Author Topic: How about a juicy debate?  (Read 5395 times)

Elliott

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How about a juicy debate?
« on: March 22, 2012, 06:31 PM »
So lets imagine that you want to get to the next level in your bonsai skills and the only way to create the kind of top specimens that you admire, is to do an apprenticeship under a bonsai master in Japan.
 You sacrifice everything, you leave your job, you sell most of your trees, find a new home for your dog and then you go work your ass of for the next 5 years or so in japan. While there, you learn all techniques needed to teach and put out top quality trees. You have learned many professional techniques only done in Japan and maybe "secret techniques" only done by your master.
 You come back home and you are in great demand, you jet set around the world to all the biggest shows, you have study groups in all corners of the world. You are the shiny new penny on the bonsai scene and your schedule is all booked up for a very long time.
 The question is, Do you share EVERYTHING you learned in Japan? Do you only use those "secret" methods on your own and paid clients trees? do you just share that with your own apprentices?
 If you share those techniques with everyone, it doesn't make what you and others do so special anymore, but it enhances the the skill of the general hobbyist which leads to better quality trees all over. On the other hand, being able to offer something special makes what you do more likely to earn you a living and elevates the standard that way, making bonsai more of a legitimate business. Do you feel only those who have sacrificed so much should know these things or should it be taught at every little club meeting?
 I hope to hear from those who have studied in japan and those who are there now.
Ready, set, discuss....
 

JRob

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2012, 07:33 PM »
Interesting. Skill wether learned in Japan, here or anywhere else for that matter in my mind is only a small but necessary contributor to a great tree. All to often we forget that this is an art form. Skills can be taught, improved and maybe mastered but not everyone who can learn the bonsai skills has an eye to produce a great tree. I study with a Japanese trained individual 3 times a year (This is my third year) not only to improve my skill but because he sees things in trees I do not. I have had and take workshops and classes for the same reason. All the great artist had students that learned the skills but not many produced masterpieces. I can do a very good job at what i'll call refrigerator art but do I have the gift to develop a great design without the aid of an master artist. Not sure only time will tell.

My initial thoughts,

JRob
 

akeppler

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2012, 07:40 PM »
A very crafty teacher can teach for years and not really give away any secrets. Most teachers can show you the basics in a demonstration and then in a workshop they can explain mechanics and then let people start on their own. then they come around and tell you if you did well or need improvement. Then you may start all over and do it again and actually improve. then you will be comended for doing better all the while the teacher has not picked a single wire or shears and actually done any work. If they do work it is usually work that realtes to wht you may be working on right there in front of you and may not ever relate to a tree again.

I would think that a program such as that, that Boon teaches is probabl the closest you will come to learning things that have been passed down to students learned in Japan. A yearly program most likely will yeild the most "secrets".

Secrets are not always what they are cracked up to be. A secret is only good if it can be practised on trees with enough repition as to become rote. At that point it seems the the best results are almost gaurenteed while just simply "knowing" the secret is not always impressive if you always have crappy results.

40 years ago air layering was probably considerd a very secret technique, now it is the first thing mentioned by someone with 40 posts for a newbie to do to their crappy plant. "Hey air layer that thing and you will have two". Who cares, now you have two crappy plants.

But, seeing some of those masters in Japan that have taken this 40 year old heavily ramified branch and graft it to a small seedling only to "hold" it so it can be grafted back onto a tree in a place where it needs a good branch is really a wonderfull technique to have.

I am reminded of Jim Gremel. I have taken 4 workshops on making yamadori style junipers. I have made many. Have a very nice yamadori style black pine that is doing very well. Jims junipers look marvelous and seem so natural. John Kirby has posted a couple articles about his junipers here. The trouble is I have yet to see Jim actually bend one in front of anyone. He will show you how to tie raffia in a knot, apply it to the tree, wrap the damn thing with wire and then he will "tell" you to twist it up and squash it. He never actually demonstrates what he does. If you have a problem he will come to your seat and turn the plant several times and then tell you where you need to put more bends or crack it here or twist it there. Never touches it though.


Man of many mysteries..that one.
 

Adair M

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2012, 08:36 PM »
Al, I hear ya.

I can't speak for Mr. Gremel, and his style of teaching, but I understand where you're coming from.

I have horses, and I wanted to learn Natural Horsemanship.  There are two famous "Clinicians" who sell training programs:  Pat Parelli, and Clinton Anderson.  (There are more, but I will just briefly discuss these two.)

