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milesc
07-05-2006, 02:57 PM
I have read/heard more than once now that instructors seem to favor having students struggle through techniques at the early levels of aikido.

Being new to aikido, I'd like to know why? If I were to teach someone to bake a cake I wouldn't bake 4 cakes in front of them, 2 chocolate and 2 yellow then say "Bake me a cake, yellow or chocolate your choice".

Demetrio Cereijo
07-05-2006, 03:00 PM
Some use this method, some not.

John Boswell
07-05-2006, 03:07 PM
To learn from mistakes, Miles.

You can show someone how to do something... but do you just keep showing them over and over and expect them to learn? At some point, Aikido has to be something you DO. You're instructor will show you a couple times and then ask you to try it. You are not expected to do it right the first time. Helll.... Ikkyo is known by many as "The 30 year Technique" because after 30years, you should be able to understand it.

Besides, if you struggle with something, it forces you to ask yourself "why?" You go to do Shihonage and the person keeps standing up on you. Are you not extending? are you letting your hands get behind you and they pull YOU off? The struggle is part of the journey.

milesc
07-05-2006, 03:08 PM
@Demetrio

Fair enough, I've just seen it stated here, in articles on the web and in the dojo i train in. So there must be a logic or method that fuels the statement and I'm curious about it. I just finished reading Ross Robert's article on The 20 Year Technique and it seems to somewhat ask/answer the same question so I know that there are opposing views.

That being said, I'd still like to know what the goal is from instructors who feel this training approach is appropriate. Does it weed out the unworthy? Does it enable more students in a room since there is less one on one teaching?

milesc
07-05-2006, 03:16 PM
@John Boswell

I can understand learning from mistakes. Heck the best exercise for learning to put your guard up is to get hit in the face a few times.

How can you learn that you are making mistakes if you don't know how to begin? Every martial art starts with a basis in precise technical manuvers and steps. If a newbie does't know where to begin then how can they "continue the journey"?

James Davis
07-05-2006, 03:17 PM
That being said, I'd still like to know what the goal is from instructors who feel this training approach is appropriate. Does it weed out the unworthy? Does it enable more students in a room since there is less one on one teaching?

I don't think it's done to weed anyone out; O' sensei said that aikido was for everyone, right? :)

I questioned this method at first too. Many times I thought, "It's so simple! Why the heck didn't he just tell me?!" :p

For what it's worth, I believe that figuring it out for myself makes learning something much more fulfilling. ;)

Demetrio Cereijo
07-05-2006, 03:19 PM
I don't think this method should be used at early levels (while the basics are not ingrained), after that, go for it.

milesc
07-05-2006, 03:24 PM
@ James Davies

For what it's worth, I believe that figuring it out for myself makes learning something much more fulfilling.

That's pretty much the statement I hear from everyone who makes it past the "hazing". I don't discount it either as that level of fulfillment in accomplishment is huge. Yet I personally get that same feeling as I train everyday, as I learn new things about techniques and concepts I have practiced for years. Even more so when I discover something about a technique that should have been completely apparent when I learned it!

Yet none of that fulfillment would ever have occured if I hadn't had "hand holding" to teach me the basics. Fluidity and making the art my own, in my opinion, can only come after being taught and making the basics second nature.

Showing someone how to do something once or twice then putting them on the floor with another novice partner just doesn't seem to be a good use of time to me. Add that to the idea that "only Sensei teaches" and you end up with 2 people standing and staring at one another for 5 minutes.

(edited to finish my thought and correct spelling)

dps
07-05-2006, 07:04 PM
Its not hazing.
"When someone tells you something it is his when you experience it it is yours".

From ' Sword of No Blade' by Joan Baxter. :)

milesc
07-05-2006, 08:51 PM
Its not hazing.

Ok, then what is it? Having two novices stare at one another can hardly be considered teaching. Having a novice stand around and not know what to do next is not much better.

If you can identify with the situation and mentality enough to discount it as not hazing then what is the intent through this teaching method?

I don't want to come off as aggressive but posting a 1 line dissenting opinion followed by a quote doesn't leave much other room for discourse. Unless of course you mean to say that novices should be taking ukemi but if neither knows how to be nage then again, it is still unsuccessful.

Nick P.
07-05-2006, 09:02 PM
Your cake analogy is a good one, but take it a step further;
It's a class on how to bake a cake.
The teacher starts by showing the class how to break an egg into a bowl.
No we all try. Some use too much force, some not enough, half of us get egg and shell into or onto the side of the bowl, the rest of us dont even break the egg or loose them down our pants.
The resulting cakes are obviously a mixed bag of results.

The next class, the teacher begins again by showing everyone how to break an egg into a bowl. And so on.

Making the egg-breaking second nature is up to the student, by doing it time and time again. The journey is not liking the feeling of being the only person who does not get it, but still showing up class after class. Even if the teacher comes and breaks your egg each and every class, eventually everyone arrives at the ability to break it properly. Just do your best. No waiting for precise technique, no absolutes, just do it the best you can.

"Every martial art starts with a basis in precise technical manuvers and steps."

1-Enter
2-Blend
3-Throw or pin

Not only is that precise, it's simple. Why can't I do it? Is it because my teacher let me flounder, or is it because I have not yet mastered it as I inevitably will?

"Yet none of that fulfillment would ever have occured if I hadn't had "hand holding" to teach me the basics."

None? None at all? Ever?

The analogy I have recently begun to like is the one of a stock-car racer. It's easy, right? Turn left, don't hit the walls, don't hit the other cars, go fast. Even if the budding drivers go out with seasoned pro's riding shotgun, eventually the newbie has to go it alone, because it is alone they fully understand what THEY are doing, not by being told or shown by anyone else.

Yes, others can help and prod and sheppard, but the student is ultimately in charge of their own training.

"Having two novices stare at one another can hardly be considered teaching."

It is; the students need to get it in their heads that they should sit down and watch, or get started and trust their teacher will do what is best for them.

Miles, if you don't want other's opinions on the matter, I suggest you start a thread entitled
"Newbies should not struggle; all nay-sayers abstain from posting."

Not "Newbies should struggle? I'd like to know why?"

dps
07-05-2006, 09:17 PM
Ok, then what is it? Having two novices stare at one another can hardly be considered teaching. Having a novice stand around and not know what to do next is not much better.

If you can identify with the situation and mentality enough to discount it as not hazing then what is the intent through this teaching method?

I identify with the situation. I felt the same as you until I realized this,
Why are you standing around and staring. Is that what sensei just demonstrated. Didn't someone ( your sensei ) show you something? Aren't the other people in the room doing what sensei did.
You are learning to watch, pay attention, and imitate. Don't just stand there, do something. If it is wrong someone will tell you what do do. If nobody tells you what you are doing wrong ( hard to believe :) ) then speak up and ask sensei.

Can anybody else identify with the situation?

