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12-15-2003, 09:10 AM
I would appreciate aikidoka experience and thoughts regarding this matter:

What is the proper response to a student attempting to teach an instructor?

Context - an instructor of a school takes a few students (one senior and one junior) to another school for a friendly day of practice. At practice all three find themselves being "taught down to" by the very junior students at the school they are visiting.

Because this is a "friendly" exchange - should the instructor just suck it up and take a lesson in "watering the stick"?

Should the junior be repremanded for such behaviour?

Is such beahviour even acceptable?

I would very much appreciate your thoughts and replies.



12-15-2003, 10:39 AM

is this the same system or organization? In other words does rank hold up here?

And when you say "teaching down" do you mean it is perceived as derogatory or disrespectful?

12-15-2003, 10:53 AM
I think there is not enough context to give an answer. Was the visiting group invited to teach? Were the students (both groups) prepared for the visit? Were both groups part of the same organization? A lot depends on the relationship.

In general, my feeling is that when visiting someone else's home/place-of-worship/dojo/whatever, that as a guest I will generally follow their customs, and I don't mind being led by a child. You were in their dojo. I'm sure they were trying to be hospitable and "helpful" to their guests.

Probably just a little misunderstanding.

12-15-2003, 11:06 AM
I agree with Frank on this; there isn't enough information to be able to give an answer.

Personally, whenever I visit another dojo, I am a beginner there and don't know the customs are and follow along with whatever they are doing. I also don't mind taking instruction from someone junior to me, particularly if I am a visitor. I do tend to get a little teed off at seminars when this happens....but, then that is my ego problem, not theirs!

best, Rachel

12-15-2003, 11:25 AM
Asim - thanks for writing in:

In a sense, yes, same system. Rank really isn't an issue. I suppose I lef tout the sense of beligerence in the junior, almost aggresive.

Yes. I perceived it as very disrespectful. Also as unnecessary. "Teaching down" in other words - like a 6th kyu insisting Saotome Sensei's hanmi was incorrect.


12-15-2003, 11:37 AM
Sorry I didn't provide more info - I was trying to keep it simple - as in, is there any context in which a junior should teach an instructor. Maybe I am assuming that there is not.

For what its worth, our two groups have worked with one another fairly consistantly for over 4 years. This, however, was the first time we were able to travel to their location. So the difference was in location and the fact that they had an agenda - we usually don't at our place. We provide the time, place and people and let leave it to you.

So we have a history to fall back on. I just got a little peeved about 1) the assumption that I didn't know anything and 2) that a junior would get so beligerant about little details they themselves could hardly keep consistant with a visiting training partner with 14 years more experience.

Maybe my benefit of the doubt is in making this a junior-senior thing rather than this person's own attitude problem?

Any similar experiences?

Rachel - what makes a seminar different from a "practice exchange"?

NB: thats what this was - a kind of workshop/practice exchange to get some extra practice in before the winter break.

thanks again,


Ron Tisdale
12-15-2003, 12:49 PM
It sounds to me as if the student involved might have a little problem. If possible, I'd just ignore it and move on.

I've found myself on both sides of this, to my own embarrasment. People usually grow out of it. I certainly hope I have.

I think at seminars generally you have many different people from different dojo and organizations. What you seemed to be describing was just two dojo training together. The difference being that with so many different groups at a seminar, people might all feel on the same footing (in a neutral place).


12-15-2003, 01:13 PM
Rachel - what makes a seminar different from a "practice exchange"?

Ron just answered it beautifully!

12-15-2003, 01:18 PM

but what about seme ?

In this particular case it should have been dealt with by the instructor of the hosting dojo, IMHO.

12-15-2003, 01:31 PM
in our dojo after sensei gives instructions we pair off and work at it. in that paired drill situation we don't even think of talking about what each other is doing aside from, "a little faster, please" - to say anything like, "do it this way" would be presumptuous in presence of our instructor.

Pavel - I kind of agree with you. I would have thought my training partner (the student's own instructor) would have taught them better.

