PDA

View Full Version : Martial Arts Instructors Should Learn To Teach


Please visit our sponsor:
 

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!


Peter Boylan
07-25-2015, 01:57 PM
There are lots of martial arts instructors around, but how many of them are really teachers? How many of them know anything about the science of teaching and learning (yes, there is lots of science involved). I think that anyone who wants to teach martial arts, should make an effort to learn how to teach. That's what I write about in this blog
http://budobum.blogspot.com/2015/07/martial-arts-instructors-should-learn.html

Do you think aikido instructors should learn to teach, or are the traditional methods good enough?

mathewjgano
07-26-2015, 03:06 PM
There are lots of martial arts instructors around, but how many of them are really teachers? How many of them know anything about the science of teaching and learning (yes, there is lots of science involved). I think that anyone who wants to teach martial arts, should make an effort to learn how to teach. That's what I write about in this blog
http://budobum.blogspot.com/2015/07/martial-arts-instructors-should-learn.html

Do you think aikido instructors should learn to teach, or are the traditional methods good enough?

I think any teacher who cares about his or her students will naturally make efforts to teacher better over time, though I don't think they necessarily need to learn modern teaching methods to be good teachers. Considering ideas like Gardner's intelligence types, I can see how some teachers will naturally mesh better with some students more than others, and that this is why it is ultimately up to the student to find a teacher that fits for her or himself.
So while I would agree any teacher should make an effort at teaching well, I also think how that comes about will be a varied process that is hard to judge fairly across the board.

Susan Dalton
07-26-2015, 05:01 PM
I agree with you, Matthew. People have to teach in a way that fits them and their students. My husband and I both teach and we have very different styles. (He teaches math, and I teach literature, creative writing, and aikido.) If I tried to teach like he does (very structured, step-by-step, consistent lessons), I would fall down laughing at myself, plus bore myself silly. And he wouldn't even attempt to teach like I do (all over the place, reliant on "feeling" where the class is and what they need in order to get to where I want them to be, also reliant on building a supportive community where people can trust and take risks.)

Being in charge of a class can (and should) build awareness.
Susan

Janet Rosen
07-26-2015, 07:21 PM
I don't think Peter is saying there is one way to teach.
Of course there are many styles of teaching, as there are many styles of cooking, metal work, and budo ...and learning!
The point is, simply being proficient at a thing in no way makes one a competent teacher. And I totally agree. Some are teachers, others are not. Some can learn to be better teachers, and some are not motivated to be better teachers so won't be.
I can teach the basics of almost anything I am decent at, not a master of, because I have a lively interest in teaching and an ability to "read" students and adapt to them (I admit that, while I agree with Peter's "stick to a few key points," in aikido it took me longer to integrate that into teaching than it did in other subjects like sewing or painting).
In aikido, given my relatively junior status compared to others teaching in the dojo and the participatory nature of the training, I more often consider myself "leading class" when I sub for a Sensei - I'm taking part, trying to never present material above what I feel competent at, and am open to other students' direct input during class.
In other subjects my approach differs...in painting I tend to present things as more of a "let's explore this now..." while in sewing people want very explicit step-by-step guidance, and with my falling or self-defense classes students really need to feel I am THE instructor, an authority they can trust so they have the confidence to push their own limits.

jonreading
07-27-2015, 08:01 AM
1. I think the first argument you need to consider is whether martial artists are obligated to teach anyone. I am not sure this is true. Western martial arts have become something of a commodity; I pay you to teach me kata and kata gets me belts and belts mean that I know something. I am not sure that relationship is a direct reflection of "learning" martial arts, nor a direct indication of the skill being transmitted from teacher to student. I do not believe the pay-for-performance model is an accurate transmission model for teaching martial arts. But, it does expose more people to martial arts to which they would otherwise be prohibited from seeing.
2. I think you need to decide on a metric of success by which to critique instruction, if you are going to argue for its institution. Dojo size? Gross income? Number of students? Number of black belts? Trophies? Number of students gone evil and through mortal combat defeated? I know some number of nice people who can talk my ear off about what I should be doing, but who have little ability to do what they say - they are truly invested in me learning the poor martial arts they practice. If they give me a syllabus, does that make the poor martial arts they teach better?

I think we, as students, have a responsibility for our education and expertise in training. Our instructors are farther down a path of learning and therefore should be able to provide guidance to those junior in training. Sensei are sempai to some of us and cohai to others. We are not magical creatures with divine knowledge. To this extent, I do not believe sensei is obligated to teach anyone anything - this is something we do because someone did it for us and because we want to transmit what we know to someone else to carry our tradition. The better instructors rise within the community because students who are looking for better education train with them over poorer instructors.

I don't think you can cast a net over a community that spans the spectrum of talent and say something like, "instructors need to learn to teach." To the same point, I think you can't say, "students need to learn how to learn." I think those conversations should be specific to individuals and that is a tough conversation, "Sensei, I really like you and the fancy dojo you own. But, your teaching is terrible and I am going to leave to find something better." Or, "Student, you have been training with me for 10 years and you are doing the same thing you were 8 years ago."

I think sometimes we put sensei on a pedestal and if she wasn't on one we may have different expectations.

lbb
07-27-2015, 09:29 AM
To add to what Jon has said (which makes sense to me), I've observed that some people can't learn from some people. That's why they call tandem canoes "divorce boats", and why we always advised parents not to try and teach their children how to ski, even if they themselves were good skiers or even good ski coaches.

