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Old 11-18-2005, 04:51 PM   #1
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Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Discuss the article, "Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training" by George S. Ledyard here.

Article URL: http://www.aikiweb.com/columns/gledyard/2005_11.html
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Old 11-22-2005, 01:10 AM   #2
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Years ago there was a fellow at another dojo at which I taught regularly. The fellow had been at he school since its inception, had managed to get his Shodan by virtue of the fact that he had been at the dojo so long. But when it really came down to it, he didn't really train. He was always "injured", had a "job related conflict", a "class" that he was taking, always some reason he couldn't make it to class that day. I'd come to do a weekend seminar and he'd show up for the potluck but not be able to make any of the actual classes because of .... His teacher and I, after many years of observing this pattern, started to joke that this fellow had been pretending to do Aikido longer than anyone else we knew.
A different slant:
When I was in Japan I trained in a university dojo (exchange student) and I remember one female student who always came to watch but rarely, if ever, trained. I assumed she must be the girlfriend of one of the other members or something but one day, I asked about her. Apparently, she used to train but got injured as a first year. She was now a fourth year and had attended almost every class, watching. Why? Because she was a member of the club. She always seemed quite jovial about it and she did join in a few times but was very careful. Once you join the club, you are a member and that's it, and if you don't have class, you have to turn up for training.

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Old 11-22-2005, 02:22 AM   #3
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

A very nice article. I think the phenomena being described are present in many activities outside aikido as well. I'm a student of physics myself, and in this context I often observe a tendency to idolize the great physicists of the past, with the implication that the speaker cannot possibly aspire to such heights himself. This allows one to become a member of the comfortable "middle class" of physicists - all one has to do is follow the curriculum as set, progress from college to grad school to one's PhD (black belt equivalent in this context, I guess), and one will then become a genuine respected physicist. I do my best to remind myself not to take this attitude, neither in physics nor in aikido. To worship at the feet of those who have come before and to see them as almost greater than human (as with O-Sensei in aikido and, say, Einstein in physics) is very much counterproductive. It merely provides one with an excuse for weaknesses and shortcomings. The remarkable thing about individuals like Einstein and O-Sensei is not that they were super-human, but exactly that they were human and still achieved as much as they did. That they could do it should be viewed as evidence that others may do as much and go farther as well.
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Old 11-22-2005, 11:21 AM   #4
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Question Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote:
A different slant:
When I was in Japan I trained in a university dojo (exchange student) and I remember one female student who always came to watch but rarely, if ever, trained. I assumed she must be the girlfriend of one of the other members or something but one day, I asked about her. Apparently, she used to train but got injured as a first year. She was now a fourth year and had attended almost every class, watching. Why? Because she was a member of the club. She always seemed quite jovial about it and she did join in a few times but was very careful. Once you join the club, you are a member and that's it, and if you don't have class, you have to turn up for training.
Curiosity compels me to ask who people study the art of Aikido for, themselves or someone other than themself?
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Old 11-22-2005, 11:47 AM   #5
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Aloha,

Having taken the time to read Mr. Ledyard's article I have a comment or two about my thoughts of it. I wondered where he as the top "Kahuna" (a Hawaiian word meaning "expert" used as usual in a joking way as if such [Hawaiian] people were little more than silly - nice one Mr. Ledyard) was as this new social atmosphere was unfolding in *his* dojo? MIA?

Aikido *is* clearly intended to be more than the study of the physical mechanics which anyone through repetition can learn easily enough. Want to learn how to knock people out or simply kick a**? Start doing it as best as you can and keep at it long enough and in time you'll improve. Is that Aikido? I don't so, but hey who am I to say what it is to you? Peace, Justice & Love.

Aloha,

-Robert
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Old 11-22-2005, 12:20 PM   #6
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Robert Fortune wrote:
Aloha,

Having taken the time to read Mr. Ledyard's article I have a comment or two about my thoughts of it. I wondered where he as the top "Kahuna" (a Hawaiian word meaning "expert" used as usual in a joking way as if such [Hawaiian] people were little more than silly - nice one Mr. Ledyard) was as this new social atmosphere was unfolding in *his* dojo? MIA?

Aikido *is* clearly intended to be more than the study of the physical mechanics which anyone through repetition can learn easily enough. Want to learn how to knock people out or simply kick a**? Start doing it as best as you can and keep at it long enough and in time you'll improve. Is that Aikido? I don't so, but hey who am I to say what it is to you? Peace, Justice & Love.

