Author Topic: Naka Split Off From Different Thread  (Read 1923 times)

jtucker

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Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« on: March 25, 2012, 12:52 PM »
So the conversation between Owen and Nathan http://bonsaistudygroup.com/general-discussion/how-about-a-juicy-debate/msg14564/ about the Naka books got me thinking. While I agree that there are some specifics in the book that are out-dated, I didn't find the books terribly dogmatic at all. In fact, I found them pretty liberating. Take his discussion of the formal upright style. While most people teach beginners to make it look like an asymmetrical Christmas tree, Naka offers a zillion different ways to go about formal upright with different deadwood configurations, etc.

Maybe I just ignored the dogmatic stuff and paid attention to the information that pertained to me at that point in my bonsai development...

Do you all feel like the problem with Naka's books are that the MATERIAL is dogmatic/presented dogmatically, or that people follow Naka's words dogmatically? Maybe both, maybe neither?

I don't think anyone here will deny that new, updated information is always helpful and important, but old information is still valid, too, right?
 

John Kirby

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Re: Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2012, 01:40 PM »
I think the Naka effect is kind of like the discussions surrounding biblical (Talmudic or Koranic, etc) literalisms. Personally, I enjoy te Naka texts for their look in to how a self taught person thoughtaboutbonsai and hw to teach it. I find the techniques from the Japanese professionals to be more effective. We were blessed to have had John Naka in the US.

John
 

Owen Reich

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Re: Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2012, 06:56 PM »
That is a very good point about the text being dogmatic or people following the text dogmatically.  I think it's a bit of both.  I bought an autographed copy of the first run of BT #1 just for the appreciation of it's value to American bonsai.  I've read both cover to cover a few times. My main criticism lies in his use of the word "never" or "all"  in situations that seem subjective.  "All bar branches are bad" for example.  I'm concerned that some parts may box a students mind into creating bonsai a certain way.  Other parts of the books I feel are amazing.
 

nathanbs

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Re: Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2012, 10:17 PM »
I loved the books and would recommend them to anyone thinking of getting into bonsai or that already does bonsai but doesnt really grasp the fundamental ideas and rules. My complaint is that there is a school of thought here in So. cal that pretty much encourages you to re-read the naka books over and over and dont try any new ideas or techniques as they wont work or minimally wont be as good as whats already in the books.(slight exaggeration)
 

Elliott

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Re: Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2012, 12:58 AM »
exactly. Nothing wrong with the books for newbies. It just some people go apeshit if you say there are other or more modern way to do things. They are Naka-ites to the core. The other day a newbie showed me his new tree (A stick in a shallow pot). I told him to get the Naka books and study them, then come back to me with that "stick". I did also tell him to get the Harry Harrington books (harryharrington.com). They are a more modern approach to developing material from scratch (for example, he does not say to make the apex of the tree as a minature little tree, and develop more natural branch forms more like a wild tree as opposed to a Japanese garden tree).
 I have read the Naka books cover to cover at least 7 or 8 times in the 20 years and I do pick up something new everytime.
I remember when I first went to club meetings, I watched John Naka do a demo for the Santa Anita club. Everybody brought a tree and he went thru all of them just discussing that species and some suggestions for that tree. I remember being blown away by the amount of sheer knowledge he had. He was already deaf by then, but you could write down your questions and he would answer them.
 There is always new stuff to learn. allot of the old Naka students are the teachers and leaders around here, and only a few of them are even interested in new ways and most of them still teach. One person who was a Naka student brings up his name so much in his (or her) demo's, that we developed a drinking game. You take a shot of something every time Nakasan is mentioned. By break you getting your stomach pumped.
 

Adair M

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Re: Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2012, 07:14 AM »
Back in the mid-80's, we would have John come to Atlanta for a clinic every year or maybe every other year.  We would save up our "best" big material to work on.  I had a nice big bald cypress that we carved to make a hollow trunk feature.

Now, maybe it was because we were working with more "advanced" material, I don't remember him being dogmatic about the "rules".  His great gift, I always thought, was his ability to see the future tree.  We always cherished the drawings he would make of our workshop tree after we had done the initial styling.  We would use it as a styling guide in future years.

