“What Is Your Responsibility in Training?,” by George Ledyard

“Ok, so I am attending a seminar with a teacher who decides to do a sword class. I am excited because this teacher’s sword work is extraordinary and I love sword. The teacher started out with a basic flow exercise, which as it happens, is in the first chapter of his sword video which has been around since VHS days. He demonstrated then set folks to work. Folks were pretty much mangling the exercise so he stopped them and showed it again, this time a bit slower. The same thing happened. In fact it happened four times. By the end Sensei was furious. And, I have to say, I was furious.”

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  1. There is a great clip of Osensei practicing with a young aikidoka… I dont know what film or who it was or anything, but what i find most special about that clip is Osensei and the child are “playing”. I think Osensei expected practice to be whatever the players wanted. Just interacting with each other in a joyful manner is the point, at least one of many points on the infinite aikido line. If you want a ‘master’ level class then get a class full of ‘masters’. I however find you can learn alot more from rankless beginners than many so called ‘masters’. Chill out, dont take it so seriously and have fun….

  2. I can understand and sympathise with your frustration.

  3. bruce baker says:

    Sometimes I think … more people need to be injured to see that aikido is not a game, not a weekend hobby because you needed something to do, and other times … I see a miracle as the most clumsy inept person transforms themselves into a really good student of aikido, in a year or so.

    Maybe I had a good teacher, or should I say teachers because our students do go to seminars and we do like to practice with different students from different styles of aikido, but one cannot properly understand aikido without the weapons practice, at least in my opinion they can’t.

    Any student that goes to a weapons demonstration and can’t even master the most basic of techniques, or transfer the weapons practice into throws, that is while holding a weapon make a throw too that one would make without that stick or wooden sword, is just kidding themselves… go practice with the children’s class where they laugh and have fun as mommy and daddy look on. Not that kids don’t learn something, but why are you there if you aren’t there to learn?

    I don’t wish injury upon anyone, but some strikes that leave some black and blue marks should wake up some people who not serious about studying the art of Aikido.

    What a pity our society is turning into a nanny-state where boo-boos are now cases for lawyers to extort money …

  4. wow i am overwhelmed by all the love and compassion… lol

  5. Rick Triplett says:

    Excellent article by Ledyard Sensei: he articulates well and without compromise a frustration that too few Aikidoka feel. Students of Aikido feel free to interpret O-Sensei in their own way, however off the mark they may be. But I think we can all agree that O-Sensei advocated that we practice sincerely – this does not include dabbling in the art.

  6. dabblers pay the rent. senior students are good for dabblers or those who are simply challenged by the exercise. being able to do and teach are different skills. in this case it would have been an ego boost to anybody who had a basic knowledge to take a group of klutzes and work with them while sensei worked with those at a more advanced level. if that’s not possible, because of the overall ineptitude, eventually sensei has to look in the mirror and ask himself how he allowed that to come to pass…

  7. Budo should be serious sh–…but you can still smile.

  8. I have observed the same thing in both training and seminars.

    In weapons training especially it sometimes looks like a group of people waving sticks around in a warm room verses cutting with precision and power or moving and maintaining the correct maai. Could it be partially due to students not having the kinesthetic awareness/sense /experience to know how their bodies move and how to change the way they move? (also the that when changing old movement patterns they will not feel comfortable until they are “programmed” and believe that this means they are performing the moves incorrectly).

    The other factors being 1) they are simply happy to sweat take up space and oxygen and are not interested in the art, 2) they do not see the relationship between weapons and the hand arts, or that they need to learn weapons as part of Aikido training or 3) they believe the way that another teacher or Sensei has taught them is the only way to do it and 4) they just think they know better.

