How I Met Dan Harden

Spanish

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This is the only picture that I have of Dan and I together.  There must be better pictures out there!

I first met Dan “virtually” on Aikiweb. Initially I read some of the exchanges there which had the potential to be enlightening, but were so filled with acrimony that I tended to simply avoid them leaning more towards the writings of Ellis Amdur and Professor Peter Goldsbury. Nevertheless, when I did take a peek I began to notice that the things that Dan was talking about, were things that I recognized. This happened often enough that I had the strong suspicion that Dan’s background relating to the topics discussed was almost definitely Daito Ryu. What he talked about and how he talked about were simply to “close to home” to be a fluke. On top of this, when questioned about his background in that area Dan declined to reply. Considering all of the evidence at hand, I assumed that Dan was likely honor bound (either personally or organizationally . . . but it all comes back to the person doesn’t it!) not to say certain things . . . even unto to his own detriment. With this in mind, it seemed to me that here was a man that tried very hard to do the honorable thing even at a personal loss. Holding the same values, I couldn’t help but to admire that.

In the mean time, in the “early days,” it seems that most individuals were not coming to the same conclusions that I was. This, however, did not surprise me in the least. How could they? The majority of Aikidoshi, and even Daito Ryu practitioners for that matter, were completely unaware of most of what he was talking about. They had no frame of reference for comparison. It was as if Dan was speaking about infrared before it was commonly known. To some his words about an invisible something that could do great things sounded like horse pucky. While others, responded with something like, “Red? Oh yeah, we use red all the time!” Or, “Who do you think you are coming on here and simply assuming we don’t know about red!” And finally, others were simply incredulous of Dan’s claims. “I know red. I’ve used red all my life and, yeah, you can make signs with red but you can’t “send signals through space” or “heat things up” with it! It “looks” hot but it isn’t. We all know that. To create heat you need friction!” Some even posted videos of themselves using red. And others complained that Dan’s references to red were far too limited pointing out that red was related to emotions, and nature, sunsets, etc. A scholar delved into the etymology of “red” and how that might be pertinent to understanding red. And one individual flat out proclaimed that Dan had no real idea what he was talking about. He said infrared had nothing to do with it, and if Dan really knew what he was talking about he could, and would, talk about a full banana. But Dan doesn’t talk about full bananas!  Therefore Dan obviously doesn’t know what he isn’t talking about.” This same individual declined to talk about full bananas himself explaining that he feared that Dan would then steal the whole bunch and claim that they were his! Such were the times.

Despite that, I became increasingly interested in what Dan was saying. He was just about the only other guy I knew of that was talking about stuff I had been introduced to, and in the manner I had been taught. I even jumped in with a comment or two now and then and Dan responded quite civilly and knowledgeably.

As a matter of fact, when Howard Popkin first came to teach Daito Ryu at George Ledyard’s dojo, Aikido Eastside (Great guys there BTW which reflects well on George!), George put Howard up in his guest bedroom and allowed me to crash on his (incredibly comfortable) couch. We three were hanging out (probably drinking) late at night and the subject of Dan Harden came up. George asked Howie what he made out of Dan, and Howie said he didn’t know. (After meeting Dan he said that he was probably the most formidable martial artist he had ever met in his life, or words to that effect!) I pitched in and said, “I was taught that there is Jujutsu, Aiki Jujutsu and Aiki no Jutsu. I’m guessing that Dan is teaching Aiki no Jutsu.” (Later Howie called me from New York and told me he “owed me a dalla” for that one!)

In time I figured a couple of things out. First, Dan is an honest guy. Now, what he was honestly saying rubbed some folks the wrong way. Maybe it was how he said it. But I could be sympathetic with that because I have been known to deliver the right message the wrong way on more than one occasion. (Color me sincerely well intentioned but socially inept at times.) On the other hand, I suspect that the truth that he pointed out was just too disagreeable for some to even consider . . . but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t true.

“That’s not Aikido!” ~ Ueshiba Morihei

Dan’s honesty mattered to me because he described what he could do with what I had learned. And what he described was well beyond what I could do with what I had learned . . . and that was important. Just based on dates, I should have been farther along the “Aiki ability” spectrum than Dan, and it sounded like I wasn’t. That sucks and all, but if the shoe fits . . . This indicated that I had likely screwed up somewhere along the line. I hadn’t been taught wrong, or incompletely, other wise I couldn’t have recognized, what so many others hadn’t, that what Dan was talking about True Aiki. No! Somewhere I had thought I understood something essential but, in truth, did not. THAT, was not “okay” with me!

So, somehow, I forget how, I got Dan’s number or he got mine and we talked. Now, I didn’t want to begin our conversation with the understandable, yet inconvenient and inaccurate, assumption that my Aikido training was what most understood Aikido to be. By this, I am pointing out that the “standard flavor” of Aikido has strayed far from the roots of Ueshiba Morihei’s Daito Ryu, and most importantly, Daito Ryu’s True Aiki. There was a reason that my training had far more in-common with Koryu Jujutsu and Daito Ryu. I had long since grown accustomed to hearing, “That’s not Aikido!” or “That’s Daito Ryu!”

So I began our conversation with a very cheeky gambit. I told Dan that I thought that he was a Daito Ryu guy! He said something noncommittal like, “I see.” So I said, ” . . . and I bet you do solo body movement exercises, and I’m guessing that I can name them or describe them.”

At this point it was clear that he was amused at my presumptuousness , and he said, “Go on.” So I named or described 5 exercises that I had been taught that I thought were held in common with most Daito Ryu because they came from the the Daito Ryu that I had been taught, though my sense called it Aikido.

It turned out that I got 4 out of 5 correct. We spoke cordially and finally he asked me, “Why don’t you tell me what you think Aiki is!” Well, I did my best and 20/20 hindsight I think I wasn’t that far off the mark. Long story short, Dan agreed to come visit me at my house (Where my dojo is presently in my basement. It never was supposed to be, but there it is nevertheless! So much for the glamours of a world traveling Aikido sage!)

A New Beginning!

Dan comes into my “dojo” and looks around and states, “You do ken. Maybe we should start with ken!” Actually I love Ken! In fact, that is how I was first introduced to True Aiki by Shirata sensei. It was through ken. And I would have loved to have started with Dan in this way! Nevertheless, when Dan notices the lack of ceiling height and says, “Nah, maybe we should just spar. Is sparring okay?” Well, first, as you have already read in former blog posts, I loved to spar and delight in a scrap. Second, Shirata sensei had also taught quite a bit about atemi both how to receive and give or, more accurately, how to receive/give. So I said sure!