I also have his azalea book.  In it he uses whips and lots of wire to start azalea bonsai.
 

Owen Reich

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Re: Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2012, 11:42 PM »
I was referring to the books and not him in person.  My tone when writing is a bit different than the way I act in person and I'd imagine he was the same.  My older bonsai friends always bring up his sense of humor and devotion to his work.  I think bonsai is a difficult subject matter to write about.   I suppose my main goal here was to see how others felt about the way information was presented in his books. 

My first teacher I paid for bonsai instruction was Warren Hill.  I had just finished reading BT 1 before taking s 2-day intro course.  Day 2 I brought my book and "read along" with him through the moyogi and slant style sections  ;).  I respect Warren a great deal and some of his forest plantings are the best I've ever seen.   
 

jtucker

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Re: Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2012, 11:52 PM »
I agree with Nathan that some folks here in Southern California tend to deify Mr. Naka. As I read through some responses, I recall myself thinking, "Now that was pretty dang clever!" for several things he explained in the book. Maybe those were "secret techniques" at some point, or maybe they were just his solutions to various bonsai problems, or maybe they were what everyone in Japan had already know for years.

Maybe another large value of the BT books is that, because all of those techniques and artistic ideas were codified and written down in one place, it challenged more people to say, "Hmmm, maybe I can do this better/more efficiently if I just tried it this way..." Or even people saying, "That's crazy! I do it like this and it's way more effective."If Mr. Naka just sat doing bonsai his way in his yard, and only taught people that came to him and wanted to learn his way, then he wouldn't have done nearly as much to further the art in the USA.
 

nathanbs

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Re: Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2012, 10:04 AM »
If Naka were immortal im sure we would definitely have a BT 3 and maybe even BT 4 by now as he would have learned more and he would have wanted to update his techniques in writing. Unfortunately that is not the case so many are stuck and limiting themselves to whats within BT1 and BT2.  Thats ok in some parts of the world where you dont have access to further techniques but for the most part in the US we have plenty of great new sources of info. Some just need to open their eyes and their arms and welcome it.
 

John Kirby

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Re: Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2012, 10:52 AM »
John Naka was a very kind and gentle man. He was a pleasure to interact with, even late in life and was a true ambassador for bonsai in America. I was vending at the ABS/BCI convention in St Louis right after he passed away in 2004. Roy Nagatoshi was asked to speak about John Naka and his passing to the convention banquet, the true pain that Roy expressed was a confirmation of the great loyalty and friendship that was held between John Naka and his students and friends. That notwithstanding, Bonsai has moved well beyond the technical level presented in his books. For example, think of how we manage JBP and Junipers now. We essentially "pinch" JBPs every summer to remove the spring candles and stimulate summer candles for short needles and feed and water them aggressively, vs withholding fertilizer and water to control needle growth, and we have pretty much stopped pinching Junipers except the season before a show to maintain the health and well being of the tree, not to style it. I am sure that he would have adopted these techniques, he just aged and then passed. I do wish that I would hear less about how "Naka would have done it" from folks who assume that he would be doing it the same way he did in 70's and 80's and not how he would have done if he had seen how the more modern approaches work. If you look at his work, he certainly was not static in his approach. I guess what I am saying, it's not John Naka's fault that folks don't believe that he would have been progressive if given the chance.
 

Elliott

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Re: Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2012, 11:51 AM »
Absolutely. John was cutting edge at the time and would be now if he were still active. No one is disputing that and if he could post here, he would agree.
 Some day, people will probably say that what Ryan, Boon, walter Pall, and even What Kimura are doing are the old ways and there will be people that will refuse to admit that( maybe us, LOL)!
 

Owen Reich

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Re: Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2012, 11:57 PM »
Well put John.  I suppose people will do what they are most compfortable with. 
 

Chrisl

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Re: Naka Split Off From Different Thread
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2012, 09:49 AM »
Interesting thread guys!  I didn't know anything about the man, his influence in S. Cal, or the rigidity of some people sticking to 'the rules'.  I've read them twice and prob. need to again.  Knowing the 'rules' doesn't mean it's the only way, esp. with collected material.