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Karol Kowalczyk
05-22-2007, 05:00 AM
I have tried to put this to the back of my mind, but it just won't go away, so I need to get it out of my system by writing it down here. I just dont have the experience to know if I should accept it, or regard it as 'wrong'.

Here's what I'm talking about. this last Sunday we had a seminar at out dojo, and afterwards there were kyu tests. That's all just fine, but for the past 2 or 3 weeks my Sensei has been preparing the students for the tests, more specifically, 6 students for 6th and 1 student for 3rd. There are about 25 members in all at the dojo, so that makes 7 out of 25 being prepared.

Now here's my problem: for those 2-3 weeks, training has consisted of: warmup, then watching these 7 'show what they got' while the rest sit in seiza and Sensei corrects them, and then at most 1 technique together (if there's still time!).

Is it normal for about 18 students to sit and watch this kind of thing before a test, and for so long?

I do believe Sensei is doing his best to improve the students, and he is responsible for the progress of his students, and testing is a good way to keep track of improvement, but I have read about so-called 'belt factories', and I just started wondering if i had run into one.

I decided to leave it and try to forget about it until yesterdays training, when he congratulated the students for passing (all did), and then said in the next few months we would be trying to get students X, Y and Z to pass 5th kyu, 3rd kyu etc.

Isn't he concentrating a bit too much on these tests?

Edit: I think it's only fair to add that Sensei didnt do the testing, it was a 5th dan from another town who gave the seminar and examined the students.

SeiserL
05-22-2007, 05:35 AM
Every school and Sensei have their own "normal" based on style, preference, and organization. Its not unusual for everyone to help each other throughout training but especially before testing. Though usually, by training with them (not watching) and being good ukes.

Talk to your Sensei about your observation and concerns.

Just remember, when its your time to test, you too will get all that personal attention while others watch what you have.

happysod
05-22-2007, 06:10 AM
Just remember, when its your time to test, you too will get all that personal attention while others watch what you have Lynn, you're just too nice and balanced for your own good. While I accept what you're saying in response to Karol, I just can't agree with you at all here.

At the end of the day, you pay for training and instruction. While this may include acting as uke for a potential test, you certainly don't pay to be an audience. [ducks outraged cries of "but the watching is the learning" and "use this time to concentrate on how to learn" - sorry, but I pay to get sweaty and have hands-on learning, OK, and to hit people]

To me, it sounds like the instructor was having a bit too much pre-match nerves and overcompensated at the expense of his other students. Mention your concerns either directly (my preference) or obliquely by asking if some of the mat could be used to run through stuff while the instructor focuses on the poor sods going for gradings.

Ron Tisdale
05-22-2007, 07:22 AM
It's none of my business how he runs his test preparation, but in my opinion, I prefer that everyone trains their test techniques. If you pair the ones next up for exams, the others should be working on their own levels.

But it's his dojo, and my preference is just that, and only that.

Best,
Ron

senshincenter
05-22-2007, 09:42 AM
I would agree, it seems the instructor is a bit to "preoccupied" with testing performance. For me, there's never really a good reason for such preoccupation - the opinions of others may vary. While you may not be in a "belt factory," your situation as described sounds like there is a kind of fetishization of rank going on nonetheless.

I understand that there are some situations where it is good to talk to an instructor, but this for me usually pertains to our own difficulties regarding our capacity to assimilate. I do not think it is good or even necessary to talk to an instructor to see if he/she can or will alter the dojo so that we do not have assimilation issues. For this case, for example, you instructor clearly knows how and why he decided to do what he did. It is highly unlikely that you are going to alert him to something he failed to notice or consider, as if he is going to say, "Oh gee, I didn't think about that - now that you mention it. So, let's go with your plan. It's much better than mine." The reason I'm saying this is because I feel students must always be prepared to leave a dojo whenever it doesn't fit with them. I'm not saying they should always leave a dojo whenever it does not fit with them, but they should always be prepared to leave. There's a difference - and the main difference is that as a student, one should set out to fix all of a dojo's problems or issues.

