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Old 11-30-2005, 01:23 AM   #26
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
John Boswell wrote:
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.
Hi John,
As far as I can see, you have done exactly what I advise people to do, namely be clear about what your commitment is. If you are fully present and train hard on those occasions when you can train then you aren't "going through the motions".

Not everyone wants to train for "mastery" whatever that is... Aikido can still be an amazing for anyone if they put something of themselves into it. The more of yourself you put in, the more you get out. If you are happy doing what you are doing, then that's great! Every dojo needs to have people like yourself training and contributing. You are certainly not "less of a student". At the same time you may not be training as seriously as some other hypothetical student.

One student might be on the mat three times a week and hit several seminars a year, another might train seven days a week, train in the lunch time class, do another martial art like iaido or jodo on the side, hit seminars frequently and attend summer camp every year. The correct things to do as a serious student when confronted with a more serious student is to train with him as much as possible and soak up what he knows whenever one can. But in many dojos this won't happen. That serious student (who perhaps has read his Aikido history, is training as hard as he can, with his additional knowledge gained by extra training) will often find himself at third or second kyu giving the Shodans (who haven't read much of anything about the art, don't hit many seminars, don't know a thing about other martial arts) a hard time. Often times it will be the case that the more serious student will find things get so uncomfortable at this dojo that he will be forced to leave. The dojo will have blown the oportunity to collectively benefit from the fact thay had a MORE serious student there. Belive me, I have seen this happen.

If people read what I wrote carefully I simply said that you have to be clear about what your goals are so you can structure your training accordingly. If your model is Ikeda Sensei and you want to reach his level then you have to train like he trained. If you don't aspire to be as good as he is then you don't have to train like he did. It's just a simple statement.

My main purpose in writing these things is to tell people "Don't settle for less than you are capable of." A large number of people could be far better than they are if they simply trained with greater intensity. I'm not talking about making a greater commitment of time, it's not about having Aikido take over your life... it's about taking full advantage of the time you are putting in. Many folks are just going through the motions in that they put very little of themselves on the line when they train. They may even be training relatively frequently but they keep their practice very safe and user friendly, never going out towards their limits (which are usually far past where they think they are). Much of the interesting knowledge that is contained in Aikido cannot be accessed this way.

It's basically simple. Are people really getting out of their training what they say they want out of it? If so they should continue doing exactly what they are doing. If they aren't, in all honesty, getting out of the practice what they feel they want, then they need to adjust what they're doing. No value judment here, just clarity.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 11-30-2005, 06:06 PM   #27
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

I think this has been said already, said many ways and many times. However, I think it was said in a way that we can again act as if the content of the article is relevant only to some abstract Other -- not us, not everyone that trains in this great art of ours. Here is another way of looking at the same thing (in my opinion)

I think we have to realize that there is a great difference between being the best, doing our best, and doing all that one needs to do in order to achieve one's desired-for ends. What is most problematic is that we often see what we are doing as the best we can do and thus also as the best (period). We want so badly to not have the best we can do seen as merely the choice we have made for ourselves. We also want the best we can do to suffice in all ways and/or at least in the way we claim to be pointing (which we subsume under the rubric of "the best way to be pointing"). We so easily forget, for some reason, that our best, whatever that may be, simply may not be good enough. We do not want to see, via any kind of personal insight or via any kind of contrast, that we are by all perspectives indeed only a hobbyist, a part-time budoka, or a practitioner that is just going through the motions. We want some way to see what we are doing, what we have chosen to do, as both all we can do and all that is necessary to NOT be a hobbyist, a part-timer, a person just going through the motions, etc.

When we are reminded of how much more we can do, of how much more there is to do, through things like the article or by coming into contact with great teachers and with great practitioners, the thing to do is not to redefine "best" (such that we become "good enough" and thus by default part of the "best"). Nor should we seek to paint ourselves as being a practitioner with the best of intentions but who is forced into a life where we cannot manifest our best intentions -- where can become the "best we can be," and thus, through the modern fetishization of effort, somehow become "good enough" or some other ego-satisfying spin on "best." Most of all, we should not dismiss all these chances for self-honesty under the obvious slogan of, "Well, I don't want to be the best" -- or its many offshoots ("I don't want to be better than my teacher." "I don't want to be as good as my teacher." "I just do Aikido for me." "I don't think it's relevant to compare myself to others or to anything outside of me in Aikido." Etc.) If all of these slogans were genuinely felt, we would be satisfied with being a dabbler, a hobbyist, a person who can never explore the totality or the depths of the art -- but we are not -- and this tells us something about these slogans and why and how we are using them. Let's be honest.

The first time I came across this analogy (i.e.. roots, branches, leaves, etc.), I heard it through Chiba Sensei. It made a lot of sense at first. However, over the years, it has come to make little sense outside of making us dabblers feel a part of something that we can never be a part of. Does that make sense? It is like it is a polite way of allowing us folks that won't reprioritize our lives to feel akin or in union with those that have. We say, "Well, I'm not the roots, but hey, I'm still a tree -- just like you are." I think very few of us say this to ourselves in order to come out in a favorable way when comparing ourselves to others, but we often say this to ourselves when we are trying to justify all that we have yet to do by that which we are willing to do. I think we should all be roots -- we should all seek to be roots. I mean, perhaps we can understand what the leaves of a fighting art might be, but what the heck are the leaves of a spiritual cultivation? We should all do the best we can to be roots. However, to do this, we have to learn to do the best we can while we continually strive to do more of what is required. Do what you can do, accept where you are, while nevertheless tirelessly working to do more, to become more. Sometimes, or maybe it is ALWAYS, in order to do this, we do have to recognize that we have not all been that committed in our training -- that we are indeed just going through the motions, just dabbling.

In another thread, George mentioned something about the average aikidoka not training as much as the average high school athlete. I've often thought of this myself, only I tended to use the average community co-ed softball league player in the comparison. I noticed that the average softball league player probably practices as many hours and/or more than the average aikidoka. Yet, the average softball player seems to be able to perceive their level of commitment differently. I noticed that they have no problem accurately recognizing their level of commitment and where it fits in with all the other levels of commitment concerning the sport of baseball. I wonder why this is -- it has always struck me as odd (just as odd that someone can easily commit as much time to a recreational/pastime sport as another person finds it difficult to commit more toward something that is suppose to transform them for forever and/or reconcile the world). What do you all think? Why can a softball player who has a couple practices a week and a game on the weekend have no problem saying, "Oh yeah, it's just fun for me, I'm no expert, not even close, etc., I don't pretend to be good at it, etc.," (or something akin to that), while the average aikidoka, whose activity seems so much more profoundly deep than the sport of baseball, can do as much or even less and not be able to say something similar?

