "resistance" in our training. This is all part of Rank Aikido and why, in my opinion, Aikido in general often falls short in both martial and spiritual applications.

btw - great post Larry. Thank you.

dmv

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 11-18-2005, 10:59 AM   #79
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Again, I think that folks that practice Rank Aikido end up missing the bigger picture here because they cannot see the observation as anything more than a criticism - which is an attempt to suggest that it is not an observation. It is not a criticism to say that today, Nov. 18, is Friday. It is an observation. However, it has to be a "criticism" for someone that wants to say that today is not Friday. See how this works?

This resistance to the observation is making folks just focus in on one part of this thing. The other part of how we as senpai uke act differently toward kohai nage is totally being ignored - WHEN THIS IS PROBABLY THE LARGER AND MORE SPIRITUALLY DETRIMENTAL PART OF THE PRACTICE. Moreover, because we cannot get this far in the observation we are missing an even more spiritually detrimental part to our training - that which comes with our expectation of Rank Aikido.

I am here referring to those times when we are senpai nage feel affronted when kohai uke either out of experimentation and/or ignorance end up doing something as that presents a "resistance" to the waza being practiced. When this happens, we very often proceed to thrash them, make them pay, show them how they just jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire, force them into the technique, do atemi, etc. - you see that kind of advice offered all over the place on this site. Yet, what do we do when a senpai uke does such a thing, or when a teacher does such a thing, all of a sudden it stops being a martial challenge deserving of conquest. Instead, it becomes some sort of physical riddle that we are supposed to figure out in as pristine a way as possible. All of a sudden, there is no affront - there is only a great learning experience we are having difficulty grasping (for the time being) - there is only this great honor of being given so much needed attention, etc.

The other day I had a meeting with the Judo club's teachers. I showed up early to watch part of the class that evening. While I was watching the class, another spectator showed up to watch. He was interested in training in Judo. One of the senior practitioners came over to talk to him after he pulled out from the third hour of training. They proceeded to have a conversation about past training and what Judo might offer, etc. It came out that the spectator had done Aikido.

Upon hearing this, the Judo player said, "Well, Aikido is a beautiful art. It offers a lot of positive things. My younger daughter has actually opted to train in Aikido over Judo - the rest of the family does Judo. However, there are a lot of assumptions you have to accept in Aikido in order to train and sometimes those things get in the way of a great deal. In Judo, you know what you get. A throw is a throw, and when you are thrown, you are thrown. This allows folks to get along - as you can see. You can even have the toughest match of your life and then go out to get a beer with that person - laughing and talking the night away."

To this the spectator said, "Yes, I can see how helpful everyone is being (which was true) to each other. It is really great to see."

Later the senior Judoka left and the spectator started a conversation with me. It turned out that he had done some training with me as a teenager, when I used to instruct in Kenpo - when I used to travel around to dojo to instruct, etc. - he was at one of those dojo. We started doing some catch-up. The topic of past training came up and of course then so too did Aikido. Somewhere in there I told him that he should not think that there is only one Aikido - that instead he should realize that there are many types of Aikido - yada yada yada. Anyways, he ends up telling me this story:

"So I am at the Aikido dojo, taking one of my first classes. I don't know anything, and I certainly don't know what to do. At this place they all line up and have the nage throw everyone in the line before they go to the end. It is my turn to be thrown, only I have no idea what to do. I wasn't trying to resist anything, I just was ignorant of what all was going on. The person being nage was an upper-intermediate student. He could not move me at all, let alone thrown me, but rather than offering me some direction, he just got really angry at me for messing him up or for not cooperating or something. I took that as a bad sign."

If we are honest in our training, and if we have any mind at all for spiritual reflection, we are going to be able to look at how we have different emotional responses (and thus tactical responses) depending upon the relative rank of the person offering us "resistance" in our training. This is all part of Rank Aikido and why, in my opinion, Aikido in general often falls short in both martial and spiritual applications.

btw - great post Larry. Thank you.

dmv
Frankly, many practitioners completely misunderstand the role of the uke in the training interaction. People seem to fall into two categories... either they attack with the intention to take a fall, thereby never actually delivering a good attack, or they attack thinking that the "martial" way to be a good uke is to stop the partner's technique. This is just as bad from a martial a standpoint as it creates huge openings. No real attacker has the intention to stop your technique, he has intention to do something to you. This is quite different energetically.

