PDA

View Full Version : Why do teachers stop learning?


Please visit our sponsor:
 

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


BKimpel
09-28-2003, 01:21 PM
A number of questions on this forum (cross training, drop out rates, not seeing progress, and many others) are identifying the same issues – teachers that for whatever reason are not responding to the needs of the students.

Students are telling them that they need something different when they drop out, or when they switch to another teacher, or when the constantly seek seminars, or directly in comments such as “The classes are always the same, I don’t feel I am progressing”.

All teachers (not just martial art sensei) easily fall prey to a comfortable pattern. They create the curriculum (which takes a fair bit of work) and then they simply play and replay it through out the years. When students quit teachers attribute it to “other” issues, and while students can get bored for many reasons most are within the teacher’s control.

If you are a teacher and you don’t listen to what your students are saying (or notice it from their actions), then you are not progressing as a teacher.

We have all heard the comment, “teachers teach because they can’t do”. Teachers get angry when they hear this because they know that few people attract students if they didn’t know what they were talking about – but why do so many teachers stop “doing” once they become teachers? If their excuse is that they can’t concentrate on training and teaching at the same time – then at least they should be concentrating on becoming a better teacher – no?

Why is it that students see more interesting Aikido when their sensei demonstrates at a seminar than in their own dojo that they pay to be in all year round!?!
Why do you think people are so interested in seminars in the first place, cause they get to see a level of Aikido that rarely gets shown to them on a daily basis – why is that?
Teachers say that they concentrate on a subtle, different aspect each time they teach Ikkyo – but only the advanced students will notice that, the rest will just think “is there any other technique besides Ikkyo in Aikido?”

If students say they don’t feel they are progressing, then a teacher has to reevaluate his methods of testing and rank progression. Most students need clear outlines of progress, milestones and goals to work towards, and they need to see that they are progressing down that road to feel confident in themselves. Why do teachers say, “well that’s the way we do it around these parts” when they hear the same student questions time and time again?

Why don’t teachers try new things once and a while to shake things ups a bit?
What’s the danger, if something doesn’t work – then you don’t do it anymore (you learn from the experience and move on). Why are teachers so fearful of changing their curriculum? Do they live by the old “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” wisdom? That’s called maintenance mode, and nobody progresses in maintenance mode.

Almost every student on the planet asks their sensei how to defend against kicks, and leg-takedowns, or judo throws, etc. and get the standard answer, “The same principles apply regardless of the attack”. Why then do they never practice it in their dojo? In the old days (in Japan) they did it all the time. In every other martial art except Aikido sensei demonstrate practical application against common attacks. Why in Aikido do we feel compelled to do 50 versions of wrist grabs, and none against kicks?

By moving out of a comfort zone, and exploring new ways to teach Aikido we respond to our students needs and learn how to be better teachers.

Just some thoughts, and I welcome others to participate.

Bruce

Ari Bolden
09-28-2003, 02:43 PM
Bruce,

This post strikes at the heart of the matter. I agree 100%. Nice thread!

cheers

Ari

John Boswell
09-28-2003, 02:46 PM
Well, let's think about this a little bit.

1) Do you really think there are NO teachers out there that know how to "change it up" or what have you? I know my instructor is in a constant state of flux with his frame by frame review of Doshu's and other Sensei's videos. No two classes are EVER the same.

2) Those instructors that DO fall into your catagory will find it difficult to either admit that they are like that or will not see that as their situation at all. It would take an objective and outside instructor, most likely of higher rank, to come in and give 'constructive criticism' and even then you don't know how it will be received.

Its kind of a Catch-22: Those who hear you are not the subject of this thread and those who are will not see that they are.

Lastly, what is your rank and Aikido experience? That also may have something to do with whether any instructors will respond to this thread of yours. /shrug

Just a thought.

DCP
09-28-2003, 06:31 PM
I think I have to pause and be thankful for the instructors I have.

BKimpel
09-28-2003, 07:48 PM
Thanks Mr.Bolden.

Mr.Boswell

Of course I don’t think every teacher is lacking these important tools to learn from their students. There are many wonderful teachers in Aikido. I was, however, recognizing a common theme among *many* questions/concerns on this forum from students of all levels and organizations…so obviously the issue touches more than one dojo – no?

I don’t think that any sensei have to stand up at “Aikidoholics Anonymous” and admit they have a problem in order to recognize that their teaching can use some spicing up. I did not outline areas of weakness, as much as opportunities for advancement. And I certainly don’t expect teachers to respond to my post at all – just maybe read it (or their students will read it and pass it on to their sensei) and give the issues 2 seconds worth of thought, that’s all.

As for only accepting advice from their seniors, hmm, I suspect that is part of the issue that prevents growing as a teacher in the first place. Often we start out by emulating our teachers, because that is the example we know. Some teachers don’t look any further; they stop learning and keep doing what they learned 50 years ago. Some teachers, however, keep searching and learning and some even surpass their own teachers. And some teachers do listen to what their students are saying (as exemplified in the cross-pollinization thread on this forum), and it shows in their organizations.

As for my rank, I am a student (and having studied Aikido for only 13 years now, I cannot consider myself anything but a student) and if you are a teacher you have an opportunity to learn from me and all the other students voicing their opinions ;)

Bruce

aikidoc
09-28-2003, 11:37 PM
Teaching is complicated. On the one hand you have students that constantly want learn new techniques without mastering the basics. Basics can be boring. Yet, poor basics make for ineffective and sloppy technique.

So how does one balance the two-get students to master the basics and yet keep them interested? It is quite a challenge.

There are some issues with instructors that stop training-they show up and teach. They never attend seminars, they never study videos, they never read, they don't try to move themselves forward. Burnout? Who knows. There are instructors like this out there. Their stasis can become yours. However, there are instructors out there that do constantly push themselves to progress. It is a training mindset.

Entering the mat with the mindset that you are going to learn something every time you step on the mat will prevent a lack of personal advancement even if you feel your instructor is boring you. When you approach your training with that mindframe, you will never feel stuck or bored no matter what. You will find that even the instructor who keeps doing ikkyo over and over will be able to help you grow.

PeterR
09-29-2003, 12:06 AM
Call me lucky but I have yet to have one teacher that's stopped learning. The obvious level of progression might be less than their first year on the mat, and what they may be emphasizing is well beyond my ability to comprehend, but I would never say they were going through the motions.

I'm sure they exist but even those would deny it.

Bussho
09-29-2003, 02:27 AM
Hi

I just wanted to point out that sometimes it isn't the teahcer that's the problem, but the student himself. The student thinks he knows the answer before he gets there. As I see it there are two ways of handling this. One is to continue showing the technique as it is, and "hope" that he'll get the point right. The other is showing him the point. The problem I see, is that by showing him the point is that the student really didn't learn it by himself.

And since Aikido has alot of "feel", the only way to be certain of the "correct" understanding is to get the student to understand (to get) the tehcnique. And if the student feels it's the same over and over again, mybe it's because his not willing to learn anymore?

/Bussho

philipsmith
09-29-2003, 06:39 AM
As a teacher involved in teaching other Aikido teachers can I just say thank you for starting this thread.

I think there are two issues:

1) It may sound surprising but a lot of teachers aren't secure enough in their Aikido to experiment whilst teaching. This is the "If I can't do this (different) Ikkyo every body will think my Aikido is no good and so will stop coming to my class" syndrome.

2) I've made it and so I dont need to learn syndrome.

In my experience the former is the most prevalent and after a while it's difficult to get out of that mind set.

There is also sometimes a problem of perception. If the teacher is trying to perfect a technique he or she can sometimes lose the big picture. In other words the teacher may concentrate on one small aspect of the technique but the students wish to concentrate or need to develop a different aspect.

In essence this is a really difficult pitfall to avoid and if anyone has any suggestions how to avoid please let me know as I'm still trying to find an answer.

SeiserL
09-29-2003, 09:13 AM
I was at the Aiki Expo and it was great to see so many top Senseis on mats in other people's workshops. They trained with us.

I have been to other seminars too with multiple Senseis, and they all joined in the training.

IMHO, when you stop learning, you stop teaching.

BKimpel
09-29-2003, 09:45 AM
Excellent points from everyone, all true.