I put more burden on the student than on the instructor. That's not to say that an instructor should be able to stand up in front of a group of people and spout a lot of mystical cliches and get a free pass, or that an instructor can't become more effective, but they can only go so far. Learning is not a passive thing; students can't sit back expecting to be spoon-fed and blaming sensei when things don't click for them. I just got back from Birankai summer camp, and several senseis said the same thing: it's on you, the student, to steal from me, to actively work at getting as much as you can out of this. One sensei and fifty students, a hundred students, more...how can it be any other way?

Janet Rosen
07-27-2015, 10:13 AM
Jon, how is it putting an instructor on a pedestal to expect him or her to have some rudimentary ability to instruct beyond doing a demo? How or why should martial arts be different from gymnastics, history, sewing, or geometry? Do we expect math students to watch a prof solve an equation and then do it themselves? I certainly don't expect my sewing students to watch me make a collar and be able to do anything like it....

mathewjgano
07-27-2015, 11:30 AM
I don't think Peter is saying there is one way to teach.

I don't think so either, but there is the implication that one is superior. I thought he was describing the difference between learning to teach in a more modern methodology compared to older methods, both of which I think can be great. My point about Gardner's types of intelligence was just that different folks gravitate toward different methods. We all have all of those (and probably many other) learning modes, but whatever some teacher is expressing, it will probably click for some similarly-minded student. So I get the impression it's hard to say one way or some others isn't/aren't as good, because it depends on the context of who is learning from them.
Do you think aikido instructors should learn to teach, or are the traditional methods good enough?
To my mind this carries the implication that older methods aren't concerned with learning to teach...that they're less "good" in that regard. I think in some sense that's true, but that it isn't absolutely true. I'm slowly going through Prof. Goldsbury's TIE column wherein he describes this dilemma:
Ueshiba has been criticized for ‘teaching' in this antiquated way and for requiring his students to resort to such non-productive means as ‘stealing' knowledge. If only he had used the well-tried ‘western' methods...

I do think anyone who calls themselves a teacher should try to teach well, but that's a lot like saying people should be learning well. It depends on the individual goals and proclivities involved.

Peter Boylan
07-27-2015, 11:45 AM
I agree with you, Matthew. People have to teach in a way that fits them and their students. My husband and I both teach and we have very different styles. (He teaches math, and I teach literature, creative writing, and aikido.) If I tried to teach like he does (very structured, step-by-step, consistent lessons), I would fall down laughing at myself, plus bore myself silly. And he wouldn't even attempt to teach like I do (all over the place, reliant on "feeling" where the class is and what they need in order to get to where I want them to be, also reliant on building a supportive community where people can trust and take risks.)

Being in charge of a class can (and should) build awareness.
Susan

I'm not trying to suggest that there is only one way to teach. What I'm trying to say (and clearly not doing a good job of it) is that there are some fundamental principles of teaching and learning that we should be applying in the classroom regardless of our particular style. Kind of like there are fundamental principles that make practice aikido, regardless of whether we are doing Aikikai, Yoshinkan, Ki Society or some other branch of the aikido tree.

Peter Boylan
07-27-2015, 11:52 AM
1. I think the first argument you need to consider is whether martial artists are obligated to teach anyone. I am not sure this is true. Western martial arts have become something of a commodity; I pay you to teach me kata and kata gets me belts and belts mean that I know something. I am not sure that relationship is a direct reflection of "learning" martial arts, nor a direct indication of the skill being transmitted from teacher to student. I do not believe the pay-for-performance model is an accurate transmission model for teaching martial arts. But, it does expose more people to martial arts to which they would otherwise be prohibited from seeing.
2. I think you need to decide on a metric of success by which to critique instruction, if you are going to argue for its institution. Dojo size? Gross income? Number of students? Number of black belts? Trophies? Number of students gone evil and through mortal combat defeated? I know some number of nice people who can talk my ear off about what I should be doing, but who have little ability to do what they say - they are truly invested in me learning the poor martial arts they practice. If they give me a syllabus, does that make the poor martial arts they teach better?


Not all martial artists are obligated to teach, certainly. But if someone is an instructor, they are teaching. The question then becomes doing a good job of it or a poor job. There is a lot of solid data on how the body and brain actually learn things. Should we ignore that for the sake of tradition, or should we incorporate it our skills as teachers (for those of us who teach)?

I'm not a fan of rank, or any of the straw men you've thrown out for metrics. How about time required for students to acquire particular skills? That's really the metric I look at when I'm teaching. What can I do to increase my students understanding and mastery of particular skills.

Yes, students have great responsibility, but I believe that if I am to respect myself as a teacher, I have to make the effort to be as good at that as I can be.

jonreading
07-27-2015, 11:53 AM
Jon, how is it putting an instructor on a pedestal to expect him or her to have some rudimentary ability to instruct beyond doing a demo? How or why should martial arts be different from gymnastics, history, sewing, or geometry? Do we expect math students to watch a prof solve an equation and then do it themselves? I certainly don't expect my sewing students to watch me make a collar and be able to do anything like it....

Well, I am not sure I would say that your example qualifies as a case of sensei worship. I would argue that an instructor should be able to instruct anything she demonstrates. I am speaking a little more directly to the "well, that's a sensei thing" crowd. Sometimes we call it the sensei effect. Sometimes we excuse poor performance comparatively (I can't do what sensei does), sometimes we engage in personal relationships that transcend senior/junior roles (sensei walks on water).

