View Full Version : Are you encouraged to ask?
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09-15-2003, 12:18 AM
Ok, something I got from the "Shomenuchi" thread was that often we are doing things a certain way because that's the way it was taught to us.
In your daily training are you encouraged to examine the why's and whatfor's of your techniques and to ask questions about them. Be they technical, historical, philosophical or whatever. Or are you expected to just try to do what is demonstrated to the best of your ability and not worry about that stuff yet.
Depends.... We are welcome to ask, but ocasionally the answer will be that we should just give it time, and it will become obvious. For the record I would like to say that I have never felt like I was being brushed off. It allways seems very reasonable when I'm being told that I shouldn't worry about something.
I remember that my sensei once said that the habit of quiesioning the whys and whats of everything is what makes a good aikidoist.
09-15-2003, 01:49 PM
We are encouraged to ask. But, often the best questions come after some level of attempting to do what is demonstrated. IMHO, many questions are answered in the training.
09-15-2003, 02:23 PM
In my ASU dojo, students are encouraged not to ask questions during class, but they sometimes do so anyway and usually get an answer. Questions after class are encouraged, although not actively so. My impression is that most of the question asking and answering happens during training with a sempai for kyu tests.
I always ask if anyone has any questions at the end of every class I teach. In Seidokan, my teacher asked for questions after every technique demonstration.
09-15-2003, 05:11 PM
questioning is encouraged.........just don't intrude on the information flow. ie: ask at convenient times, after class, between techniques, during a water break......etc.
I tend to chatter, so I really have to try to not "interupt".
09-15-2003, 06:06 PM
We encourage questions at our dojo, but as Lan said, so as not to interrupt the flow of information.
Also, I strongly encourage students to question technique on their own time; "don't buy it just because we say so".
It's a dangerous posture for someone not comfortable with what they're doing; but if you are, it's great to have some challenging questions posed.
09-22-2003, 11:36 AM
In Seidokan, my teacher asked for questions after every technique demonstration.
This appears to be pretty standard for us.
Almost everytime I get on Aikiweb there is somebody asking how to do a technique, or what is expected on a test, or how they should behave, etc. While I'm all for the free exchange of ideas and knowledge it seems these people would be better served to ask their sensei. We don't train in their dojo, we have no way of knowing how things are done there and can therefore only guess as to the correct answer.
I haven't trained under many instructors/styles but I've found that the majority of the ones I've been fortunate enough to train with have an air of openess about them that lets the students know it's ok to ask. Have others experienced this or do you think that more sensei carry themselves in a way that makes them appear unapproachable?
Some questions are useful and some aren't. In our class I'll answer any questions that can be answered quickly and don't directly lead to more questions; longer answers have to be reserved for times when you're not training. Otherwise many students would spend all their training sessions philosophising about self-defence.
The more I train the more I've realised why certain things are done as they are. Unfortunately these cannot be easily explained to beginners, especially if they have no experience of real fights. I now think utlimately (as a self-defence) we have to defer to an authority who have used these techniques in life or death situations repeatedly. Thus I'm quite keen on retaining quite traditional training and technique methods.
Although many instructors, including myself, could give a good argument for doing one thing and not another, practical training methods require simple techniques which can be done instinctively and effectively in a variety of situations. Just because we can theoretically justify it, doesn't mean it is true. (but by the same token, if a student doesn't understand why they do a certain thing it can make progression slow).
10-03-2003, 07:50 PM
I encourage my students to ask questions. Students questioning are students thinking. When I am questioned I am forced to look at what I am doing through the questioner's eyes and this allows me to view my teachings from many different perspectives. Sometimes the questions are deep and moving, coming from long thoughtful introspection; sometimes they're just plain silly. Each time a student poses a question I learn something about her/him. This is invaluable to me as an instructor. Equally important, my students can see me in the light of their own uncertainties. They see that I don't have all the answers; that some questions must be answered from the inside out.
I also encourage discussion during class demos. The exchange of ideas and insights is interesting and helps to foster the strong sense of community at our dojo.
10-05-2003, 08:05 PM
~~I don't feel that the lines of communication at my dojo are very open~~
10-06-2003, 08:14 PM
~~I don't feel that the lines of communication at my dojo are very open~~
That's a shame considering that Aikido is so about communication. What's it like where you train?
10-07-2003, 05:49 PM
~~Ron, it's pretty much demo/train, demo/train, demo/train. I could try to force a window of opportunity between or after a class (and have at times, with not very good results) but that's how it feels...like I'm intruding, no matter how much etiquette I try to fall back on. I have gotten wonderful help from various sempei, so perhaps I'm simply not at a level yet where I can access my teachers. Guess that's not a very clear answer. Sorry~~
10-07-2003, 06:11 PM
I haven't been the person prone to asking the "whats", "whys" etc. But I do keep them in mind and listen to what is being taught. Many times our sensei will explain the reasons we move in a certain way or why we follow like we do. Usually, it turns out to have very martial applications and rationale. But the explanation is offered by our sensei, usually just with a short explanation and not in a long speech.
But just because I don't ask questions, doesn't me he's not open to us asking questions. He is, but I just don't since I know eventually I will find the answers to my own questions.
