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Matt Stevenson
08-31-2004, 01:16 AM
So I just joined a new dojo after moving to a new area. There are several around so I took a lot of time choosing one that I think will work for me. Now I had been forewarned by my previous instructor that the one I chose would likely "welcome [me] with closed arms." How right he was. But that's fine, I didn't expect a parade or anything.

Ninety-nine percent of my first time on the new mat was perfectly fine. It's unfortunate that my experience with one person in particular will stick with me the rest of my training days. I've been training for about 4 years and have experienced a lot of other styles, but I make it a point to be open to new things by not judging what is being taught based on previous experience.

Despite this, training with this one person (whose name I can't mention since I never had the pleasure of being told it upon introduction) was my worst experience ever on an aikido mat. Even worse than my no-warning kyu test in Japan. First, I was physically forced into the correct uke position for tai no henko. Apparently I was in the incorrect position, I didn't know this since she didn't bother to mention anything before man-handling me, and I was only doing it the way I thought was correct. This correction took some time since I am quite larger than her (lot's of grabbing and pulling at the neck and arm which wasn't very effective at moving me, since I had no idea what the hell she was trying to do). Verbal communication did eventually open up as I was later informed, "Don't even step on my toe ever again" as I must admit I accidently stepped on it while in close quarters taking iriminage ukemi. Heaven forbid someone should make such a horrendous mistake their first day on a new mat. I was also guilty of not tapping when I should have, but I was under the impression one should tap when one is effectively pinned (meaning can't get up or is limited in their movement in some fashion) or experiencing some (or any kind of) pain. I've never really hesitated tapping with most other advanced (or begginning) partners, when all I can move is my free hand or my joints are about to burst. I was also doing an udekimenage wrong, judging by the rolling of eyes and upset grunting. When I asked if I was doing it wrong and if I could be shown the correct technique I got a very breathy and pissed off, "no, just go." When I "just went" she got all upset and said, "Don't even try to do that again." That's fine, I won't, because I sure as hell won't be training with you again. Did I try to kill your favorite dog in a previous life? If so, sorry and leave it off the mat. Relax. So I just bowed and changed partners at the clap trying very hard not to be competitive and SHOW HER what's up (all 5' 2" of her). I admit I was sorely tempted to demonstrate some the arm bars, takedowns, chokes, and leg locks I've fiddled with after a few years of submission grappling training. But I digress...

Maybe I'm just being a little touchy and shouldn't get my feathers rustled or my pride hurt. Especially when I was trying very hard to wipe my aikido slate clean and be an effective learner by doing things the way they are taught in class, and not simply how I think they should be done. But until today I've thought people like the one I've described (at length) only existed in forum threads. Later I just shook it off and laughed about the whole thing with my wife. Afterall, I'm certainly not training to please that person. I just thought it was sad that someone should have such a narrow view of the aikido training world. My first day on the mat I'm going to do things a little different, especially when my technique has been formed over years training at little known places like the hombu dojo. Everyone else in the dojo I trained with seemed to understand that, even if they were frustrated with me. For heaven's sake, get used to training with different styles! Don't you ever go to seminars with other people? Generally I've found if uke isn't doing what I want him to do, the fault is with me. Or, the easiest way to rectify it is COMMUNICATE! If you speak the same language, great. If you don't, demonstrate. When I was in Japan I didn't understand all the verbal instruction given, but at least some attempt was made. Not much learning or teaching happens with no communication of any sort.

If you've made it this far in my thread, congratulations. I'm really not trying to make a big deal out of this, just venting. I was just appalled that such an attitude can exist in an Aikido dojo. I've trained as at least a visitor in over 10 dojo across the US and Japan and attended countless combined seminars, and this was my first experience with such a rotten attitude. I hope it's the last :yuck: . Penny for your thoughts.