This does not mean that the uke colludes... he merely executes the attack called for with strong intention. The fact that, with an unskilled partner that might result in the failure to execute the called for technique is the result in the lack of skill in the nage rather than the intention to stop his technique on the part of uke. Uke simply delivers the energy in as clear and strong a fashion as possible.

When I started teaching I noticed that my techniques worked better than when I was on the mat training under another instructor, At first I thought the ukes were cooperating but I would periodically do the technique wrong purposely and would make sure that they didn't just fall down for me. What I realized was that the ukes gave me "real" ukemi. By that I mean that, as the teacher I was free to do any technique I wished. I could change the technique at any instant, do a variation, throw an atemi, whatever. The uke had to be ready for anything, which is what an uke should be. But the moment you see the teacher demonstrate and pair up with a partner, there is already the expectataion of what the technique should be. Uke often, even without realizing it, is moving to counter the technique he knows is coming. Training partners often don't give each other proper ukemi. You frequently see them doing things with each other that they know would result in getting knocked cold by their teacher if they did it with him.

All of this is done with the best of intentions. It should be caught by the teacher and corrected as a mistaken way of training. But at least it occurrs with the best of intentions... When you add in the whole area of people's emotional baggage ie. fears and insecurites, all that ego stuff, you can get a real morass.

Not only do you have an artificial situation in which the technique occurring is "supposed" to be a particular technique, often a particular version, which is a completely non-aiki assumtion, but then there is a set of expectations based on the perceived level of the partner.

If one is training with a senior or especially the teacher, one expects that he can do the technique so one has little or no ego investment in taking proper ukemi. No loss of face, so to speak, to be thrown easily by the senior person. But the more junior the person is to you, the more the expectation is that he shouldn't be able to do the technique without at least working for it. The intention shifts from giving a strong and clear attack to giving the partner problems. To be "aiki" one should at that point switch the technique to whatever the energetic situation calls for but in most dojos doing a technique which the teacher hadn't demonstrated isn't considered acceptable. You are supposed to do the technique demonstrated. This makes it all the more important that the partner deliver the type of attack for which the demonstrated technique is appropriate because to do anything other than that results in forcing the technique and complete lack of aiki.

The above type of problem is extremely common and I find it takes almsot constant remnders from the teacher to not allow this to happen. If you then add in the ego issue of investment in ones status and position you can really get in trouble because at that point, when an interaction isn't taking place which matches the expectations of the nage, he gets angry and possibly even violent because he perceives a threat to his view of his skill level. A junior who he can't throw represents a threat to his self esteem, one of the mopre dangerous things someone can do in the martial arts world, especially Aikido in which the practice is so cooperative.

I havce seen this, even with senior teachers, who when given a hard time by an uke or if struck by him, will feel obligated to hurt him on the next technique, just to demonstrate to all that he is the inferior. Guess what the students at such a place do when their model is such a teacher?

It is the instructyor's job to keep people on the proper path and to make sure the ukes have tha right attitude with their partners. It should be explained that this isn't just because it's nicer but that it is reuired if ones Aikido is going to get past the merely physical, strength oriented level.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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Old 11-18-2005, 11:20 AM   #80
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

Quote:
So I am at the Aikido dojo, taking one of my first classes. I don't know anything, and I certainly don't know what to do. At this place they all line up and have the nage throw everyone in the line before they go to the end. It is my turn to be thrown, only I have no idea what to do. I wasn't trying to resist anything, I just was ignorant of what all was going on. The person being nage was an upper-intermediate student. He could not move me at all, let alone thrown me, but rather than offering me some direction, he just got really angry at me for messing him up or for not cooperating or something. I took that as a bad sign."
This is a very good example of the problem. So the question becomes, how do I teach the new person their role in the technique? Do we teach them the ukemi, the same way we teach nage/shite the waza? I have seen and done this...teach the ukemi and explain the reasons for that role right from the outset. Do styles where the ukemi is highly defined (go down on your back knee / block the nikkajo by bracing with your head / switch knees / sliding breakfall ) answer this quandry? Partially? Fully?