Aloha,

-Robert
Robert,
Where I have been is where I have always been. On the mat five to seven days a week for the seventeen years my dojo has been open. All the patterns I have talked about I see in potential with my own students and I try as best I can to head them in a better direction. If you think I am interested in just kicking ass then you have absolutely no idea what I do in my Aikido or what I teach. Reaching that conclusion from what I read means you have no idea what I was getting at.Or perhaps what I wrote pushes some buttons... it was certainly designed to do that.

Should you think that this all represents some aberrant thinking on my part, I can assure you that when you get a group of senior folks together and they talk about Aikido this type of conversation comes up all the time. I simply wanted to throw it out for wider dissemination.

As for making the leap that I am somehow treating the Hawaiian people / culture disrepectfully... well, please... All sorts of words have come into English usage from other languages, Yiddish being the most notable. When I call someone a putz I am in no way disrepecting the Jewish people, simply the fellow to whom I am directing the term.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 11-22-2005, 01:30 PM   #7
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Circle Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
Robert,
Where I have been is where I have always been. On the mat five to seven days a week for the seventeen years my dojo has been open.
-----

I stand by my statement that simply memorizing the physical mechanics for me is *not* Aikido. Certainly *it is* a significant and essential *part* of the study of Aikido, but me...well I'm greedy. I want it all.

GL>
All the patterns I have talked about I see in potential with my own students and I try as best I can to head them in a better direction. If you think I am interested in just kicking ass then you have absolutely no idea what I do in my Aikido or what I teach. Reaching that conclusion from what I read means you have no idea what I was getting at.Or perhaps what I wrote pushes some buttons... it was certainly designed to do that.
-----

Yes I was fully aware that my post would likely have that "effect" on you but after giving it some (careful) thought and consideration, I decided to post my message. Beep! Beep! [Hey! That button lights up when it's pressed! Co-ol!]

I am indeed bit lost in your sentence "Reaching that conclusion from what I read.." Should "read" actually have been "wrote" or did you mean what you "read" in *my* message? So yes, at that point I do indeed "have no idea what" you were "getting at".

GL>
Should you think that this all represents some aberrant thinking on my part, I can assure you that when you get a group of senior folks together and they talk about Aikido this type of conversation comes up all the time. I simply wanted to throw it out for wider dissemination.
-----

Exactly! And I am disseminating it. I am more often than I care(d) to be a believer that the word "Senior" is all too often over-rated. Neither age nor time or even experience(s) is a guarantee of superior quality or any quality at all, other than garbage'.

GL>
As for making the leap that I am somehow treating the Hawaiian people / culture disrepectfully... well, please...
-----

As one of the few free true Native Hawaiians I consider it my right (and duty) to decide who and what offends me and my ancestors.

GL>
All sorts of words have come into English usage from other languages, Yiddish being the most notable. When I call someone a putz I am in no way disrepecting the Jewish people, simply the fellow to whom I am directing the term.
A little education can go a long way. Yiddish is *not* Jewish. Yiddish is *in fact* a mixture of Hebrew, German and a hodgepodge of other words and phrases from other (European) languages. Hebrew is the Jewish language, not Yiddish, Mr. Ledyard. Peace, Justice & Love.

Aloha,

-Robert A. Fortune
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Old 11-22-2005, 03:20 PM   #8
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Robert Fortune wrote:
who am I to say what <Aikido> is to you?
"I myself do *not* practice Aikido" -- Robert Fortune, November 11 2005

Good article George. Keep it up.
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Old 11-22-2005, 03:56 PM   #9
Don
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Sounds like Mr. Fortune is speaking from a position of extreme experiental ignorance. Me thinks you have lost all credibility, Robert. Excellent article Ledyard sensei. Another one to download and take to the dojo.
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Old 11-22-2005, 04:05 PM   #10
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
As one of the few free true Native Hawaiians I consider it my right (and duty) to decide who and what offends me and my ancestors.
Right now, your ancestors think you are making a horse's ass of yourself...

Ron

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Old 11-22-2005, 04:17 PM   #11
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Robert Fortune wrote:
Exactly! And I am disseminating it. I am more often than I care(d) to be a believer that the word "Senior" is all too often over-rated. Neither age nor time or even experience(s) is a guarantee of superior quality or any quality at all, other than garbage'.
Quod erat demonstrandum.

I find my experiences in aikido, while not nearly as extensive as Mr Ledyards, mirror his observations.

It is certainly true that one cannot always know why someone does or does not get on the mat, or why they push themselves or even why they show up, but there are patterns and Mr. Ledyards observations describe some of those patterns very well indeed.

Nice article. Thank you for writing it.