:ki:

PeterR
08-31-2004, 02:15 AM
If you've made it this far in my thread, congratulations. I'm really not trying to make a big deal out of this, just venting. I was just appalled that such an attitude can exist in an Aikido dojo. I've trained as at least a visitor in over 10 dojo across the US and Japan and attended countless combined seminars, and this was my first experience with such a rotten attitude. I hope it's the last :yuck: . Penny for your thoughts.
Vent away. New guy in the pecking order is always fun.

I'll bet you good money that others in the Dojo also are not thrilled with the lady just that being the new guy you don't know that.

Just remember the other 99% of the time.

pezalinski
08-31-2004, 12:18 PM
I feel sorry for the poor aikidoka you were working with -- she has a very narrow (and shallow) definition of what Aikido is, as really needs to get out of the "one dojo - my dojo only" concept, and practice with others.

Ron Tisdale
08-31-2004, 12:58 PM
I hope she's not the instructor...

Derek Webb
08-31-2004, 01:17 PM
Maybe she just had an off day. Never experienced anything that bad. Hope your next visit is more rewarding

Regards

Delboy

Matt Stevenson
08-31-2004, 05:35 PM
Fortunately, she's not the instructor. That's why it wasn't much of a big deal. I can just shrug it off and avoid her in the future. Maybe she was having an off day, but sheesh. Bow out and deal with it off the mat. I do realize that women in any martial art can have an extremely uphill battle trying to establish themselves. However, I think of three shining examples of how to better go about that. Pat Hendricks, Cyndy Hayashi, and Kayla Feder. Their precision technique and golden personalities speak for themselves. If I lived closer to them I would be training with them.

shihonage
08-31-2004, 06:20 PM
It's not all about you and your comfort.
Other people have their own problems they're working on.
She may as well be aware of her antagonizing problems, but she can't magically overcome them at the moment's notice - that could be why she goes to Aikido in the first place.

Just because she can't adapt to you, doesn't mean you can't learn to train with her.
Just because you don't want to yield and don't want to hurt her, doesn't mean that you can't come up with a middle way to assert your space without starting something ugly.
Just because she is narrowminded, doesn't mean that you have to be.

When you start being selective about "avoiding" certain partners (he is too rude, she is too stiff), your progress in Aikido is dead.
It just doesn't know it yet.

Jordan Steele
08-31-2004, 11:10 PM
You handled it exactly as I would have although I may have been more tempted to sweep her onto her butt. You're a better man than me in this circumstance.

Jerry Miller
08-31-2004, 11:16 PM
It's not all about you and your comfort.
Other people have their own problems they're working on.
She may as well be aware of her antagonizing problems, but she can't magically overcome them at the moment's notice - that could be why she goes to Aikido in the first place.

Just because she can't adapt to you, doesn't mean you can't learn to train with her.
Just because you don't want to yield and don't want to hurt her, doesn't mean that you can't come up with a middle way to assert your space without starting something ugly.
Just because she is narrowminded, doesn't mean that you have to be.

When you start being selective about "avoiding" certain partners (he is too rude, she is too stiff), your progress in Aikido is dead.
It just doesn't know it yet.


Thank you, that was refreshing. Sometimes it is good to remained centered. :D

Nick
09-01-2004, 12:39 AM
"I do not think badly of others when they treat me unkindly. Rather, I feel gratitude towards them for giving me the opportunity to train myself to handle adversity."

--M. Ueshiba

Talk to the instructor if it continues.

SeiserL
09-01-2004, 01:02 AM
Whose attitude? Yours or hers?

Sounds like she saw your excellent potential and wanted to help you fit into their way of doing things. Be grateful.

Some of my best training came from accepting other people, and their attacks, just the way they are given. The world doesn't always come at me the way I want it to.

Matt Stevenson
09-01-2004, 10:26 AM
"When you start being selective about "avoiding" certain partners (he is too rude, she is too stiff), your progress in Aikido is dead."