I find that sometimes it is not enough, as in a case I recently mentioned in another thread. A 300 pound newbie (male), was pushing around a 128 pound intermediate student (female), and not following the ukemi. With me, he followed the ukemi. But not with her. Finally, she just floored him. It ended the issue. From then on, he took the ukemi.

Now, I had no problems with her doing that. He had been taught the ukemi, and the reasons for it. He was, in fact, in the superior position physically. Yet he chose to step outside the model. Are you suggesting there should be no consequences for that?

Another instance...recently, someone relatively new asked me what we did about a roundhouse kick. His partner, not quite as new (and reasonable ukemi for his level), was also interested. Unfortunately, the ukemi required for techniques against certain kicks is sometimes a bit tricky. I forgot about this, and he pretty much got dumped (thankfully without injury). I've thought about this a bit...and regret showing that technique. I'm not sure if I should have just answered without demonstration, or gotten another senior student to demonstrate on me, or whatever. But I certainly should have found another method.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 11-18-2005, 11:32 AM   #81
senshincenter
 
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
Frankly, many practitioners completely misunderstand the role of the uke in the training interaction. People seem to fall into two categories... either they attack with the intention to take a fall, thereby never actually delivering a good attack, or they attack thinking that the "martial" way to be a good uke is to stop the partner's technique. This is just as bad from a martial a standpoint as it creates huge openings. No real attacker has the intention to stop your technique, he has intention to do something to you. This is quite different energetically.

This does not mean that the uke colludes... he merely executes the attack called for with strong intention. The fact that, with an unskilled partner that might result in the failure to execute the called for technique is the result in the lack of skill in the nage rather than the intention to stop his technique on the part of uke. Uke simply delivers the energy in as clear and strong a fashion as possible....

YES! This is it! The whole package right there! Thank you.

Now, (if others could follow suit) it would be cool if we all could talk about how this as an underlying substructure of our Aikido seems to subvert our supposed efforts at spiritual cultivation. My own idea is: The deeper aspects of Aikido are not open to 20th century understandings of Japanese hierarchy (both inside and outside of Japan).

Somewhere in there, having a social system that is vertically based and that is connected to degrees of intimacy and insult, etc., is going to hugely get in the way of reconciling the world (whether that be on an individual level or on a global level). This means that Rank Aikido is a problem not just for the folks that are doing Aikido for martial reasons. This is right up there as well for those folks that make a distinction between the martial side of Aikido and the spiritual side of Aikido. I do not want to suggest that commonly held views of Japanese hierarchy do not have their way of generating certain human virtues that are important socially. However, for example, I do suggest that at a certain point the humility that comes from submitting oneself to the will, guidance, and tutelage of another, etc., is not exactly the same humility that comes from a reconciliation of the world in Oneness.

Deconstructing Rank Aikido is one way of beginning to grasp this difference - in my opinion.


Again - thanks George, great post.

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 11-18-2005, 12:11 PM   #82
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

Hi Ron,

Thanks for the reply. I'll try and answer these questions -- they are all good ones -- got me thinking.


You wrote:
This is a very good example of the problem. So the question becomes, how do I teach the new person their role in the technique? Do we teach them the ukemi, the same way we teach nage/shite the waza?

Answer: Yes. (In Kihon Waza training) Waza is basically a Kata -- it is not a match or a self-defense scenario, etc. It does not measure how close one is to being martially effective. It measures how close one is to embodying a tactical architecture that is theoretically seen as being martially effective. That is a big difference that is often overlooked -- especially by those of us that do not compete and/or that do not regularly participate in (true) spontaneous training environments, etc. So, yes, you teach Uke how to fall, stay connected, stay committed, etc. -- how to embody and/or generate the forces prescribed by the ideal architecture, and then how to land safely as a result of that.

You wrote:
Do styles where the ukemi is highly defined (go down on your back knee / block the nikkajo by bracing with your head / switch knees / sliding breakfall ) answer this quandry? Partially? Fully?