Tarik Ghbeish
Jiyūshin-ryū AikiBudō - Iwae Dojo

MASAKATSU AGATSU -- "The true victory of self-mastery."
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Old 11-22-2005, 10:25 PM   #12
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Cool Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Andy Russo wrote:
"I myself do *not* practice Aikido" -- Robert Fortune, November 11 2005Good article George. Keep it up.

And I learn quick Mr. Russo. And as I have been learning I realize there is much in Aikido which I already know, and quite a bit more that isn't in Aikido or if it is, it hasn't survived the translation from Japanese into (US) English.

*I* make the effort to understand things beyond going to a gym and working out on others. A wild ape can do that naturally. If you or anyone else here cares to disagree with me I'll be more than happy to watch you go into a cage with that wild ape and we'll see who's the better of the two of you Mr. Russo. My money's on the ape.

It's plainly obvious to me that Mr. Ledyard is basically winging it (at least in that article and moreso in his reply to me). Whether this is Mr. Ledyard's SOP I can't say, but it all there in black and white print for anyone to read this thread and decide for themselves.

For the sake of agreeing that you boys deserve a peaceful safe place to play in, I'll be right enough to stay out of this little safe place you've set up for yourselves to play in. Have fun budo-boys!

-Robert
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Old 11-23-2005, 12:47 AM   #13
Michael Hackett
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Yet another great lesson from George Ledyard Sensei! He writes a thoughtful and thought-provoking column and suffers an ad hominem attack for his effort. Although he clearly has the wit, the experience and the skill to respond directly, he simply rises above the fray and ignores the foolishness. Well done, Sensei.

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 11-23-2005, 03:35 AM   #14
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

These forum are for discussion, not someplace to jump all over someone who has an honest opinion or comment. The fact that people defended this article shows it touched a common viewpoint, but that is not the only point of view available.

There were several examples in the article that I felt were irrelevant to my personal situation. There were additional examples that seemed to me could be done a different way. The fact that the article encouraged people to define their aikido goals is admirable.

However this is not a Win-Win situation. Most people will not become martial arts legends. The majority of US students will not even get a black belt. Devoting seven to five days per week for years of training is a luxury few will have. Moving to Japan or another area to study Aikido is even more remote for most of us.

Perhaps the only thing we can do is to develop ourselves during the short time we have for training. We can do that within one day or forty+ years of training. We can also encourage others to develop themselves. Even though individuals will turn out differently, they will be better people for it. Perhaps that was the idea all along.

Last edited by tedehara : 11-23-2005 at 03:50 AM.

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Old 11-23-2005, 08:55 AM   #15
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard



The problem is, my ancestors had nothing at all to do with that debacle. They were too busy trying to live in this foriegn country as human beings, while being seen by many other americans of the time as animals. Which would not excuse me for:

a) Coming on an aikido board with no experience in aikido and speaking rudely to a respected participant with many years of experience.

b) Pushing a Politically Correct agenda over the innocent use of a loan word from another culture.

c) Identifying myself as a SWM, then claiming to be a 'native Hawaiian'...

The fact is, you come off a little looney so far. You aren't helping yourself yet...just digging the hole deeper.

Best,
Ron

Quote:
Robert Fortune wrote:
Another American *expert* on Hawaiians and Hawaiian culture. If you knew an iota of what I know you'ld know for a fact who are the fools here. Yeah Ron, I know all about it. How tough your ancestors were. Had to resort to germ warfare to kill over 1 million of our men, women and CHILDREN! Impressive! Truly impressive. Care to thank us for the Book of Genesis Ronny? HA!

Aloha,

-Robert

"Nothing's worse than ignorance." - George Harrison "Brainwashed"

Ron Tisdale
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Old 11-23-2005, 09:05 AM   #16
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

IMHo, whatever tool we use, seeing through our own self-delusions for some samll glimpse of clarity is not just the goal, but the journey itself. Enjoy it and don't take yourself too seriousely or too personally.

Nice article Sensei, I have always enjoyed your thoughts and our conversations.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 11-23-2005, 09:40 AM   #17
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Getting back to the matter at hand...

Ledyard Sensei,

I do have a question with regards to direction one takes in training. Personally, I'm 35 years old and have been at my training for almost 4 years now. My body has not been, is not and will most likely never be in "great" shaped. My knees are very poor and with a history of arthritis, I have no doubt in my mind that my knee work could never come close to Ikeda Shihan's level.

Am I setting a limit for myself? Yes
Do I aspire to be a master in aikido? No.
Does that make me a part-time and slacker student ???

To aspire to the level of master is all fine and good. Yes, we should have goals... come to class ready to train... work with a beginners mind and be willing to learn and accept another's teachings. But realistically, I don't ever see myself (personally) surpassing my current instructor. Should I ever match his current ability, I'll be very happy!