David M. Valadez
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Old 12-01-2005, 12:42 AM   #28
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Why can a softball player who has a couple practices a week and a game on the weekend have no problem saying, "Oh yeah, it's just fun for me, I'm no expert, not even close, etc., I don't pretend to be good at it, etc.," (or something akin to that), while the average aikidoka, whose activity seems so much more profoundly deep than the sport of baseball, can do as much or even less and not be able to say something similar?
Excellent question....

Charles Burmeister
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Old 12-01-2005, 06:54 AM   #29
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
Why can a softball player who has a couple practices a week and a game on the weekend have no problem saying, "Oh yeah, it's just fun for me, I'm no expert, not even close, etc., I don't pretend to be good at it, etc.," (or something akin to that), while the average aikidoka, whose activity seems so much more profoundly deep than the sport of baseball, can do as much or even less and not be able to say something similar?
I'm not sure that's true, though. For one, I don't know that the "average aikidoka" generally considers themself an expert. Certainly the overwhelming number of people on these forums, for example, are quick to say, at least, "I'm not an expert," "I'm still learning," etc. Conversely, as a baseball fan, I've certainly come across softball players who have inflated perceptions of how much insight their fast-pitch game gives them.

My question is, why should we expect aikido not to follow a normal binomial distribution when it comes to commitment/talent/etc?

Josh Reyer

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Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
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Old 12-01-2005, 07:25 AM   #30
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Joshua Reyer wrote:
I'm not sure that's true, though. For one, I don't know that the "average aikidoka" generally considers themself an expert. Certainly the overwhelming number of people on these forums, for example, are quick to say, at least, "I'm not an expert," "I'm still learning," etc.
I think it's a two sides of the same coin-thingy.
When aikidoka talk about the martial, spiritual, etc. goals of aikido, they basically talk about O-sensei: he was enlightened and could kick erveryone's ass! And by doing so, they imply they will get there or at least get very close someday.
However, very few people commit as much of their time to aikido as O-sensei did. So when they fail to live up to the myth of O-sensei, martially or spiritually, they say "I'm still learning." (Of course, everybody should always be learning, but a sixth kyu who fails to do ikkyo, is not still learning, he is learning, period. I believe very few aikidoka can rightfully claim to still be learning, we're just learning like that sixth kyu.)
So what most aikido should be saying is: If you do a lot of aikido, day in day out, with the right mindset, you can (are supposed to) reap great martial, spiritual, etc. benefits. But I'm just a hobbyist, I'm never gonna get really good at it. It's a whole lot of fun, though!

Quote:
My question is, why should we expect aikido not to follow a normal binomial distribution when it comes to commitment/talent/etc?
It has to have such a distribution, unless we go koryu and let only the very committed participate.
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Old 12-01-2005, 08:02 AM   #31
Jorge Garcia
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Smile Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Robert Fortune wrote," 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."

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote:
Right now, your ancestors think you are making a horse's ass of yourself...

Ron
This was funny. I laughed for three minutes straight! Thanks, I needed that. I'm ready to go to work now.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 12-01-2005, 09:02 AM   #32
ian
 
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

I agreed with the article and like the tree metaphore. However the article still tends to suggest that there are better parts to the tree than others. I feel I have learnt an enormous amount through my short time in teaching; and partly it has made me more ruthless in my approach to aikido i.e. I tend to focus on those students who I believe will persevere and sincerely inquire into aikido, and whilst I focus the training on them, those who only have a superficial interest learn a few techniques and add to the diversity of the dojo. This is because I sincerely want to improve myself, and I also want to ensure that the nuggett of high quality aikido that exists beyond the techniques is passed on to future generations - I eventually want my students to be better than me! We do not want aikido to end up like many of the early karate schools whereby an instructor is mainly there for money and status and the students are just stepping through set techniques, the style of which is determined by the affiliation.

P.S. Ron - your comment also cracked me up!

Last edited by ian : 12-01-2005 at 09:06 AM.

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Old 12-01-2005, 09:26 AM   #33
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Joshua Reyer wrote:
I'm not sure that's true, though. For one, I don't know that the "average aikidoka" generally considers themself an expert. Certainly the overwhelming number of people on these forums, for example, are quick to say, at least, "I'm not an expert," "I'm still learning," etc. Conversely, as a baseball fan, I've certainly come across softball players who have inflated perceptions of how much insight their fast-pitch game gives them.

My question is, why should we expect aikido not to follow a normal binomial distribution when it comes to commitment/talent/etc?
Yes, I guess even I was being too "open" with what I was saying. I agree, not many aikidoka, even among those that are, would ever say that they are an expert. Also, I imagine there are such league players as you suggested. But can we not still ask, "Why does someone in Aikido that has only committed what in other endeavors is easily acknowledged as 'dabbling' need that level of commitment to be seen as something else, as something on par with true investment?" Or, "Why do softball players in a co-ed league not feel compelled to ask major league players, 'I do practice twice a week and have a game on the weekend, am I a real ball player?'" I think we can do this with anything - take guitar: "Hey, Mr. Van Halen, I pick up the guitar here and there, am I being real when I say I 'study' guitar?" Take Zen: "Roshi, I see that zazen is important, I do it for about 20 minutes, once a week, won't I reach awakening through this or am I wasting my time?" Etc.

Of course, the answer is obviously "yes and no" to each of these questions but that answer is completely based on the logic of "some committed time is better than no committed time." I'm not sure how much we want to satisfy our egos on that one - which is why we most often try not to be too aware of how this logic is supporting us while we go ahead and make full use of it - concentrating on the "yes" of "yes and no". However, I'm not trying to answer these questions. I'm asking about how come they are asked so often in Aikido. Why isn't it obvious to us when we are dabbling? Moreover, if we are dabbling, if we are choosing to do that, or even if we are choosing to see ourselves as someone that can only dabble (supposedly due to life circumstances), why can we not be fine with our decision, such that again we do not have to ask, "Am I dabbling?" Or, at the least, why, if we feel compelled to ask the question of another, why when we are dabbling do we not want to hear that truth from the person we are asking to provide that truth - why when we are dabbling and when we ask another person if we are dabbling are we incapable of hearing, "Yes, you are dabbling." In the example about fast pitch "pros" - sure, I bet they are there, but when he or she is with friends and is commenting like a "pro" on the game they are all watching on the television, one can say, "Geesh, come on, you don't know what you're talking about - you're a local league player commenting on a person that has dedicated his life to the game," and have that come off as humor and not as an attempt to demoralize someone else. In Aikido, if you tell something like that to someone like that - you are basically telling them that they might as well quit or even that they are worthless. They don't hear: "Hey, keep doing what you are doing; you are undoubtedly going to gain some stuff; you are enjoying it; but be real about what you are doing and about what you are not doing." Why?

My feeling is that the lack of competition and the addition of "spiritual" discourse makes all of this very difficult for the average dabbling aikidoka to swallow. When you put these two things (i.e. no competition and spiritual discourse) into a system or an activity, everything says everything about you at the same time that anything is allowed to be everything. Thus, when you tell someone they are dabbling, when you point it out to them, etc., you are not just saying they are dabbling - you are saying they are a dabbler. You are also denying their "right" to not have their dabbling be part of that anything that can be everything. Hence, you cannot help but to affront with such accuracy in description.