Answer: I do not feel that we can understand either Uke's role or Nage's role through Kihon Waza training alone. Spontaneous training environments are paramount when it comes to truly grasping what a given waza is saying about either of these things within/through its architecture. What I say above is only the beginning of training in ukemi, and it is a beginning that comes when one begins to understand that kata/kihon waza training does not measure martial effectiveness directly. When you realize and accept that you are not in a fight when you are doing kihon waza, your ego has a chance of settling down (either from pride or from fear), and you thus look for other things that can measure martial effectiveness more directly. If you do not, you are stuck doing ukemi at entry levels -- at levels meant to address beginner learning curves. This means you are stuck not learning huge parts of ukemi since the addressing of beginner learning curves always means that you are having some things left out. So you may start by saying "go down on your back knee/block the nikaajo by bracing with your head/switch knees/sliding breakfall," etc., but you cannot end there either in theory or in practice. You must venture into spontaneous training environments - where the unknown works to give a reason to the known. That is to say, you must practice under conditions that can bring to you the REAL reasons for why something is done one way and not another. All of kihon waza training, for me, is about working our way up to this type of training. Thus, at our dojo, when we venture into spontaneous training, the new person to the training never really says, "Man, I need more time doing this stuff." They always seem to say, "Crap, I got to get my basics down more." Or, "Crap, I need to practice my breakfalls more." This is how spontaneous training environments and kihon waza are supposed to function -- in combination.

You wrote:
A 300 pound newbie (male), was pushing around a 128 pound intermediate student (female), and not following the ukemi. With me, he followed the ukemi. But not with her. Finally, she just floored him. It ended the issue. From then on, he took the ukemi.

Now, I had no problems with her doing that. He had been taught the ukemi, and the reasons for it. He was, in fact, in the superior position physically. Yet he chose to step outside the model. Are you suggesting there should be no consequences for that?

Answer: For me, only a teacher should do this -- for safety, martial, and spiritual reasons.

Senpai Nage are to work on refining their technique by accepting the challenge of maintaining control of their kohai uke without injuring them and/or pushing them beyond their ukemi skill. This is the best way of getting something out of training with kohai -- in fact, this is the only way that you can get this level of technical refinement. Moreover, there is the larger spiritual issue here -- where if I understand you correctly (and I may not be) the senpai nage just practiced frustration and not acceptance -- which is a huge part of both the martial and spiritual sides of Aikido. Additionally, the kohai uke is demonstrating that they have not grasped the true nature of kihon waza training. In fact, if they are doing the correct ukemi only because they had been slammed -- and not because they are in an architectural agreement with their partner. Chances are they are on their way to being fully captured by the pitfalls of Rank Aikido. As a dojocho, I would want to stop that from spreading from person to person under my roof.

For me, I would have gone over there before the kohai got slammed and explained to them that they have a role to fulfill, and they should thus use each opportunity to practice that role. I'd explain that kihon waza training is about learning and about getting some basics under you so that you can move forward in the training -- so that you don't find yourself in spontaneous training environments saying, "Man, I got to work on my forward breakfalls," or "I got to get my basics down better."

Had I not seen it until after the slam -- I would have gone over and said the same thing as above to the kohai but I would have also reminded the senpai nage of the opportunity they lost to learn something more about the architecture and their distance from embodying it fully. Then I would have proceeded to do the technique in an even slower/lighter fashion to show them that there are other ways of reacting to resistance and that they should seek those out. I would have pointed out that refinement of technique will first require that we change ourselves before we can try something new (tactically speaking). Finally, I would have reminded them of our dojo's policy in regards to how senpai nage are to related to kohai uke in Kihon Waza training.

As for the "consequences" -- for both nage and uke who can't follow this direction -- they will come to experience them in spontaneous training environments -- fully and naturally, and in ways and in degrees that Kihon Waza can never generate. Before that, there is only the slight admonishment that comes with losing prime opportunities for training more efficiently and for not following dojo protocols more closely.

Much to think about here for me -- thanks Ron for prompting the reflection.

david

David M. Valadez
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Old 11-18-2005, 12:24 PM   #83
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

And much for me to think about with the response! I no longer teach much, but you never know when you might get called on (as happened rather unexpectedly the other night). I did see the beginning of the 'issue', and made sure to address it to the class as a whole before the 'slamming' occured. I guess I figured, once warned, if you chose to ignore it, then you've stepped up. I knew quite well the shite could handle that particular problem. But I also have to wonder just how 'rank' it was for me to let that continue. I think now I would follow your suggestion...as the teacher, take it upon myself to demonstrate the reason. I wonder though...since the main reason for the negative reactions of uke were the fact that shite was female, would uke make the connection between my subsequent demonstration, and his own machismo/chauvenism, etc.?