P.S. I thought my quote was pithy.

milesc
07-05-2006, 09:20 PM
Miles, if you don't want other's opinions on the matter, I suggest you start a thread entitled
"Newbies should not struggle; all nay-sayers abstain from posting."

Actually aside from the snipe, your post gives more insight to the mentality.

In response to your snipe - If you do not ask the question and push the boundary then what use is an open forum? The question is legitimate and perhaps unpalatable to some who feel this is the right way to teach. I happen to disagree but instead of saying "this is wrong" I ask for insight from those who believe in it. I may not agree with them but the point is the discussion, if you feel I haven't been open to other opinion simply because I have rebutted single line responses, I again disagree with you.

akiy
07-05-2006, 09:48 PM
Hi Miles,

I'm personally a bit confused as to exactly what you saw that prompted your questions, since I find words such as "having student struggle" and "hazing" to be too vague as well as already loaded.

Can you please clarify, as impartially as possible, what you observed with your own eyes?

Perhaps, then, some of us would have a more concrete understanding of your position and then be able to address the issues directly.

-- Jun

milesc
07-05-2006, 10:10 PM
I'm personally a bit confused as to exactly what you saw that prompted your questions, since I find words such as "having student struggle" and "hazing" to be too vague as well as already loaded.

@Jun

The statement of "having the student struggle" is a direct quote from this message board. I have heard the exact same words spoken in the Aikido dojo I train in. The concept of showing techniques a couple of times and then expecting students to execute is again in the dojo I train in but that sentiment seems to also be held by others who have replied.

I know at least 1 teacher from my dojo frequents this board, it was his postings that actually made want to see and join this particular dojo. Hence, I really don't want to get too specific in the cases I'm talking about because I am more interested in the logic and/or intent than my own particular situation. My school is teaching me in its own way and I agreed to that method when I signed up.

I don't think that agreeing to learn from someone should prevent me from learning more about about their methodologies though. Aikido is new to me but martial arts is not. This entire post is intended to learn more about a recurring theme that I read on this message board, hear in my dojo and read in other articles.

If it is too candid a question or statement, that criticism is welcome as well but I do not think I have been inflammatory. If I have come across that way, I apologize.

edited for horrific grammer as well as possible

wmreed
07-05-2006, 10:13 PM
@John Boswell

I can understand learning from mistakes. Heck the best exercise for learning to put your guard up is to get hit in the face a few times.

How can you learn that you are making mistakes if you don't know how to begin? Every martial art starts with a basis in precise technical maneuvers and steps. If a newbie doesn't know where to begin then how can they "continue the journey"?

I, like Jun, am curious as to what you're talking about here. I've never been to an aikido class in which the instructor said, "Try to figure out aikido" without demonstrating something, which is how I'm reading your statement here.

You started the forum discussion by saying that senseis have students"struggle through techniques at the early levels of aikido." For the record, in my case, they continue to challenge me -- even after (perhaps especially after) receiving my shodan.

My initial impression was that your sensei showed a technique, then asked you to try and duplicate it, without much specific guidance. That's a legitimate teaching style.

However, your following posts state that you "don't know where to begin." So, please describe what's going on in more detail please. Something isn't right.

milesc
07-05-2006, 10:20 PM
My initial impression was that your sensei showed a technique, then asked you to try and duplicate it, without much specific guidance. That's a legitimate teaching style.


Please expound. It is legitimate just because someone does it or was taught that way? What values are you trying to instill with this teaching method? What is the intent in giving less guidance? Keep in mind I'm not talking about life long learning or color belts who don't know techniques they have tested for. I'm talking about novices and newcomers to the art of Aikido.

DonMagee
07-05-2006, 10:22 PM
I think this stems from the feeling a lot of people have that the Japanese learn though this method. They believe you should just experience the technique and then from that feeling replicate it on your partner. You read a lot about people just getting nowhere for years then suddenly 'getting it'. This is most likely because most teachers teach similar to how they were taught and do not put much thought into how to improve their training methods. They do what their teachers did under the name of tradition. They are also afraid that changing the way they teach will be a slap in the face to their instructor.

I've been told many times 'This is how I learned to do it, just keep at it and you will get it" in my life. I believe this is wrong and a waste of time. However this is how a lot of martial arts seem to be taught. I believe we have learned how to better educate the mind and body in the last 50+ years and it would be a good idea to apply this to martial arts.

milesc
07-05-2006, 10:37 PM
@ David

Thanks for clarifying your statement. Allow me to do the same.

My question isn't "what should I do", I'm more interested in what drives a teacher to teach this way? There is obviously some lesson that is intended and I'd like to know what others think it is since I see the concept repeated throughout this discussions on this art. I do have my own opinion on what the intent is and I think it can achieved in other methods but as I mentioned in an earlier post, for me this is all about learning more about *this* art and its directions.

I suspect people have misunderstood my question as "I'm having a hard time as a newbie" when I'm really trying to understand the principles behind the teaching methods.

wmreed
07-05-2006, 10:45 PM
Please expound. It is legitimate just because someone does it or was taught that way? What values are you trying to instill with this teaching method? What is the intent in giving less guidance? Keep in mind I'm not talking about life long learning or color belts who don't know techniques they have tested for. I'm talking about novices and newcomers to the art of Aikido.
Now this is a question I can answer. Thanks for being more specific.

I have found that aikido is not a "thing to be memorized" like the multiplication tables. It is instead, more like a story problem, with more than one means by which you can solve it.

In my elementary classroom, the children are encouraged to think, to experiment, and to discover how math works. Does it take longer than saying "If there's an 'and' you almost always add." Yes, it takes longer, but only for that particular problem. In the long run, they learn more about how numbers work, and can then apply that knowledge in more than one situation.

I hope that the correlation to learning aikido is clear. Do you need some basics? Of course! Just as you need to know how to count in order to do story problems, you need to have some basic instruction.

But in aikido it might be: "Watch this." And you watch what you're shown, then try to do it. If you can't, ask your partner for suggestions. If they cannot help, ask sensei for suggestions. But make your questions specific.

If my 5th grade student said, "What's the answer to problem #1?" I'd never give the simple reply. I'd say, "How do you think you should start?" and usually followed by the question, "Why do you think that?"

If my aikido student says, "It's not working," I ask them why they think that is. I may show them again, I may let them take ukemi from me. But there's no way they can learn aikido from being told what to do. They MUST experiment and find it. And it's worth repeating a statement made earlier in the thread, "You are learning to watch, pay attention, and imitate."

And to be honest, I will give them more direction than you claim to be getting. That doesn't mean I'm more correct as a teacher, just that I have a different style.