It is true that balancing “basics without boredom” (my next book…just kidding) is a difficult task. We do need a huge amount of basics to get anywhere in Aikido. That’s why I suggested (on the drop-rate thread) mixing basics in with other fun stuff. Instead of just going through a routine of every month starting off with ikkyo and working your way up, try having some days where you only practice one technique all class – no variations at all, just get it right. Then other days offer more variation to expand on the technique, other days do randori, other days do nothing but buki-waza (weapon take always). I am not saying that teachers never do these things – I’m sure they all do, but I have seen the frequency very low: high volume kata, very little bukiwaza, very very little randori, etc. etc.

Interesting that Mr.Smith identifies 2 main causes of “teachers that stop learning”: not confident enough in their ability to experiment, and I’ve made it syndrome. Look at how teacher’s issues become the student’s issues:

If sensei fears change, or lacks confidence in his/her ability students will sense it – and then they will naturally question their own confidence since they are learning from you.

It seems to me that a common reason for 2nd and 1st kyu dropouts is that they come to a place in their training of “good enough”, “I have enough now, so I’ll move on”. I wonder if that attitude comes from their teachers who seem to have stopped at “good-enough”?

So it seems that students are the Budo teacher’s mirror, reflecting the good and the bad character so that sensei can grow and learn. I personally think it is wonderful to have such a rapid feedback system readily available.

Bruce

DaveO
09-29-2003, 10:10 AM
Call me lucky but I have yet to have one teacher that's stopped learning.
Man; I sure have, and given the talent of one of them; it's a real tragedy.

At the beginning of the thread; Bruce used the somewhat mangled ( :) ) line: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." As a teacher; I agree with this in many fields. Example: a trades teacher in a college may teach what he knows, and teach it well; but without the day-to-day work in that particular field; he'll fall behind in experience with his peers; sooner or later becoming hopelessly out-of-date in his knowledge - it's a difficulty we all have to deal with.

In dynamic fields like U/C or MA training however; it's different, or at least it's supposed to be. The teacher is teaching and learning right alongside his students, IOW both practicing and teaching within the field. Ideally; he'll improve himself while improving his students.

Unfortunately; the ideal doesn't always work for two prime reasons: 1) the instructor's teaching skills are less than they could be, or 2) the instructor's ego is greater than it should be. If 1) is the case; it may be because the instructor doesn't have the skill to balance both teaching and learning - a universal problem easily solved through identification and practice. If 2) is the case; the instructor may have the "I know more than you" mindset, and refuse the chance to learn in the mistaken belief he doesn't need to know more. As Lynn pointed out (in a sideways sort of fashion :) ), the best teachers are those who consider themselves students, and quite happily join in the training with the group. This does far more than keep the insructor's skills up; it brings them down to a human level for the students; gives the students something to respect far greater than mere rank.

For myself; as an instructor I've always looked upon myself as a servant to my students - everything I do in relation to them is for them; not for me. Admittedly; it's cool being a teacher, and I always get the ego-rush stepping to the front of the classroom. But my greatest rush is seeing my students excel - that's after all what I'm there for. Down the line when I start teaching Aikido; I'll approach it with the same attitude - my students' success will determine my skill as a teacher. :)

Cheers!

kironin
09-29-2003, 11:16 AM
There are some issues with instructors that stop training-they show up and teach. They never attend seminars, they never study videos, they never read, they don't try to move themselves forward. Burnout? Who knows. There are instructors like this out there. Their stasis can become yours. However, there are instructors out there that do constantly push themselves to progress. It is a training mindset.

Entering the mat with the mindset that you are going to learn something every time you step on the mat will prevent a lack of personal advancement even if you feel your instructor is boring you. When you approach your training with that mindframe, you will never feel stuck or bored no matter what. You will find that even the instructor who keeps doing ikkyo over and over will be able to help you grow.
Nice reply. I think I might add that a teacher should step on the mat every class they teach with the expectation that they are going to learn something. That for example even if I am teaching ikkyo, I be very open to what is occuring at the moment of showing or teaching ikkyo. I might notice something that takes the class in a direction I didn't expect. I have taught ikkyo several classes in a row, but I would bet my students didn't realize it at the time that they were being taught the same basics in each class because the apparent variation.

The first couple of years I taught a weekly class, I had pretty specific lesson plans and wrote down notes and shared them with another assistant instructor teaching a weekly class. It was some work but also a good exercise while we were getting confident about teaching. I think we eventually stopped doing it as we felt more and more confident of walking into a class and just teaching based on our intuition. We were both teachers professionally outside of aikido.

My shihan had a rule. If he taught three classes in a row without learning something himself, he would quit Aikido. That apparently never happened in 30 years.

Craig

BKimpel
09-29-2003, 12:12 PM
I’d like to relate my experience as a computer programming teacher (I’ll make it as brief as possible to prevent pure boredom ;))

I became a computer-programming teacher (my first job) because I had such a good teacher, so much so I utilized the same teaching techniques he used on me with my students. But I found, within a short time, I was lacking in some areas and I rigorously sought to fill those gaps with additional training. After a year of teaching, our college hosted a teaching seminar and teachers from a number of schools came (including my old teacher). In the course of that seminar, my image of him being my mentor was shattered – not because he had become a bad teacher, but because he had remained completely static and I had far surpassed him in such a short time. I asked him about it after, and he said point blank that he was tired of retraining himself all the time and wanted to just coast for a while.

I saw this as a real problem, and when my students began complaining that our curriculum was too outdated (computer knowledge gets outdated every 6 months unfortunately), I took it upon myself to seek the knowledge I needed, dumped some outdated courses and created new ones to better suite the current needs (as they directly correlated to students get jobs). Well, although the students were really happy our college administrator pulled me into the office and told me that I needed to settle down and lay off “radical” course changes since the other instructors couldn’t keep up. I agreed, not wanting to make my coworkers look bad, but soon I realized how hypocritical this whole exercise was…even with all my studying to understand the needs of the students I had never even worked in the field I was preparing them for. I needed to get out there and KNOW what they needed.

So I did, and although I mentor and train people today I do not do it as my vocation. My primary concern is to DO; my secondary concern is to teach.

I think many of you will see parallels in Aikido teachers, and I don’t need to explicitly identify them. Everyone sleeping yet? :)

Bruce

aikidoc
09-29-2003, 01:02 PM
Craig:

Thanks for the compliment. I step on the mat with the student mind even though I primarily teach. And I have never yet stepped off the mat without learning something new-every class-it may be a subtlety or something real simple but my mind expects to learn something new and I do.

To avoid the teaching the same old thing every day, week, etc. I try to avoid that by not having any idea what I am going to teach when I step on the mat. I basically don't have a pre mindset for the days lession. I may do something based on a comment I hear before class or an observation of another instructors class before mine. I also periodically ask students what they want to work on. The only time I focus on teaching specific material repetitively is when we approach test time. So far, I've been lucky and have not been at a loss as to what to teach.

The ideas of mixing things up is good. I sometimes take a beginners group and teach them oyo waza. It actually helps their basics when they go back to them.

arderljohn
05-11-2004, 01:18 AM
Hi Bruce, I agree on that in some matters. but, I disagree in some non-related cause. 1st of all "not all teachers" I myself being a teacher. all I wanted is to learn more. so that, I could share my knowledge and belief in my community and to my students. 2nd, maybe you've been experienced to some teachers a not so good. or, shoul I say, "dont want to grow"... you know, you dont have to judge them...it is you to accept those teaching method ;). I, once have experinced a teacher like that. to old, and to tired to gain.he stuck to what he learned from the past. we accept those attitude and belief because his only human being like us, have a right to do what he learned from his teachers...for me let him be..don't judge him, do it the other way, find the solution by your self look around. maybe by in other dojo or other school you will find thats fits to your taste...at least you will not stuck and get older like he did..

Have a Nice day and start looking :)

Largo
05-11-2004, 01:54 AM
Ideally, teachers shouldn't stop learning. My aikido teacher is always researching and changing what we do due to what he feels we currently lack (it ends up being about every 3 or 4 months :freaky: )

Certain basics do need to be learned first though, or changing things around won't really help much.

shihonage
05-11-2004, 02:35 AM
I think a lot of teachers do shake up things a bit, but they do it during black belt seminars, where they know that all participating have mastered the basics and can go farther without seriously damaging themselves.

ian
05-11-2004, 07:10 AM
Hi Bruce - sounds like you got a rough deal somewhere along the line. There are good teachers and bad teachers. I think any 'format' for teaching is bad since the instructor should respond to the needs of the students. However she/he is not their to teach what the students 'want to know' they are there to teach aikido. Each instructor will have a different view of what this is, and thus what the gaps he/she feels need filling in the students.