Last edited by senshincenter : 12-01-2005 at 09:28 AM.

David M. Valadez
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Old 12-01-2005, 09:35 AM   #34
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Ian Dodkins wrote:
I agreed with the article and like the tree metaphore. However the article still tends to suggest that there are better parts to the tree than others. I feel I have learnt an enormous amount through my short time in teaching; and partly it has made me more ruthless in my approach to aikido i.e. I tend to focus on those students who I believe will persevere and sincerely inquire into aikido, and whilst I focus the training on them, those who only have a superficial interest learn a few techniques and add to the diversity of the dojo. This is because I sincerely want to improve myself, and I also want to ensure that the nuggett of high quality aikido that exists beyond the techniques is passed on to future generations - I eventually want my students to be better than me! We do not want aikido to end up like many of the early karate schools whereby an instructor is mainly there for money and status and the students are just stepping through set techniques, the style of which is determined by the affiliation.

P.S. Ron - your comment also cracked me up!

I have to sort of put myself in this line as well. For example, at our dojo, while all are welcome to train and to train at whatever level they are opting for, one cannot even qualify for certain ranks without "x" amount of days per week - e.g. three days a week gets you no higher than fourth or third kyu recognition; shodan requires daily practice; etc. Guess what? Everyone is fine with that at our dojo - we got folks that train twice a week, three times a week, five times a week, daily, etc. Everyone is where everyone is at and everyone is fine with that. I think this is because everything is so out in the open - nothing has to be so hidden or so guarded.

David M. Valadez
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Old 12-01-2005, 11:17 AM   #35
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

David wrote:
"Why isn't it obvious to us when we are dabbling? Moreover, if we are dabbling, if we are choosing to do that, or even if we are choosing to see ourselves as someone that can only dabble (supposedly due to life circumstances), why can we not be fine with our decision, such that again we do not have to ask, 'Am I dabbling?'.... e.g. three days a week gets you no higher than fourth or third kyu recognition; shodan requires daily practice; etc."

So it is a time commitment, then? Not a commitment necessarily per se - I mean in the relative sense, what people give up in order to come train with you? Or do you allow for individual exceptions?
Now, David, where do you meet all these students who are not aware of their own limitations? Granted, I've only been a member of three dojos, but I would not call many of my fellow students conceited, self-aggrandizing, or just delusional; there are some, but only very few (incl. one sensei) - not enough to claim "the average aikidoka". I do not see many trying to be something they obviously are not. We do tend to be a slightly older bunch (30 and up, many parents), perhaps that has something to do with it? There were years when I did want to be something other than me, and it's been such a relief to come out on the other side of that to find out I'm really quite happy.
I am a confirmed, happy dabbler. I attend class 1 - 5 times per week at noon, as work permits. It's true, I feel like I get to go play - I do not study O'sensei's teachings, I do not engage in long discussions on philosophy and would never pretend to be able to enlighten an outsider. We don't talk a lot about ki in class, but we do talk about energy, acknowledgment, flow, awareness etc. I go to class as much as possible because I love it and would not be the same without it. I don't spend a lot of time reflecting why - the feeling and the simple knowledge is enough. Even if we assume that it is just a mental construct to keep me happy with my current level of investment, it does nonetheless keep me happy and coming back and participating and striving to improve. I will acknowledge that aikido does change me (and by extension, affects others through my relationship with them), but it is not something I pursue on an active, conscious, intellectual basis; I simply go back for more. I've tried many other sports - the only comparable feeling to what aikido does I had while kayaking off the coast of my hometown on the odd sunny day - completely absorbed by the moment and touched in an indescribable way. Other than that, those moments arise in my "civilian" life. I do think of aikido as something other than sports, but that does not seem to get in the way of my dabbling.
I am a root when it comes to parenting, though, and I think I can only really be one kind of root. Aikido is not it and never will be as long as I have a family. Important decisions are defined as those impacting my family - including the time I choose to spend on aikido.
I can see the problem in presenting yourself as "a serious student of aikido" if indeed you are not when measured against others who have achieved so much more. But is there absolutely no argument for achieving within your limitations? Can you not take your practice seriously within the priorities you've set for yourself? Even if real commitment can only be measured in the sacrifices you're willing to make, is that not also relative from person to person? Must this be labeled a mental construct to pretend that we're serious - so that we can take our dabbling efforts seriously and defend spending $100/mth on something we will never master at current speed?
For the organization and continuation of aikido, yes, it is necessary to have people who will make aikido their life. But only a very small minority will be able to and have the inclination to do that. For all the rest of us, there are various levels of dabbling. And I really do think a majority of us is quite happy with that.
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Old 12-01-2005, 12:33 PM   #36
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Hi Camilla,

As always, great questions and a most worthy post. Thank you.

Yes, I would say time is relative here. In short, we can't say that time spent on the mat is the most important thing at the same time that we show a reluctance toward signifying the presence or absence of time that is spent doing that thing. However, more is involved here than just hours. Time committed to something is also demonstrative of a great many other things -- things that show what I consider more mature levels of practice. These things are what are being recognized by the measuring of time. For example, time spent on the mat necessitates that one's dojo life and one's non-dojo life find a harmony with each other. To find harmony between these two things one will have to actually embody the union that needs to exist between the two -- that union is necessary for the higher levels of the art to be practiced. Thus, a distinction has to be made between a person that has no job, no external commitment, no life, etc., and thus trains daily and a person that has a job, a spouse, children, etc., and trains daily. In the former case, training may very well be a matter of convenience. In the latter case, training is a matter of insight and of practical application; a matter of seeing training as life and life as training. In the initial stages of this distinction, it is the difference between us finding time for our training and us making time for our training. If we figure it out, we can move from dabbling to true practice. If we do not, even if we are the former person, come marriage, a new career, some children, and ZAP! No more daily practice -- but the same old way of relating to our practice via convenience still remains.

I will have to ask for leeway concerning the "average aikidoka." Of course, I have done no study to determine who or what such a person might be (hugely assuming that such a study could even exist and/or achieve such an end). Thus, I am sure someone somewhere can always come up with experiencing another -- evenly completely opposite -- average aikidoka. This is just my experience -- which undoubtedly has a lot to do with who I am, how I train, and who I train with. However, before I let go of the term, I think I should point out that I am referring to the more subtle aspects of such a perspective. Like I said before, I do not think that a bunch of folks who are not experts are out there saying they are experts. I too have never met a decent amount of folks that do such a thing, such that such a thing could be though of as a mark of the average aikidoka. Perhaps, I've met one or two that have ACTED like that -- in Japan -- but if you pushed them to say "I am an expert," they will never go that far. As I said, I don't think any will. Too much culture in Aikido that works against that type of gross demonstration of what we are talking about (e.g. shoshin, etc.)

