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graham
06-12-2006, 06:17 PM
I've just come back from class (my first after an initial observation) and was surprised that every time I asked my 'partner' for clarificaton on what I was doing wrong, etc., the reply was, "Only Sensei can teach."

I understand the reasoning (and folks were generally helpful otherwise), but is this standard practice?

Mark Uttech
06-12-2006, 06:27 PM
yes it is very good standard practice for keeping order in the dojo

Karen Wolek
06-12-2006, 06:33 PM
This practice is highly encouraged in my dojo. If the person has a general idea, most of the time we are to "shut up and take ukemi." And if it's a brand new person, better to show them or move them than to start talking.

giriasis
06-12-2006, 07:00 PM
I've just come back from class (my first after an initial observation) and was surprised that every time I asked my 'partner' for clarificaton on what I was doing wrong, etc., the reply was, "Only Sensei can teach."

I understand the reasoning (and folks were generally helpful otherwise), but is this standard practice?

It's standard in most dojo, but not all. Where I train the sensei encourages the more advanced to help out the more new. And he will specifically request that more senior students choose more new partners during our basics classes. But, I also notice that he keeps a keen eye and if the more senior partner is having a hard time he will step into explain. And on a few occaisions where the newer person would ignore me he would repeat what I said, and on others I've been off base in my explanation. However, I also pay attention to how he is explaining the technique to the newbie so I can do a better job of it next time.

As a result of this, I do a lot better when my partners verbally express their points.

Laurel Seacord
06-12-2006, 07:38 PM
The custom in my dojo, and in Ki Society dojos in general here, is very different. Every student shows kohai, by demonstrating and as far as possible in words, how to improve their ukemi and waza. Much in the same way we show newbies how to tie their obi, and when it comes time, how to wear and fold hakama.

The teachers often quote from Tohei-sensei, "What you learn today, you can teach another the next day".

crbateman
06-12-2006, 07:47 PM
I'm not sure that all could make it that cut-and-dried. The sempai/kohai relationship means different things in different systems, different dojos, and different people. While the judgment of the teacher is ultimately the defining factor, many teachers encourage this sort of "mentoring" on the part of the higher ranks, as long as it is done in a giving, helpful, not-condescending spirit. Part of the training for senior students is to learn HOW to teach, as it is rare that one wakes up one morning simply able to do it. Being able to pass knowledge and experience down the line is an important way to give back to the art that gives to you. That said, it is still up to the teacher to decide if, by whom, and to what degree this is done, and it is disrespectful for any student to openly criticize or undermine the teacher, on or off the mat.

Jeff Sodeman
06-12-2006, 10:16 PM
In my opinion the issue isn't teaching on the mat so much as doing it through talking. One of the biggest things a beginner in aikido learns is how to learn. The ability to see something, feel something, and then try to do it.

Aikido quickly grows beyond things that can be verbally communicated easily, and after that moves beyond things that can even be seen.

That said, some people think and learn verbally, and for those a few words combined with showing and doing might be necessary at the right times. I just hate to look around the mat and see people talking instead of training, I've see beginners miss getting to even try a technique because they were being "taught" by their partner through the whole round.

So I think it's easier to have a "no teaching on the mat" rule and let it slide when it's not a problem than to not have a rule and have to shut a sempai up in front of their partner.

Tom Johnson
06-12-2006, 10:57 PM
I don't know what's tradition and what's not, but I just started my Aikido journey a couple weeks ago, and since Sensei can't devote all his teaching towards me, I learn a large amount from the more experienced students that I work with.

I think I'd prefer that, so I'm learning all the time, not only when Sensei can give me personal attention.

Dirk Hanss
06-13-2006, 02:01 AM
If you do not learn from your partner, there is no need to have partner practice. You can do Karate-like kihon waza with imaginary uke (or nage) or use dummies.

While it is good behaviour not to chat, the one who thinks, he understood the technique, can support by demonstrating. If the other one has no clue at all, a short verbal hint might be OK, but this depends on the dojo rules.

I would never try to do anything but good ukemi, when I realise, that sensei is watching.

