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Gorgeous George
07-16-2011, 10:53 AM
I have trained in several different styles of aikido, and in various dojos, and under various teachers within the Aikikai organisation.
I have also - obviously - trained with various dan grades who, though not the teacher, imparted advice.

The two extremes I have encountered are

- a hands-off approach: the technique is demonstrated, and you are largely left alone to practice it, as you understand it, and to thereby learn - by yourself - how to effect the technique. I have heard this referred to as having to 'steal the technique' - viz., the student must gain insight through their own efforts.
You are offered an occasional comment from the sensei such as "Tenkan more; enter further." etc. - mere technical, external direction.

- the other extreme is very hands-on. The teacher speaks of the internal a lot, and the essence of technique - what goes on with your body to make the external effective.
Senior grades, when you train with them, are very hands-on, stopping you, whatever your level of ability, and offering instruction.
This prevents you from going through a technique repeatedly, without break, and so gaining practice time, and practical understanding.

I trained the first way for a long time, and progressed little. As did nearly all those I trained alongside.
I have trained the second way for a while now, and I have actually achieved a level of understanding of the nuances and principles that underlie aikido techniques.
However, now that I have that insight, I wish to get more just, straightforward practice in, so that I can come to understand what I have learned.

I will always want and need the insightful instruction, however, so I believe that a balance must be struck: 'Virtue untested is no virtue at all.' - it's one thing knowing the right thing to do, and another doing it.

Thoughts, criticisms, insights, etc.?

graham christian
07-16-2011, 11:30 AM
No criticisms. Two great observations. For me it shows something.

It shows there is a time for one way and a time for the other. In fact one of the skills of teaching, which I prefer to look at more as supervising, is knowing those times when one is needed and when the other is. Both as important as each other.

Also knowing it in ourselves. Sometimes we need a technical observation from the outside when we are stuck and if we just carry on we remain stuck for longer.

On the other hand we can keep trying to change things and find that missing thing from 'over there' or bigger muscles or new technique when the answer is to carry on like it's a drill until we get through our own barrier and finally get it.

Two ways that compliment each other.


07-16-2011, 12:49 PM
Yes, good points. But you're in control. Train with your seniors when you're stuck and to get insight. Train with your juniors to see how people who don't know how to move will respond. Train with people at your level so you can just go at each other and see what works.

07-16-2011, 03:27 PM
Everything in balance....

Why not do both. Where I train it is very hands on, very detail oriented, much like you described as the second "way" however we, more experienced students, are also encouraged to sometimes just go at one another and just move for a while. As long as both partners are in agreement this is a fine thing. Sometimes I might be in a class that is really focused in on some smaller details but will get with a really energetic partner and just slam one another around for a bit before we go back to the mental stuff. Both are useful, no need to stick to only one way. :)

Mario Tobias
07-16-2011, 10:27 PM
i observe i learn most when there is balance between the hands on and hand off approach.

as you have said, you can view the hands on/ hands off approach as the extremes of a spectra. both have pros and cons.

on one end (hands off), you are left to learn for yourself without the help of others. the pros are that your powers of observation and awareness are enhanced. the con for me is that for aikido, the power is in the minutest of details, in senseis, ukes and your movement. you wont be able to figure these out if somebody doesnt point it to you. another pro for me is that when you are at a level to experiment, your uke doesnt really care what you do and wont stop you to offer instruction.

on the other end, the too hands on approach theres a lot, if not too much, of instructions being offered. if the one offering advice is very experienced, that would be very advantageous but there are a lot out there who are know-it-alls and some seniors also think that their way is the only way (even if they're wrong) which will make you feel like you're not doing anything right. I learnt how to deal with this by not arguing and just filtering out the information i think is important . you can learn from everybody, but not everyone can offer sound advice. another con is that this type of training is not good for experimentation as you will get told off a lot.

you need to be able to handle both cases so that you can get the most out of your training. a dojo in both extremes is not good, imho.

an ideal atmosphere for me should be of openness, both to instruction and experimentation. if one is missing, you are assured your learning will be inhibited and slow.

also i think the adage "practice, practice, practice" should be complemented with "experiment, experiment, experiment".

07-23-2011, 10:11 PM
I will always want and need the insightful instruction, however, so I believe that a balance must be struck: 'Virtue untested is no virtue at all.' - it's one thing knowing the right thing to do, and another doing it.

Not a criticism, just a thought. What about both at the same time? What I find really helpful, in a way that greatly accelerates my learning, is to discuss focus points with my sensei and seniors at the end of class. These might be aspects of a specific technique, common parts of several (such a general footwork) or broader concepts (such as extension, center or the balance point). Then, I have purpose when I visualise a range of techniques between classes; my head-space learning time becomes more effective. I will carry those focus points in to the next class, or perhaps adapt them as needed, and that inner specific focus will often highlight more for me when I watch and feel than straight speech by the person demonstrating.