View Full Version : how to deal with people who say "I can't

Please visit our sponsor:

Max Factor
08-15-2000, 04:25 AM
As i have moved up in rank in my dojo i have had to teach all kinds of people but the one's i have the most trouble with are the one's who go "i can't " or "its to hard " and even better one "that person is to big"

now some of the ways were less then perfect by anymeans and really not in the best intest of aikido, when i first started to hear these phrases it was no big deal i had siad them my self a few times but every class i keep hearing it more and more and not only was it bugging me but it was starting to bug sensei and bring the class down.

so i started with the first person i found who siad them the most and i asked why can't you do it and they could not anwser me. when i workd with people who siad "i can't i would apply
Yonkyo untill they would pull there wrist away or do the technique is work some time but not all.

then i remembered and old saying
"if you think you can; or you think you can't your right" this helped out even more some got it some didn't

now at days i simply ask them "can you breath??" and when they say yes and laugh i say now do the technique and just remember its no harder then breathing.

i would like to know how others have handled similar problems

08-15-2000, 10:44 AM
I am not an instructor, but have seen some occasional behavior like you describe, and here is my opinion:
first, is there something in the dojo atmosphere that is fueling this attitude in those who 'can't'. i would expect there to be a few adults or children who are doing Aikido to help with self esteem, and who naturally think they can't...but if you are hearing it alot, they are obviously not getting what they need to work through that. In both a childrens class i helped with, and in a college club class with many beginners, i found that the best approach for someone who used those words was to point out something positive ('this is just one more step than the last technique, and you did that well' or 'it's all about balance, and you've got that part...' etc, and then encourage them to try as much as they felt comfortable....and then say something positive about THAT performance)...although i will admit some called me 'babying', i disagree. i would not do yonkyo on someone for two reasons: 1) pain does not help much to build up a person's confidence, 2) some of us do not feel yonkyo and would just look at you funny.
second, if a lot of folks are saying they can't, it definately points to problems beyond the students. if only one or two, then it should not be affecting the tone of the class/dojo/Sensei...WE determine how a person's words affect us, not the other person. if the sayings of one student seem to affect an entire class, then i would again look deeper.
just an opinion...

08-15-2000, 04:10 PM
I think the most important thing is not to ever turn it into a contest. (No prizes for guessing who's reading Aikido in Everyday Life by Terry Dobson and Victor Miller at the moment!).
The main thing is that you're not failing when they don't do something - it's just that the path is a little uneven at that point for them. Which means they need you more than ever to help, gently, guide them along.. Getting upset, applying Yonkyo, shouting - these things are not the Way...


Max Factor
08-16-2000, 04:50 AM
when i ask "can you breath??" it is never shouted and it has been some time since i use yonkyo....i ask the qustions to give the aikidoka somthing else to think about.

I can see that helps them bring mind and body closer together because they see just how simple the technique is.


08-16-2000, 12:36 PM
Max Factor wrote:
when i ask "can you breath??" it is never shouted and it has been some time since i use yonkyo....i ask the qustions to give the aikidoka somthing else to think about.

I can see that helps them bring mind and body closer together because they see just how simple the technique is.


Sorry, I didn't to infer that you were some kind of monster who stomped round the dojo, shouting and blowing off steam!
Just wanted to include a couple other things in with Yonkyo - the main thing was about not getting upset..
As for breathing, I agree totally. If I'm ever having problems, in or out of the dojo, I always try and focus on my breathing. Nothing fancy, just being mindful..


08-16-2000, 01:46 PM
I can be one of those persons who say, "I can't." But I usually try to catch myself and not say it. The "I can't"s really are a symptom of someone being frustrated with what they are learning -- or that they are not learning it as they would like to. If they are new, they may be expecting too much too soon from themselves. Tell them it is okay to be confused. Aikido is challenging. If they were not confused and frustrated then perhaps they are not doing it right (this is especially the case with newbies or when learning a brand new technique.)

The times I remember the most saying it was when I was just learning my rolls -- and most recently learning koshinage. I had an incredible mental block when trying to roll. My problem is that I just analyzed what I was doing too much. I would have so many things going through my mind that I was not able to register my thoughts. I had to learn to let go of my thoughts and just do the technique. But this took time and a lot of effort on my part.

