Thursday, November 8, 2007

You don't call, you don't write, you don't send flowers

I got a couple emails asking me to post more info, a summary technical how to really, about my workshop experience with Akuzawa and Rob John, his senior student.

My first response mentally was "Who cares what you want?" My second response mentally was "I don’t care what you want!" This is not just because I’m not a nice guy, it’s because it’s not meaningful to try and do that.

To start a discussion (or have any relevance in a post for my blog) there has to be a common ground. Once that common ground is there, meaning those involved understand: A) the terms as used by the instructor. B) The intent of what the instructor is trying to do is communicated. Then you can then start a discussion that has meaning using terminology in proper context. Sure, you can have a discussion with skilled or semi skilled people who have never met or touched hands, but there has to be a clear agreed upon understanding of the terminology as used by those in the discussion.

All too often, since the meaning of terms is so varied in how it is used in different groups, a discussion without that common ground will just turn into a steaming pile of crap. It gets pretty tedious to have an arrogant jerk continually saying "You don’t get it" and lashing out at others because others don’t use terms with the same exact narrow definition as said arrogant jerk.

So, start with a hands on session, then you can discuss what you did at the hands on meeting with more productive results using terminology as used by the group or the instructor being discussed. But that initial "hands on" is the starting point in general.

BTW, this applies for martial arts as well as team sports, where the skills are taught in a group but are developed via personal efforts. By personal effort, I mean each person’s native intelligence, work ethic, innate talent, and physical capabilities.

To truly function as a team, each team member has to understand the context each other team member brings to the party. For a dojo, each dojo member has to work to fit with the sensei’s social dynamic for the group and contribute their own in constructive ways. When this is done right, everyone benefits.

Back to our topic, I’ve had some passing experience with "internal arts" via Andy Dale, Harvey Kurland, Dave Harris. The approach they take is different from Ark’s but closely related as well. The problem comes about with those differences in approach and intent. Subtle but important differences can make a huge difference in how material is understood or misunderstood. So, you should try to absorb the instructors meaning and intent, not just overlay your own right away. Insert your favorite Asian metaphor here if you like.

As one example of what I mean, we did a workshop with Andy this last summer, I had enough familiarity with Andy to get his context in an exercise and why it was being done without much explanation. But a few others didn’t get the exercise since they were unfamiliar with Andy’s approach. They later told me they had the thought "This is bullshit" until they got a few minutes of hands on time and one on one explanation. Then, the thought became, "Oh, I get it, I should be doing…" and could understand the essential basics, maybe not the advanced ideas, of what the exercise was seeking to develop.

So, that’s another reason why I’m not responding to the requests. I’m sure don’t think I’m qualified to try and sum up Ark’s methods. I get much of the basic reasoning and intent, but not well enough to be talking about it all over the internet and email without misinterpretation, either on my side, or on yours. With more personal effort, I’ll hopefully develop a better understanding.

Training is always a work in process, and it’s important to frame the experience that goes with the explanation properly. So, if I were to have a discussion with one of the TNBBC dojo members, we try to preface explanations with qualifications. Such as "What I got from Andy was…" or "Here’s what I got from that drill we did with Ark…" or "From the Icho point of view, it’s like this…".

I’ve also had people ask me about Bernie Lau, Don Angier, and Jon Bluming. I’ve also glossed over those requests for any technical information with people I don’t know. If I know the person asking well enough to be sure they won’t take things out of context, it’s not a problem.

But for you who asked me for more details, this is why I didn’t respond. Online, it tends to bring out the stupid and arrogance in some people. Don’t believe me, go read aikiweb and some of the foolishness that can crop up there. Likewise, in emails, it’s easy to not get the proper context. Rather than have someone blab that "Neil said that…" without understanding a damn thing that was written in the proper context. So I just tend to ignore most requests.

Without understanding why I don’t respond to such requests, you would sure think I’m a major league conceited ass, wouldn’t you? Now that I have explained why you didn’t get a response, I may still be a major league conceited ass, but a major league conceited ass with a good rational reason for not responding.


Thomas said...

Dude, come on, tell us just a LITTLE bit about the Akuzawa seminar. Pretty please? That way I won't have to go to all the trouble of experiencing Aunkai directly and testing it against my own experience. But I'll still be able to raise the methane levels in the cybervoid by flatulent on-line commentary.

Oh wait a minute. I was there. I don't need you after all. 8-)

Thomas said...

By the way, Neil . . . that last comment appears to have been the first on your blog. I hope you don't stop writing just because no one appears to be reading . . .

See you sometime soon on a Saturday.