dmv

Qatana
05-22-2007, 09:56 AM
When we are in test-prep mode it is somewhat like this. Everybody trains, then Sensei has each of the test candidates getup and demo their technique. Then Everybody trains the next technique, & then demos.
We only have tests once a year, this past fall half the dojo was testing,so there was a lot of downtime while people were demoing, however this is all part of the testing process. Sitting and waiting is Training as much as anything else in the dojo.
Weh we are not in test prep, often Sensei takes ukemi from every one of us for every technique, we get Lots of one-on-one.

Karol Kowalczyk
05-22-2007, 10:15 AM
Thank you for your replies so far, and to respond to Lynn's comment, yes, it did go through my mind that I would have the same attention when it was my turn.

But as far as 'watching to learn' goes, out of the 18 or so students watching, 14 have already passed 6th kyu, so why would they need to sit and watch it all again? and only me and 3 others have no rank yet, and while watching I did make an effort to learn the names of techniques and observe their techniques, but even when Sensei corrected them I never noticed anything wrong.

I do think he's a good instructor, and perhaps because he hasn't been shodan too long (6 months?) he feels nervous about presenting his students to the 5th dan guy.

I just got a bit frustrated at sitting and watching, after all, these 2 weeks are about 25% of the time I have ever been training, and my ukemi was going so well.. :D

I also have to mention an occurence that happened, that if I REALLY believed in God, I would definately say He stepped in for, and that was, a guy asked if during practice I could be uke for him a bit longer than usual, so he could practice for the test. I said ok, but then the next training session came and he turned up with a limp - he had had a minor motorcycle accident and had hurt his ankle. He didnt take the test because it was too stiff.

Qatana
05-22-2007, 11:44 AM
We have Sandans who "sit and watch it all over again". I go to class even when I am sick or injured and watch. When I was a beginner I didn't know what it was I was seeing, now I do.
The hardest thing about being a beginner is just that! Give yourself and your dojo some time.

happysod
05-22-2007, 12:06 PM
We have Sandans who "sit and watch it all over again". I go to class even when I am sick or injured and watch Q: at any time are you instructed to just sit and watch for several weeks at a time or was it your choice to do so?

I've also done the injured/sick but turn up to watch, however, if every-time someone was going for a grade I was expected to lose 2-3 weeks of training, I'd move on. I know how to sit and can slouch for the Olympics and certainly don't think watching kyu grades go through their paces is the best way to learn aikido.

Now if the instructor said, this group were going for a test so the next few weeks the dojo is essentially theirs, but requested that others acted as an audience and didn't charge the audience, I could be inclined to be more sympathetic to the instructors methods.

Qatana
05-22-2007, 12:23 PM
What wasn't clear about my first post? When we are Test taeining, EVERYBODY TRAINS> Not only that, everybody trains to the Highest grade being tested for. I started my own training during a test-prep period and was learning shodan test techniques with a seperated shoulder.
However, during test prep everybody is testing must get up and demo every technique. While this is happening Everybody else sits and watches.I NEVER said we sit and watch for weeks at a time.And if somebody who *isn't* testing happens to have been paired with someone who *is*, they still get up and take ukemi. Nobody goes without training during test prep.
It was my choice to attend class with my seperated shoulder and watch. It is my choice to attend class when I've not had enough rest to be safe on the mat and watch.It is my choice to not want to share my germs when I am sick, so I watch.

gdandscompserv
05-22-2007, 01:29 PM
his dojo, his rules.:)

Aristeia
05-22-2007, 02:03 PM
sounds very much to me like he has anxiety over showing the 5th dan that he is producing students at the right level. His focus on the testing students seems to me to be mostly about showing his senior that he is doing a good job of teaching. I doubt if his senior would appreciate his methods.