To put it more bluntly, he was convinced that no tiny woman could submit him. How does my showing my own ability to solve the puzzle teach him that women can solve the puzzle as well (albeit in this case, somewhat forcefully)?

Best,
Ron

Last edited by Ron Tisdale : 11-18-2005 at 12:28 PM.

Ron Tisdale
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"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
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Old 11-18-2005, 03:13 PM   #84
senshincenter
 
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

Hi Ron,


I was thinking about that myself as well. There was a lot going on here in the event. I imagine then that one has to come to it from many angles in order to make sure we are being mindful of all of the things that George was kind enough to spell out for us. For the record, however, I was suggesting that one should demonstrate the technique on the big man -- not the female nage.

I actually have this kind of thing come up quite a bit in our dojo. We have a 39/40 year old woman that is just over five feet. She's been with me for a long time and she trains daily. Folks, men, especially new men, often make the mistake of (habitually) underestimating her -- which is really a habitual form of over-estimating oneself. If they bother her enough, she is very likely to just give it to them. She's at that stage in her training where she can generate the power to manipulate uke's body but is now looking to not have speed, momentum, or surprise (and definitely not choreography) play such a significant role in that manipulation. She is only about three or four weeks into this type of training now. And she really only came to it via a shoulder injury -- which took her a while to understand that she got it as a result of poor body mechanics and a habitual tendency to muscle/push at uke via fear, pride, and/or ignorance (the two things feeding each other). When she was just about to realize, as George said in a recent blog entry over at Aikido Journal, that she was practicing false self-defense, she was still sure that she was muscling only the huge guys -- most of the guys in our dojo are up over 200 pounds. She was convinced that she was doing the only thing that could be done -- particularly within the spontaneous training environments she was finding herself within at this same time.

I did all the stuff to show her that muscling was not the only option, even before one develops decent kokyu skills. I did the pinky techniques, I did the one leg versions, the up on the toes and on one leg versions, etc. I had her push on me as hard as she could. I had her and two other folks push against me as hard as they could, etc. I did the techniques on her ukes in this way, etc. It didn't really work. She was stuck on muscling. More accurately, she was stuck on not seeing the gap in the logic of her thinking. She was not able to see that her habitual response to fear, pride, or ignorance, her habitual tendency to push against (to be the second energy necessary for resistance to make itself present) was not the same thing as using our muscles as Aikido requires/prescribes. Instead, she defended her actions to herself by a priori defining her tendency to resist against uke as the normal muscle use of any physical activity. She's moved past this now -- in a tremendous way. What worked? I started to help her see that she not only acted thusly with the big boys -- like she thought -- like she needed to think in order to think what she was thinking. I showed her that she did the same thing against everyone -- even the new women that come in and that are smaller than her. In the "contrast," she was able to see the common denominator: The habitual tendency to force and/or resist things. This is very much in line with something Pauliina said once -- about how a singer that strains his/her voice when he/she sings, also strains the voice even when they are whispering.

So, for me, nage, my student, and the nage in your relationship, just has to learn this lesson: that forcing technique is resisting against uke. In my dojo, you want to know that a bit well before you get into spontaneous environments. Why? Not so that you can stop resisting uke. That won't happen with a mere intellectual understanding. However, by realizing this when you do practice it within spontaneous training environments, and you get your ass kicked because of it, you have some way of understanding that beating a bit more constructively. Hence, things will not be so demoralizing and/or prone to make you quit.

But what about uke? That is really your question if I understand you correctly. I think uke has to also be addressed at the same level of body/mind. As teachers, we cannot just talk to them about their technique. We have to address why they are doing what they are doing, why they aren't doing what they should be doing, why they can't do what they should be doing, and what they need in order to do what they should be doing. This is how you approximate the ideal architecture more closely. These questions are as much physical as they are psychological or spiritual. However, there is a lot that can go wrong. For example: When we demonstrate anything as teachers in a hierarchical society we have to realize that many people come to such a system with a great need for social verticality. This goes right along with Nietzsche's herd mentality and his will to power concept. This is also related to the cycles of abuse that Ellis Amdur often points out and also the passing on of violence that George spoke about in his post above. This is why in many places dojo resemble more a dysfunctional family than anything else -- where cycles of abuse are passed along in an almost genetic-like fashion and where it is all accepted as something benevolent and/or worth the cost. That means that while I may be trying to make a point for the welfare of my senpai nage, my huge new man kohai uke might take things a bit differently -- might see it like you are suggesting. He might dismiss the point that is being made for nage by putting me as sensei above it all (since I am at the top of the social hierarchy) -- such that the female nage might simply remain weak in appearance (which was his point he was trying to make to himself).

