View Full Version : Assertive vs Confrontational?

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Thomas Ambrose
09-02-2004, 07:37 PM
Tonight was my first "less-than-happy" experience in Aikido. I am pretty new to Aikido (this is my third month), and I haven't learned the proper assertiveness yet, I think. I am interested in what other people's experience is with the fine line between "assertive vs confrontational."

Often, when we have an odd number of people at the dojo any given time, most people practice their technique in pairs, while three people work as a three-some. Lately, I have been in the three-some nearly every time. For some reason tonight, I kept getting into a three-some with the same guys. No problem yet. I think we were learning katate-dori tenkan, with a throw. Anyway, the instructor shows us one step, we practice, then a step is added, etc.

In the group of three I was practicing with, I kept being uke, the whole time :eek: . I am glad to work on my ukemi, I am sure it needs practice, but I didn't get to actually try the technique even once! It is especially frustrating, because I fealt like they were being "unintentionally selfish."

I tried "subtly insisting" by holding out my wrist to both partners at separate times and they both refused both times :mad: . I am sure that they don't realize that I was stuck being uke the whole time, but it is still frustrating as I don't get an opportunity to even try the technique. :(

In retrospect, I could say something like "I need a chance to be nage," to my partners. That might sound whiny and if I have to put up an argument for why it is my turn to be nage, that could be a vocal confrontation and it seems like it would increase frustration anyway.

Or, I could "not-so-subtly insist" by holding out my wrist and refusing to give in until my partners allow me to be nage. That also seems confrontational.

So I am realizing I have two questions here, for anybody who could offer a suggestion.

1) In training, how does someone assert themselves and get their fair bit out of practice, without becoming confrontational? How much assertiveness is appropriate?

2) How can one resolve the internalized personal frustration that one feels, without externalizing that frustration as negativity? I might be on my own for this one.

I will certainly ask my Sensei about Question #1, there could be something in etiquette that I am missing, but any ideas from you would be appreciated!

PS. Thanks for reading all the way through, this is longer than I had intended it to be!

Devon Natario
09-02-2004, 07:45 PM
Well you aren't the only one that feels this. :)

Sometimes I let younger students try the technique way more than I do, or I won't at all. But you are new. :)

I suggest just saying each time you have a partner in the beginning. "4 X's then switch okay?" This will ensure they get adequate training, and it makes sure you get yours. On some of the more painful techniques, I suggest going twice. Once on each side, then switching.

Just be assertive vocally. This way you get the best of your training.

If I were in a threesome. Id make sure it was "Two times each okay!"- then Id point to the one on my left and say. "You first, let's go clockwise."

It's just leading. Some people need to be lead, some people lead. Just become the leader, especially since it bothers you.

Hope this helps yah. Good luck.

09-02-2004, 07:49 PM
smile and say

"I believe it's my turn now"
"Okay now you come to me"
"I will rip your head off your shoulders"

...ok maybe not the last one

Peter Goldsbury
09-02-2004, 08:57 PM
One or two questions.

How many people train at the same time? Are you in a large group, or just a dozen or so students? Which is connected to the next question:

What is your instructor doing? Just showing techiques and then standing by and watching? Or does he/she go round from pair to pair, group to group? If you are in a large group, I can understand that the instructor does not have time to practise with each student. But I think this should be the exception, rarther than the rule.

Is it the custom in your dojo to change partners regularly, for example, after changing each technique?

Last week was a holiday and there were only two students in my class. So I showed a technique and then we made a threesome, with each person taking turns to throw the other two, doing the technique four times before the next person took over. So everyone was tori and uke equally, including the instructor.

We did this for 90 minutes, going through 1-kyou to 4-kyou from a shoumen-uchi attack, with omote and ura variations being practised separately.

Best regards,

09-02-2004, 09:24 PM
Last week was a holiday and there were only two students in my class.
You do not know how good this makes me feel :D

It's been a while since I've had only two students show up (even in summer) but glad to see I'm not the only one.

With respect to the original post the question is really tough. Three-somes occur quite frequently and it is the job of the senior student in the set to ensure that everyone has a chance to practice. It really is not that difficult to do and if it is not happening a subtle hint "Guys guys give me a chance too" is completely appropriate.

09-02-2004, 09:29 PM
This seems really bizarre.
I've always trained where you do 1 side, then the other side, then swap roles & repeat until you're told to change partners or until sensei teaches the next technique.
One side only is shite, but uke & shite swap out in turns so everyone does both sides equally.

Seems simple: I never really thought people would do it any other way.

09-02-2004, 11:18 PM
My fav mode of training, is have two nage/shite at the middle of dojo, then all ukes line up in two lines, when the sensei shouts 'hajime', the ukes start to attack the shite at the speed that the uke is comfortable. The shite perform the technique, repeats until all the uke, have their go. Kotai or switch shite and the process repeats until everybody have a go. This way nobody is left out. However this mode of training is feasible when performing 'fast' technique, as for osae or pinning technique, our class breaks down to smaller groups so that it will not take up too much time.

As for being assertive; it is never considered confrontational to ask for your turn, and not at all being whiny. Some people may enjoy training with their fav partner so much that they unintentionally ignore an 'outsider'. A casual reminder that you have not get your turn is not confrontational nor whiny. have fun.