I'm still curious as to what your sensei IS doing before you're expected to try it out.

dps
07-05-2006, 11:12 PM
I... when I'm really trying to understand the principles behind the teaching methods.
You are like a newborn baby. Babies learn by sight and imitation.
People rely on their sense of sight more than any other sense. In other words you learn by seeing, more than by listening. Someone demonstrating something can convey more information than speaking.
Hang a coat on a hanger and put it on a door knob. Not tell another person to pretend that he or she does not know how to put on a coat. Proceed to instruct that person to take the coat off the hanger and put the coat on correctly. Time how long it takes.

Do the same experiment only this time show the person how to put the coat on. Time how long it takes.

Don't get caught up in trying to understand verbally or intellectually what is going on. Practice and focus on what is being taught and you will understand with time.

milesc
07-05-2006, 11:30 PM
@William

Thank you. That's a great add to this discussion and answer to my question.

As said above, I think readers are misinterpreting my question as "What should I do because I'm having a hard time?". I know what I agreed to and my instructors are good people.

That doesn't preclude me from having an opinion on their teaching method though. I aspire to one day teach myself; I have never learned more than when explaining a technique to someone who doesn't know it.

Perhaps the definition of "the basics" adds confusion to the situation. To some basics might be just taking ukemi. To other basics might be showing a technique. Others may see basics as whole techniques. Each level of detail has a significant impact on how a newcomer may percieve Aikido training.

Young-In Park
07-06-2006, 01:58 AM
I suspect people have misunderstood my question as "I'm having a hard time as a newbie" when I'm really trying to understand the principles behind the teaching methods.

There's nothing to understand. Many aikido teachers I've seen equate demonstrating a technique to teaching a technique. While they may view themselves as a teacher, for all intent and purposes, they are simply directing the practice for intermediate and advanced students.

Of course, novice students are left to fend for themselves. They are expected to pay attention and imitate the "teacher" demonstrating a technique.

For example, I've seen "teachers" tell a novice aikido student (usually their first time on the mat) "do it like this" before demonstrating some sort of roll. When the novice student crashes, they offer up the pithy encouragement, "keep practicing and you'll get it some day."

I've heard of other teachers throwing novice students as hard as they could so they could "learn" how to roll.

There are multiple threads started by beginners asking others how to fall properly. In one woman's blog/essay titled "My Ukemi Journey," she said, "I basically learned how to roll on my own."

With regards to techniques, I've seen a teacher demonstrate kumitachi (paired weapons practice) to a roomful of beginners who were on the mat for the first time and never held a bokken in their life before. Another teacher would demonstrate techniques with a multitude of dazzling spins and turns to beginners. One novice student was so frustrated that he walked off the mat and sat down on a bench in the back of the dojo.

Novice students in any discipline should be expected to struggle with technical information presented in a logical manner. But hoping novice aikido students survive the "hazing" period is like throwing a bunch of monkeys in a room full of typewriters and expecting them to type out the next great novel.

milesc
07-06-2006, 03:30 AM
@David Skaggs
Don't get caught up in trying to understand verbally or intellectually what is going on. Practice and focus on what is being taught and you will understand with time.

Sorry I have to completely disagree with this statement. I challenge the idea that *any* martial art would allow you to skip verbally or intellectually understanding a technique before you can learn and assimilate that same technique. You cannot practice what you cannot comprehend and you can focus on nothing but incorrect motion if you are left to your own devices and interpretations.

It would be a bad, bad idea to show two novices in a striking art how to do a punch and a kick then put them in a sparring match against each other. Yet in Aikido this is a good idea? Show two novices some basic joint manipulation and a throw and let them go at it? Granted you could *ask* them to control themselves in both situations but bad techniques are just that, bad techniques and the resulting effects are often wild and uncontrollable.

Analogy is suspect but to continue with your example David, imagine how much faster the subjects putting coats on would be if you not only spoke about the process, showed the process then broke down the steps in the process and went through them step by step.

@Young In Park
I wonder how many novices and beginners feel like that? I think much of the struggle is already present in simply acclimating yourself to a new way of moving and timing. There is no need to add to the frustrations of learning something new by having a teacher be vague. What surprises me about this entire teaching method is that it is present in so young an art. Many long time practictioners of Aikido appear extole the virtues of anyone at any age being able to pick it up and learn. Yet quite possibly those same people still think the best way to teach is simple demonstration and letting novices figure things out for themselves, to "learn by feel" as it were. This is a generalization and a bad one at that but it is the impression that teaching with light guidance runs the risk of. That does not seem like an art that is accessible nor inviting.

My own experiences in Aikido at this point are all good. Why? Simply put, it is not my house. When in someone else's house you follow their rules. So the teaching methods are not for me to question when in class. My instructors and peers only have the best of intentions and that is worth more than a teaching style that I consider to be "more correct/useful". As I have found over the years, its the people in the club that make it worthwhile more than anything.

@Willam M. Reed
I wanted to clarify that while I have frustrations in starting new in Aikido, this discussion is more about the teaching method and its intent. Yet you asked for specifics on what has me frustrated with this method so I'll try to comply.

As I am coming from another art, I have many habits, techniques and methods already ingrained into my muscle memory and reflex. Part of my newbie training is nothing more than unlearning these skills to learn Aikido-styled ones in their place. Yet in the situation where teachers teach by demonstration and then leave a student to their own devices while watching from the side I am caught in a catch-22. I could use what comes naturally to me but that would in my mind be improper.

I came to learn Aikido, not to use my former art. I would not want to be disrespectful in that way. Yet if I am not distinctly shown the preferred method for a school, how am I to participate? In the end I took the lesser of two evils and tried to get my partner to throw me the whole time, at least I would get to practice my extremely rusty tumbling skills. That approach works until you get paired up with another white belt who knows nothing at all either.

Mark Freeman
07-06-2006, 04:24 AM
Interesting thread.

I am a little disturbed to learn about some of the teaching methods that have been voiced so far. I have no idea how widespread they are as I only train with one teacher and his methods are not like this.
Whenever possible I will pair up new students with experienced students, so that the new student gets the experience of the technique, and how it should be done, the experienced student gets the benefit of working with someone who is not yet 'aiki compliant', so they need to use sensitivity and awareness of just what the new student is capable of. If two new student do find themselves practicing together I will make sure that they are aware that they are only expected to get the general idea of the shape of the exercise. They do not have to make it work properly, they have the rest of their lives for that. ;)

The idea that a new student should be thrown hard, I find disturbing, as there is no need to do this and may well set the student's learning back through the induction of fear/pain/possible injury. IMHO students should only be thrown by a teacher to their own level of ability at ukemi. With the case of some students this is neccessarily slowly and softly. My guess is that a teacher who does this is only doing what was done to him, and so the cycle goes on. I agree with Don Magee's post #18. There are better ways of doing many of the things that have done in the past, why not use them?

Teaching weapons to a class of novices, is like introducing calculus or algebra to the infants who are only aware that numbers exist and that they can be added up and subtracted. Confusion reigns! Surely it is better to allow students to develop basic skills in movement, timing, distance, self control, ukemi ( this can be quite a time period ) before introducing the life/death weaponry?