As an unspoken question, I think that our expectations are different in our aikido training than in other educations. I think we often train with unrealistic expectations of performance; when those expectations are not met we have a problem. In theory, you are correct - our martial education should be similar to other academic pursuits. Except I don't envision myself outsmarting Stephen Hawking at a physics question. Nor will I ever expect to be caught by Bela Karolyi after my routine. Why? Because most of use know that our talent does not reach that level. Those imaginations remain a fantasy and never create an issue with our reality - Sometimes we draft unrealistic expectations in our training and that causes problems.

My point was to level Peter's question at our sempai because our instructors really are just our sempai - they just happen to be the poor suckers who run the class. But, sometimes its hard to see our instructors as sempai if we let some of the shine of "sensei" blind us. A 6th kyu can teach ukemi every bit as well as a 6th dan, so why do we look at sensei differently? Why do I pay money to see someone with a "dan" behind the name? Because its not entirely about education and I am not sure that is a good thing. This is not to say that our friendships and political relationships and all the other reasons we train with different groups and individuals are unimportant, but it is to say sometimes they are more important than learning.

mathewjgano
07-27-2015, 11:56 AM
This next point is one I am constantly working on. Just as we can put more students in a room than we can effectively teach, we can put more lessons in a class than students can absorb. Our minds have a working memory capacity of 3 to 5 items. That’s it. If we try to teach more than that in one session, the students will not be able to hold on to the lessons. Once we get past our personal limit of about 4 main points, we start dropping things because our minds just can’t hold onto all of them.

I would argue that the best at teaching itself are those who have an ongoing assessment of each student, and who meaningfully push limits of ability. I am sure there is a cap on how many things a person can track and absorb, but if we're looking at what is best, then I think we have to occassionally push the envelope for concepts like this one above. So while it may be typically best to keep things in digestable chunks, sometimes it's important to push more information, if for no other reason than to work on increasing the ability to track and absorb more points, which I take to be an important skill unto itself because it applies to every situation of our lives.
So to clarify my overall response: it depends. "Aliveness" is an issue that pervades everything, and comes from the myriad interactions and conditions involved in some setting (i.e. musubi), whether it's how to learn correct movement, or how to teach. But again, it's important to have a sense of the goals involves in the student-teacher dyad to judge which is relatively better. A teacher might be "best" for one student and "worst" for another, and no matter how hard one tries to become a great teacher, it might not make the difference.
Generally speaking, in a western setting particularly (I would guess), focusing on western teaching concepts is better for most people.
...I'm probably splitting hairs...
Thank you, Peter, for the great food for thought!

Peter Boylan
07-27-2015, 11:56 AM
I don't think so either, but there is the implication that one is superior. I thought he was describing the difference between learning to teach in a more modern methodology compared to older methods, both of which I think can be great. My point about Gardner's types of intelligence was just that different folks gravitate toward different methods. We all have all of those (and probably many other) learning modes, but whatever some teacher is expressing, it will probably click for some similarly-minded student. So I get the impression it's hard to say one way or some others isn't/aren't as good, because it depends on the context of who is learning from them.


I'm not suggesting simply throw out what has been done before and replace it with modern methodology. I am saying use modern science of learning to inform what we are doing as teachers in the dojo. I'm primarily a koryu budo guy, the really old stuff, and I use a classical pedagogy when I teach koryu budo. However, I inform that with understanding of things like how much information an individual can retain at one time, and I build my classical style class around the facts of human learning and mind capacity.

jonreading
07-27-2015, 12:17 PM
Not all martial artists are obligated to teach, certainly. But if someone is an instructor, they are teaching. The question then becomes doing a good job of it or a poor job. There is a lot of solid data on how the body and brain actually learn things. Should we ignore that for the sake of tradition, or should we incorporate it our skills as teachers (for those of us who teach)?

I'm not a fan of rank, or any of the straw men you've thrown out for metrics. How about time required for students to acquire particular skills? That's really the metric I look at when I'm teaching. What can I do to increase my students understanding and mastery of particular skills.

Yes, students have great responsibility, but I believe that if I am to respect myself as a teacher, I have to make the effort to be as good at that as I can be.

Well, I am being a little tongue-and-cheek because I think most metrics we would seriously consider would create some controversy so I am staying away from that actual argument. But yes, I think the first part of your argument would need to be some kind of declaration of what is successful teaching.

I am not sure I am debating learning science. 20 years ago it was clear that gym class was a waste of time for students in the US. 10 years ago it was a waste of resources to teach music. I think studies are interesting, but I think studies of the studies would be warranted before I would weigh in on the usefulness of any particular finding. I don't think there is anything wrong with individual instructors who explore different teaching methodologies if they translate into skills. I am still not sure we aren't just talking about a mis-expectation of performance. If I see a shihan who teaches a very advanced class that I can't follow, I am not sure that is a fault in "traditional instruction," in-as-much as a mistake on my part that I expected to learn something. Of course, that means admitting that I was in a class over my head...

And yes, none of what I say should be viewed as a free pass to be a bad instructor.

rugwithlegs
07-27-2015, 12:45 PM
Maybe a different question to clarify some thoughts.

Years ago, I was just starting to be an apprentice teacher. One woman came to all my classes for three years. Then slipped on the ice and broke her wrist.

Yes, learning is on the student, and there are several ways to instruct and several ways to offer the same correction.

For me, the issue was, for all that learning is on the student, I blamed myself. I spent years teaching her how to fall without injury and I was nice and gentle correcting her habit of putting her hand down in front of her.