I find that questions are only encouraged when they compliment the teacher's teaching.
10-08-2003, 12:25 PM
I find that questions are only encouraged when they compliment the teacher's teaching.
That's not a typo, right? You did mean "compl-I-ment" and not "compl-E-ment", I take it.
10-08-2003, 12:36 PM
...it's pretty much demo/train, demo/train, demo/train....how it feels...like I'm intruding, no matter how much etiquette I try to fall back on. I have gotten wonderful help from various sempei, so perhaps I'm simply not at a level yet where I can access my teachers. Guess that's not a very clear answer. Sorry~~
Yes. The Jpn are very much Jug/Mug teachers, i.e., they are the jug of knowledge filling up the mugs of students. Socratic method need not apply.
I once watched as a chemistry teacher lectured his class. He wrote some equations on the board, turned to the lectern to look at his notes saying, "Any questions?" and, without looking up to see if anyone had raised his hand, went back to writing on the blackboard.
Actually, I would venture that you've very eloquently addressed your own problem:
"I don't feel that the lines of communication at my dojo are very open."
"I have gotten wonderful help from various sempei." [sempaI]
which being adequately explained by
"perhaps I'm simply not at a level yet where I can access my teachers."
It must get awfully tedious for teachers to explain the same beginning concepts for 30-40 years.
Also, your SEMPAI are a great resource. When I was teaching in Japan, I came to shake my head at the preference for "native-speaking English teachers." While they were more likely to be accurate, the Jpn had it all over us as regards the learning styles of our charges, not to mention the ability to explain it in their own language. Your SEMPAI enjoy similar cultural advantages and experience. This is a feature, not a bug.
10-08-2003, 12:36 PM
My instructors seem to welcome questions and generally will ask the questioner to come up and participate in finding the answer--sometimes in the role of nage, sometimes as uke, sometimes both.
10-08-2003, 12:58 PM
At the end of class one of my teachers almost always asks "Any questions?" One day I had one, so I asked it. The teacher's response was "Do you really expect me to give you a straight answer?"
10-08-2003, 05:34 PM
~~Don M., nice pick-apart. Good points to reverse back to me. Still, I'd like it if there was more of an opportunity to ask questions about techniques, movement, philosophical aspect of Aikido, etc. of my instructors as the question was 'Are you encouraged to ask?'. Untill that time, I guess I'll just keep plugging away :)
10-09-2003, 12:25 PM
Still, I'd like it if there was more of an opportunity to ask questions about techniques, movement, philosophical aspect of Aikido, etc. of my instructors. (1)
Untill that time, I guess I'll just keep plugging away :) (2)
1) Frankly, me, too.
2) I think that's the URA of the no talk thing.
10-09-2003, 01:18 PM
Don Modesto wrote:
The Jpn are very much Jug/Mug teachers, i.e., they are the jug of knowledge filling up the mugs of students.
I remember when my first son was an infant and it was my turn to change him. I placed him on the changing table and, of course, he was all angles and squiggely movement. Not having much experience at this sort of thing I decided that the process would go more smoothly if he would just straighten out his legs. Needless to say reasoning with him was out of the question, so I grasped his ankle with on hand and placed my other hand on his hip and proceeded to gently pull. Much to my amazement his leg refused to move. I tugged a little harder before deciding that this perhaps wasn't such a good idea after all and that I'd be the one who'd have to adapt...
When I first learned unbendable arm this memory came back to me in sudden realization. What I experienced with my son was an extension of his Ki, a perfect coordination of his mind and body. I believe that from birth each of us contains the knowledge that Aikido principles are based upon and that it takes a great deal of unlearning to turn us into adults who have, for the most part, forgotten this gift. This belief has formed the foundation of my teaching style. As an instructor I seek to awaken my students to what they already know, to let them find Aikido in themselves. Maybe this is why I'm very open to taking questions and encouraging discussion.
Using the analogy that Don propounded as a take-off point I guess I'd be a can opener teacher or a twist-off cap teacher:)
10-09-2003, 02:28 PM
Haha! I like that very much - "can-opener" and "twist-off cap" teacher. I was always taught that most teachers are "beer-bottle opener" teachers. Oops! Sorry about that, it just slipped out! (Btw, I am not a drinker at all, myself.)
I don't think "communication" necessarily has to be "words" and "chatter." There are many types of communication - especially in the dojo. Demonstrating the techniques, simply being the teacher conducting himself in class, the etiquette of the dojo and how you maintain a smooth running dojo, and your interaction with your seniors and co-classmates are all forms of communication and part of the Aikido learning process. I think that if you think of "communication" as something more than just dialogue and conversation or asking questions, you will find that the whole world of learning, experience and instruction opens up to you instantly.
In my dojo, I try to open up as many lines of communication as possible, I have a monthly general meeting of all the students where they can ask any questions they like and all announcements are made, I used to have a Budo Study class and go over all of the traditional classics on martial arts with open discussion, bulletin board postings, periodic lectures and seminars, a monthly newsletter now in its 22nd year, and a website where Daily Messages are posted and inquires and questions are answered and discussed, and monthly seminars. I try to not chatter away too much in the regular classes for fear of taking away from the students' training time but sometimes, if it is called for and important, I will stop the class to discussion a point. For people who are uncomfortable to approach me directly or other problems or issues, I have an executive advisory board and of course, they can always discuss anything with my senior students and assistants.