The examples of delusion that I am thinking about, and that I think the article is writing about, are the more subtle ways in which we maintain our habitual responses via the self-deception that is mandated by an attachment to the small self. In other words, I think we are not referring to the obvious braggart, etc., but, rather, the article is asking us to look at the very process by which we represent ourselves to ourselves. In other words, this is not just a humility question; it is an ontological one. If we are human, we are subject to these questions and to these issues. As humans that practice Aikido, we are thus going to want to understand these questions and these issues via the way we use the art to represent ourselves to ourselves. Thus, in a way, I am not referring to the "average aikidoka" but rather to every aikidoka (i.e. every human that uses Aikido to represent themselves to themselves).

That said, I think while we may want to see the self-aggrandizing practitioner as relevant to this discussion, we really want to focus in how we are ourselves misrepresent ourselves to ourselves, and thus also how we end up misrepresenting the art (since we are using that to represent ourselves to ourselves) for the sake of satisfying the small self (the ego: our fears, our pride, our ignorance). In other words, the article is not the usual call of "Aikido is only for serious practioners!" The article is really a call for self-reflection -- period.

Perhaps an example of what subtle things I'm talking about might help -- though it won't address the really subtle things (which are even more important)

--- A deshi of mine is very committed to her training. Lately, she has been making great progress -- at all levels of training. She has nearly developed a capacity for daily training (with a spouse, career, two kids, etc.). She's found a way to balance her training according to our schedule -- having lecture, zazen, weapons, striking, ground fighting, spontaneous training, etc., be a part of her weekly routine. Since there is a day or two where she cannot train due to current scheduling issues that require more time to reconcile, she has opted to train multiple times a day (morning and evening) on certain days. She's perhaps around 5 feet tall, maybe 100 lbs., and nearly 40 (she's 39 now). We managed to impart in her the importance of being conscientious in one's training and in being proactive in one's healing when it comes to dealing with injuries, etc. -- which is something one must be able to address (and address over a long haul) when one is training daily. Currently, she is suffering from a nagging shoulder injury and a nagging neck injury (which may or may not be related). Knowing she had trained in Yoga and with weights in the past, I asked her how that is going now. She said: No more weights; doing some Yoga. "How much Yoga?" She said: "Not that much." "How much is not that much -- once a week?" She said: No, more than that -- maybe two or three times a week?" "How long each time?" She said: "About ten minutes."

REAL ANSWER: No/none -- no Yoga; No weights: No conditioning outside of mat time.

REAL PROBLEM: Aiming oneself toward the higher levels of training while not preparing the body for the long haul of such an endeavor.

REAL SOLUTION: As a woman, and one small in stature, now coming up on 40, take note of the tolls one is asking of one's body and what all is necessary to address those tolls - such that one can pay them and still continue to train, to progress.

REAL PROACTIVE PRACTICE: Work more to condition one's body for what one is asking it to do, or lower one's expectations to address the current state of one's body. Failure to do one or the other will make one prime for quitting one's training altogether.

Besides, Camilla, I'd have to say that you are quite unique - not to sure you represent the "average" aikidoka. :-) Anyone can see that there is a level of self-honesty in your posts that is not at all that common. ;-)

As always, thanks for sharing,
d

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Old 12-01-2005, 02:10 PM   #37
Berney Fulcher
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

David, I really had to ask myself why your time policy bothered me. I think it's because it seems to take the goals out of Aikido. If you practice for 20 years as a 4th kyu 3 days a week, are you *really* still a 4th kyu? Is it really necessary to practice 7 days a week, AND put in the gym time as you say to support that, to advance to the higher levels? (Whatever the higher levels are...) Do you let that 20 year 4th kyu practice reversals, etc, etc? Or are they still effectively learning basic technique? Maybe I'm just belt oriented no matter what I have been telling myself...
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Old 12-01-2005, 04:28 PM   #38
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Hi Berney,

Well please let me say up front that I do not think that everyone should be doing what we are doing. I do not see our way as a universal tp be imposed. I realize we are doing something different and that it is not for everyone -- that not everyone is doing it. For example, as one can read, I have a different view from two very well respected teachers. They say there are trees, with roots, and leaves, and branches. I say we should all work to be roots -- as best we can. If everyone were doing what we are doing, I would not be an independent dojo. I would be somewhere else, training in some federation, etc. Our way is our own way.

I also have to say, even within our own dojo, the policy is meant to "rub" folks. It's meant to rub folks so that they can see how or why they are being rubbed by such a thing. This offers a point of reflection. Through such reflection, the policy is designed to work in conjunction with other policies/positions to take one through a concern for rank to having no concern for rank. In a way, as you noted, the policy is supposed to take out the goals of Aikido, but more specifically, it is supposed to help purify us of any goals that might be materialistic in nature. Thus, for example, we seek to travel through rank to no rank -- just like we travel through form to no-form. Let us not forget, today, as an Independent, I have no rank. Today, currently, with this policy well in place, we have only three kinds of students: the kind that continually works to demonstrate more commitment to the art -- with no concern for rank; the kind that are fine with where they are at -- with no concern for rank; and the kind that are "sandbagging" it a bit because they don't want to do the training that occurs at the higher levels (i.e. levels that can take advantage of more commitment to the art) -- with more "repulsion" than attraction for the next rank.

It was about a one year ago that we had one member that found it difficult to train on a consistent/regular basis, to proactively heal his body as necessary (he came to us totally damaged from another dojo), and to understand how the dojo's policies represented reality more accurately than his own subjective perceptions. To my discredit as a teacher, he quit. (I've learned a lot from him -- which others have benefited from.) He was nowhere near receiving his next rank according to our policies. He returned to his own dojo -- he now has a black belt. So everything is different -- depending upon where you go. Thus, I cannot really answer your question on whether a 20 year practice of 3 days a week is like a one or two year practice of 3 days a week. It depends on each person -- that is obvious. In our dojo, however, it often works out so that I can answer, "yes" to your question. Moreover, in our dojo, the one or two year practice of three days a week is more times than not the practice that is more filled with potential (at every level) -- more capable of learning more about this infinitely expanding art of ours.

Again, in our dojo, noting that we have different "higher" levels than the next place, if you ask me: "Is it really necessary to practice 7 days a week, AND put in the gym time as you say to support that, to advance to the higher levels?"

Answer: Yes.

"Do you let that 20 year 4th kyu practice reversals, etc, etc? Or are they still effectively learning basic technique?"

Answer: They would be -- can't say for sure yet since we don't have any 20 year 4th kyu -- essentially still practicing basic technique -- Shu level training; Kihon Waza; Idealized Training Environments. I.E. A 20 year old practiced body that only trains three days a week, with no gym time (i.e. resistance training, aerobic training, flexibility training, etc.) can practice Kaeshi Waza within a Shu level training environment, but would be greatly dissevered by attempting such training at more spontaneous levels. Kaeshi Waza at Shu level training is still basic technique for me.