This is why the point has to be made slightly differently for uke. Aside from the technical matters, when I notice such inconsistency in uke's following of the dojo's protocols regarding the uke/nage dynamic in kihon waza training, I am sure to point it out. "Hey, you practiced your ukemi for me, but now you aren't for her? What's with that? You need to realize how important it is to get your basics down. There are other places and times for the resistance you want to provide here. Believe me, if you don't learn how to flow here in kihon waza, you are not going to be doing much of anything under spontaneous conditions. More than likely you are simply going to get hurt -- over and over again until you can figure this out. So it is better to use every nage you have to practice your side of the technique. Do not be caught up in this temporary pairing -- the technique is beyond that. You and her are the finger -- don't forget the moon! Practice your ukemi. Don't kid yourself that you are fighting here. You are here to do a form -- do the form."

Then let's say he doesn't come in line -- which I've had happen once: "Hey, I think you have a problem with women training. Your pride comes out too much when you are training with them. Do you realize that? It's getting in the way of you learning ukemi more fully -- because you are reducing your time spent practicing ukemi by 50%. There is more however: With such attachment to pride, how can you help these partners to grow in the art? How can you be a senpai to future female kohai? Do you not owe the dojo and your fellow members that you will work to reconcile your attachment to pride -- so you can actually be a senpai, actually be capable of practicing compassion in the face of their respect? With such attachment to pride, how can you develop spiritually? Will you not only be spiritually mature when conditions are prime for you to ACT humbly? Isn't that a false humility -- and won't that simply lead to the danger of having pride in one's humility? Martially, how can such attachment to pride not fetter your body/mind? Can you really believe that it is only women practitioners that trigger your attachment to pride? If not, then will not your pride come up in anything and in everything you do? This is your chance, your female fellow deshi are helping you here, by giving you the opportunity to see yourself more clearly AND to do something about it. If anything and/or anyone will make you progress in the art, it is the very people you now feel you are above training with. As I said with the technical side of ukemi, do not waste these opportunities to improve. Get to work -- the job is right there, right there before you. You only have to reach for it now. Do the job."

After that, if the person doesn't fall in line (with things being repeated many times and in many different ways), the person is subject to both rejecting the dojo's protocols and de-investing from the training. At our dojo, such action is subject to demotion, a lack of promotion, and even expulsion (if it becomes dangerous and/or if it causes too much disruption on the dojo's society). In this regards, the dojo cannot lose since it either gets a person that is working on what should be worked on, or it loses one that will not do any such thing.

Thanks again.

just my take on things,
d

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 11-18-2005, 03:38 PM   #85
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

Quote:
Hey, you practiced your ukemi for me, but now you aren't for her? What's with that? You need to realize how important it is to get your basics down.
Excellent post, and thanks. One day I must come and train there. Your students are very fortunate.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 11-18-2005, 04:36 PM   #86
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

Ron,

you are always welcome - you'd be our guest, so all you'd have to worry about is getting here. :-)
The rest would be our pleasure.

thanks,
d

David M. Valadez
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Old 11-18-2005, 08:17 PM   #87
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:

I actually have this kind of thing come up quite a bit in our dojo. We have a 39/40 year old woman that is just over five feet. She's been with me for a long time and she trains daily.

:
:

I did all the stuff to show her that muscling was not the only option, even before one develops decent kokyu skills. I did the pinky techniques, I did the one leg versions, the up on the toes and on one leg versions, etc. I had her push on me as hard as she could. I had her and two other folks push against me as hard as they could, etc. I did the techniques on her ukes in this way, etc. It didn't really work. She was stuck on muscling.

:
:
d
I'm new to Aikido. I don't think I'm qualified to question any one's teaching method.

But I found it rather disturbing.