It is certainly possible for him to have the grading students partner up and run through the techniques while he gives them concentrated attention but there's no reason why everyone else can't be training at the same time. If it were me I wouldn't continue in this situation. You're not training and the prolonged periods of sitting in seiza may actually be doing more harm than good. I would either talk to him or look around for another dojo personally.

Or talk to one of his senior students. My BJJ club is about 2 years hold and I'm still ironing out some of the ways we do things. I have taken lots of good advice from my senior students along the way - some I've ignored but most I've seen as valid and made adjustments. If he's new to running a school he may well be open to advice from his seniors so see if you can get them to see your point.

MTCW

heathererandolph
05-22-2007, 07:04 PM
Karol
I think you can learn a lot by observing, but certainly your powers of observation are tested during this situation. I don't know if you really want to "sit through" all of this, but if you do then why not challenge yourself to try to guess what the instructor will say after seeing someone else perform. You might notice something that will really improve your technique! It's infrequent that we have the opportunity to view others at practice since we are usually practicing ourselves during class. After all, when you get to be an instructor you'll do a lot of observing and it certainly will come in handy during class to become more observant. If you want to see change, maybe talk with other students to see if it would be okay to let your instructor know you want to be more active in class. Otherwise, try to use it as a learning experience.

senshincenter
05-22-2007, 07:36 PM
I would agree, it seems the instructor is a bit to "preoccupied" with testing performance. For me, there's never really a good reason for such preoccupation - the opinions of others may vary. While you may not be in a "belt factory," your situation as described sounds like there is a kind of fetishization of rank going on nonetheless.

I understand that there are some situations where it is good to talk to an instructor, but this for me usually pertains to our own difficulties regarding our capacity to assimilate. I do not think it is good or even necessary to talk to an instructor to see if he/she can or will alter the dojo so that we do not have assimilation issues. For this case, for example, you instructor clearly knows how and why he decided to do what he did. It is highly unlikely that you are going to alert him to something he failed to notice or consider, as if he is going to say, "Oh gee, I didn't think about that - now that you mention it. So, let's go with your plan. It's much better than mine." The reason I'm saying this is because I feel students must always be prepared to leave a dojo whenever it doesn't fit with them. I'm not saying they should always leave a dojo whenever it does not fit with them, but they should always be prepared to leave. There's a difference - and the main difference is that as a student, one should set out to fix all of a dojo's problems or issues.

dmv

Whoops, that last line should have read:

"...one should NOT set out to fix all of a dojo's problems or issues."

Dirk Hanss
05-23-2007, 01:49 AM
I would agree, it seems the instructor is a bit to "preoccupied" with testing performance. For me, there's never really a good reason for such preoccupation - the opinions of others may vary. While you may not be in a "belt factory," your situation as described sounds like there is a kind of fetishization of rank going on nonetheless.

I understand that there are some situations where it is good to talk to an instructor, but this for me usually pertains to our own difficulties regarding our capacity to assimilate. I do not think it is good or even necessary to talk to an instructor to see if he/she can or will alter the dojo so that we do not have assimilation issues. For this case, for example, you instructor clearly knows how and why he decided to do what he did. It is highly unlikely that you are going to alert him to something he failed to notice or consider, as if he is going to say, "Oh gee, I didn't think about that - now that you mention it. So, let's go with your plan. It's much better than mine." The reason I'm saying this is because I feel students must always be prepared to leave a dojo whenever it doesn't fit with them. I'm not saying they should always leave a dojo whenever it does not fit with them, but they should always be prepared to leave. There's a difference - and the main difference is that as a student, one should NOT set out to fix all of a dojo's problems or issues.

dmv(corrected version)

Well David,
depending on the size of the dojo, I would prefer to talk to sensei.
I agree upon studants not trying to fix the dojo's problems. But they have to fix their problems.
possible outcome:
1) Sensei explains, why he does it this way, and the moment I understand it, I am much more comfortable with the situation.
2) Sensei might not change totally, but while he sees the extension of his students' problem with the situation, he might try to find a compromise
3) Sensei does not explain anything (satisfactory) and does not change at all (enough).