But does not striving to become more than that make me less of a student than one who strives to match Ikeda Sensei's ability?

This is not an attack on you or your article. I'm struggling to understand where my place in your world would be.

A student "going through the motions"...

or

A Student of Aikido

...or something else?

Just trying to figure out my place in the world.

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Old 11-23-2005, 10:26 AM   #18
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
John Boswell wrote:
Does that make me a part-time and slacker student ???
I wouldn't equate part-time student with slacker. But I think it's kind of feeling that makes people react angrily to a position like Ledyard sensei's.

I think it's about how you present yourself to yourself, and to the world. It would be ridiculous for me to start acting like I was a seriously dangerous fighter for example. Or a doctor, or a ballet dancer, or anything else that I'm not.

It's painful to think that other people might be better than me. But in the end, if someone trains 5-6-7 days a week, several hours a day - isn't that a sacrifice that deserves recognition? I'm not prepared to put quite that much time into aikido training - why should I pretend to be an equally serious student of the art? It doesn't make me a slacker - it makes me an amateur, which is what I am. I'm not training to become a professional aikidoka, I already have a job!

Still, sometimes there's the little voice in my head that says that I really would like to be that serious, train that much, be able to take that many breakfalls etc etc. and that I'd really like to be treated as if I was...but in the end, fact is that I'm not prepared to put more time into it than I already do. It's my choice, and I can't demand a different outcome than what I've chosen for.

Now during the time in the dojo, I try to train as seriously as I can, I try to really be there, not half somewhere else. I think about what I do, I read about it. It's a more serious hobby than anything else that I do in my free time, but it's still not the only thing, or the main thing, that I do in my life. If I would pretend that it was, I'd be kidding myself. Which is what the column was talking about, I think.

I'd say I'm possibly a branch...sometimes a twig. You get to say for yourself what your place is in the big picture.

kvaak
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Old 11-23-2005, 10:51 AM   #19
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Still, sometimes there's the little voice in my head that says that I really would like to be that serious, train that much, be able to take that many breakfalls etc etc. and that I'd really like to be treated as if I was...but in the end, fact is that I'm not prepared to put more time into it than I already do. It's my choice, and I can't demand a different outcome than what I've chosen for.
See? That's me. And I'm not accusing Ledyard Sensei of degrading students who CAN only train two or three times a week. Now, for those students that do train as much (or as little?) as we do... and think of themselves as being big, bad black belts or something... well, they're just kididng themselves. And I hope this article will get their attention!

If Aikido has taught me anything, it would be humiltiy. Seeing men in their 70's throwing people around like ragdolls tends to wake you up and make you realize... there are bigger fish.

Personally, I've never doubted the existence of bigger fish.

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Old 11-23-2005, 10:55 AM   #20
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

To pay a little serious attention to these questions:

Quote:
Robert Fortune wrote:
Aloha,

Having taken the time to read Mr. Ledyard's article I have a comment or two about my thoughts of it. I wondered where he as the top "Kahuna" was as this new social atmosphere was unfolding in *his* dojo? MIA?
I think the point of his article is that it is not up to the teacher to ask and answer these questions...it is up to the student. I'm going through some of these very issues myself right now, I have gone through them before, and will probably go through them again in the future. The fact is, as I age, as I get engaged in my career, as I get engaged in the aging of my parents, these questions come up more and more often. I don't look to my teacher to solve these problems for me. I have to do the work myself. I have to make time for my training, I have to decide whether to be a leaf, trunk, or root. I have to make these decisions bear fruit in my actions. The teacher can make the environment by setting the tone, creating a good place to train, supporting me in my choices. But I have to make the choices. It's the same for any other *adult* activity that I know.

Quote:
Aikido *is* clearly intended to be more than the study of the physical mechanics which anyone through repetition can learn easily enough. Want to learn how to knock people out or simply kick a**? Start doing it as best as you can and keep at it long enough and in time you'll improve. Is that Aikido? I don't so, but hey who am I to say what it is to you? Peace, Justice & Love.

Aloha,

-Robert
Funny, I've been training in aikido fairly regularly for about 10 years now, and I *still* am not completely sure of all of what it is and what it isn't. If I ever figure it all out, I'll be sure to post it.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
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Old 11-23-2005, 10:56 AM   #21
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Ted Ehara wrote:
These forum are for discussion, not someplace to jump all over someone who has an honest opinion or comment. The fact that people defended this article shows it touched a common viewpoint, but that is not the only point of view available.