One thing I learnt several years ago as well, was that sometimes you really have to know a technique to fully understand the finer points. That is why repetitive practise is necessary.

Ian

MaryKaye
05-11-2004, 09:44 AM
One of my instructors, a fourth dan, has been working with me a lot lately on kokyu dosa. If my entry is not correct, she will mysteriously turn into a boulder which I can't move. It's a compliment, I guess--I'm improving so she makes it more difficult.

It was fascinating to see her at a recent seminar practicing kokyu dosa with the seminar instructor, a look of intense concentration on her face--because if she didn't get the entry correct (on a level I can't begin to appreciate yet) he was turning into a boulder and she wasn't moving him. A lot of the junior people silently stopped training to watch, because it was fascinating to see one of our very best challenged that way.

It's far from inevitable that teachers stop learning.

Mary Kaye

George S. Ledyard
05-11-2004, 11:31 AM
One Word: Status
People like being the guy that "knows". It's great to stand up there and have everybody all wide eyed and adoring. If you can create some sense of yourself as posessed of "special knowledge" to which they may aspire at some later time you can really go to town.

But it's very difficult to maintain that lofty position but train at the same time. If you try new things your students might actually see that there are things you don't know or that there are people out there that are better than you are. It's difficult to get your students believing that you are the Big Kahuna if you go off and look to others for training. That would mean you are only a medium or even small Kahuna.

I remember reading a comment that Fredrick Lovret Sensei (controversial Aikijujutsu instructor) made. He said that if a student asked a question, the teacher had to have an answer, even if he made one up. Now that is a perfect example of someone who cannot afford to be seen learning anything from anyone else because it would diminish his status. He has to spend all his time making sure that his students are doing exectly what he is teaching, exactly how he is teaching it. If he can do that then he automaticaly stays at the top of the pack. "Right" is defined as his way, and he will always be able to do his way better than anyone else.

AsimHanif
05-11-2004, 01:11 PM
Bruce,
this was/is a concern of mine also. I think part of the issue has to do with in many dojo's, the head instructor may may not have the expertise. Although there are many very good nidans and shodans, they may not have the experience yet to coach that student who is ready for something extra. I don't mean this as a negative. People can only teach what they know and we are all learning. But that's where having access to Shihans is extremely helpful. A good Shihan is able to give you just that little nugget, that not only gives you something to work on during the course of your training but keeps you motivated.
I really do agree with the point that some instructors become intimidated. If the student feels that is the case, then probably the best thing to do is find an instructor who is not intimidated. In some cases the difference in ability between some nikkyu's and nidans is very small. So it is understandable that the nikkyu may not be developing at a rate he or she is capable of. So as Bruce said, the teacher needs to DO. If instructors only look to instruct, it will eventually lead to stagnation and it's repercussions in the dojo.
I feel extremely fortunate to live in area where I have access to many great Shihan. My main concern now is gas money:-)
Ledyard Sensei, your post reminded me of the Michael Jordan commercial where they said he took the last shot so many times and failed. That's why he is great now. Obviously he wasn't afraid to fail or struggle. It eventually made him that much stronger.
Good post DaveO.

Tadhg Bird
05-17-2004, 07:48 PM
One of the reasons I have encountered for the non-learning/progressing teacher is this: Teaching feels like training, but it is not.

When I am teaching, I have to make a special effort to do some training as well. Demonstrating technique and taking ukemi for students sure feels like training, but its not. It has been my experience that when others are calling me "Sensei", my technique does not get criticized (to my face). This is of course proper, if people nit-picked their instructor, the class would go nowhere. But I need criticism, even from a peer if I am to continue to improve.

Rocky Izumi
03-03-2006, 12:52 PM
Learning requires research. Doing research requires good understanding and ability to do the basics. Thus, to be able to continue to learn in Aikido requires better understanding of the basic principles so that experimentation and research can be done. Without the good fundamentals, research cannot be done and learning cannot take place.

One of the best ways to experiment is to teach and use the students as guinea pigs to see what improves their techniques, as well as practicing those things yourself to see how it works on your students. To be able to practice with your students, they must challenge you by making sure they never "give" you a technique. That is where newbies come in so handy because they have a tendency to try and challenge the instructor. It bothers me when people say they would just change the technique if something doesn't work. Research is what is required here, not adaptation. Just because someone stops you from entering into a Shihonage by locking down their arm, it is not a time to use atemi or to just use power to break the lockdown. It is then time to experiment and find out how you really should be doing the technique to make it work better. You do this by going back to the fundamental principles of Aikido and finding out which one you are missing.

Shihonage is a good example. I now get my students to lock down their arms every time I do a Shihonage demonstration to make sure that I am incorporating all the principles that I need to in order to be able to do the technique. In this way, I have researched and found out what principles of Aikido I was missing in doing my Shihonage and have improved it tremendously. The same applied when I asked my students to make sure that I couldn't bend their elbow when I was doing Ikkyo.

Rock

Lyle Bogin
03-03-2006, 02:27 PM
Didn't O'Sensei train himself mostly by teaching and working with his own students while creating this stuff we all try to do?

We must we seek more and more teachers when we can create something of our own?

After a while, I think you need equals and students. Teachers can only take you so far.

Aristeia
03-03-2006, 03:22 PM
Great thread. In my experience teachers that stop training are the death knell. Many times their Aikido will actually go backwards as they start to make "adjustments" to techniques that never get tested. I agree with the comments about status, and fear of losing it. Nothing makes me respect an instructor more than when they make a mistake while demonstrating a technique and then point out what went wrong, as opposed to trying to cover it up pretenging that's what they meant to do all along.

But unfortunately there are instructors out there that feel that need to hold on to status, to never not know the answer to a question, to feel like they still need to be students. And equally unfortunately many of their students will not realise this is a problem unitl they've wasted a lot of time.

Mark Uttech
03-03-2006, 04:36 PM
This is a curious thread; my very first reaction was: "why do teachers stop learning? the only answer I know, is that they don't." Learning itself is a curious thing, even when one does not appear to be learning, learning is taking place. In gassho

Aristeia
03-03-2006, 04:46 PM
Mark you seem to be saying learning is *always* taking place. Are you suggesting there are not individuals who become stagnant and stop?

Michael Hackett
03-03-2006, 04:56 PM
Like Lynn, I saw much of the same at the last Aiki Expo. One thing really impressed me though. Matsuoka Sensei told our session that he was (and I paraphrase here) reexamining what he had been doing for forty years and is reinventing his aikido. He invited the students to experiment with him.

Mark Uttech
03-04-2006, 08:53 AM
Reply to Michael Fooks: OF Course there are some teachers who become stagnant and stop. They go somewhere else and learn something else. But yes, 'learning' is always taking place. Everything seems to have naturally built in filters. The filters are another type of test, people are tested for persistance, determination, etc. I recall reading a comment by Rinjiro Shirata Sensei, after practicing 50 years: "I think I am starting to get the hang of shiho-nage..."

Rocky Izumi
03-06-2006, 03:51 PM
I am not sure about learning always taking place. I think it depends a lot on your definition of learning. The Zen Buddhists talk of learning through enlightenment. This would be when there is a reformatting of how you understand the world. When there is a full reformatting, that would be like becoming a Buddha. However, the incremental type of learning that I think you are talk about, Mark, seems to be more like practice because that learning only helps to solidify that which you already know by practicing that form of thinking. It feels like more of an institutionalization than learning. It is like organizational change and transformation. Incremental change is now known, through quantitative experimental verification, to not lead to true organizational transformation, but to institutionalization of the existing culture. If you want to transform your organization, you have use the tools of the new culture to create that new culture. You can't transform an organization using the tools of the old culture. For a true organizational transformation to occur, in other words, for the organization to truly learn new behaviour, step-wise change must occur, not incremental change. It is a lot like that Zen Buddhist idea of enlightenment. That is the purpose of the Koans, to break the old pattern of thinking so that it leads to a catastrophy cusp in thinking modality. Anyhoo, I believe that true learning only occurs when that catastrophic change in ways of thinking occur. These catastrophic changes may be small but they are discontinuous from the old pattern. If you are lucky, you can get small moments of enlightenment every week but that would be hoping for a lot. You can't have too many large ones or someone might think you have a multiple personality. :) I seem to get a lot though, when experimenting and doing research on the basic fundamental principles of Aikido rather than just practicing technique. I use the practice as a way of verifying my new understanding through experimentation and testing of my hypothesis concerning some issue in Aikido. Well, I have to go and experiment some more now. Have a good practice.

