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sarakingdom

Sara Kingdom Follows the Way of Mrs.Cosmopolite

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On 4/4/2017 at 8:31 PM, sarakingdom said:

Fingers crossed.  It seems, from the outside, like a relatively informal and low-key aikikai dojo, which should be pretty compatible with kokikai.  (I don't know how fully.  Kokikai is pretty minimalist, in etiquette and in technique.  But close enough.  There's not necessarily a world of difference between a kokikai instructor's aikido and an aikikai instructor's aikido, depending on their influences and preferences.)  However, I do know who trained the head instructor, and I would not describe him as informal or low-key, so who knows.  But the student can always differ from the teacher, and even fairly intense instructors can be very different in the all-levels class.  The really interesting thing will be if I retain enough muscle memory to catch the very subtle technique differences, and I'd bet the answer is no.

 

I'm wondering about the etiquette of going to kokikai seminars while training at an aikikai dojo, which is something I'm considering when I get back into it.  I don't think the seminars would turn me away, but the aikikai folks might not like it.  I guess I can just ask and see.  But I miss those guys, and Maruyama sensei won't be teaching forever.

 

There were instructors from three lineages at the friendship seminar I attended last weekend. Several of them had trained under more than one 1st generation uchi deshi. By the time someone has been training long enough to open their own dojo, usually their aikido has shifted from their teacher's style to their own. Although one of the senseis reminded me a LOT more of Aikira Tohei than of his current affiliation. It seemed like the difference between individual instructors was greater than the difference between styles.

 

Check with both instructors on the etiquette question. Some seminars will clearly state "all affiliations welcome". Generally you have greater freedom while you are kyu ranked. Some instructors encourage their students to attend seminars with all high-level instructors while others insist that the students stick to the affiliation. The Aikikai tends to be more relaxed now that most dojos are under Yamada sensei, who is too far away and responsible for too many dojos to give personal attention to the students. Things change when you get your shodan. Then you must ask before visiting another dojo.

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13 hours ago, Tanktimus the Encourager said:

Holding things together when things get difficult may actually be more important than doing well when things are easy. It's consistency where the long term wins are found, so if you are being consistent in a busy time, it's a good indication that you will stay consistent over time, and therefore reach your long term goals.

 

Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say I've got consistency going for me this month.  But I've got net wins, and that's the right direction.

 

 

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7 hours ago, Mistr said:

There were instructors from three lineages at the friendship seminar I attended last weekend. Several of them had trained under more than one 1st generation uchi deshi. By the time someone has been training long enough to open their own dojo, usually their aikido has shifted from their teacher's style to their own. Although one of the senseis reminded me a LOT more of Aikira Tohei than of his current affiliation. It seemed like the difference between individual instructors was greater than the difference between styles.

 

Even in a dojo where all the blackbelts are trained by the same person or have trained together for years, their aikido feels very different to me.  And yeah, I think I'd agree that the difference between individuals far exceeds the average difference between styles.  Which in a lot of cases is not that much, especially when you actually get down to technique rather than culture.

 

7 hours ago, Mistr said:

Check with both instructors on the etiquette question. Some seminars will clearly state "all affiliations welcome". Generally you have greater freedom while you are kyu ranked. Some instructors encourage their students to attend seminars with all high-level instructors while others insist that the students stick to the affiliation. The Aikikai tends to be more relaxed now that most dojos are under Yamada sensei, who is too far away and responsible for too many dojos to give personal attention to the students. Things change when you get your shodan. Then you must ask before visiting another dojo.

 

Yeah, I'll definitely ask.  Pretty sure I'd be welcomed at the kokikai camps.  My kokikai passport book is still good, so far as I know, or could be reactivated very easily.  It's been a few years, but I bet I could walk in with it, explain the situation, and they'd just consider me a sort of lapsed kokikai person.  And I bet my old dojo would take me along as a guest if I asked.  (Which would be how I'd want to handle registration and things, because it's better if people know you're coming.) 