That's an excellent point that needed to be made. I was still a bit wound up when I wrote those previous lines. One should never avoid a training opportunity.

And as a caveat I in no way meant in my previous threads that anything physical or any kind of retribution should or would be made, I guess I was illustrating some of the fleeting base emotions I was experiencing. Certainly any kind of similar counter threats or such would not help anybody least of all me or my partners.

I guess this is starting to sound bigger than it really is or how I ever intended. I think my intent in posting the original thread was to blow off steam (which I shouldn't have done here) and make the point that I felt a certain line of propriety had been crossed. I never knew I felt there was such a line at all since until then I never felt anyone even approach it. Maybe it was crossed (by either of us), maybe it wasn't, maybe it doesn't exist. Either way that's just how I felt about it at the time.

If I really felt it a bigger problem than it is, I would either try to talk with the person directly (which may still happen if it continues), or maybe talk with the sensei. But I really don't feel it's to that point.

As far as feeling grateful for the experience... well, that may take some time and a lot of effort. I guess I'm not to O'Sensei's level just yet. My hat's off to those who can and do handle these things better than me who just post silly threads. Thanks for the reality checks and I apologize to anyone I may have offended.

:ki:

Michael Neal
09-01-2004, 01:14 PM
"I do not think badly of others when they treat me unkindly. Rather, I feel gratitude towards them for giving me the opportunity to train myself to handle adversity."

--M. Ueshiba

That is a great quote

ruthmc
09-02-2004, 10:39 AM
Maybe she just doesn't like getting her feet stepped on? ;-) And no, a lot of people don't train at seminars with people from other styles, therefore they have no idea how to handle them. It's just plain ignorance. Although that's not as bad as people who go to multi-style seminars and only train with their own dojo-mates...

Ruth (multi-style seminar junkie)

MaryKaye
09-02-2004, 12:01 PM
I don't know what I'd do with a partner who said "Never step on my toes again." If I get anywhere near a partner, sooner or later toes will get stepped on. (If we do solo kata I step on my own toes.) I think I'd have to bow out of training with her, because quite frankly I wouldn't know what else to do....

I don't agree with "never refuse a training partner." Sometimes the most aiki thing to do, it seems to me, is to avoid getting into a bad interaction, and there are occasional pairs of people who are doomed to bad interactions. You don't want to avoid someone because you find their energy or body type difficult, but if you find that training with them invariably leads to incivility I think you're best off not doing so. I wouldn't decide on the basis of one class, though. Hopefully she was just having a bad day.

I'm also a multi-style junkie, and I've found that when you show up at a dojo of a different style, people may be hyper-sensitive to any hint that you are judging or disparaging them. Even if it's the furthest thing from your mind, they may see your behavior as pushy just because that's what they're expecting. This gets better, generally, once they get to know you.

I've found it helpful to say with all the humility I can muster, "I learned this throw differently, so I'm going to need a lot of help here. Can you show me how you do it?" This makes it clearer that you're there to learn and not to teach. (Which I'm sure wasn't in question, but people leap to that conclusion all the time.)

Ruth, do you have any advice for people who want to learn how to accomodate different-style guests? The one thing I've noticed is that starting out by "telegraphing" your attacks, until the guest gets the hang of your conventions, helps a lot. You can mime a shomen or yokomen attack with your hand before actually stepping in, for example, and the guest won't have to think "Which side do they attack on? Which foot is forward?" (At high levels of course this can be intuitively sensed, but I'm sure not there yet.)

Mary Kaye

ruthmc
09-03-2004, 06:54 AM
Ruth, do you have any advice for people who want to learn how to accomodate different-style guests?
Hi Mary!