Rock

Perry Bell
03-09-2006, 06:48 PM
A number of questions on this forum (cross training, drop out rates, not seeing progress, and many others) are identifying the same issues -- teachers that for whatever reason are not responding to the needs of the students.

Students are telling them that they need something different when they drop out, or when they switch to another teacher, or when the constantly seek seminars, or directly in comments such as "The classes are always the same, I don't feel I am progressing".

All teachers (not just martial art sensei) easily fall prey to a comfortable pattern. They create the curriculum (which takes a fair bit of work) and then they simply play and replay it through out the years. When students quit teachers attribute it to "other" issues, and while students can get bored for many reasons most are within the teacher's control.

If you are a teacher and you don't listen to what your students are saying (or notice it from their actions), then you are not progressing as a teacher.

We have all heard the comment, "teachers teach because they can't do". Teachers get angry when they hear this because they know that few people attract students if they didn't know what they were talking about -- but why do so many teachers stop "doing" once they become teachers? If their excuse is that they can't concentrate on training and teaching at the same time -- then at least they should be concentrating on becoming a better teacher -- no?

Why is it that students see more interesting Aikido when their sensei demonstrates at a seminar than in their own dojo that they pay to be in all year round!?!
Why do you think people are so interested in seminars in the first place, cause they get to see a level of Aikido that rarely gets shown to them on a daily basis -- why is that?
Teachers say that they concentrate on a subtle, different aspect each time they teach Ikkyo -- but only the advanced students will notice that, the rest will just think "is there any other technique besides Ikkyo in Aikido?"

If students say they don't feel they are progressing, then a teacher has to reevaluate his methods of testing and rank progression. Most students need clear outlines of progress, milestones and goals to work towards, and they need to see that they are progressing down that road to feel confident in themselves. Why do teachers say, "well that's the way we do it around these parts" when they hear the same student questions time and time again?

Why don't teachers try new things once and a while to shake things ups a bit?
What's the danger, if something doesn't work -- then you don't do it anymore (you learn from the experience and move on). Why are teachers so fearful of changing their curriculum? Do they live by the old "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" wisdom? That's called maintenance mode, and nobody progresses in maintenance mode.

Almost every student on the planet asks their sensei how to defend against kicks, and leg-takedowns, or judo throws, etc. and get the standard answer, "The same principles apply regardless of the attack". Why then do they never practice it in their dojo? In the old days (in Japan) they did it all the time. In every other martial art except Aikido sensei demonstrate practical application against common attacks. Why in Aikido do we feel compelled to do 50 versions of wrist grabs, and none against kicks?

By moving out of a comfort zone, and exploring new ways to teach Aikido we respond to our students needs and learn how to be better teachers.

Just some thoughts, and I welcome others to participate.

Bruce

Hi Bruce

Very well put ;) I have no doubt you will put noses of of joint with this one, I have been teaching for a very long time I have been practicing and teaching for 30 years and I understand what you are saying, in my classes I always ask for input from my students as they to are my teachers, that does not mean I will change the broad carriculuum but sometimes its nice to try different things, in my childrens class when we play games after class I watch what they do so I can see what they enjoy if i see it works for them I will incorporate it in at some level, I also ask for input for the parents because they talk to their children at home about the classes they to can teach me something not necessarily about technique but about the things they observe during class times etc

Good question

Train hard and practice heaps

Perry :)

Perry Bell
03-09-2006, 07:10 PM
Hi all,

Hows this for a comment made to me by a top instructor in Australia when I was a junior in my mid 20's I was a 2nd dan in karate with about 10 years experience and had been practising Aikido for about 3 years at the time I already had my own school running under the guidance of my instructor but this guy did not know that. I ask him why he was not taking notice of what I was saying at a heads of style meeting where I was representing my instructor.

"We head instructors only listen and talk to other head instructors, we dont listen to common students"

My view is if I did not have students to teach all I would be is a man with a black belt, so who is more important.

See my view on that on in another thread on the importance of a black belt.

Take care

Perry :)

Nick Simpson
03-10-2006, 07:57 AM
In every other martial art except Aikido sensei demonstrate practical application against common attacks. Why in Aikido do we feel compelled to do 50 versions of wrist grabs, and none against kicks?

Thats a bit of a sweeping statement isnt it? Perhaps your organisation/dojo/instructor doesnt teach with other attacks, but that doesnt mean that everyone else in the art does so...

George S. Ledyard
03-12-2006, 01:00 PM
I was reading about antique cars at one point. Apparently, there is actually a rating system which assigns points for various aspects of the car. It is very easy and only requires moderate expense to take an old junker which might be worth close to zero points and get it up to 70 or 80 points. It takes quite a bit more effort and expense to get its rated value up to 90 points. At 90 you have a pretty amazing car. Making an improvement of just a single point at that level takes massive expense and alot of effort.

It's the same with this art. It takes a fair amount of time and effort to get up to the place at which you can open a dojo and not have people laughing at you. Every step upwards takes more effort. Each substanbtial change requires that you look anew at what you already could do. This is VERY difficult for most folks. At each step of the way, some folks drop out of the process and hit their level of comfort. If they are at a fairly high level of skill when they finally do this, it's not much of a problem because the number of people who will train with them and actually master everything they know is extremely small. If they start teaching too soon and then plateau out at only a moderate level of skill, their students will find themselves dissatisfied and the teacher will suffer when compared to other teachers see at seminars or events like the Expo.

It is an EXTREMELY rare teacher that simply keeps changing, keeps looking at new ideas, is still interested in what other people have acheived. O-Sensei was one such teacher. He never stopped changing. What is interesting is to see how his students tended to drop away as he changed. They were the ones who found their comfort level and went their own ways.

On the other hand, as someone who has been teaching for quite a while now, I know that many students who have left over the years because they felt they weren't getting something they "wanted" did so either because they hit the point at which they recognized that in order to get to that next level they would have to change (folks don't like to change) or they simply didn't have the patience to stick it out till they did get it.

This thing about teachers not "listening" to their students... Everyone I know who runs a dojo has a built in incentive to "listen" to their students. The big problem with the martial arts these days is that there are too many dojos in which the teacher isn't really teaching much at all but is simply giving the students what they want. That is virtually the definition of a McDojo; a place where the students are given what they want, not what is required to make an excellent martial artist. People may quit because they aren't getting what they want; but the question is, is what they want what they need to get good at the art? In most cases I would say no.

Aiki LV
03-13-2006, 01:45 PM
Ledyard Sensei,
Wow, I don't think in recent times I've read something that someone wrote that was both so honest and eloquent. Your post really struck a cord and flipped a switch on in my head. Thank you for your contribution. I'm going to be mulling this one over in my head for a while.

Rocky Izumi
03-13-2006, 08:50 PM
The big problem with the martial arts these days is that there are too many dojos in which the teacher isn't really teaching much at all but is simply giving the students what they want. That is virtually the definition of a McDojo; a place where the students are given what they want, not what is required to make an excellent martial artist. People may quit because they aren't getting what they want; but the question is, is what they want what they need to get good at the art? In most cases I would say no.

Sorry George, but this sounds like a contradiction. If an instructor "teaches" what is "required to make an excellent martial artist" and the students stay in order to become "excellent martial artists," is that instructor not giving the students what they want? That would mean that every instructor that still has students is a McDojo. The only way I can see to make your definition work is if the students had no choice but to take lessons from that instructor. I don't see that being the situation except in a very few cases.

It seems more like all instructors teach what they think is best, whether that best is determined by themselves, by their training, by their Shihan, by their Ryu, by some book, by some students, or by a Ouija Board. Just because I say that my way is the "right way" doesn't make it so for all the people. My "way" can be right for some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. We make our decisions based on the way we were raised and our experiences. If some people make their decisions in a more democratic way, what is there to say that I am any more right than they are just because I have a vision of what Aikido I should be doing at age 80.

Aikido has had the requisite variety required to survive as the social and cultural environment has changed from before the war. That is one of the great strengths of Aikido. It continues to evolve to suit the social, cultural, physical, and meta-physical environment and the nature of the individual that practices Aikido. While I may poke fun at and denigrate Aiki-dancers, McDojos, or "Combat Aikido" dojos, I cannot seriously say that they are wrong. They are only "wrong" in my view.