 

As for the aikikai folks, I was up-front about my former kokikai affiliation, and it would be silly to hide that it's at least going to flavor my aikido.  I mean, I can empty the cup and all, but in a practical sense, that's always going to be the foundation of my understanding of aikido, and I think the right dojo will be fairly accepting of that.  Not all dojos are, I know.  But like we were saying, the difference between individuals is greater than the difference between styles, so being a bit of a hybrid of two styles doesn't bother me, and probably wouldn't bother a lot of instructors I've met.  Having a kokikai accent when I speak aikikai (and vice versa) is probably both inevitable, and not that big a deal, because I'm not sure, in a practical sense, there's that big a difference.  Aikikai is such a broad organization that it basically covers everything from early to late aikido styles, and I don't think that two late aikido styles have that big a gap, compared to an early versus late style.

 

I do worry a little about getting my shodan in aikikai.  I mean, it's incredibly premature, since I'm basically going to be starting over.  But I might be here long enough to get close.  And that would really complicate a return to kokikai, which is what I would prefer, if and when I get the opportunity.  But I'm not really going to worry about it now.  It's years away, and you do what's available to you.  That's something to figure out when it's a practical question.

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On 4/8/2017 at 8:25 PM, sarakingdom said:

I do worry a little about getting my shodan in aikikai.  I mean, it's incredibly premature, since I'm basically going to be starting over.  But I might be here long enough to get close.  And that would really complicate a return to kokikai, which is what I would prefer, if and when I get the opportunity.  But I'm not really going to worry about it now.  It's years away, and you do what's available to you.  That's something to figure out when it's a practical question.

 

Does Kokikai register their dan ranks with Hombu dojo (under the Ueshiba family)? If so, it should be recognized by all dojos under the Hombu umbrella. That said, some lineages are don't recognize outside testing. One of my friends had to retest up through the ranks (to sandan!). That went quickly because he already had the skills and just needed to put in the hours. Still, it would be frustrating. Kyu ranks don't necessarily transfer at all.

 

Technicalities aside, there is a definite loyalty expected to the instructor you train under for your shodan. My guess is that the closer you are to a living Japanese shihan, the more that applies. That loyalty is not as strong as it used to be in America. I trained under Aikira Tohei until his death in 1999. There was no clear succession and the dojos in the Midwest region of the Aikikai affiliated with various shihan. I'm sure some people formed strong relationships with their new shihans. I haven't had enough contact with mine for that. My chief instructors trained with him for years and feel personal loyalty. A lot of people are speculating on what will happen when our shihan retires completely or passes away. There is a board taking care of the association business, but no central figure to step in for the leadership role.

 

Are you hoping to move again in the next 3-5 years?

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The discussion about ranks and affiliation is interesting, especially as it reads kind of like there is sometimes an informal deshi expectation for dan ranks.  Kind of puts a new spin on debating if I'm going to look at Aikido as another art to study (maybe, maybe not- despite "knowing" all the kata in my ryu, there's a whole lot left to learn). 

 

If I may ask, what are the differences between Aikikai and Kokikai, besides being two different affiliations?

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8 hours ago, Mistr said:

Does Kokikai register their dan ranks with Hombu dojo (under the Ueshiba family)? If so, it should be recognized by all dojos under the Hombu umbrella.

 

I don't know.  I doubt it, though.  I don't think there's any affiliation with Hombu.

 

8 hours ago, Mistr said:

That said, some lineages are don't recognize outside testing. One of my friends had to retest up through the ranks (to sandan!). That went quickly because he already had the skills and just needed to put in the hours. Still, it would be frustrating. Kyu ranks don't necessarily transfer at all.

 

I don't know for sure how this would be handled, but I think that, so far as the kyu ranks, there's a lot of instructor discretion in doing what's appropriate for the student.  2nd kyu and up, I think that's all tested by Maruyama Sensei in person, and who knows what he'd do, but my impression of him is that he's focused on what's practical and what's good for the student, so I think he'd find a way to avoid having them redo all their ranks, while at the same time making sure what they're doing is reasonably good kokikai technique.  (It just doesn't seem practical to ask someone to redo all their ranks.  How frustrating.)  But I don't really know.

 

9 hours ago, Mistr said:

Technicalities aside, there is a definite loyalty expected to the instructor you train under for your shodan. My guess is that the closer you are to a living Japanese shihan, the more that applies. That loyalty is not as strong as it used to be in America. I trained under Aikira Tohei until his death in 1999. There was no clear succession and the dojos in the Midwest region of the Aikikai affiliated with various shihan. I'm sure some people formed strong relationships with their new shihans. I haven't had enough contact with mine for that. My chief instructors trained with him for years and feel personal loyalty. A lot of people are speculating on what will happen when our shihan retires completely or passes away. There is a board taking care of the association business, but no central figure to step in for the leadership role.