Thanks Berney -- good questions. You got me thinking. Much appreciation.

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 12-01-2005, 05:05 PM   #39
Janet Rosen
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

I really dug into the column deeply, reread it a few times. A lot of really wonderful stuff to keep coming back to.
The essence I come away with is the combo of be clear about what it is you are doing (eg motives, level of commitment) and do not delude yourself about what you are doing or what results you can expect from what it is you are doing.
Having said that, I respectfully disagree w/ David Valadez lumping together of "a hobbyist, a part-timer, a person just going through the motions, etc."
As a middle aged married person w/ a damaged body, a family, and work obligations, I will NEVER be more than a part timer, and yeah despite how integral I feel aikido is in my life, "hobbyist" fits too---and those categorizations are just fine w/ me.
But I have to object to equating this with "just going through the motions." Doesn't matter how often or how well I am at a particular activity for it to be something with which I am fully present, as mindful and engaged and committed as possible as anybody else in the moment.
I realize, David, that you may have meant an implied "or" , not "and", but as written it does lump em together and I don't think they belong together.

Last edited by Janet Rosen : 12-01-2005 at 05:06 PM. Reason: stray quotation marks didn't belong

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Old 12-01-2005, 05:51 PM   #40
Charles Hill
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Hi,

Great article and a great discussion. I generally print out and carry around online articles and posts that really make me think and question my practice and thinking. This article was added to my big pile of George Ledyard articles.

First, a negative comment. I think that both Mr. Ledyard and David downplay the value of the "leaves" by the use of words such as "slacker" and "dabbling." Completely understandable from the standpoint of people trying to become "roots," but I wonder how this underlying belief effects the dojo structure.

Now with that slight comment out of my system, I have some questions for Mr. Ledyard or anyone with an opinion.

When do you think a student should begin to consciously consider at what level of commitment they intend to practice at? Of course this might change through the years, but when would it be good for the student to start considering it?

How should an instructor bring up the idea? Should he/she make the idea known in front of a class? To individual students? Maybe write it up and put into a newsletter?

Does a student even need to make a conscious commitment? Isn`t it obvious by the hours and effort they put in? My students are predominately Japanese. By saying something, I am sure that they are going to take it as "you all have to start training more seriously."

Thank you for the article,
Charles
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Old 12-01-2005, 05:57 PM   #41
Charles Hill
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Just comment on David`s rank system. I find it one of the more exciting ideas I have heard of in terms of dojo policy. Such a system is going to make rank a much more accurate representation of ability. When my sister in law took her driving test, the tester told her that he was going to pass her but asked her to promise him that she would never drive. She has had a license and a perfect driving record for years but can`t drive and never has. Reminds me of a lot of yudansha I know.

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Old 12-01-2005, 06:17 PM   #42
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote:
I really dug into the column deeply, reread it a few times. A lot of really wonderful stuff to keep coming back to.
The essence I come away with is the combo of be clear about what it is you are doing (eg motives, level of commitment) and do not delude yourself about what you are doing or what results you can expect from what it is you are doing.
Having said that, I respectfully disagree w/ David Valadez lumping together of "a hobbyist, a part-timer, a person just going through the motions, etc."
As a middle aged married person w/ a damaged body, a family, and work obligations, I will NEVER be more than a part timer, and yeah despite how integral I feel aikido is in my life, "hobbyist" fits too---and those categorizations are just fine w/ me.
But I have to object to equating this with "just going through the motions." Doesn't matter how often or how well I am at a particular activity for it to be something with which I am fully present, as mindful and engaged and committed as possible as anybody else in the moment.
I realize, David, that you may have meant an implied "or" , not "and", but as written it does lump em together and I don't think they belong together.

Hi Janet - good point - I agree. It never hurts to have things made clear. So thanks for bringing this up. You are right, in my head I was thinking "or" not "and" - I was just trying to refer to any of those terms we say to ourselves or say aloud concerning others that are the various ways we try to denote "lighter" forms of commitment. Moreover, I was only interested in those phrases for the sake of raising the ontological issues I went on to discuss. I too would never lump dabbling, being a hobbyist, etc., with just going through the motions. One can show up every day and just be going through the motions - so I would I wouldn't even lump that in with my example of three days a week, etc. "Going through the motions" is a whole other kind of non-commitment. It's only related in that sense - not really anything more in my opinion.

thanks,
david

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Old 12-01-2005, 06:35 PM   #43
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Hi Charles,

I'm not sure I meant to downplay the value of "leaves." I'm not even sure what they are - as I said before. I don't think I was commenting on their value, only the need in us to give them value, or, more particularly, the need to give them a certain type of value.

The whole analogy is suspect to me actually. For example, the fact that you got two sensei using it, two sensei from totally different sides of the Aikido spectrum, etc. - my guess is that this analogy has some history to it. From the looks of it I would place my bet on it having some sort of Confucian origin with new spins given to it in Neo-Confucianism, the Nativistic movement, and then even inside of the WWII political propaganda. It smells of getting the masses to support the elite by telling them how important they are to the overall structure of something. For me, that goes contrary to a practice that is attempting to reconcile the world and to understand everyone and everything as One. That's why I start my own practice and the practice of my deshi from the position that we are all here to be roots. We do this in our own way, at our own pace, but we are all attempting to head in the same direction. It's all about orientation and movement for me.


If I may try to answer your other questions:

- a person should be aware of their level of commitment from day one. It should always be allowed to change - even daily. One just has to be aware of it - accepting of it as they are always striving to make more commitment.

- as for how one should bring this up... That's extremely complicated. In general, it has to be brought up in a way that it maintains high degrees of honesty while not losing its positive sense. This is a difficult balance to achieve for an instructor. The two things that go the furtherest in achieving this balance is that this topic is brought up as part of a whole system that is in place to foster both self-reflection and reconciliation; the other thing is that the instructor never separates him/herself from this system of self-reflection and reconciliation. This not only means that the instructor is also practicing self-reflection and reconciliation (or at least attempting to) this also means that the teacher must serve the student in his/her own practice of self-reflection and reconciliation. As a small example, this has me bringing my aforementioned student into the gym with me or even on the yoga mat, etc., to help guide her and motivate her into finding a more holistic balance for her training and the rest of her life, etc. - at the least.

Good questions - hope I grasped them correctly.

Thanks,
dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 12-01-2005, 07:31 PM   #44
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
David Valadez wrote:
For me, that goes contrary to a practice that is attempting to reconcile the world and to understand everyone and everything as One. That's why I start my own practice and the practice of my deshi from the position that we are all here to be roots. We do this in our own way, at our own pace, but we are all attempting to head in the same direction. It's all about orientation and movement for me.
dmv
Exactly!
This is precisely my own attitude. When I started, Saotome Sensei flat out stated that he was training future instructors. the training I got held nothing back, in fact quite the opposite... He threw everything at us but the kitchen sink and it has taken quite a number of years to digest. But the Aikido I was shown from the start was the full meal deal.

