2010-10-17

Authority vs omniscience

I went to the sky slopes, and arranged for a normal one hour session with an instructor. It had been about 15 years since I last skied and even then I had little experience; so even though I could manage myself, I could definitely use a little teaching.

So the instructor came and asked what I wanted to learn. "Good question", I thought*. Feeling stupid, I asked what were the options. She offered skiing or snowboarding; from 0 or something specific, like turning or jumping or ... . I settled for rechecking the basics and building up from there.

But that night I kept thinking about the question: what did I want to learn? I had never thought about snowboard; I started skiing when I was 15 without ever questioning or being questioned. I guess I was happy enough to just see snow. So I began googling and reading and watching videos. I already had the equipment for skiing, but in life you pay for things with money or with time, or with both if you're unlucky; I still could avoid throwing good time after bad.

There was too much to read and see and learn for a holidays night, and few holidays days left; so finally I decided to continue with the skis. But I found some shocking things in that hurried investigation.

There was some article about a seemingly famous snowboardist who seemed to do some incredible and innovative things and was being asked to help design some new generation of boards or whatever. He had recently invented some new maneuvre and people were asking him how did he do it exactly, because it was too hard to just imitate; and he explained, but still people could not get the hang of it. So after studying videos by themselves, they finally made up some theory of what he was actually doing and tested it, and told the original creator about it, and then he started using that as an input to change what he explained and what he did.

First: it's interesting that he was good at doing something but simply was not good at explaining it. In fact he was even being misleading. But it's even logical: people wasn't interested on him because he was a good teacher but because he was a good snowboarder. And knowing how to snowboard doesn't imply knowing how to teach... nor even being conscious of what you do that is so good.

But, the shocking part was that those people had the nerve to correct him about what he said he was doing. Imagine that! In most of the Aikido world I have known up to now, with its rigid snobbish japanese background, that kind of offence surely would only be washable off with blood.

But... no, in fact the shocking-est part was ... that he was accepting the corrections, and was paying attention, and was changing accordingly the way in which he tried and explained other things. (Heck, he was even rethinking how he did the thing itself!)

Wow.

How incredibly healthy and fresh.

I think it was at that moment that I managed to put the finger on one of the things that were making Aikido uncomfortable for me. The arrogance, the hierarchy, the dogma. And with that the partisanism, the elitism, the blindness.
Which are normal everyday human things, but which are specially awkward in someone who supposedly follows something named "way of the harmony with the spirit".

Next day I again arranged with the same instructor, and explained my situation: I was able to survive skiing down a good range of slopes; but that was it: I could survive. Now I wanted to / wondered if I could make it actually enjoyable. I even started asking her about what did she like in skiing, what was in it for her. And she seemed curious and interested in how the conversation was going; looked like it was getting atypical. She told me how some people liked the speed and adrenaline, and some other simply enjoyed the movement; when I asked about her, she definitely chose moving; actually she said "like dancing".
Which was specially meaningful, given that she was an ex-competition ski racer or some such. She told me about how she started as a child, helping her father who worked in the slopes, and skiing very soon and very late when she was alone...

Heh, actually I started writing about this only because of the relationship with my disenchantment with Aikido (or maybe with most of the Aikido people I have met); but that last part suddenly means also a lot about dancing and feeling. Interesting; but of course when all of this happened, about 2 years ago, I still had no interest in dancing.
Well, looks like going back sometimes helps find new angles.

* With a hat tip to Douglas Adams.

1 comment

  1. "If you want to learn, you have to think like a thief and figure out how to steal your knowledge. What this means is that you can't just wait for the teacher to explain everything. You have to notice for yourself what he does, and why — for everything he does has its reason."
    Ajahn Fuang Jotiko, "Awareness itself"

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