 

I wasn't close enough to the upper ranks to know for sure how it all works - there can be a lot of unwritten etiquette that just sort of evolves by example rather than explicit communication.  So take this all with the grain of salt that comes with someone who trained for a few years but wasn't privy to a lot of the higher-level workings.  My impression is that, while Sensei likes his upper-level dans to know some of the proper etiquette for formal occasions, like his visits, he was well aware it was not a natural cultural fit in the US and didn't expect US dojos to work like that.  I'm not sure our dojos work as formally as you're describing, but this may be in large part because we're smaller and Maruyama Sensei is still alive and actively managing a lot, so there's not much hierarchy.  (I don't think, for instance, we have the non-business leadership role you're discussing, outside Maruyama Sensei.  Senior Kokikai aikidoka are all in leadership roles by example, but not, to my knowledge, by formal affiliation.  I've never been aware of any dojo I've trained in having an affiliation with someone outside the dojo for leadership.  I actually don't think we use the title 'shihan' at all.  I've never heard it in Kokikai.)  And because of the heavy emphasis on seminars and camps, most people have met and got to know a lot of the senior instructors, so there aren't that many total strangers among the senior people by the time you get there yourself.

 

Most of the kokikai dojos are small, and spring up and disappear based on who's in the area to teach - partly for historical reasons, I think, because as he left Ki Aikido, the only dojos he kept were his main dojo in Philadelphia and a series of small university clubs, so the general format of Kokikai dojo is the small local pop-up dojo, with regional coordinators keeping them all loosely linked up.  (Philadelphia was a little different, he founded it in his own Aikikai days in the '60s, and it remained his.  When he went back to Japan in the '70s, he turned it over to the woman who's running it now.)  So I think he didn't even ask his own students in Ki Aikido to have that sort of teacher-student loyalty when he split from Tohei.  In retrospect, that may indicate a very different emphasis on the student-teacher loyalty relationship in Kokikai.  I do think it's there, people are very close to their instructors.  It may even be there by custom and example.  But I don't know if it's formalized.

 

10 hours ago, Mistr said:

Are you hoping to move again in the next 3-5 years?

 

I'll probably be here 4-5 years, I suspect.

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1 hour ago, ChrisWithaStick said:

The discussion about ranks and affiliation is interesting, especially as it reads kind of like there is sometimes an informal deshi expectation for dan ranks.  Kind of puts a new spin on debating if I'm going to look at Aikido as another art to study (maybe, maybe not- despite "knowing" all the kata in my ryu, there's a whole lot left to learn). 

 

I think it depends somewhat on the culture of the style, and somewhat on the culture of the people you train under.  That can vary, even within a style.  Organizations, from big tent to small dojo, take on some of the culture of the person at the head. There's probably always a little etiquette or politeness there.  There's a lot of politeness woven into the training culture.  Aikido is, I think, a little more... mannered than many martial arts, it's transmitting a specific martial culture as much as anything, and the martial culture in question is a strange mix of Edo foundations melded onto post-war modernism.  What Mistr's describing goes a little further than I'm used to, though I'm fully aware it's in the history or the art.  It may be one of those things that sounds like a bigger change than it really is in practice. :)

 

The main issue in affiliation is, I suspect, logistical.  It's a credentialling issue, which organization you're recognized by and can operate under.  I couldn't, for instance, teach Aikikai if my rank were granted by an organization not recognized by Aikikai, and I couldn't teach Kokikai if my rank were not recognized by Kokikai.  By the time you hit the dan ranks, you're more officially a representative of your organization, in a way you're not in the kyu ranks.  So switching organizations comes with overtones of renouncing a teaching lineage, and some eyebrows get raised. (And there's no guarantee you'd be accepted. You're working a personal deal to represent someone else's training, without having earned it the usual way. Which may not be a big deal, if there's a practical reason for the switch that they trust and they know enough about your training, but there's no set process for it. You're relying on someone else to say, "sure, that's fine, I'll endorse you as one of my organization's accredited experts and teachers". Because among the other things it is, a black belt in a style is basically them saying that. And they may not want to endorse you, if they don't know you.)  In my case, if I get near a shodan while training in a school that's not my first choice of style, I have to make some choices about the teaching lineage and the business organization I want to be part of, train under, and teach under.