So in the last case, my advice would be (probably as yours) to leave the dojo. Only if there is no chance (or too costly in any matter) to find something else, I might try to fight for my 'rights'. I know I am in a weak situation and often have no legal chance to force something. But probably this is a good starting point to test my aikido 'in the real world'. If I have no chance for direct confontation, I might blend with my discussion partner and direct him to other solutions (even my first thoughts can be wrong ;) ), I can try to find allies to empower my blendings and the redirection, I can step out of the line of confrontation, but coming back to my point, until my 'uke' gets exhausted and being more willing to accept the nonsense of the attacks ( not providing enough training feels rather like an attack to me).

Even if in the end I have to quit and probably take a break in physical practice of aikido - or move, change job, or whatever is necessary to do aikido again, I can learn a lot from these types of training. And my feelings are that I totally failed, I might get my copy of "Aikido in Everyday Life" and read it again.

Best regards

Dirk

PeterR
05-23-2007, 02:18 AM
I can sympathize with your sensei - I remember the first time I took my brood to Honbu for testing - I was just Shodan and knew there were at least one on the testing panel that was annoyed that a white guy had the umbrage to teach Aikido in Japan. The same guy (not Shihan) that no matter what you do its no good.

I gave a whole series of fake tests that really slowed overall practice down but luckily there were very few that were not going.

These days one or two weeks ahead we give each tester a fake test with one good critique. Seems to be enough. Then again - there is a part of every lesson that concentrates on grading requirements.

So ....... that little story aside.

I doubt very much that the next few months would be like the 2-3 weeks before the last test and if they are - then a quiet word would probably not be remiss. I would wait and see.

PeterR
05-23-2007, 02:27 AM
his dojo, his rules.:)

Sure but most people enjoy a little feed-back especially if they have found themselves in a new situation.

happysod
05-23-2007, 02:38 AM
What wasn't clear about my first post?...EVERYBODY TRAINS> It was, which is why I was asking you about this again as I was puzzled why you were equating an imposed situation of no-training during a test period to a pefectly reasonable choice by the student to not train and just watch. Oh, and sorry to be picky but CAPS = shouting on the web and I presume you were intending emphasis rather than shouting here?his dojo, his rules.Damn, Peter beat me too it (loved the story, I cried, I laughed and came out the other side a better human being) - also not a fan of this attitude as it precludes critical thinking

Qatana
05-23-2007, 10:06 AM
Because, Ian,we all DO train during a test period. Every single one of us, whether we are testing or not. It is only between techniques that the test candidates get up and demo, and everybody takes ukemi for those, so how is this "an imposed situation of no training"? It is simply a class where we practice fewer diferent techniques farther apart, with demos.

If it was such an "imposed period" all the black belt students would have left a long time ago, as we don't have dan level tests often.But they seem to be sticking around and happy to contribute to our testing process.

We simply concentrate on the testing process during test prep, which certainly includes getting up in front of people and doing a technique under pressure & scrutiny.When we are concentrating on Energy Awareness, we spend a lot of time doing what most people would perceive as "just standing around,waving our arms and talking about "it". Takes just about as long, or longer, than a fifth kyu test.And we do it between every technique. So is this also "an imposed period of not training" or just training a different part of the person?

If we had our own space perhaps we could have an ongoing "test prep class" as our parent dojo does, but there are only 15 of us in a shared space. We have to economise.

And yes, I wasn't yelling, I was emphasizing. I"m too lazy to use "advanced" mode.

Janet Rosen
05-23-2007, 11:03 AM
if I can try to clarify? Ian I think Qatana was stating what is done at her dojo, NOT necessarily equating with the other situation, just adding to the ongoing thread about "what does YOUR dojo do?"