There were several examples in the article that I felt were irrelevant to my personal situation. There were additional examples that seemed to me could be done a different way. The fact that the article encouraged people to define their aikido goals is admirable.

However this is not a Win-Win situation. Most people will not become martial arts legends. The majority of US students will not even get a black belt. Devoting seven to five days per week for years of training is a luxury few will have. Moving to Japan or another area to study Aikido is even more remote for most of us.

Perhaps the only thing we can do is to develop ourselves during the short time we have for training. We can do that within one day or forty+ years of training. We can also encourage others to develop themselves. Even though individuals will turn out differently, they will be better people for it. Perhaps that was the idea all along.
Hi Ted,
There isn't anything you've said here that I disagree with. My whole point is that people need to be clear about what they are doing and how much commitment they can or are willing to make.

When people see themselves as being more serious than they really are a dissonance gets set up which forces them to find ways of demeaning or discounting people who are more serious than they are. There are whole styles of Aikido which have done this... they need to put other approaches down because they can't allow themselves to see that there might be some better stuff out there.

In a Budo sense it was never the things that you don't know that will kill you. It's the things that you don't know you don't know. If Aikido is about raising ones awareness or consciousness which I think it was intended to be, that has to include being honest with oneself about what one is doing.

Aikido has levels upon levels. Much of the art at the beginning has to do with physical movement and kinetic energy. Many folks will not train enough to really get very expert at this level. Yet the Aikido that O-Sensei created went way beyond this. The level at which aiki starts to operate is the level at which the partner's mind and body are effected by how you move and how you project your attention.

Takeda Sensei and O-Sensei (and other martial arts greats) attained a level of refinement in their practice at which much of what went on was psychic in nature. They viewed being able to sense another's intention as being critical step in going past mere physical technique. Yet very little Aikido which I observe is being done in such a way that anyone will develop that type of skill regardless of how long or how frequently they train.

The fact that in any art only a very few get to the top level is an historical fact and it is true for all martial styles. The difference I see is that the classical styles of Japanese martial art have attempted to maintain their integrity over five hundred years. Any student who joins a ryuha has access to the very same training which every other student does. Some will take advantage of that training and get to the point at which they attain a teaching license and most won't. But it was strictly a matter of how hard they trained and whatever their innate talent for the art was. The art never gets changed for the students, rather, the students change according to the art.

Aikido is completely different. Since the moment O-Sensei's first students started teaching the art has been changing according to the experiences of each and their own personalities. Some forms of Aikido are different enough from each other that they are really different arts just as Aikido is different from Daito Ryu. But the people who created the different styles of Aikido were mostly pre-war deshi who were lifetime martial artists of great skill and depth.

When Aikido (and the other Japanese martial arts) spread after the war, the transmission was largely done by people who were not themselves Shihan level teachers. When I started Aikido the senior Americans in the art were 4th Dan. Most of us started running our own dojos at nidan and sandan simply because there wasn't anyone senior to us. That is still true today. Most dojos out there are not run by someone at sixth dan or higher. Most are run by folks at 3rd or 4th dan.

Because of the dramatic growth in the numbers of people training there has been a consistent trend towards a) simplification of the art, b) removal of the martially oriented components of the practice, and c) removal of the Shinto oriented aspects of the practice (which is very much a removal of O-Sensei from his own art). Whereas the number of opportunities these days to train at a seminar with a top level teacher is far greater than it was when I started Aikido, in terms of the percentage, a smaller percentage of the total number of practitioners are training under a Shihan level instructor than was true when Aikido was first introduced to the US.

This has led to an immense gap in sophistication between different places one might train. Many people are putting in many hours of hard training, expending much time and effort, but the place where they are training will simply not produce anyone who gets to the top level of skill because of the way they train or the lack of sophistication of the person teaching. This no slight on the person teaching... if one is a sandan or yondan one can do an admirable job teaching folks the basics but how could one possibly take ones students up to a level which one hasn't yet reached oneself? This is just common sense.

The issue becomes lack of awareness of what the highest levels of Aikido even represent. I have been fantastically fortunate to have been able to train with many of the finest teachers out there. The Aiki Expos exposed me to even more, some who don't even do Aikido. When you experience what these people can do and when in your own training you start to get a glimpse of what it is yourself, there's no way you can be satisfied with Aikido-lite.

I travel a lot to teach and train and what I see out there is a group of folks who are hungry for better training. They get so excited and enthusiastic when you can show them ways to take their training up to another level. I think the current system of teaching is failing a large group of people out there. They need more and better direction.