I do the type of Aikido that is useful for my work and for my own development of body, spirit, ethics, and common sense. Students are welcome to come and practice and learn with me. The Aikido that I do is my Aikido. If some other people find is useful for themselves, then that means I have people to practice with and practice on. I could just as well decide that the type of Aikido I need to practice is the type that is suitable for everyone in all environments (a McDojo?).

Your argument is leaking.

Rock

David Yap
03-14-2006, 12:23 AM
Hi all,

IMHO, the learning/growth curve in its 3-dimensional form is a spiral. Change is a spiral; it could either spiral up or spiral down. If I have remained with my first teacher, I would not have known whether he is still learning or has stopped learning. The fact is that he has allowed us to learn from others and that has ensured us that our spirals are upward bound.

Best training.

David Y

George S. Ledyard
03-14-2006, 01:20 AM
The only way I can see to make your definition work is if the students had no choice but to take lessons from that instructor. I don't see that being the situation except in a very few cases.

Hi Rock,
I understand what you are saying and I am not trying to make some absolute blanket statement that is true in all cases. Sure, no dojo would survive if it didn't deliver some of what the students wanted at any given point in time. But it is also true that the teacher has a perspective on things that the student can't possibly have. The teacher (ostensibly anyway) knows what is necessary to achieve excellence in the art (and that can be as a martial practice, as a spiritual practice, as conflict resolution, as dance,it doesn't matter... there will be a version of which ever approach speaks to the student which is a good version of that approach) Often that involves going through some things which the student will not find particularly appealing whether because it is too hard or he is not patient enough to put in the time and effort necessary to get to a place of understanding.

But what I am saying is true some of the time. It's not that case that a given student has no choice but to take lessons from a given instructor. it's that the average person doesn't even know what excellent is. E-Budo.com is full of stories of completely bogus instructors setting themselves up as grandmasters, sokes, etc and delivering a totally bogus product. Often these guys have students who are quite happy simply because thay don't know any better.

One of my former students got a job running a Tae Kwon Do school. He atught classes even though he actually had no background in tae Kwon Do and had only dome some karate informally (he was unraked). He received extensive instruction in how to run a dojo as a successful business. The place was run entirely on the basis of reinforcement theory. The ultimate goal was to get the student to sign another contract. Most of the students didn't know enough to know that the school was delivering a mediocre to poor product but the management definitely knew what most folks thought they wanted and delivered something that gave them the illusion that they were getting it.

I'm not ready to take the "It's all fine" approach. There is excellent Aikido and there is Aikido that isn't. Some approaches are less martial and more spiritual. Folks have widely different ideas about what they want. But I can recognize a good version of any approach and tell the difference between that version and one that doesn't have solid content. The folks who are offering the best training often aren't the ones who have the biggest and most successful dojos. That's all I'm saying.

Thanks for the input, it's always good to hear from you.

Rocky Izumi
03-14-2006, 06:07 AM
There is excellent Aikido and there is Aikido that isn't. Some approaches are less martial and more spiritual. Folks have widely different ideas about what they want. But I can recognize a good version of any approach and tell the difference between that version and one that doesn't have solid content. The folks who are offering the best training often aren't the ones who have the biggest and most successful dojos. That's all I'm saying.

Hi George,

Thanks for the explanation. I think it makes sense. I have to mull this over a bit more. Yes, you can be a good anything and a lousy business person and your business will suffer. You can be a lousy technician but a good business person and your business can flourish. I've seen that in many fields of business.

But, I guess I have seen the evolution of martial arts in my lifetime from a more martial basis to an art basis. I have seen my martial art move from the martial to the art basis. If I had seen myself as I am now when I was 20, I would have been disgusted at the loss of what I understood at that time to be the martial aspect of my budo. My son sees it that way. I can laugh at how he thinks, inside myself, because I can see myself thinking and saying the same thing when I was his age.

I remember how many Aikidoists used to comment negatively on the softness of the old Doshu's Aikido. I thought some of those comments may have had validity until I was his Uke during a demo in the United States. I had an epiphany that day.and in the following days. The softness was not a lack of power but its correct use. The softness was a choice in how to manipulate me and my ability to take ukemi correctly. I began to understand martiality in a different framework. One that worked for me but perhaps not for others. It began to take the martial aspect and turn it into an art so that it became even more generalisable to everything else. I don't think I lost that martiality though, even though my son thinks so.

The point of all this is that I have seen myself move away from the main stream because of my background and the type of work that I still do. Because of that, I guess I have a lot of tolerance for different interpretations of Aikido, even those that are market-driven and not technically nor artistically driven. I guess I have to go back to a conversation I recently had with Kawahara Sensei. He pointed out that he believes that real test of your Aikido is not going out and getting into a bar fight but whether the Aikido is useful for what you do with it (getting into bar fights is not the normal life for most people). I guess that means that my Aikido will turn out to be a little more functionally oriented than that of some but not as much as the Aikido of others.

Rock

jonreading
03-14-2006, 12:07 PM
Lot's of comments to address...where to begin...

As a teacher, my job is to pass the knowledge of aikido to my students. I must develop efficient and challenging teachings to maintain the interest of my students and promote participation and development. This is a difficult task for me as an instructor, but I am responsible for best identifying what with help my students learn. It's still learning, but it's different subject matter. Good teachers will succeed at this task, poor instructors will not. The problem the initial thread identifies are those instructors that cannot succeed selling the primary commodity of an aikido dojo - instruction of a martial art. Therefore, those instructors (and dojo) use other resources to susidize their primary commodity (lower fees, easier testing, less rigorous training, etc.); they appeal to students using other incentives to stay in "business." As an instructor, my "business" is to pass the aikido I learned from my instructor on to my students and improve that aikido in my training. Whether my dojo is 1 student or 100 students, my task remains the same.

As for Sensei Ledyard's comments, I couldn't agree more. The idea of giving students what they "want" is a poor understanding of education. The integrity of aikido relies on providing students the tools they need to develop and the encouragement to face the difficult challenges of training; those students that possess the attitude, courage and ability will develop into the next generation of aikidoka. There is no law that says "thou shalt train everyone that walks into your dojo."

Michael Hackett
03-14-2006, 03:17 PM
I'm not an aikido instructor, but Ledyard Sensei says makes a lot of sense to me in the context of my experience with adult professional students. Having taught at the community college level, in professional training seminars, and other settings I felt obligated to teach the students what I knew they needed to perform successfully in our profession. I didn't necessarily only teach what I thought and believed they needed, but what allied professional organizations and state governing boards determined was necessary. What many wanted was flexible starting times, no tests or papers, several breaks each session, easy grades and a course completion certificate. I could have given them what they wanted and ultimately degraded the standards of our profession, or given what they needed to raise the standards. I chose the latter and my withdrawl rate was pretty high. Those who stuck with it generally did well in the future.

Thinking back on it, my instructors in the Marines weren't too terribly interested in what I wanted either. I'm thankful to them that they provided what I needed though.

I recognize that neither example addresses the idea of keeping the doors open and the lights on each month. As a student, I'd prefer receiving great training on the lawn of a neighborhood park than poor training in a beautiful dojo.

Lyle Bogin
03-15-2006, 02:58 PM
What I find interesting is that it is often the student that demands that the teacher stop learning and evolving. "Well, he/she didn't USED to it that way..." and all that. I think that students sometimes get confused, feel like the original teaching was correct, or that the new teaching implies the old teaching was a waste of time.

NagaBaba
03-15-2006, 07:22 PM
It continues to evolve to suit the social, cultural, physical, and meta-physical environment and the nature of the individual that practices Aikido. While I may poke fun at and denigrate Aiki-dancers, McDojos, or "Combat Aikido" dojos, I cannot seriously say that they are wrong. They are only "wrong" in my view.
Rock
Sorry, but such approach makes possible the existence of McDojo in aikido world. There are surly quite few qualities that are essential to call activity Aikido. Some of them are: martial element, Budo sprit...etc. If a practice lacks it, it is not only wrong, but we can't call it aikido at all.

Some approaches are less martial and more spiritual.
If someone can't back up physically his "spiritual" blah blah blah against full power attack, we can clearly say, this instructor not only stopped his learning but regressing to infantilism.

Rocky Izumi
03-15-2006, 09:11 PM
Sorry, but such approach makes possible the existence of McDojo in aikido world. There are surly quite few qualities that are essential to call activity Aikido. Some of them are: martial element, Budo sprit...etc. If a practice lacks it, it is not only wrong, but we can't call it aikido at all.

If someone can't back up physically his "spiritual" blah blah blah against full power attack, we can clearly say, this instructor not only stopped his learning but regressing to infantilism.