I've trained in a few different styles. In the 2 that were large and established enough for testing, though the lineage was different, the similarity was that in the period leading up to testing, during some classes partway through class the class would divide up by approximate rank and folks would partner w/ peers on techniques specific to their test.

happysod
05-23-2007, 11:35 AM
if I can try to clarify? Ian I think Qatana was stating what is done at her dojo Thanks Janet, I finally reached the same conclusion after the third post - my confusion came from the first post which explicitly stated everyone trained during a test period, followed by the original posters interjection then a second post which could be read as exhorting the pleasures and benefits of just watching, which is why I needed some clarification.

As far as I can tell from this thread, sitting around and just watching is not "normal" procedure, or am I getting it wrong again?

lifeafter2am
05-23-2007, 12:14 PM
As far as I can tell from this thread, sitting around and just watching is not "normal" procedure, or am I getting it wrong again?

Not in my Dojo either. Last test we had about 4 or 5 people testing, and at the end of the class (we have 2 hour classes, which Sensei cut short by about 15-30 min) we watched the people practice, which was totally voluntary. But then again, it was only 15-30 min out of our 2 hour classes.

Amir Krause
05-24-2007, 04:48 AM
As far as I can tell from this thread, sitting around and just watching is not "normal" procedure, or am I getting it wrong again?

I guess it would depend on the Dojo.

In our Dojo, everyone trains even before a test or a performance, but, there is an obvious shift of attention towards the activity.

Everyone will practice, but the teacher and Yundasha (Black Belts) will all pay attention to the activity, so the Yundasha will practice mostly with the students before the test, and some of them may take a testee under their supervision, ask him to demonstrate everything to them with some Uke and give their corrections. Obviously, this would mean the practice of the Yundasha and the Uke (assuming he isn't being tested himself) would be significantly affected. This might be for a period of over a month, of mostly the same Uke and several Yundasha. Of course, the Uke position is voluntary and the Yundasha volunteer too.

I did once hear some new students complained they felt neglected while the whole Dojo (besides them) was focused on a preparing a performance. Those students barely started learning, and would have normally been in the focus of Sensei attention, or at least with a Yundasha to supervise them. But everyone worked on the performance, from students with about 6 Months under their belt to the veteran Yundasha and Sensei himself, who had to both perform and critique everyone. So they got much less attention ...

It seems your Sensei is still feels unconfident in his position and he feels he has to prove himself to his senior 5th Dan teacher. Your Sensei knows he is tested with his students, so, he cares a lot about it. I believe as he grows confident, he will find a new approach. If not, by the next testing period, you could probably approach him after class and ask of the possibility to practice along the testee, even without the Sensei supervision (in terms of attention and critique).

Amir

RoyK
05-24-2007, 05:44 AM
In our dojo, most of the test training we do is after class hours, when one grabs a sempai who has some time to spare and the sensei sometimes watches from the side and gives tips or pointers. The sensei might choose to work on techniques being tested for several classes but no one but the people taking the test would notice that focus anyways. I have a friend testing for shodan in a week and a half from now and until he told me that I had no idea tests are coming up.

I used to think that this is rather normal, but now I gather that if the first poster represents one end of the emphasis on tests scale, we might represent the other?

raul rodrigo
05-24-2007, 08:57 AM
The other end of the scale would be a dojo where kyu tests are not announced to anyone. The class simply ends 20 minutes early, the candidate, taken unaware, is called to the front and shows what he's got. I've seen that happen a few times.

happysod
05-24-2007, 09:02 AM
Paul, that happened to me one seminar, which as it was a long time ago in Yorkshire where all-day seminars = lunch time pints led to an interesting grading for a growing lad like myself.

raul rodrigo
05-25-2007, 12:00 AM
Paul, that happened to me one seminar, which as it was a long time ago in Yorkshire where all-day seminars = lunch time pints led to an interesting grading for a growing lad like myself.

that cant have been fun. It reminds me of those stories of Iwama training, where the shihan would invite uchideshi to drink beer and then take them off on a run up a nearby mountain. Quick way to lose your lunch.