Maybe I'm just projecting my own standards on others.

What I'm gathering is that there is no established protocol for this.

true - false?

If it boils down to a grumpy attitude from a junior student this will be a short, boring thread.

so sorry!


12-15-2003, 01:32 PM

I'm assuming this was the first time you have had this experience. Guess what? It won't be the last:-)

Take it as an opportunity to train yourself. Of course this happens inside and outside of the dojo.

My advice - just smile, bow, and keep training.

12-15-2003, 01:33 PM
In our school, as a rule, only the instructor teaches. Senior and junior students, regardless of rank or experience, are not allowed to instruct or correct their partners, verbally or otherwise. Of course students with more experience will find a way to subtly lead less experienced or skilled partners without using instructions, but that´s different than trying to "teach". Totally unacceptable behavior, if you ask me.

12-15-2003, 01:49 PM

you are not in the army, by any chance ? ;)

Unacceptable or not, I feel it boils down to psychological composure and person-to-person dominance. Had an "instructed" person have good seme, his "instructor" wouldn't dream about instructing. It has very little to do with ritualistic hierarchy, imho.

Ron Tisdale
12-15-2003, 01:58 PM

Ok, my lack of japanese is showing 'seme'...deffinition please?

If it means what I think, I've seen people ignore it completely. I think I've done it once or twice myself.

And you're right...in a perfect world, the home dojo instructor would correct the situation if he was aware of it. But if he's not aware, or if he doesn't care, is it worth the relationship with another dojo? If this happens a lot there, I just wouldn't go back anymore.


Ted Marr
12-15-2003, 02:19 PM
I'm just wondering about this reference to "a lesson in watering the stick"... it sounds like there is a colorful story behind this aphorism, but it's one I've never heard used before...

As for 'seme', if it's the word I think it is (Japanese-English transliterations being what they are), then it means "the person who gives it" or something like that. In other words, it's another of the many words for nage or tori or whatever.

12-15-2003, 02:24 PM
I have had similar experiences where somebody we would call an "ignorant" just mouths off and you ignore them. Or somebody who is so into themselves you spend about 5 minutes with them and move on.

But this is a person who has some natural ability and whose own instructor I respect. I could have pulled some rank and railed on her and even criticised points I probably should have - but I didn't because I was a guest. In fact, I thought my students and I did a good job conforming to their routine and even altered some of our basic movements to better suit their drills.

So while I thought we were doing pretty well I was being met with hostility, unfounded criticism and even some misguided thought associations. All easily explained by a movice's understanding - but what wasn't clear was why this person thgouth justified to behave in sucha manner to not only a guest, but a senior guest.

It would just never have occured to me.

So if I ever visit your dojos you can count on me not to retrain your students in how I would do what you teach.


12-15-2003, 02:33 PM
re: watering the stick ::

A novice in the monastery seeks out a wise old monk revered for his spiritualty. The novice asks the old father for spiritual lessons and guidance.

The old monk sits and thinks for a while and tells the novice to enter the cloister and find a stick. He is then to find a place and place it in the ground. Every day between prayers the novice is to water the stick.

The novice eagerly begins his new lesson. For weeks he dutifully waters the stick, but begins to grow impatient as the old monk never alters his regimine. So he asks about his duty, but the old monk calmly respondes, "water the stick."

A year goes by and the novice finally asks the old monk, "father, I have watered this stick for a year but you ahve given me nothing else ot do and I have learned nothing."

"Haven't you", replies the old monk, "you have learned the most important lesson of the monastery - obedience."

This has become a catch phrase in my little sphere of enfluence. To water the stick means to obediantly pursue what is right regardless of your ego.


Goetz Taubert
12-15-2003, 03:40 PM
To me it's not that bad to instruct verbally, if a technique is done wrong or bad, even if I am not a teacher.

If there is a major mistake in technical perfomance it won't work. If not talking, I can correct with atemi (not everbody likes this) or make a compromise, so the mistake won't become evident.