There is a case for the novice to accept the teachers methods whatever they are, and just try their best to do what they are told to do. If they genuinely want what the teacher has to offer than this is what they should do. This can be confusing and frustrating at first, but should also be fun and enjoyable to balance out the difficult times.

Most of us don't arrive at the dojo with the 'non-resistance' that is needed to perform aikido properly, it is hard won over years of practice. The level of our own teachers understanding and application of this, and their ability to teach this aspect, will of course affect our own. New students are only new students for so long, it doesn't take long to go through the 'green' stage and quite quickly settle down into the learnig environement of their dojo.
If for any reason they are not happy with it, they can speak to their teacher, or chose to go somewhere else. The student is free to come and go as they please. The teacher is only a teacher at the behest of the students.

regards,
Mark

milesc
07-06-2006, 05:53 AM
@ Mark Freeman

If for any reason they are not happy with it, they can speak to their teacher, or chose to go somewhere else. The student is free to come and go as they please. The teacher is only a teacher at the behest of the students.

<tongue in cheek>Or they can post to public forum about and hope they don't come off as insulting...</tongue in cheek>

All kidding aside thank you for your input.

Your quote above is the truest of statements and why I'm more focused in understanding the methodology rather than adjusting my own situation. I could choose another dojo but I doubt I'd like it as much as the one I'm in now. I do believe the instructors have the best intentions at heart and some of them do teach in the exact manner that I prefer. I don't know that I'd ever bring this subject up as a newbie, heck I'd be reluctant to bring it up as an instructor to more senior instructors. That hesistation however, does not diminish the need for the discussion as several posts here cite the more negative aspects in full detail of not reviewing the use of hands off teaching. I don't want to spark a revolution in my dojo, but I'd like to be better informed for that far off day when I can consider opening my own. A large part of the preparation is understanding issues from multiple aspects and not just my own background or experience.

happysod
07-06-2006, 06:16 AM
Miles, I've only heard two reasonable justifications for the "show do" style you're describing. The first revolved around a language barrier with the instructors English not being up to expanding what he was wanting verbally, but even here he would take over as nage or uke to expand the point he was making.

The second was more to prevent over-teaching where so many ideas and concepts are thrown at a new student they are left with the feeling of being unable to do anything. I've seen this happen with senior students "helping" newer students and have asked that the corrections are kept to a minimum from time to time.

Otherwise, I'm with Mark here, not a fan of no explanation, mainly because if I can't get explain what I'm wanting, what the hell am I doing teaching it?

Nick P.
07-06-2006, 08:33 AM
@ Miles

Discussion is good. Sharing of opinions is good. Questioning is good. None of that is teaching or training.

I have been teaching for only a couple of years, and I used to take every single opportunity to help, guide and encourage every new person who walked in the door, no matter how much they resisted being taught (and they will) or how often it needed repeating. I became astute at feeling out how much repetition each person could handle before a change in tact was required (I firmly believe there are no bad students or bad teachers, just poor matching of learning styles and teaching styles). Man, I talked and talked and showed and showed.

My style of teaching is no less caring or patient, I hope, but I have begun to 1) limit my corrections and guidance and 2) remind newbs they are doing fine, because most of the time, they are.

The challenge as a teacher, I hope you find, is that it matters very little what you do or say or what you DONT do or say; the core reasons a newby walks in the door AND chooses to stay is within them, it does not come from anyone else.

Jorge Garcia
07-06-2006, 08:40 AM
I think that the concept is difficult to explain . Humans are programmed to learn and in the end, they actually teach themselves or said another way, they learn on their own. They must be shown and can be coached but having an extended faith in explaining is fruitless because they only learn what they have a capacity to learn. In any given session, they are only going to retain so much so they must be shown and can be coached but it will still be wrong because these skills are so complex, that it will take more time than is available to weed out all the mistakes and even if they do that, they will forget most of what they did the next time. We teach a little bit at a time and then practice and refine, practice and refine. I tell my students, do the best you can and I will correct one or two things for this time and go ahead and continue to do what you can. If you can correct what I show you today, that will be something you build on but if you don't even get that, then all the talking was in vain. I have seen lots of people over explain and it is a big waste of time. People need to right to do it wrong. This is a process that never ends. I still am in that process myself.
There is a discipline as well in being patient and struggling through things but it is not an attempt to frustrate. No matter what I say to a beginner, they will only make a limited amount of progress each time. I have students of three years of practice that still don't do many things I have told them. Even though I have told them and shown them some very simple things hundreds and hundreds of times. I actually don't tell them anymore because I have realized they are at a place they like and despite all my efforts, have established their pattern. That is the human way. We do explain and we always show the correct way but it is up to the learner to learn. No one can "learn" you. The learning is up to you and will take some time through many repetitions and corrections. I was in Aikido for almost 6 years before I finally learned something about Ikkyo my teacher had been telling me for years. He only needed to have told me that a few times because it was just going to take me a while to understand that and do it.
http://www.shudokanaikido.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=1
Best wishes,

Nick P.
07-06-2006, 08:43 AM
I was in Aikido for almost 6 years before I finally learned something about Ikkyo my teacher had been telling me for years.

Hah! Haven't most of us been there? I certainly have.
Me - "Ohhhh! Move with your CENTER!"
Sensei - <rolls eyes> "Really?" <laughs>

dps
07-06-2006, 09:09 AM
Hah! Haven't most of us been there? I certainly have.
Me - "Ohhhh! Move with your CENTER!"
Sensei - <rolls eyes> "Really?" <laughs>
Dittos.

K Stewart
07-06-2006, 09:49 AM
I just started practicing Aikido in February at age 42 so I can understand a bit of the frustration you're feeling. For me, it's because Aikido is such a foreign thing and so completely different -- and therefore so wonderfully challenging -- than anything I've ever done.

It's that challenge and the layers of the work (physical and mental/spiritual) that have hooked me and I can't imagine life without Aikido now.

That said, do I sense that you feel learning would be easier if techniques would be taught perhaps like in a dance class, with lots of repetition of one part, over and over, until you got it?

That's how I learn physical movement, too, but I soon saw that with Aikido, just trying to follow the technique was teaching me something. It's a thinking art, not a rote art, and eventually I should be able to change what I'm doing based on what my partner is offering, rather than rely on the same response to the same attack every time.

One thing my Sensei has wisely said is to take movement, any movement, and shape it. It **doesn't have to be perfect.** :) Early on, and still now and then, I lock up because I don't want to do something "wrong." But zero movement doesn't get me anywhere. Doing something, anything, is movement that can be polished.

I wonder if you're feeling some perfectionism and wanting to get things right? I have struggled with that -- the being a good student thing -- but I realize that I CAN'T be good at Aikido yet! Sure, some things are starting to make more sense, but there's no reason to pressure myself or get upset for not being good at it right now. Maybe in 7 years, but not now.