  9. Hit the nail on the head. Sometimes I teach class and waste time going over what we did two days previous because students got it somewhat on Mon and forgot it on Thurs. So rather than advance to next level we go back and it seems with some students it stays there. Have begun to separate students and place the ones who never bother to think or practice outside class with the beginners as it’s unfair to others who wish to move on and advance to go over same things week in week out. That way they can impart the little knowledge they have to someone who has non and it works out quite well as the rest of the class get on with more advanced techniques and they feel they are teaching. Reality is though the reason for them teaching the beginners is for their benefit more so than the beginners. This way they get more basic practice which they need.
    Sad thing though is I have seen beginners pass out the students who thought them a little and move over to the more advanced class.
    Pity! I do believe that some people take no responsibility for themselves and wait to be shown or told what to do all the time. It seems that this is how it is for them and it’s safe as they have no responsibility and therefor it’s not their fault when they fail in every class they attend.
    I fail all the time. I have never failed without learning though and this is what is wrong with some students or to put it a better way- people who come to the dojo a few hours a week. Students infer that the person studies! I know they try but at some stage you either Do or Don’t!

  10. This is a very interesting point. Is it because the basics are not stressed enough, or are people in too much in a hurry to get to the “advanced techniques”, not realizing the advanced techniques evolve from the basics, and ultimately learn nothing. Even sadder is when an instructor teaches a techique and one of the senior students tells the kohai,”this is how I do it” and proceeds from there. Been there.
    But as you mention, this is Budo, this is serious. It makes me wonder how do these people perform in their everyday lives, their jobs, their relationships. Are they just as sloppy with those?
    Is it a result of the age we live in? In feudal Japan if you didn’t pay attention and get it right, you probably ended up dead. You wouldn’t be there at the next seminar. Because we don’t live in a “war-like” society (bet I could get some debate there), does this give us the luxury to be less attentive? I don’t think so.
    Again this is Budo, maybe part of our training is to hone our tolerance of others.
    Thank-you for listening. Mark

  11. “But as you mention, this is Budo, this is serious. It makes me wonder how do these people perform in their everyday lives, their jobs, their relationships. Are they just as sloppy with those?”…answer YES…in the old day’s asked them to leave and go somewhere else to train…also invited those who were serious to advanced class only.

  12. The bell-shaped curve explains a lot! The majority of the people exist within the norms of mediocrity. A small majority exist on both ends of the spectrum.

    My teacher has always said that the most experienced teacher should be teaching the beginners because of the importance of the basics. I find that I am always looking to better understand and improve upon “basics”.

  13. Autrelle Holland says:

    I really, really like what Mr. Baker had to say.

    I have been reading and re-reading Mr. Ledyard’s post all week, and thinking about it daily. Years ago, when I first started doing Aikido, I first “met” Mr. Ledyard through a forum much like this. He was very forthcoming with a lot of information to me via private messages, answering some very annoying questions that I was posing that no one else would. Years later, I would actually meet him in person at a seminar he taught at the college in Gainesville, FL.

    It’s rare that you meet such a capable Martial Artist whose actions and capability far surpass anything that he could ever type in a blog, and what he has to say, is usually platinum.

    I have come across all sorts of different Martial Artists in my life, besides, Aikidoka, and for the most part, they all had one thing in common: A healthy amount of hubris regarding the efficacy of their art in “real” fighting. While these were not all the most advanced practitioners, they all had absolute confidence in their art, their teacher, their training, and their ability to tear anyone apart if they were ever attacked outside of class.

    I don’t always see this with Aikido.

    It’s not Aikido’s fault. And it’s usually not the teacher’s fault. But sometimes it is. While O’Sensei was alive, there were techniques already becoming “lost.” What Mr. Ledyard writes so exactingly about could only be the cause of that.

    How much are we willing to let die and disappear forever? Simply because most people just show up and roll around or swing the stick.

    One of my guys once said to me, in regard to lazy, non-martial Aikidoka, or what we refer to as pussies: “You know, O’Sensei used to practice an art that he called AIKI BUDO and they trained with rifles that had bayonets on the end. I say to these pussies, and to everyone, WHERE ARE YOUR BAYONETS?”

    Where are your bayonets?


    Autrelle Holland

  14. The bayonets have gone to MMA gyms…and think Aikido and all TMA’S are BS.

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