If a person says they have a true martial element to their aikido outside of a war zone, I would question what they meant by martial element. Outside of a war zone you could not maintain a martial element without going to jail. What we now call Aikido with Budo spirit, people 60 years ago would call McDojo. What I see now compared to when I started budo, I would have to think that we are all McDojos. However, I have listened to the teachings of Ki-iku, Tai-iku, Toku-iku, Joshiki-no-kanyo. In the intervening years, I seem to have developed some common sense and didn't get stuck on just the Tai-iku. I seem to also have been able to develop some spirit so that my full power attacks now compared to the full power attacks of ten years ago are much more powerful and I do not dare use a full power shomen-uchi, yokomen-uchi, tsuki, or mai-geri attack since we train to actually hit if the nage screws up.

Change, flexibility, and adaptability is one of the fundamental principles of Aikido. In a war zone, we do war zone Aikido. In La-La Land, we do La-La Aikido. In the land of McDonald's we do Mckido in McDojos. I practice that level of Aikido that is most suited to my environment. If I do an Aikido that is too harsh not only do my practice partners suffer but so do I. If you are a war zone style Aikidoist, you best look for a war zone to go to and see how good your Aikido really is. Talk to me after you come back from that war zone.

Rock

David Yap
03-15-2006, 09:23 PM
What I find interesting is that it is often the student that demands that the teacher stop learning and evolving. "Well, he/she didn't USED to it that way..." and all that. I think that students sometimes get confused, feel like the original teaching was correct, or that the new teaching implies the old teaching was a waste of time.

Hi Lyle,

I hope that you are only referring to a beginners class.

The teacher needs to accept the fact that some students could be more creative and analytical than him/her and would someday surpass him/her. As a parent, I wish this would be the case for my children.

First of all, I like to define that teaching may not be the same as doing the technique. The teacher may change his way of communication to the students and the manner in which he/she execute the technique remains the same.

As student, I would accept any change in teaching (i.e. the execution of the technique) from the teacher provided the new teaching is proved to be logical and practical. As I have mentioned earlier, change can either spiral upward or spiral downward. Of the teachers I have trained with, I have seen some with ascending curves, some with sideway lines and some just yo-yo. This means some are continuing to learn, some have stopped learning and some are still trying to figure them out; and, IMO those in the last category are ones who you have exampled in your post.

Best training ... teaching

David Y

Thalib
03-15-2006, 10:55 PM
Well,

I've been out for a while and this is my first post since then.

Anyway...

Learning... when you stop learning, you stop breathing... I know that all of you have heard of this before, especially those who have attended leadership and motivational courses/classes.

This is true in anything that we do in this relative world. We have to keep evolving. One cannot deny another from evolving.

For me, it is best to watch your teacher evolve, so you will know the steps that need to be taken. Many mistook it by ignoring the old ways before the teacher had gone to the next step, saying that it was the wrong way and I am not going to teach it that way any more.

One has to remember that the old ways were what brought oneself to the current state. The old ways could be refined but not dismissed totally. The new discoveries could be incorporated into the old teachings. Now, this does not mean that we are changing traditions, but maybe we are, but we don't dismiss it completely. Find the meanings, why was it done that way?

I think this is the form of 'keiko', literally: tracing the old (ways). Meaning, the old ways were done for a reason, it is up to us to find out why, trace it to the roots. Many think when we learn new things, when we evolve, we are changing or deviating from what it is suppose to be. In my opinion, it's actually the reverse, we are evolving because we understand the roots of the teachings.

In teaching when you have evolved to the next step, do not forget where you came from. You have gone step by step in order to have reached where you are; let your students know and learn those steps. If you have difficulty reverting back, ask one of your seniors that have been with you since before that time to teach the basics.

Personally, I love teaching basics although my Sensei always teaches beyond basics. I want the new students to know the steps, where we were and how we got here. It's not like magic and suddenly you know all of this stuff already. The trial and error we have been through, the agressive moments in teaching that we had in the past, the realization, the spiritual discoveries, and so on. Those had to be understood first hand. My understanding that we cannot jump but we can progress, and that progression could be fast or slow depending on the person.

It is not the end result, but the process...


Regards,

K'

Hi Lyle,

I hope that you are only referring to a beginners class.

The teacher needs to accept the fact that some students could be more creative and analytical than him/her and would someday surpass him/her. As a parent, I wish this would be the case for my children.

First of all, I like to define that teaching may not be the same as doing the technique. The teacher may change his way of communication to the students and the manner in which he/she execute the technique remains the same.

As student, I would accept any change in teaching (i.e. the execution of the technique) from the teacher provided the new teaching is proved to be logical and practical. As I have mentioned earlier, change can either spiral upward or spiral downward. Of the teachers I have trained with, I have seen some with ascending curves, some with sideway lines and some just yo-yo. This means some are continuing to learn, some have stopped learning and some are still trying to figure them out; and, IMO those in the last category are ones who you have exampled in your post.

Best training ... teaching

David Y

djalley
03-20-2006, 02:13 PM
If you are a teacher and you don't listen to what your students are saying (or notice it from their actions), then you are not progressing as a teacher.

Hi Bruce.

Check out the book "Kodo Ancient Ways" by Kensho Furuya. It's available on Amazon.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0897501365/qid=1142883434/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/103-7841182-3519025?s=books&v=glance&n=283155

I read it and it really changed my perceptions of martial arts, teaching, being a student, etc.

I am not a teacher. Hopefully I will grow sufficiently to become one one day, but for now I am concentrating on just learning.

One of the big things I learned is how the average student takes from the instructor, uses the school, and eventually moves on to something else. There is little devotion to a school, belief in an instructor, or perseverence to learn the art. We need immediate gains, need to learn something very new and exciting every class, and need to feel "growth" or "fulfillment" very often or we lose interest.

The teacher is not there to give the students what they want. He is there to teach aikido. The students are there because THEY WANT what the teacher is offering. You chose to learn aikido. You found a (hopefully) great instructor to learn from. Now learn. Don't expect the curriculum to be modified for you and your needs.

D

topan tantudo
06-13-2006, 12:28 AM
before become teacher they had to be student. when they become teacher and forget how become student and the student needs, so he is not a teacher.

mriehle
06-16-2006, 12:31 AM
I was looking through this whole thread for a place to hang a pithy comment about my own experience. It didn't appear. What this means to me is that this has been, so far, a really worthwhile conversation...

...in which I'm learning a lot.

But I do have one personal perspective. I think I may have been lucky to be thrown into teaching early on. I was barely a shodan when I was pretty much treated as an instructor, with no room for equivocation on the subject. This meant that I never had the chance to think of myself as having "arrived". My teaching style has always involved a certain amount of exploration, which means I learn something about my own Aikido in pretty much every class.

I don't know that everyone would react to this the way I did. But I did.

I still need to train with my teacher and my peers sometimes, though, because of a phenomenon that has been increasingly bothering me. There are certain techniques that are dependent on timing to a large extent. Those techniques are trivial for me to execute with my students. Not because they take the fall for me, but because I know their personal timing backwards, forwards, inside out and a couple of other directions. Doing these techniques with my students will never teach me a thing.

So, I was waffling on going to train tomorrow night. I guess I'd better go...

Hardware
06-19-2006, 10:08 PM
I found I really started to learn when I first began to teach (under supervision).

Don
06-19-2006, 11:10 PM
Probably for the same reason anyone stops learning. They find that the additional perceived energy expenditure in mental, physical, financial and emotional energy is not worth the pay off in their minds. They have found a level that they think gets them along at whatever level of competency they are comfortable with.

Jess McDonald
07-04-2006, 03:39 PM
:) That's exactly what I was thinking. Teachers are guides not absolutes. This is for all disciplines; martial arts, the sciences, etc.. I've found in teaching (mathematics/chemistry) that repeating the concepts over and over again to others that are not as proficient helped me immensely in understanding the concept in a deeper manner. However, in the same breath, you always must be learning /exceeding in knowledge relative to the ones you are instructing otherwise you run the risk of looking inadequate.
Now concerning the martial arts specifically, I don't see what the problem is with beginner's and up, to 3 ryu, with learning from even static teachers. They are so low level of understanding that they still should be able to pick what they need to learn the basics. But I feel that as a student progresses passed the lower levels of the ryu rank structure and the issues of stagnation have not been satisfactory dealt with, that perhaps the student should move on. That's not a bad thing is it? You know like moving out of mom's place. Find a higher rank black belt to train under or something; even cross train with a new art, whatever to keep your interest.
My sensei has said a couple of times that the goal of the student (me) is to defeat or defend against the teacher (him). And his goal his to one day defend himself from his sensei, Sugawara Sensei. I mean he sounded like if we could defeat him then he needs to step it up and regain superiority. I'm fine with this. I know we shouldn't compete but I only hope I can one day take him for surprise and lay him down to the mat. Though I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. Well, good luck and good training to all (even our teachers). :)

gdandscompserv
07-05-2006, 07:53 PM
i don't know cuz i learn EVERYTIME i step on the mat!