I'm no expert, I just advocate that people learn the basics of other styles so they don't get caught up in misunderstandings. It's exactly the same as do you shake hands or bow, kiss one cheek or two? Learning this eases your way through life :-)


The one thing I've noticed is that starting out by "telegraphing" your attacks, until the guest gets the hang of your conventions, helps a lot. You can mime a shomen or yokomen attack with your hand before actually stepping in, for example, and the guest won't have to think "Which side do they attack on? Which foot is forward?"
That's a good idea, as long as it's not contrary to the dojo way to telegraph your attacks! I find the best thing to do is to ask somebody - first introduce yourself and say what style you are, ask theirs, and any time there's any hesitancy or confusion ask which foot they attack from, how many turns they take, even where they aim their yokomen! As you get used to training in different styles you find you can jump between modes - I've even had to do this with one Aikikai attacker and one Yoshinkan attacker taking turns to attack me. Eventually you just do it without thinking about your feet or theirs. One of the big myths about Aikido is that it matters which way your feet are before the attack starts. It doesn't. It's which way they are at the end of the attack when you're throwing or pinning your partner that counts :-)


(At high levels of course this can be intuitively sensed, but I'm sure not there yet.)
I wouldn't bet on it - I've seen some high-ranking sensei get caught out by an attacker from another style! Of course this is often when they are teaching, so the teaching brain doesn't always respond in time when the attacker does something a bit unexpected.

Keep training, keep learning other customs, be open-minded and prepared to try things that make no sense at all to you, and you'll find you are an ambassador for Aikido and welcome to train anywhere.

Ruth

Janet Rosen
09-03-2004, 12:52 PM
I do realize that women in any martial art can have an extremely uphill battle trying to establish themselves. However, I think of three shining examples of how to better go about that.
And I wonder why you even bring up gender. Could have been just as easily a male partner with same exact attitude.

oudbruin
09-05-2004, 07:20 PM
Matt: I'm glad that i'm not the only fella who has had a run in with people who have thier respective heads stuck "where the sun don't shine".
MY way of dealing with those sort is walkaway, or alternatively, try to find out what is the issue or problem.
I learned long time ago that some folks are never happy, and it is thier goal in life to dump on everyone and everything around them.
--
Hang in there!
Bruce Hammell

gi_grrl
09-07-2004, 04:29 AM
I (If we do solo kata I step on my own toes.) Mary Kaye

I loved that Mary, I laughed out loud. I'm sure many aikdoka know just how you feel.

Fiona.

Nick Simpson
09-07-2004, 05:28 AM
Doing nikkyo the other day I dropped knee first onto my instructors toes, must have hurt quite a bit :p

batemanb
09-07-2004, 06:16 AM
I broke a bone in my foot back in June when I dropped a rather large chap, he went down rather hard on one knee, sraight on top of my foot. I still have the lump and slight bruising now :(.

disabledaccount
09-07-2004, 03:08 PM
I learned a wonderful lesson this labor day weekend during our dojo's first annual labor day intensive. The weekend involved five hours of Aikido practice followed by one hour and thirty minutes of zazen on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Needless to say it was a challenging and exhausting experience, and I am so sore today, I can hardly walk!


At any rate, on day three I had the pleasure of working with one of my home dojo's students who I respect very much, but was having some difficulty performing a set of suwari-waza ikkyo (probably due to the hindering effects of our previous workouts inducing the fore-mentioned muscle stiffness/soreness). Usually when a fellow student who is not senior to me consistently makes an error I point it out to him/her and demonstrate the rational by resisting or countering when the error appears.

Following this usual response I did just that, and proceeded to throw him harder, and more aggressively while nage, and countered him repeatedly while uke. I started to feel angry and frustrated as he apparently continued to NOT GET IT.

As my frustration peaked, Sensei approached me and indicated that he was going to demonstrate the proper technique for my training partner's benefit. I experienced a surge of pleasure as I anticipated my partner's pending re-education, and most importantly utter humiliation for his grave ikkyo error. This was going to be so cool!