Pat Parelli drives me crazy.  He's obviously a gifted horseman, but his shows, TV, etc show you what he can do with a trained horse.  His style is to show you all the marvelious things he can do with a horse, and you can too, if you buy his program.

Clinton Anderson is different.  His shows use untrained stock, and he trains them before your very eyes.  He shows you what he would do to train, and just does it.  I've seen him live, at clinics, and own his DVDs.  He does bring along a finished horse, and gives a demo ride to show what the final results should produce.

I obviously prefer Anderson.  Others prefer Parelli.  Maybe it's a left brained/right brained thing.

For bonsai, I think one of the things the kids are learning by being apprentices is they are surrounded by the best bonsai in the world.  They work on great material, and learn how to make it even better.

Peter Tea sent me a blog the other day, and it discussed a black pine and how it was re-styled.  Peter did a great job photographing it from all angles, and one of the major improvements was to the apex.  To make the trunk look larger the apex was "lowered".  Ok... so they chopped the top, right?  Uh, no.  They lowered the apex by pulling it down in front.  Foreshortening it.  You really can't tell when looking at the photo from the front.  But when you look at a side photo, why that tree is almost falling out of the pot leaning forward!  It's a "trick of the eye"!  You woud never be able to pick that up by looking at the tree from the front.

Anyway, Peter showed us "how it's done".  Just think how it would be possible to pick up on techniques like that if you lived, breathed, ate bonsai 24/7 like they do?

Anyway, that little tip got me out in the garden today, and I messed around with a JWP that I've been unhappy with the apex.  And I found that if I just moved the apex straight forward towards the front, it lowered it, rounded it, and made it better.  I bet those guys get an "Ah ha!" moment like that every day!

Can they teach it?  Time will tell.  Some may become bonsai Parellis.  Others more like Anderson.  Good thing is we will have new talents to choose from.

I personally am very grateful for what they do, and I enjoy their blogs.  And I wish them every success.
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2012, 09:20 PM »
My other obsession is the guitar.  I've played in bands for years, studied with teachers and attended workshops with professionals, and read and continue to read countless magazines and blogs.  I've been trying to figure out how the equate my feelings regarding the guitar and the guitar player/teacher community with bonsai and the online bonsai community.  Here's a couple of random things that have been circling in my brain.

- The teachers/players/musicians I enjoy the most are freely giving with the information they have.  They are equally excited sharing information with others as they are playing.

- The teachers I learn most/easiest from teach what the student is ready to learn, pushing just past the comfort zone. 

- I'm planning on giving my 4-year-old nephew a guitar soon and plan to teach him as he matures.  I probably won't start with sweep picking.

- A surefire way to improve is to play with musicians who are better than you.  They will continually push you to play better, and you'll learn so much more from/with them.


 

Larry Gockley

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2012, 09:52 PM »
While reading the first post, another point came to mind. It is one thing to learn a skill from the best, but another to be able to actually teach those skills to others. Teaching is an art in itself. I have been to seminars where, when it was over, I'm thinking , " what in the world was he talking about". And I have been to seminars where I'm singing " I saw the light" all the way home. Larry
 

John Kirby

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2012, 10:55 AM »
Al,
You have said three things that are very, very, germane:

1. Rote repetition- I was going to post on this thread yesterday, but repotting was too inspirational. Lots of people have heard 99% of the secrets floating around from folks who have apprenticed (years), done training stays (Like with Kobayashi or Urushibata, these are weeks or months in length) or worked around bonsai for a while (like me). The key difference between a talent like Ryan Neal telling you how to do something and having Ryan Neal do it is the experience of having done it many, many, many times, with a critical master or teacher. Boon says, you want to learn how to wire well and fast- wire everyday with someone inspecting your work, hmmm, for a few months 3-5, like in Japan.
2. I will come back to this, my meeting is now more engaged.
 

rockm

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2012, 02:12 PM »
I think most people don't completely grasp what a Japanese-trained teacher is showing them. The teacher really doesn't have to keep anything "secret" because techniques have become second nature to him. He performs them so easily and efficiently, that students miss most of what he's getting at even if they're staring right at it.

Take Cesar "Dog Whisperer" Milan as an example of the "hide in plain sight" kind of instruction. There are no "secrets" to his methods, but people don't see what he's actually doing to train a canine. His techniques are simple and direct, if you know what you're looking at and are very familiar with how dogs works. Doesn't hurt if you grew up in a multiple dog household either.