David Yap
07-06-2006, 04:01 AM
Why?

There are some who have lost the stamina to train. Physically, they are in the dojo but spiritually and mentally they are just not there.

I know of one who teaches at a dojo but come to the dojo where I train every other week. He would pay the mat fees to clock in the hours of training. 95% of the time would be spent "teaching" the freshies or just sitting on the mat after taking an ukemi or two. He is 60 and a chain-smoker and a late starter to aikido.

In a way, there is commitment as he took the trouble to travel & to pay the fees.

mriehle
07-06-2006, 11:38 AM
There are some who have lost the stamina to train. Physically, they are in the dojo but spiritually and mentally they are just not there.


This is a far easier trap to fall into than most of us would like to admit. I've put on a bit of weight since I started teaching full time. I couldn't figure out why, since I'm on the mat at least twice a week for four hours at a time.

Then I realized.

Teaching means spending a lot of time standing around watching other people do Aikido. It may feel like you're training, but you're not. I talked to my teacher about this and he had two general comments:

1) Go someplace to train where I'm not a teacher. Hard to do. In the Stockton Dojo there are a lot of people who think of me as a teacher. It gets easier as those people get their black belts and the "new" people don't have the experience of me as a teacher. Going to another dojo altogether often means a lot of time spent learning the culture during which I'm not training effectively.

2) Learn to get your training in as part of your teaching. He made it clear that this is something that all teachers must learn to do and that it's different for each of us. But not making the effort means keeping the "teaching bulge" and that's a Bad Thing.

Ron Tisdale
07-06-2006, 12:55 PM
Going to another dojo altogether often means a lot of time spent learning the culture during which I'm not training effectively.

I'm currious about this statement. How does that (learning the culture) stop you from training effectively? While I may not always enjoy all of what they are training in another dojo, or the way they train, I find there are often still ways to be very effective in that training.

How long does it take to learn the culture? Say if you train there once a week, for two months...do you have enough of a clue then to train effectively? If you make a minor mistake, does it become a huge issue? If so, maybe the place is wrong from start to finish...move on and find a better place for this training.

My primary concern with training anywhere is safety. There are componants of dojo culture that can affect that. But beyond that...just being polite, not doing anything I wouldn't want done to me, basic respect...these things seem to go a long way.

Best,
Ron

mriehle
07-06-2006, 02:07 PM
I'm currious about this statement. How does that (learning the culture) stop you from training effectively? While I may not always enjoy all of what they are training in another dojo, or the way they train, I find there are often still ways to be very effective in that training.

I think it may be a commitment thing. I know that if I moved wholesale it would quickly become a non-issue. As long as I remain a visitor I never really get to adapt.

Also, there is "effective" and there is "effective". Effective as in "learning something" or effective as in "getting a good workout".

I've yet to walk into a new dojo where I didn't learn something. Well, recently anyway. There were a couple some twenty years ago where, well, things didn't go so well. But I've changed and so have a lot of dojos. Learning something is a given.

Getting a good workout on a regular basis is a whole different aminal.


How long does it take to learn the culture? Say if you train there once a week, for two months...do you have enough of a clue then to train effectively? If you make a minor mistake, does it become a huge issue? If so, maybe the place is wrong from start to finish...move on and find a better place for this training.


"Culture" may be misleading. Of course there are the bits about etiquette and process. But there are often differences in the forms of the techniques. Warm up exercises vary. It's surprising - to me - how much information there is to absorb in a new dojo.


My primary concern with training anywhere is safety. There are componants of dojo culture that can affect that. But beyond that...just being polite, not doing anything I wouldn't want done to me, basic respect...these things seem to go a long way.


Yes and no.

Being polite is always worthwhile. It's the definition of "polite" that can be a sticking point.

Case in point:

Two dojos I do actually visit:


I used to train there years ago. Too far from my home now to be a regular training place for me. I walk in, struggle for a bit with the changes since I last trained there, but usually manage not to offend anyone and get a good training session in. It really is too far out of my way to make regular visits, but I enjoy the visits I make.

This one would actually be perfect if it were closer to either home or work. About 15 miles closer to work or 60 miles closer to home.

.
One close to where I work. Great people. Radically different ideas on etiquette. They would be as lost in my dojo as I am in theirs. Simple things like when to bow, bowing form and class structure are so different that I'm going to get it wrong.

The head instructor there is understanding (she knows my teacher and apparently likes him) so it's not terrible. If I kept visiting once a week for a couple more months I'd be okay. The problem is I also work and have to teach my own classes.

The biggest issues I've had is with other yudansha students. A couple of them have shown significant resentment toward me. One, in fact, kind of scared me with his reaction. (He went way rough as nage in a randori after being uke in a randori with me, almost hostile with his ukes. I offended him in some way and I have no idea how.)


You know, I just convinced myself. A lot of it is commitment. I didn't have these problems in new dojos when I didn't have my own classes to teach. That's because I showed up for training more than once a week (or, honestly, sometimes once a month).

All in all, I can see why it's important to learn to *actually* train while teaching. That won't stop me from visiting other dojos and these visits are worthwhile as learning experiences. But I can't count on them to help me get back in shape.

Ron Tisdale
07-06-2006, 02:17 PM
Hey, thanks for the reply. As I'm getting older, I've found I can't rely on **aikido** to keep me in shape. I've started yoga one night a week to compensate. It's pretty intense, in a heated room and pretty active, with repetitive "vinyasas" (sp) so that I get a pretty good total body work out. I haven't lost a lot of weight, but I have "reshaped" a good bit, and it seems to help my aikido. You may want to look into that. And all those yudansha issues are non-existant... ;) Everyone pretty much works as hard as they are willing, and since you aren't tossing each other around...much safer!

Best,
Ron

mriehle
07-06-2006, 02:51 PM
Honestly, Ron, I've never seen any yudansha react as badly as that guy did. It's not that uncommon for them to be skeptical of my rank when they don't know me (as well they should be). I've even experienced minor resentment before. Never anything like that guy, though. There were clearly other yudansha there that night who were disturbed by his behaviour. It wouldn't surprise me to learn he got severely chewed out by his instructor about it.

Ron Tisdale
07-06-2006, 03:06 PM
Man, that is a shame. I've actually heard of rolling around on the mat fights breaking out when 'strangers' are training together, but never really witnessed it myself. I hope that his issues got straightened out! What's really bad is that if you or something he thought you did caused the anger, he then took it out on the kohai...

Best,
Ron

Dan Hover
07-08-2006, 06:50 PM
I have seen many a shodan who becomes a "teacher" and that is the last time they ever really progress, they may get promoted, open branch schools and even be successful, but they essentially quit at shodan. Predominate fault IMHO is the "concept" of teaching as shown in the US, i.e. instructor demonstrates said waza 3-4 times, and then watches class. Whereas Classically instructor demonstrates both sides of waza i.e. nage AND uke sides. This tends to make the instructor seem more "real" than the former. Thus negating the "I can never be thrown" notion of sempai/sensei status. Secondly, Senior students who are not quite teaching yet, tend to use Juniors as toys, not as dignified partners. Sempai are nage first, and if they wish to stray from what Sensei is showing this is thier "perogative". Again classically, sempai are to be the "loser" in the kata, to demonstrate to kohai how the waza should be applied in the proper circumstances. Kohai tend to get into that groupthink mentality that Sempai are "better" than they, which is a crock. This in turn causes the kohai to think that when they are sempai, that when they reach Shodan or whatever, that they have arrived, thus the circle is complete. I have noticed that this same 1st degree masters, quit going to others classes, and only go to the classes that they themselves teach. Now, I don't know about all of you, but I find I can learn something in the dojo from everyone, whether it be the new and interesting ways a belt can be tied, to how someone has excellent posture that I want to steal from them, or the way they do Shihonage. Or maybe this is just me.