There is a aikidoda who has been tained hard under you for a long time. You perfectly understand the usage of Ki. Somehow, this particular aikidoda hasn't had a clue about what you've been doing. Now, you brought up the problem of "Rank" aikido, i.e. some higher ranking aikidoda lack of "Ki" in demostration.

Have you answered your own question?

I suppose if all the "ranking" aikidoda had the "ki" ability of O'Sensei, there wouldn't be any of the "rank" aikido problem.

"I did all the stuff to show her that muscling was not the only option"

I thought "muscling" was NOT an option at all. If you're muscling, you're not doing Aikido. The whole kihon waza was to develop Ki. If you still need muscling in a "kata" form traing, what's the point of KATA training?

I bet you $100 dollars that the aforementioned aikidoda can't do a 1000 bokken cut without a rest. I bet you $200 that she can't do a simple static katadori ikkyo with a strong uke.

I may sound a little mad in my tone. Please don't take it personal. But in order to be truthful. You can consider it as my full resistant uke to you nage.
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Old 11-18-2005, 08:59 PM   #88
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

Hi Roosvelt,

Thanks for the reply. I'm probably missing something you are trying to say but I'll try and clear some things up a bit here. I will be trying to not get too off topic here.

- Of course I wouldn't say that I understand the usage of Ki perfectly. I wouldn't say that about anything I do - ever. I'm here to practice, to train, not to achieve. Moreover, what I was talking about would qualify in my book more accurately under Kokyu and not Ki - but that is just my take on things.

- I did not define Rank Aikido as someone practicing Aikido without Ki (however that might be understood by anyone). Ki has nothing to do with why we freak out when our newbies give us a reality check - for example.

- Additionally, by how I defined "Rank Aikido," Osensei himself was prone to practice this and/or be a part of this larger problem.

- Let's be clear, I was making a distinction between "muscling" and using muscles. For me, Aikido will always necessitate that we use our muscles - but "muscling" is something else used to describe when we are using the wrong muscle groups in isolation from other geometric and timing issues, etc. Until we figure this out, muscling is always one option of many. It might not be THE option or even the best option, but it nevertheless remains something that one might do and/or do the most at certain stages in one's training.

- But... I'll bet you anything that one day she will be amazing - by anyone's standards. Thus, it doesn't matter where she is today, it is only important where she is going and what she is becoming. She is on the Path.

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 11-21-2005, 03:55 PM   #89
rob_liberti
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Re: Rank-Aikido (pun intended)

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To be "aiki" one should at that point switch the technique to whatever the energetic situation calls for but in most dojos doing a technique which the teacher hadn't demonstrated isn't considered acceptable. You are supposed to do the technique demonstrated. This makes it all the more important that the partner deliver the type of attack for which the demonstrated technique is appropriate because to do anything other than that results in forcing the technique and complete lack of aiki.
There is the other side of over-investment of success into self-esteem. The above suggestion also has the unfortunate problem of people who have reached a certain level of proficiency but refuse to grow past it. I have seen good teachers demonstrate techniques in a way to challenge such surface-level understanding and rather than the "student" face the possibility that they don't everything already, they just switch techniques and blame the uke and the teacher - and basically anybody else as long as it's not them or their perfect technique.

My feeling is that training should be on the line between what you can do and what you can't. So at every level you should be successful only about 50% of the time.

As far as taking appropriate ukemi - well that's hard! I am just starting to really understand why Gleason sensei wanted me to move in some of the ways I move now. I used to think he wanted me to fall for him, but that wasn't right. Then I though he wanted me to resist him and test him in every way I could and that wasn't right either. The big open body - using your legs to keep your arms driving forward instead of contracting, keeping aware and totally responsive, looking for openings to enter and exploit, kind of attitude is difficult to describe. I'm told that some of the things I work on in ukemi are impossible - like keeping my energy consistent in all parts of my body while taking ukemi. I haven't stopped working on things like that yet. I guess I just need to arrive at that conclusion myself, and while I can't do it 100% I think I can get closer to 100% than I am now.

Anyway, I don't mean to steer the thread off topic. I think the main issue here is "trust building". Your relationship with your partner needs to be "trust building" and often it is "trust destroying" because you were inappropriately being "trust testing". Always be "trust building" between you and your partners, and then in turn help each other build trust in your technique and understanding of principles.

Rob
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