He is so effecient at non-verbal communication with the animal, that people assume he's performing some kind of magic, or at least speaks dog language. Not really true. Boils down to a lifelong (or long term) relationship with what he's working with every day.

In other words, I guess, asking a teacher "Why" is as important as asking how a technique works. Understand why it's done and the path to doing it opens up--regardless of the exact manipulations done by the teacher.
 

donmaple

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2012, 11:08 AM »
Hey, don't forget we all have an agenda! Are you growing Bonsai for yourself or is it your livelihood? If it is your bread and butter it will pay you more to be really good at most everything, and you have to get people to pay you money and tell their friends how good you are and come back and give you more money, ect.. or you may be a Bonsai artist in hobby form only. You can be taken seriously at either level. Your skills can be as good at either level. If you share your knowledge and experience at either level is completely up to you. Fortunately for us all, we don't all learn the same way, so if we truly want to know something we will find someone who can teach us in our style of learning. Now sorting out who can do this is another matter. Take me for example: I thank God every day for spell-check. Happy Bonsai-ing Don.
 

akeppler

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2012, 12:25 PM »
Theers speilcheke?
 

Elliott

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2012, 02:41 PM »
OK, so far we have learned about god, dogs, guitars, and horses. But no one has answered the question; do you share EVERYTHING you learned? Do you just use it on your personal trees? Do you just use it on paying clients, but don't teach it? Do you just teach it to your apprentices? Etc
 I heard Ryan say that sometimes late at night, Mr. kimura would kick out all the apprentices and want to work alone. Was it because he was gassy from the pickled diakon radish dish Mrs. kimura served for dinner? I don't think so. I remember in old bonsai today articles that were translated from kinbon magazine about Kimura bending the piss out of a thick trunk tree, it would say that the trunk had some marks with cut paste on it from something he did to it before hand that he would not explain. They speculated that it was probably a special technique that was to advanced for amatures, and it would result in someone riming their tree.

 I don't think so. Some things he just doesn't share. Remember, in Japan, its a business and you have alto of competition for limited amount of clients. If you can offer something the next nursery across the street can't, you get the money. When the current crop of apprentices get back, it may become a little competitive.
 I guess we relay need to hear from those that are in Japan now or those that have come back already. But, if just finished an apprenticeship, are you relay gonna get on a popular board like this and announce that I'm gonna keep some things to myself and make people distrust you or are you gonna say, "hire me, I will show you all my secrets" and market yourself?
The world may never know. LOL!
 
 

akeppler

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2012, 06:07 PM »
I don't think it so much that anything they learn in Japan is  a secret, much of it is so much minutia and timing. I have the whole diary of Kathy Shaner when she was in Japan. I have read it so many times much of it is burnt into my brain. I remember her working on Crytomeria and leaning on branches while thinning areas not worked on yet. Teacher would scold her because the new clipped areas were prone to browning by bruising the exposed edge by leaning on it. "NO browning on client's trees".

These things may become second nature as it is heard a few times around the nursery. This tip may come about maybe two or three times in Kathy's career as something to be passed on. Would someone consider this a secret? I don't know.
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2012, 06:10 PM »
I gladly share when I remember to, when it pops in my head and the opportunity arises.  But, I by no means consider myself a professional.

I have gladly paid money to bonsai professionals and will continue to do so for as long as possible.  I'm happy to support them and am happy with what I have been taught.  I have learned quite a bit and appreciate the way it was presented, in a manner in which it stuck.  

The better teachers will evaluate what you're ready for.  Attempting a technique without proper knowledge of it's execution, preparation, or aftercare is a dangerous proposition.

 

akeppler

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2012, 10:37 PM »

The better teachers will evaluate what you're ready for.  Attempting a technique without proper knowledge of it's execution, preparation, or aftercare is a dangerous proposition.



Thats where I fall off. Even if just a theory I try it. Nothing ventured nothing gained. I feel that every technique had to be tried by someone sooner or later. I have not seen any technique done to a simple tree that would lead me to believe it was a dangerous proposition.

I feel more in danger when I get in my truck in the morning and enter the hiway to go to work. Now thats danger. Working on a tree, dead or alive is pure joy.
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: How about a juicy debate?
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2012, 10:44 PM »
I guess I should have added, "...for the tree."