David Yap
07-11-2006, 04:30 AM
I have seen many a shodan who becomes a "teacher" and that is the last time they ever really progress, they may get promoted, open branch schools and even be successful, but they essentially quit at shodan.

If you put this to a poll, Dan, you definitely have my "Yes" vote. Having said this, I have added another a point for being a persona non-grata at some of these shodan dojos. :D

Best training.

David Y

mriehle
07-11-2006, 04:59 PM
I have seen many a shodan who becomes a "teacher" and that is the last time they ever really progress, they may get promoted, open branch schools and even be successful, but they essentially quit at shodan.

Nothing magic about shodan (or nidan, or sandan, or...)

Predominate fault IMHO is the "concept" of teaching as shown in the US, i.e. instructor demonstrates said waza 3-4 times, and then watches class. Whereas Classically instructor demonstrates both sides of waza i.e. nage AND uke sides.

Taking ukemi from students is important. I got a real object lesson in this recently when I was unable to do so for almost a year (knee injury). So many times I wanted to make some point about ukemi clear and couldn't. So many times I wanted to check out a student's technique and couldn't.

Once you get out of the habit of taking ukemi from students, it's hard to get back into it, as well.

Kohai tend to get into that groupthink mentality that Sempai are "better" than they, which is a crock. This in turn causes the kohai to think that when they are sempai, that when they reach Shodan or whatever, that they have arrived, thus the circle is complete.

Sempai have more responsibility. Should have more skill (that's what the rank is about, right?). Not "better".

They should be helping the teacher teach. During my recovery from my knee injury I relied heavily on senior students to take falls from other students and help me evaluate those other students' efforts. I relied on senior students to take good ukemi for me when demonstrating techniques. I relied on them to demonstrate good ukemi.

I have noticed that this same 1st degree masters, quit going to others classes, and only go to the classes that they themselves teach.

Here you've hit on the crux of the problem. The aforementioned injury kept me out of training for a while. I kept teaching because there was no one else to do it. I gotta tell you, I started noticing I was struggling with my teaching after a while.

I'm back to training and I can take falls again. Within a month of regaining my fully active status my teaching improved noticeably.

Coincidence? I don't think so.

Rocky Izumi
07-19-2006, 06:51 AM
It seems that part of the problem here may be that it can be difficult for some to figure out how to do research in Aikido. My current Shihan keeps admonishing students to do more research into Aikido, experimentation, development of hypotheses, and testing of these hypotheses, and discussion of research findings with others of a similar rank. I am not sure if it is due to not wanting to seem too boastful, not knowing how to research in Aikido, or wanting to keep findings to themselves. It could just be that because people concentrate so much on the technique rather than the principles behind the technique that they can only see one direction in the execution of a technique. Perhaps it would help to study other martial arts and see how the same technique differs in that other style to discover what principles are used there?

I found that a lot of my own development was significantly delayed when I got good enough to discover the weaknesses in others' techniques. If it became too easy to stop the other person with the application of a counter at a certain point before completion of the technique, I didn't bother going any further. To improve my development, I had to learn to extend the range in which I could counter a technique rather than improving the counter itself. For instance, in Shihonage, I am now trying to extend the range of my counter to the point that I counter just before my shoulders hit the mat when taking Ukemi. Of course, the younger, lower ranked students try to emulate and outdo me. They put me to shame as some are able to do that counter way lower than I can and at higher speeds than I can. But, at least, it keeps me trying to increase my flexibilty and reaction time.

I've been trying to get the students to increase the strength of their attacks as we get more warmed up during practice as well. It is interesting to discover how you can counter a technique at the very last moment before you are thrown or pinned. It allows you to extend the range of resistance and helps in discovering the weaknesses of your own Waza. Certainly, I have changed how I do some of my techniques. However, I find that some instructors resist changing the way they think they have been taught a technique because they are "trying to do Aikido the way of O'Sensei's Aikido." In a number of Waza, I have come around full circle with a better understanding of what I was supposed to be attempting when I first learned the Waza. But, in doing so, I was able to get a better handle on what some other instructors taught and why, as well as understanding better why I was doing what I was doing.

It seems that in order to do research, you have to be able to accept the wide variances there are in the way techniques are taught to discover the strengths of each approach. The more I learn, the more I understand the validity of each variation. Even the variations which I did not see as having merit at first can provide a clue as to improvements in my variation. I sometimes have to eat my words when I have said years ago that some technique should not be done in some way because of some certain weaknesses the approach. If I stick to the principles that are being demonstrated by what I believe is a weak approach to a Waza, it often comes out just as valid and just as strong as any other. Perhaps it is that I have become confident in my own Aikido to accept the validity of other approaches.

Anyway, the answer seems to lie in doing more research and continuously trying to improve the application of what you do know by extending the range in which the Waza can be applied and extending range in which counters can be developed to the Waza. It is difficult to do so when you have too many students and you have to teach a class where you have to stick to basics or Kihon Waza. I am lucky in that I now have a very small dojo with a few students who are getting advanced enough to give me good resistance and do the Waza on me well enough to make it difficult to do a counter at the edges of where a counter can be done. I am learning a lot more about Aikido now than I ever have. Every time I teach, I learn something new. This week, I am researching the concept of Awase to discover the range of importance of Awase. I have learned the importance of Awase not only in movement but in structure and positioning. This is great fun!

Rock

Dan Hover
07-19-2006, 07:44 AM
Well put, along the side of research, although I have tended to take my research in the opposite way, whereas you tend to look at technique, which IMHO seems to the more difficult one, I took the principles that unite the various shihan route. So recently, I have been painstakingly looking at Nishio Shihan's work, as that to me, is the most different styles that has so many layers to really look at and experiment with. I am looking now more for that "aikido comes from weapons" thread and how it is actually applied vs. abstract Kumi Tachi that really bare little resemblence to tai jutsu. Even more oddly, when I travel back to my original teacher, he wants to see what I have learned in order for him to try to incorporate it into his technique. Essentially, I think, that early on in ones training one needs to be encouraged to try other styles. We pay lip service to this more than people actually do, as it may be the fastest way to improve your understanding of the breadth and scope of the art of aikido, I have found that many a dojo will a) not promote you as you aren't ' X organization' enough or b) never teach because you aren't 'X organization" enough, or you aikido is too different. So it begins to have an impact as you can no longer test these theories in class because you are by proxy a student in another's organization, even though you are a member of that organization.
that being said if you want to be a "real" instructor, you have to do it, just like Rocky says, you have to risk being countered and screwing something up, so that on the opposite end, you can handle the mantle of responsibility of being a dojo leader.

Rocky Izumi
07-19-2006, 03:16 PM
Actually, Dan, I am probably working in the same frame as you. A lot of my research at this point is concentrated on the differences based on movements coming from the Jo and movements coming from the Ken. I now tend to instruct students up to the Yonkyu level strictly in Jo style movements while those Sankyu and up are required to learn the Ken style movements. I am working especially on the differences involving the use of the hip, feet, and timing of various movements. I am beginning to understand where some of what I might consider strange movements that I see in other dojos come from and am trying to put them into perspective so that I can do techniques in whatever style is being used at the dojo that I am visiting. All the variations seem to work quite well as long as you stick to the principles being used within one particular style. The only time it seems to screw up badly is when you mix the different approaches without regard to the principles. For instance, I see some people trying to mix Waza based on Jo movements with movements based on the Ken. When that happens, it seems the Waza totally falls apart in terms of effectiveness. It also shows to me why some instructors demand that you do not visit other dojos or try to pick up things from other styles. Unless you have a really good understanding of your style or your instructor's style, trying to pick up things from other styles is counterproductive. The stuff from other styles doesn't fit into the pattern of principles being taught by that instructor so when you try and use it, the whole practice breaks down. I now try to show and explain the various ways of doing any particular technique and the principles on which those movements are based so that even the lower ranked students have some exposure and understanding of the differences. It makes for a much slower and difficult development of the students but, at the same time, it allows them to visit other dojos and other styles without getting too screwed up. Hopefully, the slow progress at the start will translate into quicker progress as they advance in their knowledge.

Rock

BKimpel
08-16-2006, 02:31 PM
I just thought I would say that I think it is pretty cool that this thread that I started 3 years ago is still going, and chalked full of interesting, thoughtful comments.

Coolio.

Dan Hover
08-16-2006, 05:30 PM
well, Bruce, after 3 years, the topic is still interesting and points to a larger trend as to the direction of future aikidoka