As a nurse, I was teaching a class to patients on how to look after their central lines. Knowing the statistics on blood stream infections, and knowing a break in technique could cause someone in the room to die, having 100 patients a year die anyway, I approached teaching patients with a much higher sense of responsibility.

Is a teacher responsible for chronic injuries in their students? For students who are victims of violence? For people who have no emotional control and suffer in their daily lives? In a professional education setting, a teacher is responsible for delivering education and verifying it's transmission accurately. Someone can open a dojo and claim no such responsibility.

In Aikido, we talk about being a religion, a way for life, a code of ethics, a health practice, a method of self defense. In general, we receive very little training for the scope of what an instructor might claim to offer. In Angry White Pygamas, the end of the year involved a test for teaching. I never received any such test. In some associations, shear attrition and stubbornness leads to one person sitting in front of the room. That's not always the measure of the best educator.

Susan Dalton
07-27-2015, 03:11 PM
Oh no, Peter, I wasn't thinking you were saying there is only one way to teach. Your column got me thinking and I went running off in my own direction (as usual). Since I am a teacher by profession and married to a teacher, I have lots of thoughts about teaching. In my opinion, my husband and I are both effective teachers even though we teach very differently.

One night I was grading essays and I read my comments out loud to my husband. I had written almost a page about how the student was capable of so much more and how I wanted him to put forth more effort. My husband started laughing. I asked what was so funny. He said he was addressing the exact same problem, and he then read what he had written to his student: "Get off your ass."

We've been talking about the responsibilities of teaching/being sempai in our dojo. Over the years we've seen that some folks really want to teach/be a senior student because they want to be in charge and tell people what to do. Being sempai doesn't mean you get to be the boss but means you have responsibility towards those folks junior to you--you take care of them.

Janet Rosen
07-27-2015, 04:07 PM
A 6th kyu can teach ukemi every bit as well as a 6th dan, so why do we look at sensei differently?.

Oh we have a fundamental disagreement. Even assuming all you mean is "rolling" as opposed to attacking, etc....6th kyu, unless they have other extensive experiences in arts that are essentially applied kinesiology, do not have the experience to glance at somebody and read the body accurately to see where tension is being held or how the body is weighted, etc. so can only offer very generic advice.
I totally expect an experienced aikido instructor to have that ability and use it to teach rolling.

mathewjgano
07-27-2015, 09:11 PM
I'm not suggesting simply throw out what has been done before and replace it with modern methodology. I am saying use modern science of learning to inform what we are doing as teachers in the dojo. I'm primarily a koryu budo guy, the really old stuff, and I use a classical pedagogy when I teach koryu budo. However, I inform that with understanding of things like how much information an individual can retain at one time, and I build my classical style class around the facts of human learning and mind capacity.

I see what you mean better now. As happens too often, I focused too much on one part. Thank you for taking the time to clarify!

Walter Martindale
07-27-2015, 11:09 PM
One of my dojo sensei (and late friend) required anyone teaching classes in his dojo to take an introductory course in coaching. Back then it was "Level 1 Theory" in the Canadian NCCP (National Coaching Certification Program). It's evolved since then and I'm a wee bit out of date with the current introductory coaching programs, but... One of the requirements for certification as a coach in the Great White North is to complete training and evaluation in a seminar titled "Make Ethical Decisions" (it could be "ethical decision making" but the point is there)..
A "teacher" in a dojo may be taking money from "students" or may not be taking money - his/her POSITION (one of power) demands that he or she provide a safe environment (within the constraints of it being a martial art) and exert "best effort" at providing training to students to the best of his/her ability.

e.g., I'm a professional sports coach (Rowing) - after 32 years of doing this, a master's degree in biomechanics, and a "level 4" coaching certification, I still read "the literature" when I can, looking for better/newer research on coaching/teaching/training/physiology/biomechanics (not so much on the nutrition and psychology) so that I can help athletes have their best possible experience. To date I've had one athlete get a cracked rib from "catching a crab" that nearly lifted him out of the boat, three (IIRC) athletes had to withdraw due to back problems, and a few "I don't get it" or "it's not for me" withdrawals from the sport. Each of those injuries gnaws at me because it means I didn't do my job as well as I should, and makes me want to be better and to take better care of the athletes. They're the future of the club, and if I send them away broken, the club has no future.

Masuda shihan, in seminars in New Zealand, frequently pointed out that senior students and teachers had to look after their junior students - after all, they're our training partners, our friends, and they're the future of the dojo.

rugwithlegs
07-27-2015, 11:20 PM
Well, I am being a little tongue-and-cheek because I think most metrics we would seriously consider would create some controversy so I am staying away from that actual argument. But yes, I think the first part of your argument would need to be some kind of declaration of what is successful teaching.

I am not sure I am debating learning science. 20 years ago it was clear that gym class was a waste of time for students in the US. 10 years ago it was a waste of resources to teach music. I think studies are interesting, but I think studies of the studies would be warranted before I would weigh in on the usefulness of any particular finding. I don't think there is anything wrong with individual instructors who explore different teaching methodologies if they translate into skills. I am still not sure we aren't just talking about a mis-expectation of performance. If I see a shihan who teaches a very advanced class that I can't follow, I am not sure that is a fault in "traditional instruction," in-as-much as a mistake on my part that I expected to learn something. Of course, that means admitting that I was in a class over my head...

And yes, none of what I say should be viewed as a free pass to be a bad instructor.