Of course this was very frustrating for me. And whenever I find frustrating moments in my practice, I say to my self, "I can. This is something that is challenging me. Slow down and do the technique step by step." Sometimes in learning to do a new technique one needs to break it down in linear steps then move into the circular flow of the technique. Doing this usually undoes my, "I can't"s.

I hope this helps.
Anne Marie

08-17-2000, 06:25 AM
Hi Anne Marie

I must say I agree with you. Sometimes (quite often actually ;))I find myself in the middle of something that I can't seem to be able to do but I use an approach almost like yours. The only difference is, that I allow myself to think "I can't do this" however I always add the little " - yet". This has helped me, as I have build a confidence that one day I will get this to work if I only apply patience. I am aware that I'm probably fooling myself and that there will always be something lacking in my techniques - but I still think it's a very healthy approach to Aikido.

Finally I sometimes try to se the humorous aspect of my situation which can be quite entertaining. Example: Last week I thought I was doing pretty well during the first half of class. I did everything pretty fast and with a lot of flow but then my sensei told me that "your big toe is only supposed to touch the mat with its own weight". I realised that I tended to 'grasp' the tatami with my toes and for the remainder of that practise I failed every single technique as I each and every time came to think about my toes just about halfway into everything I did. In the end it was feeling so absurd that I could do nothing but laugh realising how little was needed to 'rock my boat'. I'm looking forward to practise this evening. Hopefully I can manage to relax my toes :) but if I can't I will say "I can't do this - yet!".

Excuse my English please!

Uinsuton Oi
09-01-2000, 06:09 AM
Yonkyo's are the hard anyway.

09-02-2000, 03:49 PM
I think there is a difference between "I can't " and "I won't"--sometimes the latter masquerades as the former. We had one fellow who started ten years ago who "couldn't" roll but kept at it (with a LOT of encouragement and breaking it into pieces) and is happily rolling at age 57 today.. it took him almost nine months to get it. Some of us are training with physical disabilities and it can be a struggle to modify technique to adapt to what the body can do--on the other hand, if it's the mind which is causing the disability it can be almost impossible to change. We get a lot of beginners in our dojo who spend a lot of their first few trainings saying they'll never get it, but are usually moving joyfully after a month or two. But if they don't have a willingness to try, they never do... I like the adding "yet" to "I can't"-- I'll add it to beginner's class.

09-02-2000, 05:43 PM
We recently had a new student that was trying to learn how to roll. He seemed to roll over his side and, with his hands on his hips just said "I can't do it" and sat back down. At one point I replied, "you're right."

I think for some reason some new students try to shift the blame on their instructor, rather than themselves...


09-04-2000, 05:05 AM
There is can't which means 'this seems too complicated' or 'it doesn't work'. This usually relates to being nage.
My way to deal with this is remind myself of the happy surprise I feel when I suddenly realise that I just did something I had thought impossible - this comes after *training* again and again, + encouragement from my Sensei and asking about possible flaws in my technique - I like this feeling so I'll keep trying.

Sometimes I feel it's better to leave it for another day. After too many frustrations my brain may become locked.

Then, there is 'can't' which is related to fear.
I experienced it (again) yesterday. We practiced high falls, and I felt I'd be doing it wrong and that I'd be about to harm myself. I kept falling on my back, which increased my fear.
I was reluctant from trying again as I don't think a back injury is something I wish to risk. I feel I need to go back to lower rolls until I feel more confident with these. I won't do it until I'm sure I can do it without harming myself - it's different than doing a technique which 'doesn't work' - here it's me who might not work again !

A partly solution -my teacher encourages me to try but also to take things at my own pace - I favour this attitude. Still, it's frustrating to see others with no fear who fly around. I don't want to get rid of the fear but to be sure there's nothing to be afraid of (it ain't the same!).


09-04-2000, 09:02 AM
I think everyone should try to go at their own pace but also try to keep up with your dohai.

I try my best to keep up, and if I bump my head or land on my back once or twice, the pain will go away, but the learning experience will help me for much, much longer...


09-12-2000, 06:48 AM
I wanted to say that one teacher I met once said: "stop trying and do it".
By trying you are trying to do this half way and with doubts, this is not natural, when one is doing something one does it completely and without doubts or hesitations.
It's also o.k. to be insecure, but when you're trying something new and are affraid of it, my advice would be just do it (like the nike thing!). Everything will be o.k. naturally!!