We kind of eased into things, but ramped up quickly. (Either you can do or you can’t!) Before I go further I should explain to those of us that haven’t sparred or rolled or whatever, that one can have a very thoughtful and through conversation without using any words while sparring, rolling, etc. In fact, this kind of conversation is often WAY more informative than words are. And, no, it doesn’t have to be violent.

This is how our conversation went (at least from my perspective):

We start sparring . . . I try to get past Dan’s defense and cannot. He begins to penetrate my defense. I respond by increasing my offense in an attempt to change his (and my) priorities.

Dan: Can you see that no matter how you attack your attacks mount to nothing?

Allen: Yes

Dan begins to allow his defense to simultaneously be attacks as well.

Dan: Can you see that no matter how you defend or attack, you cannot stop the success of my attack.

Allen: Yes (Beginning to get annoyed.)

Then Dan punches me in the chest and I literally become airborne and am caught by my guys before a land among my weight lifting equipment. This was no “hay maker” shot. In fact there was no visible difference between it and when he just touched me earlier. This was a “tap.”

Dan: Can you feel the power available?

Allen: Son of a . . . !

We get ready to spar some more and Dan pops me in the mouth stopping at my teeth.

(I have a weird tendency to smile when under stress. I enjoy being challenged I guess. Anyway, I learned in our next few meetings that this wasn’t a bad tendency since Dan would stop at the surface of my teeth whether my lips are in the way or not. In other words, smile and all will be well. Don’t smile and all will be well, but my lip will be split!)

Dan: Can you see that I can punch you whenever, wherever, at will, with power, AND control?

Allen: *&(^% !

We spar a couple of seconds more and Dan kicks me in the leg. Just a thigh shot. It was a kind of run of the mill, even funky looking, kind of kick. Shouldn’t be a big deal . . . accept it about takes my leg out from under me and I can feel my thigh begin to instantly cramp up.

Dan: . . . can you see that and I can kick you with power and control too?

Allen: Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t!

I try to go back to a cramped up, limping sparring. I try to focus on my purpose rather than allow bodily fear take the helm. I’m looking at what he is doing (as much as I can while he is touching me all over my head), and it is what I am supposed to be doing! I’m supposed to be spiraling in, while his attack is supposed to spiral out. My spiral should be flanking him whether or not I move, and his flank should be presenting itself to me every time he reacts. My attack is supposed to be my defense and his defense my attack. My attack and his attack should be my attack. He is supposed to be becoming “unglued” every time we touch. And each time should be worse for him and better for me than the time before. His attack should be negated, even turned around, and mine should be unimpeded, even invited. But his “doing” is working and mine is failing. His “doing” has more power than any human I know would want to endure and my (whatever power I can muster) is being rendered meaningless, not just in comparison, but in ability to apply it. I have no power to apply my power. He has the power to deliver his power and easily can deliver more power than my body can withstand, fight ending force, organ exploding force . . . and he hasn’t even really begun to exert himself.

One strike in Aikido can kill. When practicing always obey your instructor and do not use training time for needless testing of strength. ~ Ueshiba Morihei

I step back, throw up my hands and say, “What are you doing????!!!!”

Before I give you Dan’s response, let me describe my mental state at this point:

Up to this moment I had 30+ years of martial arts under my belt. Several of those years had included fighting of one kind or another. Many of the those that I had trained under were recognized as the best in their field, some the best in the world. I am not a natural athlete. Any ability I had was the product of hard work, and dogged determination. While I was, and likely never will be, mistaken for a martial phenom, I was confident in being able to stand my ground in this given scenario against pretty much anybody. I might not come out on top, but there would at least be a fight.

Now, here was a guy that, unless he tripped and fell or something, I would likely not be able to do to stop if he went bananas . . . and I had invited him into my home! At this moment any internal temper tantrum due to martial frustration and bruised ego faded into the background, drowned out by the roaring internal realization that my presumptuousness could have put my family and friends in potential danger. My brain scrambled, unaware of any pain, ignoring my fear and shame, focusing on a quick assessment of where things presently stood. Thankfully, my conclusion was that Dan was more likely to give his life protecting a family from danger than he was to be of any danger.

I’ve seen nothing to dissuade me from this initial assessment. Not that that Dan’s personality is your common “go along to get along type.” He, while perfectly pleasant, even charming, is too driven and passionate to ever be mistaken for “Melba toast” type of personality. Personally, I favor sincerity over pleasantry any day and I find Dan both sincere and pleasant.

As soon as I throw my arms up and say, “What are you doing!???” He immediately stops, breaks into a big smile, and says, “Wow! Do you know how great that is Allen?” Of course I’m thinking, “What? That I just got my @ss handed to me and don’t even know how you did it, or, that I don’t have a clue what to do about it!”

I must have look incredulous and dumbfounded because Dan went on; “I’m just so pleased. You just said the right thing!”

More dumfounded looks on my part.

“You don’t know how many men have stood where you are standing now and: Walked away frustrated, walked away in denial, or to their ignorance. When all they needed to do was ask, “What are you doing?”

Well, just between you and me, it honestly never occurred to me to do otherwise. I could tell that outwardly how he was using his body how I, at least thought, I was using my body. But he was clearly getting completely different results. He had to be doing SOMETHING different, but I couldn’t tell what! I hadn’t felt the total unnerving experience of being completely owned since Shirata sensei simply moved my ken to the side (it felt like magnetic resistance) and I saw death staring me in the face. But then, like now, the guy on the other side had no malice in his heart. Standing right before me was a guy having done the same thing . . . and again, ready to share without holding anything back.

Up to this moment I honestly had begun to doubt myself. I had begun to think that the experiences I had had with Shirata sensei were perhaps wistful exaggerations or perceptions of a less experienced self. And that the stories I’d heard from Shirata sensei were similarly a product of his adulation for his teacher magnified with each passing year. Perhaps I had plumbed the depths of what there was to learn and was nearing the end of what I was capable of doing.

Not true!

My memory was accurate. I knew what I knew and, more importantly, I now knew for certain now that I had missed something essential along the way and here was a second chance. No, it never occurred to me to do anything but ask for help. I could never live with myself if I had let an opportunity like this, a second chance at Aiki, pass by without at least an attempt at learning. I would be letting myself down, and betraying the trust placed in me by Shirata sensei before his passing. The least I could do was try to correct any misconceptions or mistakes made along the way.

It wasn’t long thereafter that I spoke with my guys and told them that I knew what I was going to do. I was going to stop everything, go back to the beginning, and start all over again.