What if sensei is watching us and I do not recognise? Well, he steps in, corrects my partner, and my mistakes, and maybe he tells me to shut up. But my major fault i not chatting, but lack in zanshin, in the meaning of not focussing only on my partner and the technique, but the whole dojo. ;)

Just my opinion, how I live it and what is mostly accepted by partners and sensei in different dojo. Of course, I have to adopt to the specific dojo rules, even if they are not formal. That is a part of learning aikido - feel the finest reaction and adapt your technique accordingly. I am far away from perfect, but I am going forward, step by step.


Dirk

justin
06-13-2006, 02:58 AM
I've just come back from class (my first after an initial observation) and was surprised that every time I asked my 'partner' for clarificaton on what I was doing wrong, etc., the reply was, "Only Sensei can teach."

I understand the reasoning (and folks were generally helpful otherwise), but is this standard practice?


Without knowing what you was doing right or wrong its hard to call, this happens to me often and if I am way of the mark with what I think the movement is my partner will say better ask sensei if it is a slight alteration I find they make the comment, itís a kind of fine balance we have achieved through regular practice together, I am very fortunate that I train with a great bunch of people.

Knowing your partner helps a lot as I am sure we have all been there, suggest something and get shot down for making an honest observation donít suggest it and get criticized for not helping, so sometimes saying nothing is the easy way out.

Yann Golanski
06-13-2006, 03:45 AM
So, you would rather have your partner perform a technique that does not work than offering him/her some advice as to how to make the technique work?... <psycho penguins>Well, that sucks</psycho penguins>.

If you can do a technique then you can teach it. For me, that's the definition of knowing something. If neither of you can teach it then how about looking at another pair to work out what they are doing? How about trying and asking for feedback? How about asking sensei or another older student? Maybe sensei did not explain it right? *SHOCKER*

There's a world apart between relevant talk on the mat (feedback, compliment, advice to improve technique) and just messing about cause you don't have camera time. The first one is fine, the second not so much.

Mark Freeman
06-13-2006, 04:04 AM
I've just come back from class (my first after an initial observation) and was surprised that every time I asked my 'partner' for clarificaton on what I was doing wrong, etc., the reply was, "Only Sensei can teach."

I understand the reasoning (and folks were generally helpful otherwise), but is this standard practice?

Hi Graham,

the first step on the never ending path has been taken. :) Many things will be unfamiliar, confusing and generally weird for quite a while.

The best thing to do is just relax and take on board the dojo rules, they will become second nature in time.

The 'only sensei can teach' paradigm is a good one, as the extreme alternative would be for everyone to be doing it, and that would be chaotic at best. The whole atmosphere and wellbeing of the dojo is the teachers resposibility, safety is also a consideration.
This should be a general rule accepted by all the students. It maintains the harmony we need to practice correctly.

Of course there may be times when the teacher instructs a higher grade to help out a beginner or lower grade, but it is at the teachers discression.

There seems to be a period ( around 3rd kyu ) when students feel they are 'starting to get it', and are very keen to 'show/tell' the beginners 'how' it should be done. Their confidence is misplaced and their 'teaching' ability is not based on true understanding. Luckily this phase passes and humility kicks in, when they progress a bit further. By shodan most folks will tell you that they know enough to understand how much they don't know! :confused:

-Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon, or is it just me? :D

regards,

Mark

graham
06-13-2006, 04:55 AM
Thanks for all of the comments, folks. I should clarify that I didn't mean this as a criticism in the slightest. (As if I could challenge how things were done in my first week!)

It just struck me as odd because I spend much of my time in an environment where I helping people to move beyond old authoritarian modes of practice into thinking for ourselves (meaning, learning-together, not solely on our own). However, a lot of what has been said makes complete sense. I guess, in the end, each dojo (even each class and group of people) is going to have its own culture, ethos and emphases. I just need to get used to that! :-)

MikeLogan
06-13-2006, 07:52 AM
I personally prefer the model described by Anne-Marie,
1 Sensei demonstrates technique.
2 We get started for a bit.
3 After a few cycles if there are problems or questions, commentary, or we seek the teacher's advice, at which point sensei calls class to pay attention so they can clarify once, instead of repeating themselves over and over.