I attacked Sensei with a spirited shomen-uchi and Sensei met it hard and fast. The hours of previous exertion had made my muscles slow to respond and the ensuing ikkyo was terribly painful. I tapped frantically as I felt my elbow and shoulder about to give. Sensei took his time letting me up. Something was wrong here!

Again Sensei indicated I should attack. Again I was painfully pinned. Sensei played uke for me, with disasterous results! Every time he attacked I was struck and reversed with a painful counter. Sensei shouted at me, he bellowed "Use your eyes! Use your body!", instructions which I could not understand or follow.

And then it was over. Sensei wore a grim smile. "Do you understand?", Sensei asked. I bowed low and shouted, "Hai!".

I understand that there is nothing to be gained from dominating a weaker person. I could see how difficult it was for my fellow student to learn in this manner.

It's okay to point out errors and help each other along, but if someone can't get it, punishing them won't make it any better. Belittling them won't make it better. Hurting them won't make it better. Humiliating them won't make it better.

Sometimes it's best to let the student struggle with what they are doing and leave them alone. Go along with his/her movement. Take good ukemi. Allow them to learn the gross before the fine.

Sometimes it's best to have a teacher who can see an ego getting out of control. To let that ego expand beyond it's borders. And to crush that ego at just the right moment for a peice of enlightenment to appear.

What a powerful, humbling lesson!

shihonage
09-07-2004, 05:04 PM
What a powerful, humbling lesson!

Apparently not humbling enough to stop you from posting about it in two threads at once :)

billybob
09-10-2004, 09:56 AM
sam jack, i feel your pain man!!

my master's degree doesn't prevent me from being the dumbest guy in the dojo.

when i got to my new judo school in 1985 i ticked everybody off. they hurt me.

when i came back to aikido in 2003 - i hacked off all the yudansha, and the sensei in one fell swoop!
hahhahahahaha. stupid. fortunately, i began to realize that etiquette is there to protect boneheads like me! i guess i need to learn that silly etiquette stuff.

it's also normal to butt heads with folks you haven't connected with yet. life.

billybob

Tom Kaluzynski
09-27-2004, 01:25 PM
When I read your post, it reminded me of times Ive been treated badly, or treated someone badly. Getting your foot stepped on is irritating, I'd maybe say something, it hurts. I dont think she was wrong to move you on tai no henko, some dojos stress not talking, talking is seen as rude in many dojos. Just try to see it from her point of view; it sounds like you were just as at fault as her, your style is different, and you probably have different habits that may be frustrating to her. I actually think she was pretty cool. But I like feisty people.

disabledaccount
09-29-2004, 03:11 PM
Yeah, after re-reading Matt Stevenson's original post I've got to agree with Tom Kaluzynski. I get "man-handled" all the time by my seniors (if my story didn't convey that already!). We don't talk much during class, though I sometimes whisper pointers to a rank beginner who would otherwise be completely lost. Training in the traditional manner isn't about making you feel good, or even so much as about improving your technique. Traditional Budo is all about enduring hardship in order to destroy your ego. It's not about acquiring a skill. It's a breaking down, and paring-away process, quite the opposite to what most people imagine when they take up a martial art.

kironin
09-29-2004, 03:44 PM
I guess I am fairly suspicious of places that talk about destroying egos and seniors manhandling juniors and all the rest mentioned. It seems to presume the sensei of the group is some god-like all knowing enlightend creature rather than simply another human being that perhaps is ahead of you on the path but still nevertheless trying to find their way and continuing to learn themselves. I have seen far too much nonsense going on not to be a little jaded when I read this sort of stuff. It seems more likely that when one ego is getting destroyed another one is getting stroked.

p00kiethebear
09-30-2004, 09:29 AM
This reminds me of an uke I had at the New York Aikikai summer camp last month.

I'm not one to let the black belts get away from me. I make a point to work with as many of them as i can. But when i picked this one guy, he just gave me this look that said "I'm waaay to good for you"

One of the techniques we were working on, i was struggling with, he felt like he was resisting full force, physically trying to keep from performing technique. Finally I asked him if he had any advice for me. He didn't even reply, just sneered at me.