That doesn't mean I'm complacent about learning. I try 110% each class, and practice what I remember at home. I know I'm not good, so I accept that for this moment -- but strive to continually improve.

As for newbies standing around on the mat not knowing what to do, yes I've been there. I'd watch the demonstration of the technique, pick a partner, and then my mind would go blank.

Then I realized that as kohai, I am always uke first (in our dojo, everyone is more advanced than me) and it's my responsibility to really be observant and know what to do as uke. What hanmi, what grab, which strike, etc., so that I can be ready to start the techniques with my partner.

With so many advanced students, I realized I was defaulting to the knowledge that they would help me out (which they gladly and kindly do) but I was shirking my part of responsibility to the partnership with my practice partner.

Lastly, observation is a huge part of learning Aikido, both techniques and the unspoken aspects of the art. If we can't figure out a technique, we watch the others to see if we can at least get a semblance of it. If not, Sensei has eyes in the back and sides of his head and usually is there pretty quickly helping out. :) And if not, we keep trying.

In our dojo, we strive to talk very little. I remember one class being taught by our Sempai in which I had a question, directly related to the technique. I asked it, he paused, smiled, and said, "Keep working!" ;)

It has stuck with me as good advice on and off the mat. And interestingly, by the end of the class, my question that was so urgent really didn't matter any more. It was answered by observation or it ceased to be important.

But for me, I've found that just doing my best and keeping a good attitude about it will go a long way in helping my learning progress.

Sorry for the long post.

Kara

James Davis
07-06-2006, 10:24 AM
I suppose that some teachers want us to learn from experience and repitition, rather than literal explanation. The physics of what we do can be explained easily to an intelligent person, and make a lot of sense; that doesn't necessarily mean that the student can perform technique right away, though. Our parents know when we take our first steps that we're going to do a lot of falling in the course of our lives, but it wouldn't be right to hold our hands forever and never let us learn to have our own balance.

My sensei sometimes teaches with very little explanation, and it can be frustrating. :mad:

Sometimes he teaches with a whole bunch of words. The newbies understand perfectly what they are supposed to do, and still can't do it; That's frustrating, too. :grr:

I believe that my sensei wants me to focus. He wants me to concentrate on what's going on and see things that I otherwise would have missed...

...in and out of the dojo. ;)

wmreed
07-06-2006, 10:33 AM
...I had a question, directly related to the technique. I asked it, he paused, smiled, and said, "Keep working!" ;)

It has stuck with me as good advice on and off the mat. And interestingly, by the end of the class, my question that was so urgent really didn't matter any more. It was answered by observation or it ceased to be important.

This is the situation that I believe most "Don't teach by telling" teachers are going for. However, what many of them fail to understand is that by not saying ANYTHING to their students, they increase the frustration, which is not, in my experience, conducive to learning aikido, or many other things for that matter.

Personally, I make it a point to tell my students something to the effect of, "You're on the right track. I think you can work it out on your own though, so I don't want to tell you." And I'll remind them of the focus of the technique, whether it be balance, unbalance, timing, entering, whatever. Enough of an affirmation that I see which part of the technique is frustrating them, without telling them everything.

To me it's an issue of respect. I believe my students are intelligent enough to find the "key (ki)" to the technique. To tell them the answer treats them as if they are NOT smart enough, and also robs them of the pleasure of having figured it out.

That said, there are many other aspects to teaching well. As a trained teacher, I know that. But many martial arts teachers have only their own teachers to base their teaching methods on. If you've only ever learned one way to teach, it's hard to create your own.

Until I've worked with a new student long enough to know whether they are a visual, an auditory, or a kinesthetic learner, I may not reach them as clearly as they want. And being the student, what they want may not always be what they really need to learn. It takes time to figure that out as well. For both of us.

And as a student, I don't always know what _I_ need. Case in point: My sensei said to me a few weeks ago, "I'm glad I promoted you to first kyu (which he did without warning or test). You really needed a kick in the ass." Which I did. I had been coasting at 2nd kyu for 4, maybe 5 years, with no real desire to test. But once I was 1st kyu, I felt the desire to go that next step to shodan. And once I did that, my passion for aikido was reignited, my desire to be more active at the dojo was kindled, and I'm enjoying all aspects of aikido more.

I'd been told over and over that I needed to test, but I didn't comprehend that "I _needed_ to test." Sensei moved me up, kicked me in the ass, I didn't really get it at the time, but now I do. I think.


Bill

(Damn, what was the point I was trying to make? Well, see, now I've told you everything, and it's so confusing. I should have just said, "Watch this, and try it out." Damn it.

John Boswell
07-06-2006, 01:09 PM
Allow me to flip the table, Miles.

While you are busy trying to understand the "Why" of things as they are now, how could the teaching of Aikido be done better?

What would you do, or think should be done, instead of throwing the kids in the deep end and telling them to swim? ;)

How can the teaching of Aikido be done better?

DonMagee
07-06-2006, 02:00 PM
Allow me to flip the table, Miles.

While you are busy trying to understand the "Why" of things as they are now, how could the teaching of Aikido be done better?

What would you do, or think should be done, instead of throwing the kids in the deep end and telling them to swim? ;)

How can the teaching of Aikido be done better?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inquiry_education

A great article on this can be found here (http://www.bullshido.net/forums/showthread.php?t=36273)

milesc
07-06-2006, 02:36 PM
@John Boswell

I can't bite the bait on this one no matter how badly I want to.

The same statement I made above about not using my previous training in class I think applies here on an Aikido focused message board regarding instruction style. I do have an opinion and an approach in which I hold high confidence but I suspect it would get lost in translation. Moreso, one of the reasons I have taken up Aikido is to broaden my horizons as a student and see martial arts training through another set of eyes. This includes views that I don't understand or agree with which I can then ask for more enlightenment on.

I will say however, that even the proponents of hands-off approaches have all made certain they listed other methods of interaction beyond the demonstration of a technique. Pairing up novices with the more experienced and clarifying or abolishing the "Only Sensei teaches" concept (not directly mentioned in this thread but found in one that ended up in a similar space) are fairly important to provide the extra cushion mentally, emotionally and physically that newcomers and novices need.

You do not rob a new student of accomplishment by helping them too much, a new student will eventually become a constant student and will have many more opportunities to gain insight into their form and growth. While the desire to train comes from within, there are enough challenges in the modern world that will discourage active pursuit of the martial arts without artificially being presented more as a new student.

Ok, I nibbled at it.....

Esaemann
07-06-2006, 03:25 PM
Miles,
This is not an answer to your question, but if you are frustrated I have a suggestion.
If possible, try to partner with a senior student. He may not know the whole technique correctly, but can at least get you started and get the basic moves.
My sensei will actually break up a pair if two "newbies" are paired up and there are seniors not paired with a "newbie".
As uke, I will even try to guide someone by moving to where nage should put me if everything is totally muddy for him.
Remember this when you are the senior student.