If geographically and schedually (New Word?) possible, Graham, I would recommend looking for other training locations just to see if any dovetail with your career-path of:helping people to move beyond old authoritarian modes of practice into thinking for ourselves

While sensei is the go-to guy/gal when the question needs resolution, if all you get from your training partner is "I'm not allowed to tell", it could get tedious most ricky tick. Then again my early aikido experience was with a small group of nidan, sensei included, and one 1st kyu, all of whom are PhD researchers at a government lab. They had the verbal skill to discuss the complex portions of technique, and at that point I was lacking in the physiological vocabulary, so it helped a lot.

As they say, your mileage may vary.

Dennis Good
06-13-2006, 07:59 AM
I am firmly on the side of the fence that encourages students to help one another learn. First, to teach another will cause one to think more in depth about the technique and give a deeper understanding of the technique. Second, my teaching style comes from my Bando instructor from many years ago. His philosophy was that you start by teaching the framework of a technique. No subtle points just the basic movements. At this point in the PROCESS it is helpful for the students to work together and figure it out . In essence teaching each other. If one has seen the technique before, so much the better. When the student can do that the instructor points out the 3 and only 3 biggest points to be worked on. Once they get that you point out the next 3, so on and so forth. At this stage actual instruction between students is not so important but proper feedback is. The further into the process you get the more important this becomes. If one student is losing control at a certain point or is yanking the arm, they need their partner to inform them so they can work it out or ask for assistance, and not just take ukemi and hope they figure it out. That in my opinion is cheating your partner and yourself of a valuable learning experience.
I think a lot of the reason for the "Only Sensei can teach" thing is they don't want one student to teach another the "wrong" way. That is fine but even if the instructor is the only one to teach and they teach it the "right" way that doesn't mean the student will do it the "right" way. It is a long process of learning and refinement. Eventually each student must find what works for them through analyzing the techniques, breaking it down. This type of critical thinking should start as early as possible. Third, I believe being able to teach is so important for each persons development that on occasion I will have a class where I will have each person that is Sankyu or higher teach a technique to the class. These are just my thoughts on the matter.

Dennis

happysod
06-13-2006, 08:16 AM
I can understand this one as occasionally I've banned all verbal communication for one or two techniques after seeing one poor little 6th kyu being effectively harangued by well meaning, but contradictory advice given at high speed by not just one, but two more senior people. It was a bit like watching a verbal version of "when sharks attack".

All in favor of communication in general though.

Mark - so you get humility from your lot, lucky bugger, mine just seem to want to hit me harder.

Brian Vickery
06-13-2006, 08:41 AM
I've just come back from class (my first after an initial observation) and was surprised that every time I asked my 'partner' for clarificaton on what I was doing wrong, etc., the reply was, "Only Sensei can teach."

I understand the reasoning (and folks were generally helpful otherwise), but is this standard practice?

Having "Only Sensei teach" is a good way to prevent Shadow Teaching.

Shadow teaching is when a student shows his own version of a technique being taught by an instructor. But he may not be aware of the reasons why a technique is being taught in a certain way, or in what direction the instructor is planning on taking during the class based on a technique being performed in a very specific way. His shadow teaching may interfere with this process, or at least, cause confusion with his partner/student.

But there's a big difference between helping a new student get the basic movements down on a particular technique and a sempai shadow teaching during a class.

Also, if a student isn't comfortable elaborating on a technique and redirects your question to the instructor, that's much better than him winging it & giving you bad information.

odudog
06-13-2006, 12:59 PM
This so called shadow teaching is the problem with the senior student and not the dojo. I have told all the people at my dojo that I am doing something different so don't follow/copy me, do what the Sensei is teaching. I do a lot of research and it's not very often that I researched a different way of doing a technique then we just happen to do that technique in class. I then have to steal that opportunity and do it the new way that I just researched so that I can actually learn the nuances of the new version. We have the freedom to help out our partners wether they are junior or colleagues. The few times that I haven't said a word is when my partners, one in particular, gets very concerned for they are wondering if they are really doing it the way that was just instructed.

Brian Vickery
06-13-2006, 01:23 PM
...I do a lot of research and it's not very often that I researched a different way of doing a technique then we just happen to do that technique in class. I then have to steal that opportunity and do it the new way that I just researched so that I can actually learn the nuances of the new version...