Happily my guys said, that they would be joining me. Now, progress certainly wasn’t without its bumps. Typically I try to set aside all that I “know” when learning in an attempt not to “color” the information being given by a teacher. The worst thing I could do would be to think or say, “Oh I know that,” or “Oh we do that.” because doing so would be preclude any new learning. Another habit I have, is not to share what I’ve learned when I am being taught. First, I think it is presumptuous, and secondly, it impedes me from learning from others.

Both of these habits, however, backfired in the case of learning from Dan. I think it was during Dan’s first visit, that I quickly went upstairs to use the restroom before we were to resume practice after lunch. While I was away, my totally cheeky student Robert (who is a terrific training partner and skilled teacher) began “practicing on his own” Shirata sensei’s solo body movement exercises off in the corner of the room, but in plain sight of Dan.

[Now, it is important to me that this is very clear, I hadn’t been keeping these secret or anything, rather I had been concentrating on learning what Dan had to teach. If Dan had asked what I do, these would likely have been the first things I would have shared. Just as they were the first things I shared on my first trip to Europe years before.]

Anyway, I come hurrying down the stairs, turn the corner and there is Dan standing in the middle of the hallway leading to the dojo and all motion has stopped behind him.

“Allen . . . what have you been keeping from me?!?!”

Of course I don’t have a clue what is happening until I see the smirk on Roberts face and I ask him, “What’s going on???”

Robert replies innocently, “I was just warming up with Shirata’s TDD.”

I’m thinking, “Like hell you were!”

All this time Dan is staring at me like I had stealing his family secrets while hoarding mine own.

I don’t rightly recall, what I said at the time, probably just a lot of stammering and “um, uh’s.” But, but it was clear that there would be no further practice until I “came clean.”

[Again, I adamantly declare that I was not hiding anything, so there was no need to come clean. Nor am I continuing to hide anything, just for the record and for the future!]

So I showed the 13 solo body movement exercises that Robert had been doing. [There is more btw, just for the record.]

To everyone’s surprise Dan was almost apoplectic. Luckily for me, he was ecstatic rather than mad. (I’ve never seen Dan mad. Frustrated? Yes. Hurt? Yes. Mad? Thankfully no!) Dan was effusive and said a lot of things at that moment. I can’t recall everything, but a few notable things lodged in my memory:

“The man [Shirata] was a genius!”

“I am just SO happy. I had thought that this knowledge had been lost in Aikido. But here is proof that it hasn’t!”

“Don’t worry Allen, I won’t use this. This was given to you by Shirata sensei.”

[I wouldn’t have minded if he did BTW, it isn’t mine after all. And Dan has always been an open handed teacher. How could I turn around and be the opposite?]

From that moment onward Dan did nothing but encourage me to teach and share, for which I am very grateful.

Still, that didn’t mean the path has always been easy . . .

Upon Dan’s second (and last) visit to my dojo Dan stopped teaching in the middle of the Sunday class and asked me what was the matter.

I was completely depressed and explained, “I had a great teacher that didn’t hold anything back and tried his best to teach me before he died . . . and I didn’t get it! Now I have a great teacher that isn’t holding anything back and is trying his best to teach me . . . and I’m not GETTING IT! (Now on the verge of tears) I must be some kind of a two time looser!!!

Okay so I said I’ve never seen Dan mad, but this was probably the closest I’ve seen him get to being mad. Raising his voice and getting in my face,

“Well I never said that!! And I don’t THINK that!!

It wasn’t like I was going to argue . . . so I just shut up and just kept doing the best I could for the rest of the time.

Later I figured out my biggest mistake. I don’t know why (Dan certainly never said to do this, quite the opposite really.), but I had gone from “back burnering” Shirata sensei’s teaching to pursue Dan’s, to (stupidly) thinking that they were mutually exclusive. That being the case I preceded to misconstrue my understanding of Dan’s teaching such that it was different from Shirata’s. But as I slowly corrected my understanding of Dan’s teaching I realized that there was no difference whatsoever. Upon that realization, I knew that obviously Dan’s, Shirata’s and Ueshiba’s teachings should all align. And they did! So I could leverage the teachings of each teacher to understand the others! And, of course, the same could be done with other historical teachers that were teaching the same thing.

For a slow learner like me this proved to be invaluable.  Apparently, in my case, it takes a village to raise a Beebe brain!

Anyway, once I got out of my own way, progress skyrocketed and continues to do so!! It is simply amazing to me!

As I said earlier, I was taught that there is jujutsu, aiki-jujutsu, and aiki no jutsu. The Aiki no jutsu “waza” that I had learned were easy to identify. They made absolutely no sense whatsosever from a practical jujutsu perspective. As I used to tell my students, “Those are my “someday” techniques because right now I really don’t have a clue how they work. I just know that they do! (Because they were done to me.)”

6 years ago it was beginning to look like “someday” might never arrive.

And then I met Dan Harden.

Now someday is here!

My only regret with regards to training with Dan is that I haven’t been able to train with him more.  He has has much that he can teach and I have much that I can learn!  Sounds like a happy beginning to me!

Thanks Dan!

Cómo conocí a Dan Harden

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Esta es la única foto que tengo en la que salimos Dan y yo. ¡Debe haber alguna foto mejor por ahí!

Conocí primero a Dan “virtualmente” en Aikiweb. Inicialmente leí algunos intercambios de mensajes que tenían potencial para ser reveladores, pero estaban tan llenos de acritud que tendí a ignorarlos a favor de los escritos de Ellis Amdur y el profesor Peter Goldsbury. Aun así, cuando les eché otro vistazo empecé a darme cuenta de que las cosas de las que Dan estaba hablando, eran cosas que yo reconocúa. Esto pasó lo bastante a menudo como para que tuviese la fuerte sospecha de que definitivamente Dan había entrenado Daito Ryu y hablaba sobre él en esos mensajes. Lo que decía y cómo lo decía me sonaba simplemente “demasiado familiar” como para ser casualidad. Además de esto, cuando le preguntaban sobre su experiencia en esta área Dan evitaba responder. Considerando todas las evidencias, asumí que Dan estaba bajo una promesa de honor (sea personal o hacia una organización… ¿pero en realidad siempre es algo personal verdad?) de no hablar de ciertas cosas…aunque le perjudicase. Con esto en mensaje, me parecía que era un hombre intentando todo lo posible para mantener esa promesa a pesar del coste personal que le suponía. Ya que poseo los mismos valores, no podía evitar admirar eso.