But I also see quite a lot of people who are quite satisfied with what they are doing in their dojos. As I outlined in my article, at some point the who raison detre for the existence of their dojo unconsciously changed from promoting the growth of the people within the dojo and their skill in the art of Aikido to fostering a close community of like minded people who enjoy sharing an activity. While that is a fine thing in an of itself, it isn't Aikido as I believe O-Sensei envisioned it. It may be what his son and grandson have seen as the positive outcome of spreading the art around the world but I am sure that this is not what O-Sensei, or the uchi deshi to whom I have been exposed, envisioned.

I think that people have been drawn to Aikido because of it's promise of personal growth. It's aspect as Budo can help people lose their fear, their feeling of disempowerment. It's spiritual side can teach people a better way of relating both to others and to themselves. It's energetic side offers insights into areas which traditional cultures have had access for milennia but which are disappearing from the modern, materialistically oriented world.

Unlike the situation with the Koryu which I described earlier in which the ryu attempt to remain unchanged and whole over time and the students change to fit the ryu as best they can, Aikido is in a situation in which the art is being changed to fit the people. When that happens you can find that so much knowledge gets lost that even people who wish to train to a high level and are willing to make the sacrifices entailed can't get there because the training they are getting simply won't take them there regardless of how hard they work.

That's why I stress the issue of being really straight with oneself about ones training goals are. Is O-Sensei our model or some unattainable figure head shrouded in mystery? One can say the same of Tohei Sensei... will how most people in Ki Society are training ever produce another Tohei? If we are truly looking at our teachers as our models then we need to take a look at precisely how they achieved what they have. If we aspire to be better than our teachers then we need to design our training to do that.

I am so passionate about this because I love this art so much. I am just hitting the point in my training in which I can now do things which I thought were pretty much "magic" thirty years ago when I started. I feel like I am just getting to the "goodies" and it is so exciting, so much fun I can't contain myself. When I see so many people settling for so much less I can't help but say "No, don't settle! There's so much more..."

I am so far beyond what I saw as my initial goals were for my training... When I started I thought it would be the ultimate if I could just be as good as the Yudansha who had helped Saotome Sensei open the DC dojo back in 1976. They were all Shodans. As I have learned more I have continually sought out the people who could show me what the next level is. What I know about the "next level" is stuff I had no idea of when I started. When I teach I see my goal as exposing the serious students who want to go the distance what the next level can be for them. But more importantly I try to get people to recognize that comparatively speaking I am just beginning to see what is out there for one who trains. The "real goodies" are ahead of all of us. To the folks who are making the effort I say "Don't settle for less." and for the folks who don't want to make the effort nothing needs to be said. They get what they get.

Aikido desperately needs people to focus on how to develop training which could potentially produce another O-Sensei, another Tohei, and Yamaguchi, etc In large measure this isn't happening today. Some of this is due to simple ignorance and some of it seems purposeful, as if someone decided that the general public wasn't capable of understanding the "real" stuff so they are dumbing down the art to fit their perception of the practitioners. I do not believe that this is necessary. It kills the art and it basically deprives the practitioners of experiencing for themselves the truths which O-Sensei described for all of us which drew us to the art in the first place.

When people say that they don't have time to train they are really saying that Aikido simply isn't their first, second or even third priority. They are saying that other things are more important and they don't wish to re-prioritize. That's fine. There is nothing wrong with that. But you don't change the training to make it more accessible to those folks. The training is what it is and the people who do the art will get out of it what their efforts put in. Making the "box" smaller and smaller so that the folks doing the art can feel like they are making progress towards something is doing the people involved and the art itself a disservice. The "goodies" as I call them are accessible to everyone, they just need to train in a way that is designed to give them this knowledge.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 11-23-2005 at 11:06 AM.

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Old 11-25-2005, 05:13 PM   #22
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Let me take a contrary position:

Quote:
I often hear people advise students not to worry about setting goals, not to compare themselves to anyone else, just to train day by day with good commitment and everything will take care of itself. I couldn't disagree more strongly! If one has any aspirations to attain a certain level of skill in an art like Aikido one must make sure that the training one is receiving and the effort one is putting in will lead one eventually to that level of skill.I often hear people advise students not to worry about setting goals, not to compare themselves to anyone else, just to train day by day with good commitment and everything will take care of itself. I couldn't disagree more strongly! If one has any aspirations to attain a certain level of skill in an art like Aikido one must make sure that the training one is receiving and the effort one is putting in will lead one eventually to that level of skill.
In my (limited) experience with Aikido, I've found that the more and more I get involved, the more my goals begin to taper off. Therefore, I believe that the highest echelon of Aikido practice is practice without goals, practice that is nothing more than practice. This terminology is derived from my study of religion, but can be directly applied to aikido.
When I first began Aikido, it was basically on a lark. A good friend at my job here on campus taught a (for credit) class, and basically, time became free in my schedule and I signed up. I never even had the experience of "wow, that is so cool... I really really want to do that." I don't even remember my first class. But now, I've taken that friend's place, and Aikido is basically eating my life alive (and I love it!) I made no conscious decision, just happened.
It seems that there is no way to control the path that Aikido takes you on. You'd just better be ready to hold on tight for the ride. Aikido naturally becomes part of your life through constant practice, that's how it works, there's nothing you need to do to integrate it into your life, except practice, practice, practice. If you're doing aikido with the intention to become the best, you'll only be focused on how to attain your goals in Aikido, rather than on Aikido. On the mat, Aikido is always there, regardless of how you practice. In other words, all practice is good practice; the first-day student is doing Aikido just as much as the 6th dan.
However, I understand that it is very important for some people to practice with a goal in mind. There's nothing wrong with the desire to be better than you are. Training in this way is good, but I think the best way to train is to truly "lose yourself on the mat." The tree of aikido feeds itself. Becoming the root is not your decision, it naturally happens as a product of training.
Furthermore, if you make some decision to make aikido an important part of your life, you're neglecting the fact that whether you like it or not, your life will change. Aikido may be the most important thing in your life when you make that decision, but what about a year from now? What about ten? What are the odds that your life can support an aikido career indefinitely? So if you want to be a root, be a root, but don't get too attached to your root-ness. Maybe someday it will fade too. So stop worrying about your rank, your place in the aikido hierarchy, or your future as the next Steven Seagal/Saotome Shihan sent by the gods to bring aikido to the masses. Leave that crap, your shoes, and your ego at the edge of the mat and just train.
I'm done, open the floodgates.

Peace,
Tom Newhall
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Old 11-25-2005, 06:54 PM   #23
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Tom Newhall wrote:
Let me take a contrary position:



In my (limited) experience with Aikido, I've found that the more and more I get involved, the more my goals begin to taper off. Therefore, I believe that the highest echelon of Aikido practice is practice without goals, practice that is nothing more than practice. This terminology is derived from my study of religion, but can be directly applied to aikido.
When I first began Aikido, it was basically on a lark. A good friend at my job here on campus taught a (for credit) class, and basically, time became free in my schedule and I signed up. I never even had the experience of "wow, that is so cool... I really really want to do that." I don't even remember my first class. But now, I've taken that friend's place, and Aikido is basically eating my life alive (and I love it!) I made no conscious decision, just happened.
It seems that there is no way to control the path that Aikido takes you on. You'd just better be ready to hold on tight for the ride. Aikido naturally becomes part of your life through constant practice, that's how it works, there's nothing you need to do to integrate it into your life, except practice, practice, practice. If you're doing aikido with the intention to become the best, you'll only be focused on how to attain your goals in Aikido, rather than on Aikido. On the mat, Aikido is always there, regardless of how you practice. In other words, all practice is good practice; the first-day student is doing Aikido just as much as the 6th dan.
However, I understand that it is very important for some people to practice with a goal in mind. There's nothing wrong with the desire to be better than you are. Training in this way is good, but I think the best way to train is to truly "lose yourself on the mat." The tree of aikido feeds itself. Becoming the root is not your decision, it naturally happens as a product of training.
Furthermore, if you make some decision to make aikido an important part of your life, you're neglecting the fact that whether you like it or not, your life will change. Aikido may be the most important thing in your life when you make that decision, but what about a year from now? What about ten? What are the odds that your life can support an aikido career indefinitely? So if you want to be a root, be a root, but don't get too attached to your root-ness. Maybe someday it will fade too. So stop worrying about your rank, your place in the aikido hierarchy, or your future as the next Steven Seagal/Saotome Shihan sent by the gods to bring aikido to the masses. Leave that crap, your shoes, and your ego at the edge of the mat and just train.
I'm done, open the floodgates.

Peace,
Tom Newhall
Hi Tom,
Lots of Soto Zen in this... and sure on the cosmic levl its true but on the mundane level it's not going to cut it. It's not all the same... one peron's shihonage isn't the same as another's. One person's skill isn't the same as another. Their value as human beings may be the same but their accomplishment in the doing of the art and their understanding of the art are not.

One of the issues with the application of Zen-like philosophy to our understanding of Zen or anything else is that it most often ignores the basic foundation of what makes that system of transmission work... namely, the Roshi, the Master who oversees your training. All of that stuff about the identity of Zazen and Enlightenment is True in the big sense but it doesn't in any way mean that anyone who sits down to do zazen is a Roshi. It takes twenty years of hard work to REALLY begin doing that. And there are countless pitfalls and distractions which can take one off the Path and it is the job of the Teacher to keep that from happening.