Eric

Adam Alexander
07-06-2006, 03:28 PM
I have read/heard more than once now that instructors seem to favor having students struggle through techniques at the early levels of aikido.

Being new to aikido, I'd like to know why? If I were to teach someone to bake a cake I wouldn't bake 4 cakes in front of them, 2 chocolate and 2 yellow then say "Bake me a cake, yellow or chocolate your choice".

How about just shut up and train?

If you were to teach someone to bake a cake, they'd be dependant on the next person to hold their hand through it when they're trying to learn how to make bread.

However, no one explained the techniques to me, and I walk into other dojos and catch onto the underlying principles behind their techniques in minutes...No one holding my hand to explain them.

Because I was trained to steal techniques...I steal techniques.

That and a multitude of other benefits.

Just shut up and train.

Just thought about this: It would have the effect of washing out the wrong type of student for that school. Not that one school is better or worse in a general sense, but you definitely see a difference in the personality and technique of different dojo.

milesc
07-06-2006, 04:06 PM
How about just shut up and train?....However, no one explained the techniques to me, and I walk into other dojos and catch onto the underlying principles behind their techniques in minutes...No one holding my hand to explain them.

This approach may work well for you and for that you have my admiration in your deft skills. I however believe that martial arts are for everyone. "Aikido is not an art to fight with or to defeat an enemy. It is a Way in which to harmonize all people into one family." I'd like to think that he didn't only want to include those with the power of Sharingan (tm).

This thread isn't about telling me how to be a better student, it is for the discussion of a teaching perspective that has significant impact on one's training attitude and approach. If an art is not accessible, how can it spread and unify the world? If every student is encouraged to wash out because they cannot acclimate to visual mimicry where does that leave Aikido? As an elitiest art that only the chosen few may learn and follow?

I wish to learn about my new chosen art and that includes how it is taught. If you are threatened by that then by all means use the Ignore function on this message board and you have my best wishes for your future.

To all those that have contributed on both sides and in the middle of the road, I thank you. This discussion has been productive to me and I look forward to taking part in many more. It has actually raised some new questions to me and that is always a good thing. Case in point, the mention of over-teaching which is the flip side of not providing enough instruction.

As for myself, I have stated multiple times in this thread that I am happy with my dojo and have nothing but respect for my instructors. Am I frustrated with being a newbie again? Yes but I'd feel that way with anything new, that's just my personality. Do I find fault with my instructors for teaching via a method I disagree with? No, because if I did I would vote with my feet and move on. I agreed to this particular approach when I asked to join. Do I think there is a better way than the one being used? Yes, but it is not my house. One day in my house it will be different... or maybe it will be the same... or it might be somewhere in between... isn't that the point to asking questions and learning? A student must have the drive from within to learn but a teacher must be receptive to that desire and fan it, not quell it.

Good luck to all,

Miles

Adam Alexander
07-06-2006, 04:15 PM
Each their own. But, if I had said that a jumping back breakfall was right for others, but not necessarily right for me, there'd be a whole lot more of Aikido I didn't understand. Instead, I recognized that my instructor knew better...

Keith R Lee
07-06-2006, 05:17 PM
Just to throw in my two cents. At my Sambo gym, we are intentionally hard on new people. We make it tough for them the first few weeks they come becuase we don't want anyone who can't hang. We don't make it comfortable for people, or introduce them to it slowly, or let them take things at their own time. It's either our way or the highway. We also follow the 3rd or 4th rule of "Fight Club," if it's your first night, you have to fight (or in our case, roll). No one gets to come in and "just watch."

We've been that way for as long as I've been going there (just over 2 years). Right now we've got about a dozen guys coming regularly. The max we've ever had is around 15-16 and at it's low 3-4. That's just part of it. We're also in the unique situation that class is free, so we don't have to sell anything to anyone to stay in business.

Now, would this work in an Aikido dojo? I don't think so, it's probably contrary to the art in many people's eyes (although not to mine). It's definitely in stark contrast to the approach at many of the dojos I have trained or visited where people try and "sell" the dojo to new members.

So should newbies struggle? It probably depends on the goal of the dojo/gym.

dps
07-06-2006, 07:32 PM
Just shut up and train.


Been there, heard that. :)

dps
07-06-2006, 07:34 PM
Being new to aikido, I'd like to know why?

You asked why, we told you why. :)

akiy
07-06-2006, 08:10 PM
The posts on the video clips of Chiba sensei have been moved here:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10616

-- Jun

Nick P.
07-06-2006, 08:14 PM
Jun,

Respectfully, was my post inapropriate with the links to the videos?
I apologize to everyone if it was...

akiy
07-06-2006, 08:32 PM
Jun,

Respectfully, was my post inapropriate with the links to the videos?
They seemed out of context in regards to the topic of this thread.

-- Jun

ruthmc
07-07-2006, 03:18 AM
It's all very simple :cool:

First you must learn how to learn..

Ruth

(something I'm still working on :D )

MikeLogan
07-07-2006, 06:09 AM
Do I think there is a better way than the one being used? Yes, but it is not my house. One day in my house it will be different... or maybe it will be the same... or it might be somewhere in between... isn't that the point to asking questions and learning? A student must have the drive from within to learn but a teacher must be receptive to that desire and fan it, not quell it. For the most part I agree with you, Miles. It was clear from the start what you first posted, not that you were struggling, but you wanted to know the reason behind the seeming allowance of struggling with and for beginners. This may vary from place to place, but the overall feel, to me, (and once you hop onto the seminar circuit), is that we're to feel it out, get it wrong, and then seeing/feeling/hearing what is right, we can correct it. Consider a seminar, we approximate first technique, sensei claps, and we all get to hear/see the few precious clues allowing us to zero in on it. depending on which point of the curve one may be on, more, or less zeroing is necessary.

For some reason the above seems to me as though I'm disagreeing with you, so let me revert a little. I started in Aikido 2.5 years ago at a gov't lab's gymnasium in D.C. The teacher was employed there, and so were each of the 3 other core members. PhD's the whole bunch, chemists, E&M physicists, rocket science, you name it. They were accustomed to putting complex ideas into understandable terms, and being employed there as an undergrad, I was used to hearing complex stuff in words. It helped knowing what the motivation of each particular action was, because then I could arrive to the conclusion to such a motivation in my own way.

Upon attempting something, it often didn't work, not because I didn't understand it mentally, but I couldn't get it into my other brain, in a corporeal, propriocentric sense. I struggled with the feel of it, and once my senior partner realized where my trouble lay, they made a brief comment and I adjusted appropriately, though still I often as not failed to budge them at all.