En esa época, en los “primeros días” parecía que la mayoría de personas no estaban llegando a las mismas conclusiones que yo. Sin embargo, eso no me sorprendía nada. ¿Cómo iban a poder hacerlo? La mayoría de Aikidokas o practicantes de Daito Ryu, para el caso da igual, no tenían ni idea de lo que él estaba diciendo. No tenían ningún marco de referencia para comparar. Era como si Dan estuviese hablando sobre el infrarrojo antes de que se volviese conocido. Para algunos sus palabras sobre algo invisible que podía hacer cosas geniales sonaban como pura mierda. Otros en cambio, respondían con tonterías como ¿Rojo? ¡Claro, nosotros usamos rojo siempre! Oh, ¿tú quién eres para venir aquí y asumir que no sabemos qué es el rojo? Y finalmente, otros simplemente eran incrédulos de lo que decía Dan. ¡Conozco el rojo. He usado el rojo toda mi vida y sí, tú puedes hacer señales con rojo pero no puedes mandar señales a través del espacio o calentar cosas usando el rojo! Parece que esté caliente pero no es así. Todos sabemos eso, ¡para crear calor necesitas fricción! Algunos incluso ponían videos de sí mismos utilizando rojo. Otros se quejaban de que las referencias de Dan sobre el rojo eran demasiado limitadas y no incluían el hecho de que el rojo se relacionaba con las emociones, la naturaleza, las puestas de sol… Un estudioso se puso a desvariar sobre la etimología de “rojo” y de cómo era importante para entender el rojo. Incluso uno dijo claramente que Dan no tenía ni idea de lo que estaba diciendo. Dijo que el infrarrojo no tenía nada que ver con eso, y que si Dan realmente sabía de lo que estaba hablando, que hablase sobre todas las posibilidades posibles. ¡Pero Dan no habla sobre todas las posibilidades que existen! Por tanto obviamente Dan no sabía de lo que estaba hablando. Ese mismo individuo dijo que no iba a explicar él todos los detalles posibles porque temía que Dan le robase sus explicaciones y dijese que eran suyas. Así estaba el percal.

A pesar de eso, cada vez estaba más interesado en lo que Dan estaba diciendo. Era prácticamente la única persona que sabía que estaba hablando de las cosas que me habían explicado, y de la manera en la que me habían enseñado. Incluso me animé a hacer algunos comentarios y Dan respondió civilizadamente demostrando sus conocimientos.

De hecho, cuando Howard Popkin vino por primera vez a enseñar Daito Ryu al dojo de George Ledyard, Aikido Eastside (Unos chicos estupendos por cierto, se refleja bien en George!) , George puso a Howard en su habitación de invitados y me dejó tirarme en su increíblemente cómodo sofá. Los tres estuvimos de farra (seguramente bebiendo) hasta tarde y salió el tema de Dan Harden. George le preguntó a Howie qué pensaba de Dan, y Howie dijo que no sabía qué pensar (Después de conocer a Dan, Howard dijo que era probablemente el artista marcial más formidable que había conocido en toda su vida). Aproveché para decir: Me enseñaron que existen jujutsu, aiki jujutsu y aiki no jutsu. Creo que Dan está enseñando Aiki no jutsu. (¡Más adelante Howie me llamó desde Nueva York y me dijo que me debía una cerveza por esa frase!)

Con el tiempo me di cuenta de algunas cosas. Primero, Dan es una persona honesta. Eso sí, lo que estaba diciendo honestamente molestaba a un montón de gente. Quizá era la forma en la que lo decía. Pero podía entener eso porque ser malinterpretado es algo que me ha ocurrido muchas veces (Imaginadme sinceramente bien intencionado pero socialmente inepto). Además de eso, sospecho que la verdad que estaba proclamando era demasiado desagradable para que algunos la admitiesen o tuviesen en cuenta…pero eso no significa que no fuese verdad.

“¡ESO NO ES AIKIDO!” ~ UESHIBA MORIHEI

La honestidad de Dan me importaba porque él describía lo que él podía hacer con lo que to había aprendido. Y lo que él describía estaba mucho más allá de lo que yo podía hacer con lo que yo había aprendido…y eso era importante. Basándonos sólo en años, yo debería haber estado más avanzado en el espectro de habilidades Aiki que Dan…y sonaba como que no era así. Eso jode y fastidia, pero si era cierto…Indicaba que yo la había cagado en algún momento durante el camino. No me habían enseñado mal, ni de forma incompleta, sino no hubiese reconocido lo que tantos otros no hicieron, que Dan estaba hablando de Aiki de verdad. ¡No! En algún momento había pensado que entendía algo esencial pero en realidad no lo había hecho, ESO, no podía ignorarlo sin más.

Así que, de alguna manera, ya no recuerdo cómo, conseguí el teléfono de Dan o él consiguió el mío y hablamos. No quería empezar nuestra conversación con la comprensible, pero inconveniente y poco acertada, suposición de que mi entrenamiento de Aikido era como la mayoría entendien que es el Aikido…Al decir esto, me refiero a que el “sabor habitual” del Aikido ha derivado muy lejos de las raíces del Daito ryu de Ueshiba Morihei, y sobre todo del verdadero Aiki de Daito Ryu. Esa era la razón de que mi entrenamiento tenía mucho más en común con el Koryu Jujutsu y el Daito Ryu. Ya estaba muy acostumbrado a escuchar “¡Eso no es Aikido!” “¡Eso es Daito Ryu!

Así que empecé nuestra conversación con una táctica muy descarada. ¡Le dije a Dan que pensaba que él venía de Daito Ryu! Dijo algo sin comprometerse mucho, tipo “ya veo”. Así que le dije “Y apuesto a que haces ejercicios de entrenamiento en solitario, y me imagino que pueo darles nombre o describirlos”

En ese momento quedó claro que le estaba divirtiendo mi presunción y dijo: “Vale, dilos” Así que nombré o describí 5 ejercicios que me habían enseñado que pensaba que eran corrientes en Daito ryu porque venían del Daito Ryu que me habían enseñado, aunque mi sensei lo llamase Aikido.

Resultó que acerté 4 de 5. Hablamos cordialmente y finalmente me preguntó ¿Por qué no me dices lo que crees que es Aiki? Así que lo hice lo mejor que pude y resultó que no estaba muy equivocado. Abreviando, Dan aceptó venir a visitarme a mi casa (Mi dojo está en mi sótano. ¡Nunca fue la idea que estuviese allí, pero es donde está! Ahí se va mi glamour de sabio del aikido que viaja por el mundo)

¡UN NUEVO COMIENZO!