If there is a major mistake in the beginning, the technique won't reach a good end. Waiting for the teacher may not be effective because if it takes a long "wait" the techique would be repeated several times in the wrong way.

For me and my personal profit it's important to have skillfull training partners. So I try to improve the skillfullness also by verbal advice when there are crucial mistakes or a worsening of the technique.

Maybe that's not the japan-like style, maybe against certain rules of dojo-behaviour. The more important question to me is, what is gained and what is lost by talking?

If someone signals to me "No talking, please" I respect this and shut up.

If someone has good reason to correct me, I'm glad to have a chance to better my performance and to test, what's really working.

12-15-2003, 03:45 PM
That could all be true - Goetz - but as an instructor what I am saying is not only was a junior trying to teach me, but she was wrong about 99% of the time.

Being an instructor does not liberate one from brain fogg either, so often at home I am relieved when students are paying attention and keep me in line or at elast less dislexic. But this was a different beast altogether.

I suppose a reason behind my supplication to the aikidoka out there is to help me better understand this in a larger scheme - and then to decide if we go back or not. I don't want to take my own students again and have them so confused/abused.


12-15-2003, 04:47 PM
In my limited teaching experience and experience in such seminars when others teach you, especially, non-instructors they often as indicated do it wrong about 99% of the time. If a student is competent in a technique, then they should be able to lead someone with their ukemi. To teach within the seminar situation lead by someone else is disrepectful.

I did have an opportunity to see someone who was a long term aikido practitioner and well respected in his own right watch from the side lines during a whole seminar (he was getting pretty old). The 7th dan leader of the seminar had us do kokyu dosa and this instructor (5th dan) came out on the mat to instruct my instructor (3rd dan at the time) in the proper way to do kokyu dosa. My instructor humored him but when he tried to throw my instructor he could not budge him. Then when he saw my instructor was going to throw him, he suddenly let go and walked off the mat. A lesson in humility and the inappropriateness of his behavior.

The person instructing you should have a lesson in who is in control on the mat. If someone gets hurt due to their instruction, who is liable? Personally, I would have light heartedly mentioned it to the other instructor and let him deal with it.

12-15-2003, 06:01 PM
This happens all the time and just about to everyone.

Worse recent case was visiting a small dojo in Northern Greece and getting the full 5th Kyu Shihan exposure by a big stiff guy that moved like a truck. However, I knew that the man just was trying to be friendly so no skin off my back.

Case 2 is going to a seminar or another dojo and being corrected excessively and arrogantly by the students of the sensei some with far less experience than you. Well you got to take the good with the bad and since you are there to learn all that is happening is you are making your mind up whether or not you will return.

Point being that in all these situations it is just one evening out of your training which supposedly will go on for a long time.

12-15-2003, 11:26 PM

Ok, my lack of japanese is showing 'seme'...deffinition please?

I picture it the way kendoka's use it. Outward pressure, presence. It's like, there are pushovers and there are people you would never ever cross, no matter how kind and soft they may appear.

That's seme the way I see it.

12-16-2003, 03:08 AM
David. have you spoken to the other sensei directly about your misgivings?

We have no problem with verbal instruction being given even by kyu grades to each other, normally just bounce around like sheep dogs to ensure they're correct and practicing rather than talking.

If senior grades from another dojo arrived, we'd try to ensure a dan grade was assigned to them for a significant part of the class and hopefully ask them to show their take on techniques. We'd also want them to speak up if they disagreed with any part of a technique (only be told they're wrong of course ;) ) and not expect any of the dojo to leave them with a bad taste in their mouth. I'd go direct to their sensei first as it sounds as though it's just a good idea that went a bit wrong at first.

I'd also wonder if the problem wasn't so much arrogance on the part of the student teaching you as inept floundering out of their depth manifesting itself as agression, you're probably an intimidating sod yourself...

12-16-2003, 07:31 AM
Doesn't it all come out in the wash? If the "instructor" is 99% wrong, then what he or she is doing shouldn't work, right?