The whole idea of training without goals, being unconcerned with rank, not worrying about ideas of progress, etc is fundamentally based on the idea that one is training with a master level instructor whom you can trust enough to set aside all of your own desires, prejudices, and aspirations and allow the Teacher to direct your training. There are very few Teachers of that level available in Aikido. Most people don't get to train with them. So, if it's all the same to you, then it doesn't matter. But this is not the road to mastery.

Training without goals, training with no concern for progress is simply a recipe for mediocrity and dilletantism. This is the basic misinterpretation of Zen which the Beat Generation figures made... They all loved the idea that we are all Buddhas essentially, in the Cosmic sense. But that lead people to think it was all cool, all the same and it didn't matter. In an Cosmic sense one could say any 6th Kyu is a Buddha. True! And I am a Buddha who is an Aikido Teacher. Also , true. Cosmically we are equal... in fact Cosmically we are the same in that we are both part of the unified Great Mind. But in terms of Aikido, I am a Buddha who can do iriminage and that 6TH kyu is a Buddha who can't. Thinking that tons of repetitions done in whatever manner will yield the goods is essentially the fifty million monkeys typing approach to Shakespeare. One might get it but 49 million plus were typing gibbersh. And every one of those Monkeys was a Buddha.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 11-25-2005, 10:27 PM   #24
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote:
Aikido desperately needs people to focus on how to develop training which could potentially produce another O-Sensei, another Tohei, and Yamaguchi, etc In large measure this isn't happening today.
I don't think that aikido needs such "products". It would be contrary to O sensei way of being. Don't forget, that today’s popularity of aikido is an idea of first Doshu, not Founder himself.
J.Kano sensei developed a system of very efficient teaching large body of students. He did it in accordance with his goals. O sensei never ever thought in such categories.

Founder understood very well, that aikido is a tool for very intimate relation between Kami and a human being. Such things by its nature are addressed to very limited audience, and today those interested in it will find a true transmission from Founder. The others, who prefer to stay on purely technical level and learn technical tricks, will learn it too. That is a law of natural selection.

Also, our expectations and judgment is quite different from the view of people 50 years ago. On technical level, there are many new different ideas (MMA, FMA,..etc). Even today’s sports of combat are very different then 50 years ago (ex boxing or wrestling). Today not very many ppl are impressed by traditional teaching system as they see very impressive results of modern, backed up with science and technology, training methodology.

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Old 11-26-2005, 12:21 AM   #25
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote:
I don't think that aikido needs such "products". It would be contrary to O sensei way of being. Don't forget, that today's popularity of aikido is an idea of first Doshu, not Founder himself.
J.Kano sensei developed a system of very efficient teaching large body of students. He did it in accordance with his goals. O sensei never ever thought in such categories.

Founder understood very well, that aikido is a tool for very intimate relation between Kami and a human being. Such things by its nature are addressed to very limited audience, and today those interested in it will find a true transmission from Founder. The others, who prefer to stay on purely technical level and learn technical tricks, will learn it too. That is a law of natural selection.

Also, our expectations and judgment is quite different from the view of people 50 years ago. On technical level, there are many new different ideas (MMA, FMA,..etc). Even today's sports of combat are very different then 50 years ago (ex boxing or wrestling). Today not very many ppl are impressed by traditional teaching system as they see very impressive results of modern, backed up with science and technology, training methodology.
I understand what you are saying... I know you and I see things from a different angle much of the time but I respect your point of view because you are serious about your training. Obviously, there are many possible approaches. I champion the approach which speaks to me. Other people will have different approaches for instance, much of the spiritual orientation which drew me to Aikido had to do with O-Sensei's way of relating to the world. It speaks to me. If that were absent from Aikido, which is the direction which some of the Aikido leadership is choosing for the art, I probably wouldn't be doing Aikido. There are styles of Aikido in which the spiritual / philosophical side as expressed by O-Sensei is not there but the martial side is alive and vibrant. The appeals to some people and that is wonderful.

The place where I part company company is with the folks who want to turn Aikido into some sort of least common denominator aerobic dance. Aikido is in danger of becoming a practice which is neither good spiritual practice nor good martial arts. I was taught the art was both and that you couldn't separate the two but I think that if you have an art which is solid in one area or the other you at least have a practice which is beneficial and an art that can endure over time. If you have neither you might as well just go to the gym and get in shape that way.

George S. Ledyard
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