Dan viene a mi “dojo”, mira alrededor y dice: “Entrenas con katana. Quizá deberíamos empezar con la katana” ¡En realidad me encanta la katana, de hecho la primera vez que Shirata Sensei me explicó Aiki de verdad fue con katana! ¡Me hubiese encantado empezar así con Dan! Sin embargo Dan se fijó en la falta de altura del techo y dijo: “Na, mejor simplemente hacemos mano vacía, ¿está bien si hacemos sparring?” Bien, como ya habéis leído en otros mensajes del blog, me encantaba hacer sparring y disfrutaba peleando. Shirata Sensei también me había enseñado bastante sobre atemi, tanto a dar como a recibir, así que dije ¡claro!

Empezamos suave, pero rápidamente subimos de intensidad (O puedes o no puedes). Antes de que siga debería explicar a los que no hayan luchado, rodado en suelo o lo que sea, que se puede tener una conversación muy profunda sin usar palabras mientras combates. De hecho este tipo de conversación a menudo es MUCHO más informativa que las palabras. Y no, no tiene por qué ser algo violento.

Así es como fue nuestra conversación (Al menos desde mi perspectiva)

Empezamos a pelear…Intento atravesar las defensas de Dan y no puedo. Él empieza a penetrar mi defensa. Respondo incrementando mis ataques intentando cambiar sus (y mis) prioridades.

Dan: ¿Ves que da igual cómo ataques que no consigues nada?

Allen: Sí

Dan empieza a defender atacando simultáneamente.

Dan: ¿Ves que da igual cómo defiendas o ataques, que no puedes parar mis ataques?.

Allen: Sí (Empezando a mosquearme)

Entonces Dan me da un puñetazo en el pecho y literalmente empiezo a volar y me tienen que coger mis chicos antes de que me estampe contra mis pesas. No fue un golpe con todo. De hecho no hubo diferencia visible entre eso y cuando me había tocado antes. Fue un “toque”

Dan: ¿Puedes notar la potencia que se puede desplegar?

Allen: ¡Qué hijo de puta!

Nos ponemos a combatir un poco más y Dan me da en la boca parando en mis dientes.

(Tengo la rara tendencia de sonreir cuando estoy bajo presión. Supongo que me lo paso bien siendo desafiado. De todas formas, en nuestros siguientes encuentros descubrí que no era una mala tendencia porque Dan paraba justo delante de mis dientes estuviesen mis labios en medio o no. En otras palabras, sonríe y todo irá bien. ¡No sonrías y todo irá bien, pero te habrán roto los labios!=

Dan: ¿Puedes ver que te puedo pegar puñetazos cuando quiera, donde quiera, con potencia Y control?

Allen: ¡Joder !

Peleamos unos segundos más y Dan me pateó la pierna. Simplemente un golpe al muslo. Un tipo de patada que no era nada del otro mundo, incluso parecía cutre. No debería ser gran cosa…recibirla se llevó mi pierna debajo de mi y pude notar cómo mi muslo instantáneamente se contracturaba.

Dan: . . ¿Puedes ver que también puedo patearte con potencia y control ?

Allen: ¡Mierda, mierda, mierda!

Intento continuar haciendo sparring contracturado y cojo. Intento enfocarme en mi propósito en vez de dejar que el miedo del cuerpo tome el control. Me fijo en lo que está haciendo (lo mejor que puedo mientras me toca por toda la cabeza) y en lo que en teoría estoy haciendo yo. Supuestamente estoy espiraleando hacia dentro, mientras su ataque supuestamente espiralea hacia fuera. Mi espiral debería rodearle me mueva o no, su costado debería ser un blanco cada vez que reacciona. Mi ataque debería ser mi defensa y su defensa mi ataque. Mi ataque y su ataque deberían ser mi ataque. Supuestamente debería quedarse descompuesto cada vez que nos toquemos. Cada vez debería ser peor para él y mejor para mí. Su ataque debería ser negado, o invertido, y el mío debería entrar con facilidad y sin impedimentos…

Pero lo que él está haciendo está funcionando y lo mío está fallando. Lo que está haciendo tiene más potencia que la que cualquier humano que conozca estaría dispuesto a soportar y mi potencia (toda la que puedo reunir) se vuelve insignificante, no sólo en comparación, sino en habilidad para aplicarla. No tengo potencia para aplicar mi potencia. Él tiene potencia para lanzar su potencia y fácilmente puede desplegar más potencia de la que mi cuerpo puede aguantar. Fuerza que termina combates, fuerza que daña órganos…y ni siquiera ha empezado a ponerse en serio.

Un golpe de Aikido puede matar. Cuando practiquéis obedeced siempre a vuestro instructor y no utilicéis tiempo de entrenamiento para pruebas innecesarias de fuerza~ Ueshiba Morihei

Doy un paso atrás, levanto las manos y digo ¿Qué estás haciendo?

Antes de daros la respuesta de Dan, dejadme describir mi estado mental en este momento:

En ese momento llevaba más de 30 años entrenando. La mayoría de esos años habían incluído combatir de una forma u otra. Muchas de las personas con las que entrené eran reconocidas como las mejores en su campo, algunos entre los mejores del mundo. No soy un atleta natural. Las habilidades que tenía eran producto de trabajo duro y determinación de perro. Aunque nunca fui y seguramente nunca lo seré, confundido con un fenómeno marcial, tenía confianza en poder plantar cara en un combate contra prácticamente cualquiera. Quizá no ganase, pero sería una pelea en condiciones.

Y de repente aquí tenía un tio que, a menos que tropezase y se cayese o algo, posiblemente no iba a ser capaz de detener de ninguna manera si se volvía loco… ¡y le había invitado a mi casa! En ese momento mi estado de ánimo debido a la frustración marcial y el ego magullado pasó a segundo plano, ahogado por la rugiente realización interna de que mi presunción podría haber puesto a mi familia y amigos en peligro. Mi cerebro se agitó, ignorando el dolor, ignorando el miedo y la vergüenza, enfocándose en valorar rápidamente la situación. Afortunadamente mi conclusión fue que Dan era más probable que diese su vida protegiendo a una familia del peligro que ser un peligro de cualquier tipo para ella.

No he visto nada que me haya disuado de esta valoración inicial. No es simplemente que sea fácil llevarse bien con Dan. Es simpático e incluso encantador., Personalmente favorezco la sinceridad sobre la simpatía y considero que Dan es tan sincero como simpático.