I think a lot of this type of problem boils down to expectations and ego -- probably the two biggest things I struggle with in relation to my training. It's important to have expectations, and it's good to have an ego, but when either one (or both) get out of control, one can become an unhappy aikidoka.

Just a thought,


Ron Tisdale
12-16-2003, 09:09 AM
Thanks Pavel, that's kind of what I thought...

Well, I have a different presense depending on where and when. Right now, I have an injury I'm nursing, so I'm extremely low key. At other times I tend to be less so. It just depends on the situation, why I'm training in a particular space, etc.

In a 'friendship' session with another dojo, I try to keep it as low key as I can. I find that I learn more that way, and typically, people respond pretty well to that attitude. Sometimes you do have to 'show your stuff', but since I don't have all that much anyway... :)


Lyle Bogin
12-16-2003, 12:18 PM
That dude who watered the stick was a schmuck.

George S. Ledyard
12-20-2003, 10:36 AM
I was at a seminar once and got paired with a student who trained directly with the teacher who was conducting the seminar. We were doing simple tenkan exercises from katate tori. I gave this person my polite "visiting someone else's dojo" grab, nothing like what I would normally do. Despite this, the person was completely unable to move. Finally they looked at me and said "You're very resistant. Your energy body isn't very sensitive." O-ooo-K!

12-20-2003, 12:41 PM
thanks everybody for giving me your thoughts regarding this matter. it really is in an effort to better understand what goes on out there.

and yes, Ian, i tend to be both sod and intimidating!



12-20-2003, 12:44 PM
The only good thing about getting a hakama is that none of this happens to me from a white belt anymore.


Peter Goldsbury
12-20-2003, 05:46 PM
I would appreciate aikidoka experience and thoughts regarding this matter:

What is the proper response to a student attempting to teach an instructor?

Context - an instructor of a school takes a few students (one senior and one junior) to another school for a friendly day of practice. At practice all three find themselves being "taught down to" by the very junior students at the school they are visiting.

Because this is a "friendly" exchange - should the instructor just suck it up and take a lesson in "watering the stick"?

Should the junior be repremanded for such behaviour?

Is such beahviour even acceptable?

I would very much appreciate your thoughts and replies.



Well, I think it depends on what the visiting instructor was doing.

I think this is a complex issue\at least it is from my perspective. So bear with me, while I give some background information.

My dojo in Hiroshima is unique, in the sense that it is one of the very few Aikikai dojos in Japan run entirely by non-Japanese. As such it is an object of some curiosity and we get quite a few visiting yudansha. Of course, they are Japanese and follow the unwritten rules for dojo visitors: follow the customs of the dojo.

We have a policy that all three instructors will be on the mat at the same time whenever possible, though, of course, only one will be actually doing the instructing. We change partners every technique and the instructors keep a close eye on who pairs up with whom.

If we encountered 'teaching down' by one my junior students, one of us would go over, make a threesome, and show both junior and visitor some points or other of the technique being shown.

Very occasionally, the visiting yudansha does not know the technique being shown\or usually the particular variaton or emphasis: our varied training backgrounds (Tada, Arikawa, Yamaguchi, Nishio) makes this possible. Our juniors usually have enough respect for the visitor's hakama to wait for guidance.

Best wishes for Chrsitmas and the New Year.

12-21-2003, 11:19 PM
Take it with a grain of salt and wait for the change partners clap.

The junior student's inability to convey the proper movement(if there was any in the 1st place) shouldnt unsettle you. If there is one thing that I can say I have learned is only I can control myself/center. The junior's actions shouldnt have any effect you.

Its best to let them shoot their mouth off; let their own words hang them or come back and bite them in the hind quarters. If they are really mouthy, give them the gentle "shuush" and put the old index finger on your lips as a reminder not to teach when they arent the instructor. Its kinda rude, for anyone to be talking on the mat;especially if they are being critical of their partner's technique. An observant intructor should be able to see the difficulties being had, and should be over to clarify proper tecnique. Plus you can always politely call the instructor over and have him/her show what he/she is teaching as well.

"Those who know,...know"