Little House In Ise

Stealing Technique
November 22, 2007, 13:57
Filed under: Aikido, Expat, Japan | Tags: , , , , , , ,

My career as a thief started several years ago at seminar at Aikido Eastside. While changing, I overheard part of a conversation between Ledyard Sensei and another local instructor whose name escapes me. They were talking about how Ikeda Shihan (Boulder Aikikai) would unbalance his uke at the moment contact was made. Having experienced this personally (back when Boulder Aikikai was in the dome — long ago) I was very curious, so I listened in. It wasn’t a private conversation and it was held in a crowded public space but I still felt uncomfortably like an eavesdropper. Sensei’s explanation was straight-forward and for the next few weeks I experimented with it. Unlike most thieves, I have kept this bit of treasure and tried to polish it over the years.

Much later, I had the concept of “Stealing Technique” forced into my awareness. That training in the martial arts is an active experience is obvious. Students need to be aware of what sensei and other students are doing while taking mental notes about proper foot position, angles of hips and shoulders and all the other factors that all add up to proper execution of the art. From an American perspective there is also an expectation that there will be some sort of exchange indicating what needs correction. However, I am now in territory that is new to me. My sensei says that he will no longer correct me and it is entirely my responsibility to steal technique from him. This is not punishment, he seems happy that I have gotten to the point in my training where benign neglect is the preferred form of pedagogy.

As a result, I find myself “eavesdropping” in class. When sensei gives the slightest correction to anyone near me I take it to heart myself and double check my feet or posture or whatever correction he is giving. I no longer feel the slightest guilt when I overhear comments even vaguely Aikido related. I can filter what I consider far-fetched and integrate the rest. Some day, some of the far-fetched may become useful and they too will be integrated into my whole.

For now, I am stealing words like gold and am happy for every one that I can get. My real challenge is stealing the details as sensei demonstrates technique or principal. Mind you, I can’t complain as this is the same challenge that all students face. For each of us, learning is just a matter of how much we can steal.


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