En cuanto levanté los brazos y dije ¿qué estás haciendo? Inmediatamente paró, puso una gran sonrisa y dijo : “Wow, ¿Sabes lo genial que es eso Allen?” Por supuesto estoy pensando “¿Qué? Me acaban de patear el culo y no sé ni cómo lo ha hecho ni tengo ni idea de qué hacer para evitarlo”

Debo haberle mirado incrédulo y perplejo porque Dan dijo. “Me encanta, dijiste exactamente lo correcto”

Más miradas perplejas por mi parte

“No sabes cuántos hombres han estado donde tú estás ahora y se han ido frustrados, en negación o en ignorancia. Todo lo que tenían que hacer era preguntar, ¿qué estás haciendo?”

Bueno, entre nosotros, honestamente nunca se me ocurrió hacer otra cosa. Podía decir aparentemente cómo estaba usando él su cuerpo y cómo, al menos pensaba que, estaba usando yo mi cuerpo. Pero él estana claramente consiguiendo resultaos completamente diferentes. ¡Él tenía que estar haciendo ALGO diferente, pero no podía decir el qué! No había notado la experiencia totalmente desconcertante de ser completamente dominado desde que Shirata Sensei simplemente apartó mi katana hacia un lado (se notó como un imán) y vi a la muerte mirándome a la cara. Pero entonces, como ahora, la persona frente a mi no tenía malicia en corazón. De pie frente a mi estaba un tipo que había hecho la misma cosa…y de nuevo estaba dispuesto a compartirla sin guardarse nada.

Hasta ese momento honestamente había empezado a dudar de mí mismo. Había empezado a pensar que las experiencias que había tenido con Shirata Sensei eran quizá exageraciones nostálgicas o percepciones de cuando yo tenía menos experiencia. Y que las historias que había oído de Shirata Sensei eran también producto de la adulación por un profesor magnificada con cada año que pasaba. Quizá ya había tocado al fondo de lo que se podía aprender y estaba cerca del final de lo que era capaz de hacer.

¡No era verdad!

Mi memoria era buena. Sabía lo que sabía y ahora sabía seguro que se me había pasado algo esencial durante el camino y aquí tenía una segunda oportunidad. Nunca se me ocurrió otra cosa salvo pedir ayuda. No podría haber vivido conmigo mismo si hubiese dejado escapar una segunda oportunidad de aprender Aiki. Me hubiese decepcionado a mí mismo y hubiese traicionado la confianza puesta en mí por Shirata Sensei antes de su muerte. Lo menos que podía hacer era corregir los errores y malentendidos que hice a lo largo del camino.

No pasó mucho tiempo hasta que hablé con mis chicos y les dije lo que sabía que iba a hacer. Iba a parar todo, volver al principio, empezar otra vez.

Felizmente mis chicos dijeron que se apuntaban conmigo. El progreso ciertamente tuvo sus baches. Normalmente intento dejar a un lado lo que “sé” para no “añadir” nada a la información dada por un profesor. Lo peor que podría haber hecho era pensar o decir: Oh, ya sé esto, ya hago esto, porque haciendo eso no hubiese aprendido nada nuevo. Otro hábito que tengo es no compartir lo que he aprendido cuando me están enseñando. Primero, creo que es presuntuoso y segundo, me impide aprender de otros.

Ambos hábitos me jugaron una mala pasada para aprender de Dan. Durante la primera visita de Dan, fui rápidamente escaleras arriba para utilizar el baño antes de que siguiésemos el entrenamiento después de comer. Mientras estaba fuera, mi totalmente descarado estudiante Robert (que es un magnífico compañero de entrenamiento y un profesor hábil) se puso a “practicar a su rollo” los ejercicios en solitario de Shirata en una esquina de la habitación, pero a plena vista de Dan.

[Es importante para mí dejar esto muy claro. No los había estado manteniendo en secreto, sino que había estado concentrado en aprender lo que Dan tenía para enseñar. Si Dan me hubiese preguntado qué hacía, esas hubieses sido probablemente las primeras cosas que hubiese compartido. Igual que fueron las primeras cosas que compartí en mi primer viaje a Europa unos años antes]

Total, que bajo deprisa las escaleras, giro la esquina y ahí está Dan de pie en mitad del pasillo que lleva al dojo, todo movimiento detrás de él se ha detenido.

“Allen . . . ¿qué me has estado ocultando?!?!”

Por supuesto no tenía ni idea de qué estaba pasando hasta que vi la sonrisita en la cara de Robert y le pregunté ¿qué está pasando?

Robert replica inocentemente “Estaba calentando con los ejercicios de Shirata.”

Y yo pensando “Sólo se te podía haber ocurrido a ti”

Todo este rato Dan me está mirando como si hubiese robado los secretos de su familia mientras acaparaba los de la mía.

No recuerdo bien lo que dije, posiblemente un montón de tartamudeos y um y uh. Pero quedó claro que no íbamos a entrenar más hasta que “confesase”.

[De nuevo, declaro claramente que no estaba ocultando nada, así que no necesitaba confesar , ni iba a seguir esconciendo nada, lo digo para que quede claro ahora y para el futuro)

Así que mostré los 13 ejercicios en solitarios que Robert había estado haciendo (Aunque hay más por cierto)

Para sorpresa de todo el mundo, Dan estaba al borde de un ataque al corazón. Afortunadamente para mí, estaba extasiado en vez de cabreado. (Nunca he visto a Dan cabreado. ¿Frustrado? Sí, ¿herido? Sí, ¿cabreado¿ Afortunadamente no). Dan fue efusivo y dijo un montón de cosas en ese momento. No puedo recordarlas todas, pero guardo algunas en mi memoria:

“Ese hombre [Shirata] era un genio!”

“Estoy TAN feliz. Había pensado que este conocimiento se había perdido en el Aikido, ¡pero aquí está la prueba de que no!”

“No te preocupes Allen, no voy a usar esto. Te lo dio a ti Shirata sensei.”

[No me hubiese importao si lo hubiese hecho por cierto, después de todo no es mío y Dan siempre ha sido un profesor generoso. ¿Cómo podría hacer yo lo opuesto?

Desde ese momento en adelante Dan no hizo nada salvo animarme a enseñar y compartir, por lo que le estoy muy agradecido.

Sin embargo, eso no significa que el camino haya sido siempre fácil…

Durante la segunda y última visita de Dan a mi dojo dejó de enseñar en mitad de la clase del domingo y me preguntó qué me pasaba.

Estaba totalmente deprimido y le expliqué “Tuve un gran profesor que no se guardó nada e intentó enseñarme lo mejor posible antes de morir…y no lo pillé. Ahora tengo un gran profesor que no se guarda nada e intenta enseñarme lo mejor posible y NO LO ESTOY PILLANDO (al borde de las lágrimas). Debo ser un perdedor sin remedio.