There are several comments in the overall thread that seem to be asking what constitutes successful teaching and how this should be defined. Maybe Bad Teaching is easier to define? Though the metrics might be the same.

Boylan Sensei, elsewhere on this site you commented on how the Koryu method was built on a close relationship between student and teacher - presumably teaching and learning styles having to get matched up? But, what I might have thought were traditional methods were really military methods. I was wondering if you could flesh out the differences between these two methodologies?

kewms
07-27-2015, 11:48 PM
I don't think so either, but there is the implication that one is superior. I thought he was describing the difference between learning to teach in a more modern methodology compared to older methods, both of which I think can be great.

I think before you can evaluate a teaching methodology, you need to be very clear on exactly *what* is being taught. Was O Sensei, for instance, teaching a martial art with clearly defined techniques, or was he teaching a Way of being in the world? At least arguably, he was terrible at the former, but better than okay at the latter.

And the same applies to many traditional teaching methods, both East and West. The individual technical components that define any art are relatively easy to break down and explain, but the whole is greater than the parts, and much harder to teach.

Katherine

Amir Krause
07-28-2015, 06:35 AM
There is one point of importance missing from this discussion, the "way of teaching" a M.A. is an inherent part of that M.A.

Note the Shodokan split from Aikikai, once the methodology has a significant change, the art itself changes.

I would expect this to be even more evident for Koryu.

Amir

rugwithlegs
07-28-2015, 09:51 AM
There is one point of importance missing from this discussion, the "way of teaching" a M.A. is an inherent part of that M.A.

Note the Shodokan split from Aikikai, once the methodology has a significant change, the art itself changes.

I would expect this to be even more evident for Koryu.

Amir

Shodokan Aikido is a good example, but really Ki Aikido, Yoshinkan Aikido, Iwama Ryu - they are all separate because of a teaching methodology.

rugwithlegs
07-28-2015, 11:06 AM
To be a part of a lineage can imply an assigned a teaching method. If I try to adapt the teaching method, am I being disloyal to my lineage?

Amir Krause
07-28-2015, 11:38 AM
To be a part of a lineage can imply an assigned a teaching method. If I try to adapt the teaching method, am I being disloyal to my lineage?

In my oinion, it depends on size of "adaptation", you might even be creating a completely new style / M.A. Methodoligy is inherent to martial arts, changing it has lots of significance.

Amir

jonreading
07-28-2015, 12:45 PM
Oh we have a fundamental disagreement. Even assuming all you mean is "rolling" as opposed to attacking, etc....6th kyu, unless they have other extensive experiences in arts that are essentially applied kinesiology, do not have the experience to glance at somebody and read the body accurately to see where tension is being held or how the body is weighted, etc. so can only offer very generic advice.
I totally expect an experienced aikido instructor to have that ability and use it to teach rolling.

I am not arguing whether an experienced instructor can instruct better than a junior instructor. I agree with you; a more experienced instructor should have more ability than a junior. My point is that some education does not need to be of such a complex level. If you require the assistance of a high-ranking instructor to learn the basics of a fall, you are in for a long and expensive aikido career. That is not to say that tips, pointers, advanced education and the like does not refine our learning. It is to say that we start somewhere and that somewhere is no where near the level we want those high ranking, skilled instructors teaching. As a larger observation, I am saying that we (as adults) don't like playing in the kiddie pool. We want the best, even if we don't have a damned clue what the best is talking about.

As the thread is bowing back around, I think at some point we need to evaluate what teaching is important to us. We're in a race to get the goods and we need to evaluate the best way to get the goods (and what, exactly are the goods). I think this is, at its heart, a very hard and serious question and I think sometimes our answer is not the the one we think it is. Heck, you can't get 2 aikido people on Aikiweb to agree about what is aiki - if you don't know what goods you are looking to get, how do you have any idea how to get them? If you don't have any idea how to get something you can't recognize, how can you pick the best teaching method? You can't.

Traditional systems have the distinct advantage of surviving the test of time. I think we sometimes make choices to address our current issues without the the consideration of future consequences. Traditional systems help keep those choices in check and they [supposedly] lay a foundation for the path we tread to help keep us going in the right direction. I think discussing whether that path is pointed in the right direction was a component of some of the earlier splits in aikido.

oisin bourke
07-28-2015, 02:07 PM
I am not arguing whether an experienced instructor can instruct better than a junior instructor. I agree with you; a more experienced instructor should have more ability than a junior. My point is that some education does not need to be of such a complex level. If you require the assistance of a high-ranking instructor to learn the basics of a fall, you are in for a long and expensive aikido career. That is not to say that tips, pointers, advanced education and the like does not refine our learning. It is to say that we start somewhere and that somewhere is no where near the level we want those high ranking, skilled instructors teaching. As a larger observation, I am saying that we (as adults) don't like playing in the kiddie pool. We want the best, even if we don't have a damned clue what the best is talking about.

As the thread is bowing back around, I think at some point we need to evaluate what teaching is important to us. We're in a race to get the goods and we need to evaluate the best way to get the goods (and what, exactly are the goods). I think this is, at its heart, a very hard and serious question and I think sometimes our answer is not the the one we think it is. Heck, you can't get 2 aikido people on Aikiweb to agree about what is aiki - if you don't know what goods you are looking to get, how do you have any idea how to get them? If you don't have any idea how to get something you can't recognize, how can you pick the best teaching method? You can't.