Mike,

I'm assuming you're doing this with the approval & permission of your instructor, if not, you really should talk to him about this. Doesn't your dojo have advanced classes for such things?

And by the way, what you've described is NOT shadow teaching. Please re-read the description of it to see the difference.

Best of luck with your training!

Mark Freeman
06-13-2006, 04:16 PM
Mark - so you get humility from your lot, lucky bugger, mine just seem to want to hit me harder.

LOL :D

I'll send you up a few of my pixies they will work for you for food and the occasional treat, with them on your side you will command some serious respect. :cool: ;)

cheers

Mark

odudog
06-13-2006, 07:34 PM
Brian,
I play around with techniques during class on my own. I don't discuss it with my Senseis. I'm positive that they have seen what I've been doing and haven't said anything to me about it {were are not very big}. We don't have advance classes at my dojo. This is going to cause a problem for us pretty soon for there is 6 of us that are going for Shodan next year and the rest of the mates are pretty far behind us. I just happen to be the most advanced out of the 6 in terms of Aikido. I had studied a different style of Aikido a very long time ago and when I came to this dojo a couple of years ago, one of the instructors could tell right away that I wasn't exactly new to the art. I have several books and DVDs of different styles of Aikido that I incorporate into what I do. So when I am playing around, either experimenting with a new way of doing a technique or just doing the technique in the way that is already ingrained in my body and is different from what the Sensei has just demonstrated, I tell my uke not to study what I'm doing and to do it the way Sensei is teaching it.

mathewjgano
06-13-2006, 10:22 PM
Some dojos are very strict about certain things; maybe from past experiences which necessitated such restriction. I've been to 3 different dojos to train and all three had sempai giving me explanations when I seemed to need it. But, I've been given advice from students who thought they understood a movement, but were a little off too, so there's a fine line and double-edged sword to that method. I do know that as a beginner I had more questions than could really be answered, so to a certain extent, I really dig the "shut up and train" mentality. Questions are never bad in my opinion, but sometimes, too, one has to have enough experience before one can develop familiarity with the language and concepts used.

topan tantudo
06-14-2006, 01:38 AM
In my Dojo. ussualyy after a session of practice the students can ask about the waza they just thought. Like what is the advantages of the waza.

The answer can be answered by senpai, but after the permissions from the sensei, so the traditions can be kept.

i think it would be better if you ask to sensei than to your senpai.

Steve Mullen
06-14-2006, 05:24 AM
In the dojo i train in, (and in white rose ing general) newbies and lower grades are actively encouraged to train with the higeher grades and ask their advice on technique. When Sensei Cassidy (a.k.a Sean Cassidy) gets a new student he tells a senior grade to teach them a certain technique at the side of the mat, and if by the end of the class the newbie hasn't got it, the higher grade gets a beasting in randori

Its not necessarily the higher grades teaching the newbies, as the technique is demonstrated first, its more helping out. How can anyone expect to be able to teach, when they are a sensei, if they are never given the chance to learn when they are a sempai?

DonMagee
06-14-2006, 08:12 AM
In larger classes it could be impossible to only have one instructor. Imagine trying to give person instruction to 100 white belts. In a smaller class I could see the only sensei teaches thing working. But in a larger class, sensei is going to need some help. If only due to time constraints.

Where I trained it was open. Our teacher encourages helping each other and really encourages feedback from uke. But they were a small close group of guys and everyone really knew everyone else's skill level. In a slightly larger class I could see issues.

My bjj class has about 50 students with 25-30 training at any given time. Our instructor recently sat us down and let us know that while he will always teach the class, it is impossible to give the same level of personal attention to each one of us. And not to get upset if he is spending more time with a higher rank guy going to a competition then he is to a guy who just does it as a hobby. He enouraged us to find higher ranked mentors and use them when he was busy.

DaveS
06-14-2006, 08:45 AM
Its not necessarily the higher grades teaching the newbies, as the technique is demonstrated first, its more helping out.
Yes... those of you who have said that only sensei teaches, does that mean that if an inexperienced nage keeps twisting the wrist the wrong way for kote gaesh or trying to aigame ate with the wrong hand, you just sit there while they do it until sensei comes over and stops them? Or are you thinking of a slightly higher level of teaching?