 

What it is basically is that in the dan ranks, when you're on the mat, you've basically become a representative of what you've learned and also reached the point where you start to learn. Between those two things, Aikido does seem to retain a lot more black belts in active training than other arts, but I'm sure there's some attrition all along the way and people take it in stride. Aikido dojos have this training sensibility where every person is responsible for every other person's learning. No matter your rank or skill, you've got this responsibility for helping your partner train to the best of your ability and making sure no one on the mat gets left behind. So if I say black belts have a teaching role, I don't mean the instructor is pawning his classes off on them, I mean they're looked to as an authority and mentor in a stronger way than the more junior students, and facilitate that training culture more actively when they put on the uniform. There's a culture of helpfulness to the group at every rank. Put it this way, I know there are exceptions, but I'd expect that I could walk into 90-95% of aikido dojos and find a certain type of polite kindness to me as a student and an investment in helping me train to my best, even if they don't know me. Especially if they don't know me. And it's the dans who set the tone, and would step up first make sure I got what I needed.

 

2 hours ago, ChrisWithaStick said:

If I may ask, what are the differences between Aikikai and Kokikai, besides being two different affiliations?

 

Kokikai is smaller, though you'll  have a good selection of dojos in both styles where you are. That's the main practical difference for a beginner. Otherwise, the difference is not huge, from the point of view of a junior student. It's a slight personality difference, mostly.

 

Aikikai is a broad church. The potted history of aikido is that the style evolved a lot from 1920-mumble, when Ueshiba started teaching very martial aikijitsu sliding into his own aikido, to 1950, when life experience and a world war changed a lot of his martial philosophy to a fairly pacifist one. The art itself is very similar across that time, but the philosophy and training focus of his senior students changes. So the early students have harder, more martial styles, generally speaking, and the later students have softer, more flowing styles with a more intentionally pacifist philosophical bent. Aikikai covers all those folks under the official Ueshiba family umbrella. You can find all things there, which makes it hard to characterize in general terms. The main Aikikai dojo, Hombu, is IMO mostly a late-style dojo, because it picked up where Ueshiba left off.

 

Among the later students, there was, well, politics. After Ueshiba's death, a very influential senior student split off and took many of the younger former uchi-deshi he'd trained for Ueshiba with him, and I think it caused a lot of distress. This senior student then founded a very soft and perhaps even sort of new-agey style of aikido (it was the late '60s/early '70s) called Ki Society, and then gradually proceeded to kick out or alienate or otherwise see the departure of several of the uchi-deshi he'd taken with him, and these younger students turned into a cornucopia of independent late-aikido styles. Kokikai is one of those.  So it's not a broad stylistic umbrella, it's one former uchi-deshi's style, with one specific training lineage back to Ueshiba.

 

Aikikai and Kokikai are very similar in technique. Unless you hit the occasional early-style or hardcore military-recreationist style dojo, the pedagogy and philosophy is very similar. Mistr and I have had a lot of discussions in the past that didn't bring up any obvious differences in what we'd experienced, so this is a fairly specific comparison we're making, just because I'm crossing styles and noticing little culture things. The dojo environment and the tone set by the instructor will probably be a bigger factor than the style. On average, I think a visitor to a dojo of the other style would find it easy to slip into, with the exception of small nuances of movement. I'm very comfortable walking into an Aikikai dojo and predicting basic values, class format, motion, techniques, training practices and philosophy, instructor attitudes towards students and their issues, etc. The look and feel is there, we're all following the same principles of good aikido and how to train aikido well. Good Kokikai aikido and good Aikikai aikido are both essentially the same good aikido.