With all of this, I get bored sometimes because they do not ask enough questions and I often think that they should be asking about this or that in further detail but they seem to go blissfully on with their training. I get questions from all over the world, except my own students! I often wonder why they don't have more questions to ask of me. . . . .
Once in a while I get a talker in class and that is all he wants to do. I don't want to answer aimless questions or questions just for the sake of answering questions. Questions do have to be relevant to Aikido and one's training or something about the Dojo.
In the traditional Japanese style, it is less talk and more doing - this comes from a long tradition of seeking the "ideal' of teaching - teaching which comes "directly heart-to-heart." Also, one of many words for learning in the Japanese arts, is "mi-narai," which literally means to "observe and learn." I don't remember too many "verbal" instructions from my old teachers, but I don't deny that I learned tremendously from them.
In the Buddhist tradition which influence this artististic culture, Buddha sought teaching "outside all scriptures and words. . . . ." In the Confucian tradition, Confucius remarked, "I give the student three corners and I expect him to come up with the third by himself. . . ." In Zen, my Zen master used to say, "teaching is like shooting two arrows into the sky hoping that they will both hit each other." In other words, teaching is difficult and often best taught by actions and behavior alone. He also used to say, "you can't teach a student until he finally understands it for himself." - I had a lot of trouble with this lesson for many years!
Once a woman asked Pope John II, I pray to God everyday, sometimes several times a day, but he never once answered me!" Pope John replied something like, "Look around you, he is answering you all of the time, every second, everywhere!"
Instead of looking for opportunities to ask questions, for a little while, just for a change, try to observe your teacher very carefully in class, and I will think that you will see that he is teaching you all of the time and answering all of your questions. You are very blessed to have an excellent, 1st class teacher - this alone should give you great confidence in your training.
"It is not what a teacher says or how he talks, but what he does on the mats and what he keeps in his heart. . . . ." Many thanks.
10-09-2003, 02:54 PM
Often, the rare times I ask a question (of Sensei or Sempai), I don't understand the answer. I understand the words, see their lips moving, follow the logic, but I don't UNDERSTAND.
Maybe, as quoted above, the pitcher is 20 years old, or is of a particular shape. Maybe my mug is deformed or allready filled up (hopefully, only for the moment!). It's all supposed to be the same liquid, but I'll be darned if sometimes it does not seem like another liquid or even semi-solid what they are trying to share.
Like Homer said to Marge: "Oh! Side-SHOW Bob!"
Like I said to my Sensei not too long ago "Oh! Move with your CENTER!"
(Could also be "Oh! MOVE with your center!", "Oh! Move WITH your center!", ""Oh! Move with YOUR center!" etc...)
10-09-2003, 03:09 PM
This is exactly what my Zen master used to talk about, "a student will not understand, until he understands it for himself." (Jibun ga ki ga tsuku made, wakatte kurenai.) I used to think, "how can he understand unless I explain it first?" Sometimes, no matter how much you say or explain, they just won't understand at all. . . . . .
Nantembo, a Zen master, used to say, "If you answer me correctly, or get it wrong, you still get whacked with my staff either way!" You don't have to get whacked, but even Zen masters had a hard time teaching and sometimes, it is not just the words - one must ask, "where does true understanding come from anyways?"
10-10-2003, 06:24 AM
Like I have said elsewhere in other posts, last summer in Sukagawa, Japan, Sensei said very, very little during class (actually nothing I can remember, now that I think about it).
When we returned, and I was asked by Sensei here to teach the odd class, I said very little at first. After class fellow students would be asking "So, tell us; what was it like in Japan? What did you learn? What were classes like?"
Then it hit me; Sensei's English was excellent, but he chose to say little during class. And the senior students (nidans, sandans, yondans), who only spoke Japanese, said nothing to each other or to us. Yet we still managed to learn.
Students here get frustrated when I answer "Yes, it is difficult (muskashi?); just keep trying." What else can you do?
10-10-2003, 06:26 AM
Nantembo, a Zen master, used to say, "If you answer me correctly, or get it wrong, you still get whacked with my staff either way!"
THAT is a great quote!
10-10-2003, 07:36 AM
~~There have been some wonderful insights and sharing recently on this thread, most about why teachers might not answer questions or interact except in a kata fashion during class; why watching is also learning, etc. And I agree with nearly all of these sentiments BUT...the question was 'Are you encouraged to ask?'. No, I do not feel encouraged to ask. So by now I'd pretty much given up any idea of accessing my two teachers directly, although...
~~Just Monday I tested for ni-kyu and afterwards I was passing Sensei's desk and he called my name and gave me a big grin and thumbs-up. It seemed a window of opportunity so I asked him what I might focus on moving forward. We actually had a couple minutes of interesting exchange--first time in 7 years! So perhaps I won't completely give up :)
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