Traditional systems have the distinct advantage of surviving the test of time. I think we sometimes make choices to address our current issues without the the consideration of future consequences. Traditional systems help keep those choices in check and they [supposedly] lay a foundation for the path we tread to help keep us going in the right direction. I think discussing whether that path is pointed in the right direction was a component of some of the earlier splits in aikido.

What exactly is "traditional" about aikido? As practiced by virtually everyone , it goes back to the 1960s at the earliest. Grades, taxonomy of waza, weapons kata, most of it has been developed since then.
It's a more recent invention than basketball or baseball.

Riai Maori
07-28-2015, 03:13 PM
To be a part of a lineage can imply an assigned a teaching method. If I try to adapt the teaching method, am I being disloyal to my lineage?

Yes, IMHO. I am a student of Iwama Ryu.:)

Riai Maori
07-28-2015, 03:46 PM
Traditional systems have the distinct advantage of surviving the test of time. I think we sometimes make choices to address our current issues without the the consideration of future consequences. Traditional systems help keep those choices in check and they [supposedly] lay a foundation for the path we tread to help keep us going in the right direction. I think discussing whether that path is pointed in the right direction was a component of some of the earlier splits in aikido.

I am a beginner Nikyu Iwama student learning a pure form of Aikido, that was taught directly by Saito Sensei to my Sensei (Yondan). My Sensei has not deviated one bit from what he is teaching to what he learned way back in the early 90s. One of my Sensei's favorite sayings, is Saito Sensei taught many variations to techniques, and on this particular day in the dojo, I was taught this way. I too one day, will pass on exactly what I have been taught. I suppose this is why our Ryu stands the test of time.;)

rugwithlegs
07-28-2015, 05:49 PM
Certainly Saito Sensei was always clear it wasn't his job to innovate in any way but rather to give the clearest transmission that he could. I do highly respect that. I still respect, for example, that Chiba, Nishio, and Saotome worked to develop their weapon systems and had a number of innovations beyond just what they were shown.

In terms of standing the test of time, well, Saito Sensei did die in 2002 so I believe that it probably Will stand the test of time but I am not sure it has truly been tested yet; Saito only started training in 1946, 69 years ago.

Judo has developed after Kano's death, and Shotokan Karate has developed after Funakoshi's death. Is Aikido as good as it ever can be? More to the point of this thread, is the teaching method as good as it ever can be? The same content can be taught in several ways so really we're not necessarily debating content.

Is there a limit to how exactly I need to replicate my teacher ie my English is better than his was but should I stumble over my explanations in a thick accent anyway?

Part of what I love about Aikido is the history and lineage, but I am not sure I want to just be a part of a time capsule.

jonreading
07-28-2015, 06:08 PM
I distinguish traditional as instruction originated from earlier dojo classes which set the precedent for future classes. While there is a time component, I think fidelity to the process/ritual is probably of greater importance. In another post, I presented my idea of tradition as possessing both function and relevance. I think it is permissible to alter tradition to maintain relevance and/or function and I think that is something of discussion here.

Rupert Atkinson
07-28-2015, 06:21 PM
I remember back in the 80s in the UK some bright spark invented the Coaching Award. Necessary to run a club - maybe it was for insurance purposes. So I went on a few courses. What did they teach? Just the same old Aikido - do ikkyo, shiho-nage etc. There was no instruction of HOW to coach at all. A total joke, and as far as I could tell, nobody noticed.
Later, I did teacher training to become a high school teacher. At NO point did they ever teach us HOW teach. It was all lectures and essay writing. We did get practum experience teaching alongside teachers in schools, but what you received was random. Some teachers left us to our own devices with little to no useful feedback while others micro-managed every aspect of what we did to ridiculous detail and then in their own classes demonstrated that they were NOT doing what they were wanting us to do. Pathetic. There were a couple of good ones - obviously more by accident than design - it was just in their nature I think. And then I got qualified. Luckily for me - I could see thru all the crap and have/had been chasing effective ideas ... since even before that waste of a year. In the end, I managed to get students teaching themselves quite efficiently but my boss didn't like it - said I had to stand at the front and teach like a real teacher. I quit.
In Aikido terms, if you can't get a beginner to BB level in two years training 3 times a week, you have a problem, in my opinion. Now while your short-sighted org might not allow BB in two years - there is nothing wrong with getting them up to standard. It all starts with setting targets ...

Riai Maori
07-28-2015, 07:02 PM
In Aikido terms, if you can't get a beginner to BB level in two years training 3 times a week, you have a problem, in my opinion. Now while your short-sighted org might not allow BB in two years - there is nothing wrong with getting them up to standard. It all starts with setting targets ...

Here in NZ you can get a BB in 10 minutes. Just meet me outside the sports shop. Any particular brand, like Adidas or Nike?:D

lbb
07-28-2015, 09:33 PM
Is not is so is not is so is not is so blah blah blah lather rinse repeat. What's "BB level"? Isnotissoisnotissoisnotisso.

Currawong
07-30-2015, 07:39 AM
I'd have to search for the link, but I read an interesting article where researchers monitored piano students to see what methods of practice were the most effective in their development.

Contrary to popular belief, the students that practiced the most did not necessarily progress the most. What they did find is that the students that practiced perfectly the most times made the most progress. Perfect repetitions were the only strong correlation.

In my own Aikido practice I've observed the most progress in myself and in others when practicing with a bunch of high-level people. If I go to my Shihan's class and a bunch of his 40+ years-training students are there and I practice with them, then I make a lot of progress, because they all focus on me doing the technique absolutely perfectly (to be effective, in whatever variety of ways).