I am trying to do the same thing with my own students and to those folks I encounter during seminars, and camps when I teach. My whole purpose for writing my article is to get people thinking. Everything I am saying applies to all of us at every level. We've all seen 8th Dans whose technique stopped changing 25 years ago. There are plenty of 6th Dans who stopped looking for anything new decades ago. They are no more following the model of the Founder than the 6th kyu who is coasting in his training.

What I am trying to say is... there is more out there than you are aware of and that you are more capable of "getting it" than you know. The "dumbing down" of Aikido isn't necessary. Its just that people need to be clear about what they are trying to do and structure their training accordingly.

A number of times in these postings the phrase " high level, wahtever that is..." has come up.I know that there is something of a range of opinion as to what constitues "high level"... This constitutes a kind of problem in my mind. Many folks in Aikido have an idea about what is great Aikido based on very limited exposure. This was why Stan Pranin invited all those fabulous non-Aikido teachers to the Expo in the hopes that the Aikido community would take notice. Angier Sensei, Vladimir Vasiliyev, Kenji Ushiro Sensei, Kuroda Sensei all set a standard far higher than what much of the Aikido world is setting for themselves. There was alot more "aiki" in their technique than in much of the Aikido that is being done these days.

I know my article pushed some buttons... People need to understand the larger picture of who I am writing for. Obviously, I can't sit here and criticize styles or teachers. So I write an article and throw out the concepts in the hope that people will take note. Mnay of the folks that I am "obliquely" referring to are not the newbies or the mid-level heads of small dojos all over the country. There are plenty of "big guys" to whom I am referring but people wil have to read what I write and then look around and decide for themselves.

When we are talking about an art in which there is so much uncertainty of what really constitutes "mastery" or "high level", then we are certainly going to have a problem getting to a state of clarity about what we want out of our training and how we should train and with whom to get to those goals.

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Old 12-01-2005, 08:02 PM   #45
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

I found this article extremely interesting. It resonated with me at a variety of levels and made me give my own training a hard look.

People lie to themselves. They do it all the time. Some do it more than others, but most, if not everyone, involved in this thread has been guilty of it. Ledyard Sensei's article addresses the lies in aikido, but the problem goes well beyond that. I've seen it happen among climbers, I've seen it in karateka, I saw it all over the place among volunteer EMTs when I rode ambulances. I saw it in some of my students when I was a chemistry TA, especially among pre-meds but also among the science majors. One of my ex-boyfriends tried to build his life around the lies he told himself. That's like building a house of vapor, and when the cold wind came he was left with nothing. He hadn't even tried to sample things beyond his lies, to find out what it truly is that he's good at and wants to do. I have a sister who is similarily lost, though I think she'll find her way in time. I see it in my fellow grad students as well. We lie about our motivations, we lie about our skill, we lie about our goals, we lie about our commitment and so on. One of my labmates is working hard that week if he puts in 35 hours but to hear him talk he's in the lab all the time. It's almost as if the people who talk the most are the ones who do the least. Maybe the talking is to reinforce the lies. Maybe it's rooted in insecurity about what others expect of us or what we expect of ourselves.

The blame for the lies a person tells themself never lies with their teacher. It's not the teacher's job to keep you honest. Give you a wake-up call maybe, but your commitment and your honesty come from within. A teacher can show you knowledge and guide you towards it, but he or she can't hand it to you on a plate and say "eat up". Talk is cheap. Learning is hard. Maybe that's another place the lies come from.

Theres something else being touched on here that I can't resist sounding off on. In any endeavour, you're going to hit a point where to reach the next level you're going to have to make sacrifice. The step from fifth to fourth kyu is easy. The step from shodan to nidan is not so easy. To break into and climb up through the yudansha ranks you have to put a huge amount of time and effort into your training, both on and off the mat. The same goes for getting a degree of any kind, and the more advanced the degree the more time and energy it takes. I use this example because it comes out of my own life. I got out of high school with a shodan. I am now half way through my third year of a doctoral program in biochemistry. It wasn't hard to get in - I had a freakishly long research record when i got out of college. I'm doing very well in grad school. I've passed my qualifiers. I somehow landed on one profile paper that came out in late 2004 and I've got a couple more papers(that I actually deserve to have my name on) in the hopper for early next year. As far as progress goes, I'm in roughly the same place the fourth year students are in. But this success did not come without a huge cost. I don't have much of a life. There's things, like volunteering, I used to love to do but don't have time for. I can't climb anywhere near as much as I'd like. My snowboarding skills are stagnant. I've let playing the viola slide off the edge. And because of choices I made in my pursuit of science, from where I went to college to what I decided to do with my free time in college to where I decied to go to grad school to how much time I dedicate to my labwork I didn't get my nidan until a couple weeks ago. In that space of time my brother acquired his shodan and nidan, and my dad got his nidan and sandan. Thing is, with both science and aikido, I'd hit the point where I had to choose where my energy would go. And, much as I love aikido, I love science more. So I made the choice. My aikido has suffered for it. Maybe one day I'll change my mind. But right now I don't want to.
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Old 12-02-2005, 12:40 AM   #46
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Rebecca Montange wrote:
I found this article extremely interesting. It resonated with me at a variety of levels and made me give my own training a hard look.

People lie to themselves. They do it all the time. Some do it more than others, but most, if not everyone, involved in this thread has been guilty of it. Ledyard Sensei's article addresses the lies in aikido, but the problem goes well beyond that. I've seen it happen among climbers, I've seen it in karateka, I saw it all over the place among volunteer EMTs when I rode ambulances. I saw it in some of my students when I was a chemistry TA, especially among pre-meds but also among the science majors. One of my ex-boyfriends tried to build his life around the lies he told himself. That's like building a house of vapor, and when the cold wind came he was left with nothing. He hadn't even tried to sample things beyond his lies, to find out what it truly is that he's good at and wants to do. I have a sister who is similarily lost, though I think she'll find her way in time. I see it in my fellow grad students as well. We lie about our motivations, we lie about our skill, we lie about our goals, we lie about our commitment and so on. One of my labmates is working hard that week if he puts in 35 hours but to hear him talk he's in the lab all the time. It's almost as if the people who talk the most are the ones who do the least. Maybe the talking is to reinforce the lies. Maybe it's rooted in insecurity about what others expect of us or what we expect of ourselves.

The blame for the lies a person tells themself never lies with their teacher. It's not the teacher's job to keep you honest. Give you a wake-up call maybe, but your commitment and your honesty come from within. A teacher can show you knowledge and guide you towards it, but he or she can't hand it to you on a plate and say "eat up". Talk is cheap. Learning is hard. Maybe that's another place the lies come from.