 

So it's basically just inside baseball stuff. Kokikai places a lot of emphasis on minimalism. Maruyama Sensei changes technique fairly regularly, if he finds a simpler movement. (I'm sure this happens in other styles, too, but I think he may have the ability to do it faster, because the organization is smaller.) The physical dojos are slightly more minimalist, on average. The etiquette is slightly more minimalist, on average. A de-emphasis of the Shinto echoes and none of the new-age-ier stuff in the habits and language of training, more focus on the concrete. I have no numbers to say so, but I get a sense that he promotes women into senior positions more liberally. It may just be the dojos I've trained at, but I notice a slight difference in playfulness on the mat. It's hard to explain, just a small culture thing, where his sense of humor transmits down to how people train, and the amount of fun he has pushing around the big guys. Aikido teaches a training mindset, and he takes Ueshiba's "train joyfully" maxim very seriously. It's the tiniest shift in physicality and practice environment. (Also a lot more of the hypothetical training scenarios involve bars, for some reason. Oh - I've seen more focus on explicitly translating context to modern scenarios.) This stuff is all so minor that it's not outside the normal dojo-to-dojo variation within a style, though. The stuff Aikikai doesn't do... there's some carry-over of Ki Society format that Aikikai doesn't have. Ki Society has a set of four training principles, which Kokikai uses in a clarified and de-mystified form, so they come out being more about posture, balance, and growth mindset, and so on, rather than obscure mention of ki. More use of ki tests as warmups, which are basically about stability in response to being pushed by outside forces. Basically, the culture is like... imagine aikido as taught by a super-secular extrovert who likes to play hard and have a laugh, and has a slightly more forward-looking bent. Which is a flavor that can appear inside Aikikai and can disappear within Kokikai, based on your actual dojo's culture and instructor's personality.  (I think of it like, within the context of teaching a modern-traditional hybrid art with the same central culture, Aikikai has an additional force pushing it to preserve, because it's canonical, while Kokikai has an additional force pushing it to modernize, because of the sorts of change it's sailed through. You won't see those forces come into play much, but occasionally you'll feel a slight tug. But the aikido you'll learn is still the same aikido, within the standard personal variance of all senior aikidoka. Everyone has a personal flavor at that level.)

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1 hour ago, RisenPhoenix said:

I want more deets about that aikido dojo visit to that dirty dirty aikikai place. ;)

 

It is no longer dirty, because I swept it. For realz. :)

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That was a hugely detailed answer I'll have to read a couple of times.  Thank you. 

 

I should have realized about the affiliations.  I know a little about Aikido in terms of history and some of the politics, but for some reason didn't think about the splintering that politics, and personal goals of the various high level teachers, can create (this, from a former TKD guy...).  It's nice to read it sounds mostly friendly, and the basics of the art are relatively preserved, even with the differences in interpretation. 

 

Considering my current practice, your description of it makes Kokikai sound appealing (presuming I branch to Aikido, although I'm kind of eyeing a Kendo club at the moment). 

 

11 hours ago, sarakingdom said:

It is no longer dirty, because I swept it. For realz. :)

First class and cleaned the floors? 

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29 minutes ago, ChrisWithaStick said:

That was a hugely detailed answer I'll have to read a couple of times.  Thank you. 

 

Sorry, I talk too much when I talk about aikido. :)

 

29 minutes ago, ChrisWithaStick said:

It's nice to read it sounds mostly friendly, and the basics of the art are relatively preserved, even with the differences in interpretation. 

 

It's all very friendly.  I know there must be some very strong feelings, due to the nature of things that happened, but it's never talked about openly.  It's all very respectful.  Also, there's a culture of dojos being open to visitors who are travelling who want to drop in for a class or two, and aside from those whose insurance won't cover it, it'd be intensely rare for someone to be turned away for just about any reason, including style.  There's no trash-talking of styles in the dojo, though there might be a little discussion of one's personal preferences in the pub afterwards.

 

No matter who practices it, it's a very traditional art in the way it's taught.  The basics are more than relatively preserved, they're incredibly preserved, when you think how many senior students this guy spun off over 50 years of teaching, and how much temptation there was to become a sport post-war.  There's been very little change in the training methods since the start, and even then, Ueshiba was preserving a lot of even earlier customs.  What changes is mostly the extra stuff around it.  You get some very military dojos, some very spiritual-tradition-of-Ueshiba dojos, some "peace and harmony and new age energy meditations" dojos.  And some Buddhist ones, and plain old college ones, some that train law enforcement, and some weapons-focused ones, and so on.  Everyone brings in their own peripheral influences, and that's the culture of their dojo.  But the art is the same.  The differences in physical interpretation sound like people are changing the art, but that's not really what it is.  It's that, when done at a high level, it is an art, and people's bodies all work differently.  So two senior people doing the same move can't look precisely the same doing it, or one of them wouldn't be effective.  (And you get choices about how rough you're going to be, and so on.  Some senior people won't cause pain when they can avoid it, some use pain to control as a matter of course.  Some will take a yokomen attack and always model it as a sword attack, because classically it is and that's their interest, and some will say, "yeah, but that's really a baseball bat these days" and make a small adjustment.  They're doing the exact same art, but making their own choices about how to do the techniques.) 