Through that training I've been able to reflect on the bad habits I developed in my early training (which started in a class full of white belts that, due to most being university students, had a degree of churn). That has lead me to ponder the fundamentals of the techniques, starting with hanmi/kamae, chuushin (centre line) and tanden (navel) that are important basics for the techniques to be executed effectively in their most basic form. Executing with those things in mind myself, I have overcome some of my bad habits and developed my technical ability, and then from there move into the subtleties and further refinement as well as adaption of the techniques to different people.

What does that mean for teaching? I think someone who intends to teach Aikido needs to have a broad and detailed understanding of how the techniques work, as well as the path of personal development at all levels and from that where best to focus when teaching at each level. Then from there a teaching methodology needs to be developed around not just the actual techniques, but exercises to develop the fundamentals. This structure exists solidly (maybe too much so) in Yoshinkan Aikido and its derivatives, but only to very varying degrees in Aikikai and other styles from what I've seen.

It raises interesting questions, as at some point students need to develop a form of awareness from which they can absorb all the teacher has done in a demonstration of a technique and work on duplicating that in themselves. If that isn't developed, the student will rely too much on being told how to do something correctly.

Peter Boylan
07-30-2015, 09:13 PM
Boylan Sensei, elsewhere on this site you commented on how the Koryu method was built on a close relationship between student and teacher - presumably teaching and learning styles having to get matched up? But, what I might have thought were traditional methods were really military methods. I was wondering if you could flesh out the differences between these two methodologies?

Please call me Peter.

You are right. What most people think of as "traditional martial arts practice" was really a development of 20th century military instruction and indoctrination. The big groups, with a teacher up front who demonstrates something, and then everyone tries to practice the same thing. Very much the product of Japanese militarism in the first half of the 20th century.

Tradition budo instruction is much more chaotic. For example, at the Shinto Muso Ryu dojos I train at in Osaka, we all start out together doing the same warm-ups (lots of kihon, first solo, then paired). After that each pair generally works on different things, which is whatever Sensei tells you to work on. Sensei then moves around working with people individually on whatever particular points he feels need the most work. I've found variations on this sort of practice to be common in the koryu dojo I've visited in Japan. It's very different from the judo, kendo and aikido dojo I've seen.

Currawong
07-30-2015, 09:56 PM
I should get off my rear-end and check out some of the local Koryu and see how they do things.

Where I train, if the main Shihan is teaching, there are mostly all high-level students. So if a new student joins, he'll have them do something different half the time after he has demonstrated a technique for everyone else, or he'll just go and practice directly with them. Sometimes I feel a less structured class, which I've experienced (and which occurs naturally after the formal class has finished, if the sensei is still around) would be good.

Though we have mirrors in the dojos for self-examination, if I taught, I'd like to bring an iPad to class and video people doing the techniques so I could show it back to them and they find their own way through problems, much like how people will record their grading and then review it themselves.

Peter Boylan
07-30-2015, 10:01 PM
I should get off my rear-end and check out some of the local Koryu and see how they do things.

Where I train, if the main Shihan is teaching, there are mostly all high-level students. So if a new student joins, he'll have them do something different half the time after he has demonstrated a technique for everyone else, or he'll just go and practice directly with them. Sometimes I feel a less structured class, which I've experienced (and which occurs naturally after the formal class has finished, if the sensei is still around) would be good.

Though we have mirrors in the dojos for self-examination, if I taught, I'd like to bring an iPad to class and video people doing the techniques so I could show it back to them and they find their own way through problems, much like how people will record their grading and then review it themselves.

There is plenty of good koryu in Fukuoka.

I use my phone, which I've installed Coach's Eye on. It's an app that let's me do slow motion analysis as well as mark up the video with instructional lines. It's very handy.
https://www.coachseye.com/

Dan Richards
07-31-2015, 01:24 AM
I like the way GI Gurdjieff put it:

"All I offer you is a relationship."

Robert Cowham
08-02-2015, 03:30 AM
One teaching challenge is basic exercises and body conditioning required to make good progress. There's only so much time in the dojo available for most of us (rather more if you have access to Suganuma sensei's organisation I imagine Amos!). An important aim for me when teaching is to inspire students to do the necessary research and exploration in their own time. It's what I experienced and continue to see when visiting my sensei. Feedback from others (typically seniors) is great - but how can we develop our own feedback mechanisms.

It relates to other skills which include increasing awareness and sensitivity, and being able to see better what is really going on when others move or do techniques. Coach's Eye seems like a useful tool in that armoury - thanks Peter!

What does it mean to be relaxed/sink the hips/not raise the shoulders?

Peter Boylan
08-02-2015, 03:57 AM
I like the way GI Gurdjieff put it:

"All I offer you is a relationship."

I like to think that we offer a Way.

Peter Boylan
08-02-2015, 04:02 AM
It relates to other skills which include increasing awareness and sensitivity, and being able to see better what is really going on when others move or do techniques. Coach's Eye seems like a useful tool in that armoury - thanks Peter!

What does it mean to be relaxed/sink the hips/not raise the shoulders?

Coach's Eye is a great tool. We use it a lot. The ability to look at action frame-by-frame means we we can take apart movement very precisely and see what we're doing wrong (some of my students have great eyes and will grab tablet and record me so I can see what I'm not doing right :-)

What does it mean to be relaxed/sink the hips/not raise the shoulders? You're asking evil questions here. Not raising the shoulders should be self-explanatory. They other 2 may well get blog posts of their own. Those are both weighty, fundamental movement questions.

rugwithlegs
08-02-2015, 07:15 AM
‹bersense has great apps like this too. Shoot a clip of yourself, or use one you already have, move frame by frame. There is a feature where you can open your clip to the larger world of coaching that I find is not worth as much to martial artists.