Theres something else being touched on here that I can't resist sounding off on. In any endeavour, you're going to hit a point where to reach the next level you're going to have to make sacrifice. The step from fifth to fourth kyu is easy. The step from shodan to nidan is not so easy. To break into and climb up through the yudansha ranks you have to put a huge amount of time and effort into your training, both on and off the mat. The same goes for getting a degree of any kind, and the more advanced the degree the more time and energy it takes. I use this example because it comes out of my own life. I got out of high school with a shodan. I am now half way through my third year of a doctoral program in biochemistry. It wasn't hard to get in - I had a freakishly long research record when i got out of college. I'm doing very well in grad school. I've passed my qualifiers. I somehow landed on one profile paper that came out in late 2004 and I've got a couple more papers(that I actually deserve to have my name on) in the hopper for early next year. As far as progress goes, I'm in roughly the same place the fourth year students are in. But this success did not come without a huge cost. I don't have much of a life. There's things, like volunteering, I used to love to do but don't have time for. I can't climb anywhere near as much as I'd like. My snowboarding skills are stagnant. I've let playing the viola slide off the edge. And because of choices I made in my pursuit of science, from where I went to college to what I decided to do with my free time in college to where I decied to go to grad school to how much time I dedicate to my labwork I didn't get my nidan until a couple weeks ago. In that space of time my brother acquired his shodan and nidan, and my dad got his nidan and sandan. Thing is, with both science and aikido, I'd hit the point where I had to choose where my energy would go. And, much as I love aikido, I love science more. So I made the choice. My aikido has suffered for it. Maybe one day I'll change my mind. But right now I don't want to.
Thanks for talking about your own experience because it relates exactly to what I have been trying to get across. Everything is about trade offs. Very few people have the talent to do multiple things really well, at least not simultaneously... so we decide how to spend our time and energy. If we put that time into one thing we don't have it to spend on something else. The fact that you could even do grad school and still train hard enough to get your Nidan is a major achievement all by itself. Congratulations!

It's not about some objective standard that everyone is supposed to meet. For some people apsects of the art come easily and for others those same aspects come hard. Who is doing the hard training? The one who comes in and picks the stuff up relatively easily? Or the one who comes in and fights to gain his understanding night after night? Whose knowledge will be deeper when it is finally attained?

You could have some young Aikido fanatic who has no partner, no kids, a job which is designed to do nothing but support his training, who trains every day. While his technical progress will certainly be rapid simply due to more practice, is he really putting as much of himself into his training as you are? You've managed to work towards your graduate degree and still train and train seriously enough to get your Nidan! With all of your responsibilities it would be far harder for you to keep your training going than the person who has nothing interfering with his commitment. You are clearly a serious student of Aikido. It's just that your ultimate goal is to be a scientist who does Aikido. If your goal was to be an Aikido Shihan, then i'd say your priorities would need to change but it seems that you are quite clear about what you are doing. Aikido fits into the space left after you do what you have set out to do. In my book that is still being a serious student.

One of Saotome Sensei's first students in Florida in the early seventies was a guy who was the first member of his family to attend college. Although he was very serious about his Aikido he hit the crossroads point where he had to decide what to do, either go to medical school or become a professional Aikido teacher. He and Sensei together decided that it was really his Path to become a doctor. Not only did he do this but he became a heart surgeon! He was known amongst his peers as the "Zen Surgeon" because he treated surgery like a form of randori in which he basically went in to a meditative state while he worked. He could do an operation in a time hours shorter than his collegues because he never stopped moving, never got distracted by anything. I talked to him about how he did this and he credited his Aikido training for this ability. He quite consciously treated his surgery as a form of randori. So despite the fact that he hasn't been on the mat much over the years, whose practice went deeeper, my friend doing surgery randori or some fellow perfecting his Nikkyo? One isn't better than the other. Both have trained seriously when they were training. One has taken the Path of Mastery of the Art of Aikido itself, while the other took the principles of the art as he had learned them from his brief but very intense practice and applied them to attain mastery of a different art.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig talks about conducting a college class in which he set the class to defining what was meant by "Quality". Of course the whole thing made the class crazy and ended up putting Pirsig completely off the deep end. But on some level I am trying to spark the same discussion... What is a "quality" practice? What is "quality" Aikido? What is a "quality" teacher? Each person has to come up with his own answer, and unlike in Zen when your answer isn't on target, there is no whack with a stick or ringing of a bell to tell you that you're missing the mark. Only your own continuous work will give you the "right" answer and that answer will not be anyone else's answer, just your own.

Last edited by George S. Ledyard : 12-02-2005 at 12:43 AM.

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Old 12-04-2005, 01:58 AM   #47
6th Kyu For Life
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

So, I guess I need some advice on this whole clarity issue.

Basically, in the context of this article, it seems like I am at the point in my own life and Aikido training where I can say "Yes, this is my life's work" or "this can take me far, but I don't know how far." I know that's incredibly bombastic to say, but please bear with me. I'm nearing the end of my college career, the better part of my life lays ahead of me. I've fallen in love with Aikido, to the point where it is the most important part of my life right now. A part time job and the virtue of college loans pay for my training. My major is East Asian Studies, emphasizing Japanese language and religion. It is prime time to make Aikido my life, but I just can't do it, I just won't do it.

If I look at my life four years ago, when I was still in high school, I probably could have said the same thing about photography. I could have gone to art school, and become a photographer, but why didn't I do that? I have no idea, I guess I lost interest or something. The last time I shot a picture was actually at the last Aikido seminar we hosted. So who's to say that Aikido won't be the same? I'm as dedicated to Aikido as I was to photography, if not more so. But I'm starting to see that the reasons I continue to do Aikido today are not the same as the reasons I did Aikido a year ago. How can I possibly say that in a year from now, I'll be this dedicated to Aikido? How can I make a commitment for my whole life when I have no idea what my whole life will entail? Aikido is the most important thing at this point in my life, but what about when I find a wife, or when I have a child, or when I am asked to move to a city without Aikido? Is it even possible to be comitted to Aikido to the point where Aikido is truly the most important thing? Or am I deluded into thinking that my idea of commitment to training is something more than dilettantism? Am I just pretending to be a root when I'm really a leaf?

So what are my goals? Monday: Go to class. Tuesday: go to Class. Next week: test. Next month: Train elswhere. Next year: Continue to build up the Dojo. Graduation: Make it to the top of a pyramid? Go to live in Japan? Somewhere down the line: Become "amazing?" I'm not able to find clarity, because there is no clarity in the future for me. The odds of me doing Aikido until I reach "shihan-level skill" are practically 0. I'm not about to make the mistake of putting some silly martial art in front of an entire lifetime of unknown possibilities. Does that mean I don't have clarity in my training? Should I put off all hope of making Aikido my path in life, because I'm not willing to be locked in to some goal thirty or fourty years in the making?