Either way, I had to work it out bodily. I can think about how the whole thing looks from my imagination, but I still and will have trouble seeing what it looks like from my legs, arms, and hips. I believe the way I was introduced to aikido as essential to my particular experience. I feel that it worked well for me, and that given the correct translation from one's mental language to another's it could work for other people as well, but the underlying piece of this education is the physiological ownership of movement/technique.

Nowadays at my current dojo, and one I've been at longer, I have some bodily vocabulary with which to think about technique if I found the initial demonstration lacking. And while I still don't get it right, thankfully teacher is right there to flip me over my head at exactly the point in my technique that I need to work on. While he's gracious enough to mention it, I take what I can get and feel it as well as hear it.

I hope teaching can happen for you because you seem passionate about communication. As you said, one day in your house it might be chocolate, or it might be vanilla. Here's my vote for neapolitan, something in between, with an unexpected addition, ;) I don't know your M.A. history, but given a few months to a year of training, and a few seminars, or at least exposure to different instructors and you'll have more of a personal awareness of teaching/learning aikido.

michael.

Young-In Park
07-07-2006, 06:22 AM
How can the teaching of Aikido be done better?

Earlier this year, "Beginners Retention Rate" (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10053&page=1&pp=25) was a similar Aikiweb thread.

To summarize my post to the earlier thread, I created a step-by-step methodology to teach beginners how to roll. The dojo turned a modest profit every year. After I left the dojo, nobody bothered to take the time necessary to teach the beginners. Enrollment has dipped and the dojo is now running slightly in the red.

Apparently throwing children into the deep end and hoping they learn how to swim appears to be more the norm than the exception in aikido schools in America. When people like Miles ask about the rational behind the teaching methodology, you can always count on someone to say "that's the way they do it in Japan" or "shut up and train."

When I briefly trained in Japan, I noticed novice students segregated from the general dojo population. They practiced ukemi or basic movements in the corner by themselves. An instructor would teach the novice student a basic movement. Instead of hovering over them, the teacher would then focus their attention on the rest of the class. But he would keep a watchful eye over the novice in the corner and, at times, give guidance and/or correction.

At another dojo in Japan, students of the same rank were paired up or grouped together. At Aikikai Hombu, there's a beginner's class on the fourth floor that proceeds at a much slower pace than the classes on the third floor.

In the "Newbies should struggle?" thread, there have been the standard justifications of "you have to experience it" or "practice makes perfect" to explain the "no talking" teaching methodology.

Exactly what is the novice students "experience" or "practice" if they don't know what they're supposed to be doing in the first place? Although the end result appears to be the same (ie uke falls down), novice students usually use brute force and speed to overcome any weaknesses in their technique.

My jujutsu teacher says, "practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect." By basically letting students "have at it," they ingrain poor habits that are harder to break at later stages of their training.

How can the teaching of aikido be done better?

Novice students should be segregated from the general dojo population. They should be taught how to properly stretch. They should be taught how to roll in a step-by-step manner. They should be allowed to practice rolling by themselves. Novice students should be taught how to do some of the simple attacks, with and without weapons. And they should be taught one or two simple techniques while paired with a senior student. The particular techniques aren't important; the techniques should convey the foundations and principles of aikido (ie the relationship of paired weapons practice and empty handed techniques).

Former training (spend less time teaching ukemi with a former judoka or less time teaching striking with a karateka) and innate ability of students (some students are not very coordinated or the sharpest tools in the shed) will factor into when the teacher should proverbially throw them into the deep end.

Unfortunately a majority of aikido training will always be stuck with the cookie-cutter, one size fits all approach.

YoungIn Park

MikeLogan
07-07-2006, 06:37 AM
*points up* Nice post, YoungIn!

Young-In Park
07-07-2006, 10:40 AM
A few hours after I posted my last comments, Aikiweb member Mikel Hamer (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/member.php?u=10532) made two seperate posts on two seperate threads on Aikiweb.

In his first post, he commented about feeling frustrated because he "fumbled around the technique" (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?p=146565#post146565).

In his second post, he talked about bringing his friend to the dojo. During the class, he wasn't sure whether or not his friend was rolling properly. He wondered why his friend wasn't following the teacher's instructions nor why the teacher didn't say anything to his friend about his apparent mistakes (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10605). His friend broke his collarbone demonstrating rolls outside of class the next day.

Advocates of the "survival of the fittest" or "learn how to learn" should consider military and/or paramilitary training; in the very beginning, there's an ungodly amount of personal attention directed towards recruits by the drill instructor/tac officer/camp counselor. In a sense, there's a lot of hand holding through the initial stages even as they try to weed you out.

Raw recruits aren't given firearms and let loose on the first day of a boot camp/academy. Usually the first time they ever see a range is weeks or months into their training program. And due to the deadly nature of the training, once again, the course is scripted and recruits go through a hand holding process.

In the USMC, recruits spend a week at the rifle range simply dry firing their weapon to learn the mechanics of shooting.

In the USAF's Red Flag or USN's Top Gun fighter combat schools, the emphasis is on learning the finer points of dogfighting.

But in aikido, it appears the standard teaching methodology is to toss novice students into the mix without actually teaching them basic movements. Its like tossing soliders into combat without knowing how to shoot or pilots into jet duels without knowing how to fly.

YoungIn Park

happysod
07-07-2006, 10:55 AM
there's an ungodly amount of personal attention directed towards recruits by the drill instructor/tac officer/camp counselor. In a sense, there's a lot of hand holding through the initial stages even as they try to weed you out. Can't resist playing devils advocate here, but I can see two problems with this nice point. Firstly, it assumes that the dojo has enough instructors/seniors to devote this amount of attention to beginners without affecting the training of the more advanced students. Secondly, it presupposes that all aikido dojos are actively committed to gaining new members without some sort of "bar". Neither is always the case in my experience.

Now I'm not a fan of the survival of the fittest school of thought, but I am a fan of looking after the dojo as a whole and compromises sometimes have to be made.

Jorge Garcia
07-07-2006, 10:55 AM
You wrote,"in aikido, it appears the standard teaching methodology is to toss novice students into the mix without actually teaching them basic movements. Its like tossing soliders into combat without knowing how to shoot or pilots into jet duels without knowing how to fly." Young-in Park

Nice post overall but I still don't agree with you. I do all I can for the beginners and we pair them up with an advanced student and tell everyone to go easy on them. We also give them more verbal help than is normal. The feeling though that I am coming from is that as a teacher in many areas including being a school teacher, that teachers can only teach but that has no bearing on the students learning. They all learn on their own and whatever they want to learn or have the capacity to learn. A belief that a teaching methodology or creative explanations will help the students learn is externailsim and I don't believe it. I do think that all the external methods to teach students do accomplish something for them but it may not be real learning. Understanding is a process in time that is gradual so a well placed instruction can be helpful but in no way insures learning. I guess you could say it in reverse and that might help make my point. I have no faith that talking or explanantions really help the student in the learning process ultimately. Your characterization that we want to be tough on the students or make it as hard as possible presupposes that talking really helps them. I don't believe that or have faith in that like you do. All the talking in the world won't change a thing in 90 percent of my students. I hope you can see the different angle I am coming from.
Best wishes,

Kevin Leavitt
07-07-2006, 11:10 AM
Huge difference in training in a dojo and military. I don't really think this is a good analogy. The way aikido can be trained allows for beginners to be incorporated into the training and go at their own pace/abilities with oversight from sempai and instructors. Learning is on a asynchronous/synchronous path. Military training typically follows a synchronous path and progression to a defined endpoint or goal.