We definitely have everyone passing on what they know.

kokyu
06-14-2006, 09:25 AM
If the Sensei is nearby, I always encourage the student to ask the Sensei, no matter how basic the problem, as Sensei should be the model.

I tend to agree with the other posters that it may be difficult for Sensei to give full attention to each student when the class is big. Having said that though, I will point out big mistakes (such as not facing tori during nikkyo ura or not cutting down completely in shihonage - all of which can lead to serious injury). I am more cautious when pointing out subtler points (such as turning the inner shoulder in ikkyo omote or focusing the energy at uke's kuzushi point), because the student may need more practice in the basics/these details may confuse him/or more importantly, I may be wrong about the finer points :)

Karen Wolek
06-14-2006, 11:49 AM
Yes... those of you who have said that only sensei teaches, does that mean that if an inexperienced nage keeps twisting the wrist the wrong way for kote gaesh or trying to aigame ate with the wrong hand, you just sit there while they do it until sensei comes over and stops them? Or are you thinking of a slightly higher level of teaching?

We definitely have everyone passing on what they know.

Well, I'm only 2nd kyu so I don't know a whole lot just yet. I will point a newbie in the general direction, but leave the major teaching to Sensei. He sees most of what goes on, anyway....the biggest class we usually have is around 21 people, but generally we have less than 12. Our dojo is quite young, so at 2nd kyu I am one of the seniors. :eek:

I'm also kenshusei, though...so I'm supposed to be learning to teach. So a lot of times, I'm meant to teach more, especially with newbies. Sometimes I'm confident, other times I'm not quite sure how to help. Then I give Sensei my "help" look. ;)

From our dojo handbook:

In general keep conversation to a minimum. If you have a question, attempt to ask the Sensei. If the Sensei is busy, ask your partner. If you are explaining something and the Sensei comes around, it is proper to stop talking and allow the Sensei to observe and comment on the technique.

And:

People come to practice, not to be instructed by their partners. Focus on your own practice and sincere attacks.In general do not instruct each other, but if your are working with a beginner, or if someone asks for help, then help them if you can.

The best way to help is by moving through the ukemi part of the technique. If you don't know enough to know how to do this, you don't know enough to help - so ask the Sensei for help.

And:

Focus on what you can do to facilitate your partner's learning rather than on correcting them.


So that's where I'm coming from. Every dojo is different. Another dojo I frequent, there is way too much teaching on the mat and it drives me INSANE! LOL!

Lucy Smith
06-15-2006, 11:26 AM
I didn't have time to read what you all wrote so I'm sorry if I'm repeating something that has already been said.
In my dojo we have a very open atmosphere. Sensei always tells the newbies that "we don't speak if we don't need to and we are not disrespectful, but we can always laugh, respectfully of course". So sempai are always explaining which I as a newbie find very useful, we laugh about mistakes and about every funny thing, and I know we shouldn't talk about no Aikido related stuff but we are teens and kids so we do it anyways. And Sensei jumps into the conversation every once in a while.
In conclusion: we have a very nice time, we are relaxed and free and we get along with everyone.

Lyle Bogin
06-15-2006, 02:01 PM
I think there are a few learning/teaching tracks running at the same time at Shin Budo Kai. There's the main track, where everyone is trying to imitate Imaizumi Sensei. Then there is a pack of very experienced aikidoists who could each run a school on their own if they chose to. They patiently teach as best they can, and we try to listen. There is the "do your own thing" mind set that Imaizumi also encourages in his teaching. So there's a lot of self-teaching (*gong!*) going on. No two high level students under Imaizumi Sensei do their aikido alike! Sometimes its frustrating...who should you listen to?...but I think the overall experience leads to a freedom from the more superficial aspects of each technique.

I have been in environments where "sensei is the only teacher" and would not return to one again.

I suppose one environment in which a "sensei's word only" may be helpful is with kids (depending on age), or when opening a new school and creating a student body from the ground up. So I suppose my bias is now towards schools that have been around for a while.

Mark Freeman
06-16-2006, 12:46 PM
and I know we shouldn't talk about no Aikido related stuff but we are teens and kids so we do it anyways.

quite right too Lucy, gotta keep the adults ( who are only big kids really ;) ) on their toes! :D

regards,

Mark