Vale, dije que nunca he visto a Dan cabreado, pero esta fue la vez que posiblemente estuvo más cerca de cabrearse. Levantó la voz y me dijo a la cara:

“¡Yo nunca he dicho eso y NO PIENSO ESO!”

No es que fuese a discutirle…así que me callé y seguí haciéndolo lo mejor que podía el resto del tiempo.

Después me di cuenta de mi mayor error. No sé por qué (Dan nunca me dijo que lo hiciese, en realidad fue lo contrario) dejé a un lado las enseñanzas de Shirata sensei para perseguir las de Dan, pensando (Estúpidamente) que no eran compatibles. Debido a eso confundí mi comprensión de las enseñanzas de Dan pensando que eran diferentes a las de Shirata. Cuando poco a poco corregí mi comprensión sobre las enseñanzas de Dan me dí cuenta de que no había ninguna diferencia en realidad. Tras esa realización, supe que obviamente las enseñanzas de Dan, de Shirata y de Ueshiba debían estar alineadas. ¡Y lo estaban! ¡Podía utilizar las enseñanzas de cada profesor para entender a los otros! Y por supuesto lo mismo podía haberse con otros profesores históricos que enseñaron la misma cosa.

Para alguien tan lento en aprender como yo esto tuvo un valor incalculable.

De cualquier manera, cuando dejé de complicarme la vida, ¡el progreso llegó meteóricamente y sigue así, es simplemente alucinante para mí!

Como dije antes, me enseñaron que existen jujutsu, aiki-jujutsu, y aiki no jutsu. Las “técnicas” Aiki no jutsu que había aprendido eran fáciles de identificar. No tenían absolutamente ningún sentido desde la perspectiva del jujutsu práctico. Solía decirle a mis estudiantes “Estas son mis técnicas “para otro día” porque ahora mismo en realidad no sé cómo funcionan, sólo sé que funcionan porque me las han hecho a mi”

Hace 6 años parecía que ese “otro día” nunca iba a llegar.

Y entonces conocí a Dan Harden.

¡Y ahora “ese otro día” está aquí!

Lo único de lo que me arrepiento sobre el entrenamiento con Dan es que yo no haya sido capaz de entrenar con él más. ¡Tiene tanto que enseñar y yo tengo tanto que aprender! ¡Suena como un feliz comienzo para mí!

¡Gracias Dan!

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24 thoughts on “How I Met Dan Harden

  1. This -‘ I knew that obviously Dan’s, Shirata’s and Ueshiba’s teachings should all align. And they did! So I could leverage the teachings of each teacher to understand the others! And, of course, the same could be done with other historical teachers that were teaching the same thing.’ – I had the same revelation. My teacher’s teachings and Dan’s totally align from my perspective. I was able to figure out much clearly what my teacher was trying to show me for the past 40 years after I started training with Dan. Once you make the connection you feel stupid since it was staring at you the whole time. But solo body conditioning is a prerequisite. And I don’t even do that silly so called martial art called Aikido.. 🙂

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  2. The thing I most feared meeting Dan was that I would have to throw out everything I knew and start again. What I found was the opposite — that I had been asking the right questions and focussing on the right things, but just needed what Dan had to teach to fill in the gaps.

    I remember Dan saying at one point that when he started, he was complete rubbish, as well as his very positive response when I went up to him in the middle of trying an exercise and saying “Dan, what I’m doing is completely broken. Can you help me fix it?”. I remember these things as I struggle to get more than bits of what he taught working, and remind myself that it is going to take time and a lot of effort.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Lorel,

    Thank you for the question. The answer is:. He didn’t block, he didn’t evade, he didn’t blend. He used Aiki.

    For more information on that please refer to my posts on Aiki.

    Thank you again for your question. That is an important point to highlight!

    Allen

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Lorel,

        “How exactly did he do that?” Is “exactly” what I’ve been writing about here. Which is why I wrote: “For more information on [exactly how he did] that please refer to my posts on Aiki.” “Exactly how he did that” is what trueaiki.com is all about. It’s in the name!

        I suggest all readers go back and re-read the posts multiple times now and after training for a month, a year, five years. The material is dense. I’m representing it the best I can here knowing that person to person is a must. The person doesn’t have to be me btw, just someone that knows and can do.

        I’m not done yet either. So don’t give up. I’m not. I’ll keep posting and hopefully there will be, “Ah Hah!” moments for various people along the way . . . including me!

        In the mean time, as I’ve written earlier, I suggest reading a lot and “kissing a lot of promising frogs.” One day, perhaps already, you’ll meet your “prince” or “princess” whose words and examples are clear to you.

        “The truth is out there!”

        Allen

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  4. Thanks Allen. My first encounter with Dan wasn’t as dramatic as yours, but it was just as convincing. Now that I think about it, you were there, writing strange things on the wall while moving strangely.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have been training with Dan for almost ten years now. He is the real deal. More importantly he holds nothing back when it comes to his many decades of hard earned knowledge. If you are willing to learn and train hard he will change your training forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Allen,

    After rereading it several times a question pops up.

    If Dan thinks the TDD forms are a key to unlocking AIKI (and Dan please excuse me if I phrase it badly) what did you do wrong in the TDD forms.

    Is there a specific physiological aspect that you need to focus on doing the TDD forms or does it need specific intent on part or all of the form.

    I only saw a few of the forms two years ago in Zwolle and have seen them all or studied them in detail, although I really would like to study these in the necessary detail.

    Could you go into this in detail in Zwolle in July ?

    Fred

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Fred,

    I didn’t realize that you are THAT Fred! So, Hi again! 🙂

    Everybody starts by copying the outer form. We can’t help it. That is what we see and even though good teachers may talk about what is going on inside, we can’t see it, so we have to guess at it. That is what an “intellectual understanding” is, a guess. It is a far cry from actual experience.

    So, despite ourselves, we (both teachers and students) all start with “kata” even if we try not to. “Kata” means “form.” And Ueshiba Morihei accurately stated, “Aikido has no kata.” Because one cannot see Aiki, it is “formless.”

    My big (and I mean BIG) mistake was, despite what sensei said, I focused on the outer forms and thought Western Sports Science would.cover the inner physical training stuff. This was, and is, wrong.