Finally I just got sick of him and told him I didn't want to practice with him anymore. This for some reason seemed to make him even more annoyed, as if i had just wasted 4 minutes of his life.

I've never experience anyone like this before. It was extremely aggravating.
Every night i secretly hope that someday when I'm a shihan, he will come to me for training, and i can say "well... I'll have to test your ukemi first" And then i can pound the attitude out of him ^_^

Feel free to ignore that final comment

giriasis
09-30-2004, 12:04 PM
Regarding the original post, my thought as others mentioned is that she was trying not to talk to you. You've come into a new school, learn their ways of doing things.

My other thought was that you didn't like getting corrected to begin with. I'm usually really easy to get along with, but there has been one or two cases where I think the persons walked away thinking I'm a "b*tch". They were new, with previous martial arts experience, and came into the dojo with a major attitude. With so many advanced folks in the dojo, he chilled his 'tude rather quickly with those he considered more advanced than him, but continued his 'tude with more advanced aikido folks that he considered less advanced than him although he was a day one aikido newbie. He couldn't stand me giving him advice or correction, but he some how expected me to take it from him. Yes, that gets a person p.o.'d and sometimes it comes out all wrong on the mat, and I come across a major bee-ach. Oh well, can't be "miss sweetie" all the time.

To deal with the situation, I find it divisive to just ignore the situation. A simple conversation works wonders to rectify a problem.

Nathan,

I've been told by me peers in my dojo that for some dojos, the Winter and Summer Camps and other seminars are the only other places some black belts get to train with other blackbelts because there might only be one or two black belts in their dojo. So I shouldn't expect to train with every black belt on the mat or occupy their time too much. I usually try to train with a good mix of everyone dans, kyus, dojo mates, non-dojo mates but I don't expect or demand someone to train with me.

With that said, he still shouldn't have given you an attitude or sneered at you. I do know that most people at Winter Camp, never been to Summer Camp, are really friendly and more than willing to help you, even black belts. I'm sure the rest of your training partners were positive towards you?

p00kiethebear
09-30-2004, 12:42 PM
I'm sure the rest of your training partners were positive towards you?

Oh of course, everyone else was wonderful! I don't think he was from new york, someone i talked to said he was from a dojo in Idaho.

disabledaccount
09-30-2004, 02:09 PM
Whoops! My ego's showing again!

:p

simply another human being that perhaps is ahead of you on the path but still nevertheless trying to find their way and continuing to learn themselves.

This is of course what all good teachers are. It's absolutely up to the student to decide what sort of relationship he will have with his or her training. This includes how the student interprets his or her training at any given moment. These things tend to change over time, and really can't be nailed down into one specific category. Every time I think I've got it, it changes on me.

My teacher isn't a cult leader. He does possess very good Aikido, he's good at teaching the techniques of Aikido (which isn't the same thing as being good at it), and finally, he dosen't interfere with a student's internal processing of what is occuring as a result of difficult training (which is only as difficult as the student wants to make it).

I think that the best way to put my experience of Budo is to say that our dojo provides a certain experience, which is challenging for me, and I find that experience to be rewarding and educational, and sometimes unpleasant. This is what I'm looking for in my training, because it has value for me.

I have in the past made the assumption that others are seeking the same thing, and have been surprised to find that this is sometimes not the case.

Shane Mokry
09-30-2004, 03:35 PM
Matt,

I have had some experiences where my training partner and I didn't quite work well together. Guess what? I annoyed the fool out of them for the rest of the seminar by running up and bowing in to them every time a new drill was being practiced. Eventually it worked out and we wound up doing some really good stuff together. I think maybe he realized that I wasn't going to go away until we had some civil practice. I guess that's just my personality.Good luck!

Take care,

Shane