I am an Army combatives instructor and only instruct Military (non-military need not apply), and even in that environment, I don't have a "sink or swim" mentality. We train hard and tough, and do not lower our standards, but in the methodology of training there is always room for those with lesser abilities and skills to grow and progress. That said, if you do not have the mental fortitude to be consistent or push, well then that is a different story. If you want to make excuses and have an ego..also a different story....but if the desire is there...anyone is always welcome on my mat.

Nick P.
07-07-2006, 11:24 AM
I think I see a clearer question now, or in fact it is the original question:
How to begin teaching aikido to new (i.e. no previous martial arts training) students?

Obviously the answer to that question is not going to be the same answer as
...to a student after 1 year of training?
...to a student after 5 years of training?
etc.

I think it might be fair to say, after all the excellent posts, that there is no one best or preferred way.
Each (yes, each) way has it's advantages and disadvantages. It is up to the teacher to choose which they prefer, and up to the student to decide if they feel they are being taught well.

dps
07-07-2006, 11:38 AM
I have read/heard more than once now that instructors seem to favor having students struggle through techniques at the early levels of aikido.

Maybe some of the struggling through technique is more to do with the student than the teacher favoring it. I just recently restarted Aikido in a different style after 16 years. I have 5 years experience from before and I am struggling. I understand my sensei's verbal instruction and still have trouble doing the technique right. My mental confusion is exactly like when I first started. :)

Ron Tisdale
07-07-2006, 11:38 AM
But in aikido, it appears the standard teaching methodology is to toss novice students into the mix without actually teaching them basic movements. Its like tossing soliders into combat without knowing how to shoot or pilots into jet duels without knowing how to fly.

Maybe a change in dojo is in order. I know that the yoshinkan dojo I've been to don't do that.

Best,
Ron

Young-In Park
07-07-2006, 02:56 PM
Your characterization that we want to be tough on the students or make it as hard as possible presupposes that talking really helps them. I don't believe that or have faith in that like you do. All the talking in the world won't change a thing in 90 percent of my students. I hope you can see the different angle I am coming from.


You are mistaken to characterize my teaching methodology towards beginners is standing on the mat and talking until I'm blue in the face.

Teaching aikido to novice students should simply consist of them following simple instructions and movements. It doesn't mean making them listen to the teacher lecture them about peace, love and harmony.

I many aikido schools, novice students simply try to keep up with the rest of the class whereas a more detailed, step-by-step instructional program would help.

In another post, someone commented about the disproportional amount of the teacher's time spent with beginners and how that would affect advanced training. Also they commented about certain standards.

It would be incumbent upon the teacher to multi task (teach different lessons to different groups on the mat at the same time like I saw one teacher doing in Japan) or delegate the task of teaching beginners basic movements to a more experienced student.

Although teaching beginners basic movements would be dreary to teachers, there's more the teacher should be looking for than whether or not the student can imitate this or that. Among some of the other things, but not limited to, that the teacher should be looking for in a novice student is whether or not they can follow basic directions, have the requisite coordination, demonstrate desire to learn, etc.

In effect, the student is auditioning for the teacher, who will afterwards make a decision whether or not to invest more time into teaching the student. Because the teacher's time is limited, the teacher must peform the educational equivilant of triage, determining who will benefit the most from their instruction.

As far as having a teaching methodology and it being mostly external (I am not a teacher and am not familiar with learning theory), I would suspect everyone goes through that phase before internalizing information.

For example, you probably learned the alphabet by tracing the letters on a piece of paper with two thick blue lines and a dotted blue line in the middle. And you were taught the alphabet in order (ie ABC). As far as I'm concerned, this is a teaching methodology.

You also probably learned how to drive a car holding the steering wheel at 10 & 2. You'd probably wouldn't teach someone to drive holding the wheel with one hand at 12 or 6. Again, this appears to be a teaching method to transmit information in an organized manner instead of a haphazard fashion common found in aikido schools.

I'm simply advocating a teaching methodology to beginners. But ultimately the teacher shouldn't be pigeon holed into blindly following the lesson plan. While they may have something in mind to teach, of course they should adapt to the composition of the class, class size, skill level of the people, etc.

YoungIn Park

Jorge Garcia
07-07-2006, 04:17 PM
Obviously, you didn't understand me but I am glad to yield to you. The floor is yours.

Kevin Leavitt
07-07-2006, 04:20 PM
I love teaching beginners! They offer an innocence and empty slate of honesty that is wonderful to work with (and challenging). Not that I am all that advanced, but I do find it much more enjoyable to work those that have little or no background over those that may come to train with black belts in other arts.

While they may have some basic skills, they many times also have alot of baggage and preconceptions about right and wrong that causes issues and gets in the way of learning.

I don't really teach aikido per se, but budo that follows aikido principles. I start out in the guard 90% of the time. What I like about it I have found is that is gives the best connection between centers and allows for students to explore the connectedness and learn how to control hips and move correctly without all the other stuff.

I know in aikido we start out with ashi taiso and irimi/tenkan...and I do that too....I find it much harder to get them over the whole "clashing" thing when doing irmi tenkan exercises by starting on the ground and working outward toward kokyu etc. We then go to knees and do kokyo tanden ho, and then some irminage etc...

To me, it does not matter your ability beginner or advance...it is all the same thing just must adjust for ability. Starting on knees and the guard is a huge equalizer that factors out all the other "garbage" that gets thrown in by beginners and advance students.

Janet Rosen
07-07-2006, 04:45 PM
the question of pedagogy is pretty wide open in aikido: the field ranges from a formal syllabus where each student in the dojo knows what physical skill/movement/technique she is working on to a do-whatever-the-silent-instructor demos approach. Pretty much leaving it to the student to find the dojo with a culture/teaching method that best suits her.
As a beginning student with poor proprioception and not a good visual learner, I relied on movement of my body plus verbal cues (often I had to talk my way aloud through a technique in order to not stand paralyzed and confused) AND it took me months to be able to forward roll.
After over 10 yrs, membership in 3 dojo, and attending seminars w/ instructors representing literally the full spectrum of styles, I've decided that the step by step approach is highly effective for some learners but not all, that there is probably little reason other than "Tradition!" for the "watch me and do it" style., and that personally I like an approach that encourages parallel development right from the start of "what foot goes where" with "how does it feel." YMMV....