 

When I talk about styles changing techniques, it's very subtle adjustments to biomechanics to perform the same motions of the technique.  That's hard to explain; the technique may be to get a certain torque on the arm to control the upper body for a throw, but the way to get that torque depends partly on your body and your opponent's body and on some of the choices you make when grabbing them.  The suggested choices may change to get a certain effect, but the torque is still the technique.  A lot of aikido is "make this situation happen, and we can't tell you precisely how your body's going to do this, but it feels like this when it's effective".  And then you practice over and over to refine your movements until you get the feeling and can make it happen.  And sometimes a high-level aikidoka will go, "yeah, we can make that happen better if we make this grab/stance change".

 

1 hour ago, ChrisWithaStick said:

Considering my current practice, your description of it makes Kokikai sound appealing (presuming I branch to Aikido, although I'm kind of eyeing a Kendo club at the moment). 

 

Aikido has weapons, too.  Shiny, shiny weapons.  (Well, wooden, so matte.  Matte weapons.) :)

 

Honestly, everyone loves the style they're in, but I genuinely doubt you'd see much of a difference.  Just pick an instructor you like.  But don't write off the smaller styles just because they're not "the official lineage", because they can have some interesting stuff going on, and a totally respectable lineage in their own right.  Hombu's great, but Ueshiba taught a lot of very good students.

 

1 hour ago, ChrisWithaStick said:

First class and cleaned the floors? 

 

Yup, about ten seconds after I met the instructor.  I asked to help the students clean.  Everyone's responsible for everyone else's training, I couldn't watch them clean a floor I was gonna train on without helping.  That is not the proper attitude. :)

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2 minutes ago, sarakingdom said:

Sorry, I talk too much when I talk about aikido. :)

No apologies necessary.  I don't write about Buko-ryu much, but I appreciate when someone writes about what the practice.

 

2 minutes ago, sarakingdom said:

A lot of aikido is "make this situation happen, and we can't tell you precisely how your body's going to do this, but it feels like this when it's effective".  And then you practice over and over to refine your movements until you get the feeling and can make it happen. 

So...you study a koryu weapon art....(sempai and I have similar sounding discussions).

 

2 minutes ago, sarakingdom said:

Aikido has weapons, too.  Shiny, shiny weapons.  (Well, wooden, so matte.  Matte weapons.) :)

Yes, but does it have 9' spears and 7.5' naginata?

 

2 minutes ago, sarakingdom said:

Yup, about ten seconds after I met the instructor.  I asked to help the students clean.  Everyone's responsible for everyone else's training, I couldn't watch them clean a floor I was gonna train on without helping.  That is not the proper attitude. :)

We help clean the mat at the dojo we are graciously allowed to use (when it's a class of 5 or so people, it's hard to have your own space).   This I definitely understand. 

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11 hours ago, sarakingdom said:

Honestly, everyone loves the style they're in, but I genuinely doubt you'd see much of a difference.  Just pick an instructor you like.  But don't write off the smaller styles just because they're not "the official lineage", because they can have some interesting stuff going on, and a totally respectable lineage in their own right.  Hombu's great, but Ueshiba taught a lot of very good students.

^^^^^^This

 

I agree with everything Sara said. Find a group of people that you can see training with for multiple hours a month, working on movements that look awesome to you. You need that level of aspiration to put in the time to get good at an art. I have heard from a senior instructor that your area is oversupplied with aikido dojos. If you decide to go that route, check out several before making your choice.

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I'll do a catch-up post soon.  Also, while deciding how to schedule my Glorious Revolution challenge (May 25 is awkwardly part of a zero week this year), I ran across my Feegle challenge, and it feels like just the thing for right now.  A nice, simple challenge to try to get the basics back in place.  So Feegles next, followed by the Glorious Revolution.