Robert Cowham
08-02-2015, 05:21 PM
Of course it's easier to see it in others than oneself. Have been working for a while with my students on the issues around breaking posture at the hips (a.k.a. sticking bum out) and how the energy/structural power is immediately dissipated - and then Howard Popkin kindly (and accurately) pointed out where I was committing the same sin in a particular technique when I attended his recent seminar!

philipsmith
08-14-2015, 08:03 AM
as usual when discussing coaching/teaching people take up entrenched positions often based on their own experience, prejudices and so on.
I have a role in developing coaches both in my own organisation and beyond and often meet resistance to any kind of coach training.
I don't really understand this as why wouldn't you want to be a better teacher?
Also any training should not be a one size fits all but more a way of helping teachers to develop their own style - although they do need to know certain legal requirements and so on.
One of the things that has; as I've said before on Aikiweb; held back the development of Aikidoka is this adherence to a "traditional" method of teaching which is from a different culture & era.

PeterR
08-14-2015, 08:50 AM
Before I could teach Aikido in the UK I had to take an entry level coaching certificate. Probably not the one Philip is involved in (BAA?) but I thought it was pretty good. Sure it was heavy on the legal responsibilities but you do need to know those things especially since it was for insurance purposes, but there was also a real effort to cover the more practical side of things including a session where each participant had to teach a segment with a surprise problem including fighting, heart attacks, etc. It was good to see how others dealt with the issues and how I fared with mine.

I had been teaching quite a sizeable group for several years and went in with - what could they teach me??? attitude. Or more to the point I know what I am doing. Came out thinking that the course was a very good idea.

kewms
08-21-2015, 04:36 PM
I am a beginner Nikyu Iwama student learning a pure form of Aikido, that was taught directly by Saito Sensei to my Sensei (Yondan). My Sensei has not deviated one bit from what he is teaching to what he learned way back in the early 90s. One of my Sensei's favorite sayings, is Saito Sensei taught many variations to techniques, and on this particular day in the dojo, I was taught this way. I too one day, will pass on exactly what I have been taught. I suppose this is why our Ryu stands the test of time.;)

You might want to think about this a bit.

Did Saito Sensei know *everything* that O Sensei knew? Did your instructor learn *everything* that Saito Sensei had to teach?

With no disrespect to either instructor, probably not. Being human, no teacher is able to convey everything that they know. Being human, no student is able to retain everything that they are taught. And so some loss of knowledge over time is inevitable. If the Ryu is to survive, each generation must not only preserve what they are taught, but seek to rediscover what has been lost. See also this thread: http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=24357

Katherine

Riai Maori
08-21-2015, 10:25 PM
Did Saito Sensei know *everything* that O Sensei knew? Did your instructor learn *everything* that Saito Sensei had to teach?

Rhetorical questions?

With no disrespect to either instructor, probably not. Being human, no teacher is able to convey everything that they know. Being human, no student is able to retain everything that they are taught. And so some loss of knowledge over time is inevitable. If the Ryu is to survive, each generation must not only preserve what they are taught, but seek to rediscover what has been lost.

Ah but what we weren't being taught has not been lost. Saito Sensei was one of the first Japanese Aikidoka to have translated in to English why we do it this way and when to do it this way. Why we don't do it this way and so forth. Aikido Journal is a fine example. We can study over and over again from these videos and learn from the legacy Saito Sensei has be left behind. Remember, he was O'sensei longest serving student.

We attend a 20 day Uchi deshi with Nemoto Sensei in Japan next week. He was a direct student of Saito Sensei and one of his traveling Uke to the USA. This training will hopefully reinforce what we already should know and to hopefully learn something we don't know. Our club also falls under the CAA, Patrica Hendriks.

I can guarantee you this, Iwama Aikido works. Just like Yoshinkan and Shodokan.

Iwama women Aikidoka are renown throughout the world for there very strong Aikido. They didn't achieve this reputation from training with another style of Aikido. Yes they to went to Japan and studied. From the horses mouth, not the jockey.

What I see out there are watered down versions of Aikido being taught that devalues our art into a choreographed dance.

My thoughts...

kewms
08-22-2015, 12:45 AM
Ah but what we weren't being taught has not been lost. Saito Sensei was one of the first Japanese Aikidoka to have translated in to English his view of why we do it this way and when to do it this way. Why we don't do it this way and so forth. Aikido Journal is a fine example. We can study over and over again from these videos and learn from the legacy Saito Sensei has be left behind. Remember, he was O'sensei longest serving student.

Fixed that for you.

As I'm sure you're aware, the superiority of Iwama Ryu is not universally accepted in the aikido community.

Which is not really my point, and I certainly don't want to start a cross-organizational shouting match.

Rather, I would say that the lineages founded by O Sensei's senior students differ in emphasis and teaching methodology, reflecting the personalities and interests of those students, and also the fact that they encountered O Sensei at different points in his own evolution. None of the lineages seems to consistently produce students who are as capable as the original uchi deshi, much less O Sensei himself. Therefore, it's not clear that *any* lineage retains everything that O Sensei taught.

And as for "standing the test of time?" O Sensei has only been dead for 46 years. Check back in another hundred.

Katherine