    This answers Patrick’s question too. Dan raised the bar back up where it should be, and also helped to point me in the right direction. Shirata probably would have too, but he died before he could. That is what a teacher does besides trying to communicate this elusive stuff, a teacher keeps pointing us back to the direction we should be headed. We have to get there ourselves though. No teacher can “take us there” they can only point and say, “no, no, closer, no, YES! no, no, way no, closer, etc.”. It’s an invaluable job!

    Dan “saw” what the TDD were meant to communicate. But Aiki is formless. So he can, and does, teach Aiki in the context of other forms (just as all martial, and non-martial, traditions that taught Aiki did.)

    The TDD are about as “stupid proof” as one can get. So I had some Aiki traits born of outer form before I met Dan. But, and this Is important, as long as one is looking to outer visible forms for Aiki one is MAJORLY screwed!

    Aiki is the union of equalized and opposite co-dependent, mutually arising forces (in very particular ways), which are invisible.

    Of course you understand the scientific implications of that much better than I do I’m certain.

    As an aside, I think science definitely has a “place at the table” here btw. It is presumptuous to think that science already explains Aiki. Science has the potential to explain most things but good scientists recognize that there is far more unexplained than explained, which is what makes science exciting! However, I think it equally presumptuous to declair that science can never explain Aiki even if the best scientific minds of our day were to be stymied (which they are not, they aren’t even looking . . . well maybe Fred is). But who can predict the future? That is what makes the future of science so exciting. IMHO.

    Great question Fred!

    We definitely can go into these in July. A weekend isn’t nearly enough time to learn what there is to learn. But we can start (actually you already have you just didn’t know it).

    Thank you for your questions. Thank you for your presence at my seminars. And a BIG thank you for your interest in True Aiki (the thing and my blog 😉

    Allen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed. In fact I can only demonstrate (to the limits of my ability) the results of Aiki. Even inner physical movement and adaptation are not Aiki but the result of Aiki. Again, this is what makes things so confusing. Those that could Aiki would Aiki and say, “That is Aiki.” and those observing would look or feel the results and think, “Oh, THAT is Aiki.” And they would be wrong. The results are not the Aiki, they are the traits of Aiki.

      Oh well, more words!

      See you soon I hope,
      Allen

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  8. Dear Allen,

    thank you very much for this. When i read the smile/lips/teeth-thing i remember my first encounter with Dan. Pretty similar. Like you i was cheeky enough to ask him, what he will do, when i try to apply a jab or something like that. Never felt something like that. This is now two nearly two years ago. Amazing. Amazing that there are people outhere with similar experiences.

    I’m very lucky to attend (at least) one day with you in Aachen.

    And i hope that i’m able to follow you, i hope that i’ll pick up some tools to work with.

    This first encounter with Dan was so impressive, but to be honest, i still got no clue what he was doing.

    But you wrote that you arrived at someday… so there is hope for me as well.

    Looking forward (and please excuse my english).

    Marcus

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello Allen,
    Very interesting post. I really enjoyed reading your first encounter with Dan Harden. One thing my mind has not been able to wrap around of your first sparring with Dan is that if Shirata Sensei taught you essentially the same knowledge that Dan was taught then why you were not able to recognize it, or either further neutralize or counteract it? I could understand that if both of you had same theoretical /conceptual knowledge/framework but Dan is more advanced in its practice, there’s a likelihood you cannot counteract Dan’s aiki. But my impression from your dramatic words is that you did not even grasp Dan’s “use of aiki power”; totally understandable would be for me if one has a different knowledge from the other, but this would contradict that Shirata Sensei transmitted same knowledge to you. I will appreciate your insights to my blindness.
    Respectfully,
    Andres

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    1. Dear Andres,

      Shirata sensei taught me everything that Dan taught. (Keeping in mind that I haven’t trained with Dan for quite a while now.) Many of the things that they taught were word for word identical.

      Here is the big catch: Having been taught, and having learned, are two very different things. Being both over simplistic and completely unfair to Shirata sensei, I’ll say that what I learned was what I could see. What I could see was outward spiral movements. (In my own defense, many others didn’t even pick up on that.)

      So, this is very important: As I have said several times before, Aiki cannot been seen.

      I had learned the effective use of spiral movement in outward form. This is not Aiki. I had been taught Aiki, the True Aiki. I just hadn’t learned it yet.

      So, when Dan spoke or wrote I recognized what he was saying. When we got together I recognized the outer form of what he was doing. I was “doing” that too (the outer form.). I also recognized the results of Aiki, the results I felt from Shirata sensei, the results I felt from Dan, the results I could not (at that time) produce.

      How to produce those results (Aiki) is what I wanted to learn. I had been taught how, but had not learned it yet.

      Now, just to be clear. Just because Dan (or Shirata or I) teach true Aiki, is absolutely no guarantee that true Aikido will be learned. In fact, based on history, it is very likely that most will not learn true Aiki, even when directly taught.

      If you will recall, win the story of how I met Dan, I mention that at one point I despaired that, even having beaten all odds and having found another teacher to teach me true Aiki, I still hadn’t learned true Aiki.

      Fortunately, that time has passed and now I am progressing consistently.

      Shirata did his best, Dan is doing his best, and I am doing mine. (Not that I am putting myself of the same level as either of those men.) That is all we can do, and keep trying to improve. One on one, I have good results so far and hopefully that will only improve. I am sure that Shirata would have straightened me out if he had lived, but he ran out of time. Happily I met Dan.

      Sadly, the majority of the people will likely learn the words, some will learn the models, fewer will learn the outer form and fewer still will have the opportunity, and do what it takes to learn true Aiki.

      In the end, history proves over and over again, one does need a teacher, but the most important teacher of all is one’s self. Without the audacity to think outside the box of what one is being taught to adapt that teaching to how one learns, no learning will take place.

      Teachers can only teach what they know, and what they know is largely what works for them (not necessarily what works for you.)

      So, great question! And very important to understand if one wants to really progress.

      In the end it comes down to results. Not pedigree, lineage, licenses, organizations, number of students, popularity, etc. The greats didn’t need any of that. They just needed to be undeniably great in deed.

      Let’s think about that. Sokaku, Ueshiba, etc. were recognized by many, many of the martial greats of their time (sometimes begrudgingly so), not because of what they said, but because of what they could do at an elite level. It was undeniable.

      That is the true Aiki that I wanted, am learning and would like to share the best that I can. Even if a little bit gets out there, it is better than that little bit of teaching becoming extinct.

      I’m writing this on my iPhone. So, please forgive the roughness of the reply. I’m sending it because I have a connection and my phone is at 15%.

      Please ask any other questions you might have. I’ll respond when I can!

      All the best,
      Allen

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