Maybe somewhere in these legnthy dissertation lies my answer, but I feel like I may be asking the wrong people. All these post are way over my head; it's pretty obvious that everyone here has spent much more time thinking about Aikido than I have. You're also probably all past the "Oh, crap, what's next" stage in your life, and have some kind of stability in your career and training. So, if I were to ask this advice of myself, I'd just say what I said in my earlier post. That is "just keep training." It's ok that you don't have an answer to this question now; at least you're thinking about it, so stop worrying and go to class (you're late again).

If four years of therapy, two years of Aikido, and Zen meditation aren't helping me understand clarity, hell, maybe some internet friends will.

Peace,
Tom Newhall

Last edited by 6th Kyu For Life : 12-04-2005 at 02:03 AM.
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Old 12-04-2005, 06:11 PM   #48
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

I think that this kind of self-reflection is exactly what the article is trying to address. It is this kind of reflection that gives us our chance at clarity -- regardless of our level of commitment. So, in my opinion, I think this is right up there with what Camilla, Janet, and others have shared. I don't see delusion here, I see clarity.

However, this last post made me think of something -- on commitment. The way I see it, commitment stands in contrast to convenience. For better or for worse, often times we can act like we are in a state of commitment when in fact we are only functioning at the sake of convenience. Thus, it is important to be able to distinguish the differences between these two things.

One of the major differences is that commitment is not related to knowing the future. It does not come to us via assurances that we are doing the right thing -- now and for all times. Nor does it come to us under the promise of things never changing, nor of us never changing. These are the things of convenience. Convenience requires that conditions be in a constant state of fair-weather -- whether this is of our surroundings or of us. Commitment on the other hand is what we practice precisely because things do change, because we change, because things can never be known in total, and because the weather cannot always be fair.

Commitment is a kind of act of faith -- it is a holding true in the face of come what may. Commitment is a type of vow we make to remain steadfast by adapting to the unknown as it makes itself manifest, to things as they change, and most importantly to remain steadfast in light of our own impulses, emotions, desires, etc., that may often drive us to no longer remain steadfast. If our training is today viable solely because our dojo is near us, the training hours are fitting with our schedule, we love Aikido, Aikido is fun, the people are great, we don't have a job, we can afford the training, we have no kids, we are not married, we are not in school, we are progressing happily, etc., then, a priori, our practice is not based in commitment -- it is based more on convenience and on the things of convenience.

In order to continue to mature in our commitment, we need to forge ahead without the need for assurances that everything will be alright -- that everything will be supportive of our training. To have commitment is to make the vow (at least to oneself) to be thus and then to go on to do the work of commitment in the face of whatever may come. This is undoubtedly difficult -- which is one reason why the practice of commitment is universally held as a spiritual practice across the globe and history (i.e. it is not a natural state of being -- it is a cultivated state of being). However, difficult as it may be, the practice of commitment is never more complicated than this. In my experience, if we are wise, we will be able to find great comfort and great aid (when we need it -- and we always do sooner or later) in the simplicity that marks this most sacred practice of the human body/mind.

dmv

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Old 12-05-2005, 09:43 AM   #49
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

George,
Just wanted to share my thoughts on your article. I appreciate when someone tells me that I made them think and possibly changed something in their life, and it seems that this is what you were trying to get across.

Sounds like I'm part of the trunk. I've been training twice a week for the past year, and three times/week for 3 years prior to that. I've quit and turned down jobs so that I can continue to train in those 2 afternoon classes. So I'm pretty much a regular. Needless to say, aikido training is pretty important to me. However, I'm not a root (as you define it) nor do I desire to be. At least not now, though things change throughout life. Obtaining shodan would be a good goal for me, but am not too concerned with rank. I may be able to attend more when my son (now 2) hopefully gets into aikido. Right now I'm happy to be training and still getting corrected and improving techniques from sensei.

My dedication is more toward Tai Chi. I've been practicing a form for about 8 years, but gotten more serious (doing Tui Shou and a more regular class) the past year. This forced me to give up one aikido class each week. There are two main reasons. I'm able to, and it is extremely important for development, to practice on my own. I've found this is more difficult in aikido (except weapons). Since I can practice at home, this means less time away from family. The bigger reason is that for me its easier to relax, because this is the primary focus. It's also better for me to reach my goal of Agatsu. I'm not saying any way is better than another, in general, but only for each individual.

Someone told me on my recent aikido test that I looked very rooted and relaxed/sunken chest. I believe that my aikido is getting deeper through my Tai Chi, but I don't have the delusion that aikido is my main ... training.

Aikido has been very good to me, and I would hope to be able to give back in some way. I might have a chance to do that as my Tuesday sensei has asked me and another noon regular to teach if she's gone once or twice a year.

One nice thing is that one of the head Sensei whose class I attend once a week, has some Tai Chi and has a very calm and relaxed teaching method. I still enjoy the more vigorous teaching of my other instructor.

Anyway, thanks to you and other instructors for not rejecting students like me who are not roots for the art. You are not wasting your time.
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Old 12-05-2005, 05:34 PM   #50
Dan Rubin
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Re: Article: Clarity and Self-Delusion in One's Training by George S. Ledyard

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote:
The essence I come away with is the combo of be clear about what it is you are doing (eg motives, level of commitment) and do not delude yourself about what you are doing or what results you can expect from what it is you are doing.
I think that George is saying more than that. I think he is saying that it is vitally important to the martial art of aikido that some students devote themselves to becoming the future masters, and that in order to become masters, they must train today like the masters used to train. If I understand George correctly, he believes that (a) there are some students out there who are fooling themselves by dreaming of becoming masters (annoying, but not really a problem), and (b) there are some students out there who have the potential to become masters, but don't know how to go about it, to the detriment of the future of the art (a real problem).

I think that aikido's success is partly to blame. Back in the day, anyone who wanted to study O Sensei's art had to study with O Sensei. Today, however, anyone who wants to study O Sensei's art can use AikiWeb's dojo search to find a dojo nearby. Moreover, back in the day, everyone who wanted to study O Sensei's art already had a public school or university background in judo or kendo. Today, potential students don't, and so are unable to judge the quality of their local dojo. By the time they have the necessary experience, they may have been thrown off the shihan track.

Olympic champions typically start their sport at the local level, but as they grow older they transfer to a more demanding school (perhaps a university). Eventually, their coach recognizes their potential and pushes them toward the few coaches who are even more demanding, who are perfectionists.

I have a question: If today someone in his or her twenties would like to become a master of aikido, what should that person do? It would seem to me that devoting himself to training and seminars would not be enough. He or she must uproot, if need be, and travel as far as necessary to join a dojo where he can practice constantly with a current master, and there devote himself to training and seminars. And this devotion should be with the understanding that even such students may not make it to the big leagues, because of insufficient talent or injuries or fate.

Is this what the person must do? And how would we get the message to that person? Are internet forums enough, or must a local teacher take his most talented student aside and urge him or her to move on?

Dan
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