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7 hours ago, sarakingdom said:

I'll do a catch-up post soon.  Also, while deciding how to schedule my Glorious Revolution challenge (May 25 is awkwardly part of a zero week this year), I ran across my Feegle challenge, and it feels like just the thing for right now.  A nice, simple challenge to try to get the basics back in place.  So Feegles next, followed by the Glorious Revolution.

*dusts off Gonnagle bagpipes*

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I've had two classes at the new dojo, and I like it a lot.  It's a small dojo, about 10-12 adults, with lot of really nice guys.  I've only met one other woman who trains there, which seems low, even for a dojo that seems to be made of tech industry people, and there are fewer black belts than I'm used to.  But they are very nice.  They're super-sweet about the guy who brings his toddler, who wanders onto the mat when she misses him, and they were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and looking out for the new person.  One of them decided on my first day that he's giving me a ride home after class since he goes my way, which is super-nice and actually makes the weekend class logistics much easier.  I'll have to make him some cookies to take home to his family or something.

 

I like the instructor's aikido, and his instruction is very thoughtful.  Different emphasis than I'm used to hearing from the instructors I know, but it's a good complement and it works for me.  I don't remember technique in enough detail to catch the subtle differences. I'm having this experience where I'm questioning all my instincts to find out if they're bits of the wrong technique my brain is trying to default to, or genuine style differences.  (I think I did find one genuine style difference today, and I can't recall the name of the technique, because we were drilling a small portion of it, but I was definitely trained a different throw.  It's a shomen attack, and I wanna say it's a kotagaeshi, but there's a ducking-under bit to get their elbow bent, so you're kind of at their shoulder.  The confusion is that we didn't do the setup, we started halfway into the attack, so I'm all, "what actually is this?"  They're training a throw where, with someone stable in a mirror position, you pull them off to the side to break their stance, and I was trained to slide further behind them into that "missing leg of the tripod" position to break their stance.  The guy I was training with said it wasn't a different technique, but a valid variation on the one we were doing, so I think that's the first real style thing to come up.)  Overall, I'm finding that I'm used to stances being narrower, closer, and more neutral at the start.  (Sometimes this is not a good instinct, and I'm not getting the extension I need on the arm.) 

 

My ukemi is coming back, and it's good enough for government work, although I still seem to favor a side on some of my falls, so I need to train out of that.  They do a lot less ukemi in this dojo than I'm used to.  I'm used to it being a good 30-50% of the daily warmup, and our warmup has precisely none, and also none of the wrist stretches I'm used to, and no regular drilling of funakogi undo, etc.  (We did funakogi undo briefly today, because it related to the first technique, but I'm used to doing all of this except for 10 and 11 in every warmup.  So I'm just doing my own warmup before class with that stuff.)  And fewer of the techniques are trained through the fall/pin per class than I'm used to.  I'm used to it being basically 100%, and I'd say here it's maybe 25-30%.  I think they're getting the idea that they won't break me, so they're pushing me a little harder, and pushing me to push them a little harder, which is good.  That'll be the real test for me, I think, how they train when we're pushing each other around a bit more.

 

There's a little more ritual at the start and end of class, but I think it might just be this dojo.  What is a little strange for me, and from what I've seen in online demos may be an aikikai thing, is that the pace of training seems a touch... calmer than I'm used to.  It's a good pace for me now, for sure.  I'm just used to a little more hustle on the mat, a little more noise when people want to be heard, a little more... I don't know, active engagement between partners and the instructor.  (For instance, just comparing tests, this 3rd kyu test and this 3rd kyu test, and this shodan test and this shodan test.  I mean, it's not a big thing, for sure, because all the rest of the training mindset is the same.  But there is this small tone shift in how people behave on the mat.  Even in the tests, there's a slightly different sense of humor, a slight difference in how engaged people seem.  And in the kokikai tests, it's the senseis egging on everyone in the randori to play harder, which makes me feel downright rowdy here, and kokikai isn't really rowdy. :)  I miss that stuff a little.  I like the new dojo, for sure, but I do miss it a little.  I'll probably miss it a bit less when I'm comfortable playing rougher on the mat, though.)

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On 4/15/2017 at 7:50 AM, Tanktimus the Encourager said:

*dusts off Gonnagle bagpipes*

 

Ach, it's No'-as-Big-as-Medium-Sized-Tank-But-Bigger-Than-Wee-Tank Tank the Gonnagle!  Now whoor's the entrance to this new challenge?  Who's got the map?  Aye, we can get in anywhoor, but ye cannae steal nae ships if ye cannae find the entrance!

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2 minutes ago, sarakingdom said:

 

Ach, it's No'-as-Big-as-Medium-Sized-Tank-But-Bigger-Than-Wee-Tank Tank the Gonnagle!  Now whoor's the entrance to this new challenge?  Who's got the map?  Aye, we can get in anywhoor, but ye cannae steal nae ships if ye cannae find the entrance!

*Scurl of Badly tuned bagpipe*

OOOOoooOOOOoooooOOOOOoooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Wir gwin tae steal t' ships

bu cannae find the door

on tae swords whell tighten our grips

an' stamp upon tae floooor

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5 minutes ago, Tanktimus the Encourager said:

*Scurl of Badly tuned bagpipe*

OOOOoooOOOOoooooOOOOOoooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Wir gwin tae steal t' ships

bu cannae find the door

on tae swords whell tighten our grips

an' stamp upon tae floooor

 

Ah think my laik is broken, my man, for I can only laik this the once.  Mebbe if I hit it harder...

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On 4/15/2017 at 3:03 PM, sarakingdom said:

I've had two classes at the new dojo, and I like it a lot.  It's a small dojo, about 10-12 adults, with lot of really nice guys.  I've only met one other woman who trains there, which seems low, even for a dojo that seems to be made of tech industry people, and there are fewer black belts than I'm used to.  But they are very nice. 

 

Great that you've found a congenial dojo to train at!

 

On 4/15/2017 at 3:03 PM, sarakingdom said:

There's a little more ritual at the start and end of class, but I think it might just be this dojo.  What is a little strange for me, and from what I've seen in online demos may be an aikikai thing, is that the pace of training seems a touch... calmer than I'm used to.  It's a good pace for me now, for sure.  I'm just used to a little more hustle on the mat, a little more noise when people want to be heard, a little more... I don't know, active engagement between partners and the instructor.  (For instance, just comparing tests, this 3rd kyu test and this 3rd kyu test, and this shodan test and this shodan test.  I mean, it's not a big thing, for sure, because all the rest of the training mindset is the same.  But there is this small tone shift in how people behave on the mat.  Even in the tests, there's a slightly different sense of humor, a slight difference in how engaged people seem.  And in the kokikai tests, it's the senseis egging on everyone in the randori to play harder, which makes me feel downright rowdy here, and kokikai isn't really rowdy. :)  I miss that stuff a little.  I like the new dojo, for sure, but I do miss it a little.  I'll probably miss it a bit less when I'm comfortable playing rougher on the mat, though.)

 

My experience in aikikai dojos is that the students line up, the instructor bows to the shomen, turns and bows to the class, and starts. Sometimes the class lines up and sits quietly for a couple minutes before the teacher bows in. In contrast, ASU instructors do more bows and clap twice at the beginning and end of class. Shingu instructors have even more bowing and clapping.

 

There seems to be a wide variety of opinion on noise in training. Toyoda sensei's students kiai frequently. Those dojos are one of the branches off of Ki Society. The aikikai dojo I started in was strong on no-talking-on-the-mat. Asking questions was encouraged, but from the instructor, not between partners. No chit-chat. We never used kiai.

 

Intensity varies between dojos and between basic and advanced classes, at least in my dojo. One of the principles that Shingu instructors train is always staying on your partner. There is no break between one throw and the next technique. Uke comes up from a roll into the attack and nage should be right there ready to deal with the attack. Mary Heiny says that this difference in training was already established in Shingu under Hikitsuchi sensei in the 60's. Hombu dojo had much more sedate training than Shingu at that time.

 

One of the best ways to fill in the gaps is to go to seminars. Lots of dojos are hosting friendship seminars. That would give you an opportunity to train with a wider variety of people and see different styles. You can see if the things you've observed in your dojo are specific to your new instructor, or broader in the region.

 

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24 minutes ago, Tzippi Longstockings said:

I can't believe I missed this! Although looking back, it's from 2017, so I guess I can. Found it from your signature.

 

"If you keep goin' all cosmic on me you'll feel the end of my broom and no mistake."

 

I haven't been good about keeping my signature updated. They're 90% Discworld for the past few years, but only the past year or so includes fiction.

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