09-03-2004, 12:09 AM
Welcome to Aikido,

Yep, you are learning just fine. Once you enter and blend, you must take control of the momentum and redirect it. Which means how to naturally find yourself as both uke and tori while training.

It sounds like you have already confronted your biggest uke, yourself. Learn to take charge without being aggressive or confrontive.

Ask for a clarification about the numbe of time before you take turns. Train with people who do take turns. Allows bow before extending your hand.

BTW, where in Michigan? I grew up in Pontiac.

Thomas Ambrose
09-03-2004, 12:15 AM
One or two questions.

How many people train at the same time? Are you in a large group, or just a dozen or so students? Which is connected to the next question:

What is your instructor doing? Just showing techniques and then standing by and watching? Or does he/she go round from pair to pair, group to group?...

Is it the custom in your dojo to change partners regularly, for example, after changing each technique?

Tonight, I think there were 9 students training, maybe 11. Plus the instructor.

Typically the instructor shows the techniques, then circulates around and observes each pair, or group. Normally, at our dojo, after a technique is demonstrated, the instructor circulates around, and observes each group or pair, and offers advice/assistance as necessary. Also, after a technique, or part of a technique is demonstrated, every student finds and bows to a partner, usually a different partner, but sometimes the same one.

In pairs we tend to do Right, Left, Right, Left, switch roles.

In three-somes, it varies a lot. Usually Right, Left, Switch... but that gets confusing, because I don't know of any uke, nage pattern. Perhaps I will try to make sure a pattern works next time (I am still pretty new to this!).

Tonight, the instructor was one of the senior students (I think a sandan, not sure). We have a few "brand new" students who were working with some of the other more senior students, an observer (possible future student) was watching, and a visitor showed up to train with the class about halfway through. So tonight was a strange night already. I will talk to my Sensei about this the next chance I get so that I can be proactive so the problem won't happen again.

I think the tone of my original post was "more negative sounding" than I intended. True, it was frustrating, but it was only a one time occurrence. My main problem was my not knowing how to deal with the situation. Your suggestions and ideas have given me some good possibilities if this should come up again!

Thank you for your ideas :) I do appreciate them!

I will be sure to talk to my Sensei next time I see him.

09-03-2004, 02:28 AM
They're just greedy b**t*rds. Usually best to do a set number (often multiples of 4) each i.e. 4,8,16,32. Then swap. Try to train with other people who are not as selfish (ensure you jump up quickly and grab a partner rapidly), and if that is impossible, just tell them you haven't had a go yet.

09-03-2004, 02:31 AM
2) How can one resolve the internalized personal frustration that one feels, without externalizing that frustration as negativity? I might be on my own for this one.

There is a good reason for personal frustration - its your brain telling you to do something. Negative emotions are only destructive is you try to submerge them out or don't deal with the problem.

Just be open, honest and truthful - everyone deserves the same level of respect.

Marc Kupper
09-03-2004, 02:55 AM
Hi Thomas. A couple of odd things stuck out in your post.

Senior students should be helping you and other newer people smoothen things out such as the protocol for taking turns when you have a threesome. The instructor should notice this too -- With a class size of about 10 they should be able to see what's happening. In our dojo the instructor often times waits to make sure they get to see both partners before moving on to the next partner. From what you wrote it seems like you did the right things as far as assertive vs. confrontational went. Something I do is if I'm the third person is that I watch in seiza and get up just as the technique is completing so that we can swap partners with a minimum of disruption. It also serves as a hint to the two practicing that I'm waiting. <wink>

One thought that comes to mind is get on the mat a few minutes early and to ask one of the senior students what the protocol is in your dojo for twosome and threesome practice and swapping partners between practice rounds.

09-03-2004, 05:35 AM
This seems really bizarre.
I've always trained where you do 1 side, then the other side, then swap roles & repeat until you're told to change partners or until sensei teaches the next technique.

Interesting. My experience is the same as Stuart's.

With 2 People:

P1 (shite) P2 (uke) Left side/Right side
Shite/Uke Change
P2 (shite) P1 (uke) Left side/Right side
Shite/Uke Change

and repeat....

With 3 people we do:

P1 (shite) with P2 (uke) Left Side/Right Side
P1 (shite) with P3 (uke) Left Side/Right Side
P2 (shite) with P3 (uke) Left Side/Right Side
P2 (shite) with P1 (uke) Left Side/Right Side
P3 (shite) with P1 (uke) Left Side/Right Side
P3 (shite) with P2 (uke) Left Side/Right Side

and repeat...

It works fairly well and I use that method when teaching to make sure everyone has had at least one or two shots at being shite and uke.

This isn't actually set in stone and partners do do multiple tries on the same uke when they are trying to figure something out. Sometimes uke wants to work on that and they ask to be thrown more than twice in a row.



09-03-2004, 06:31 AM
I don't think it's whiny or selfish to insist on getting your turn. Those guys who didn't let you should be busted back down to kindergarten!

Sometimes I find when working with a beginner that they take a long time to complete a technique, so by the time it's my turn the instructor has stopped the class. This can be just as frustrating as your situation, so when I see it happening I encourage the beginner to complete the technique (without stopping midway and going back to the start 20 times), so they get the chance to feel me doing it on them. If they can't work it out, it can help if they feel it. Some beginners seem to think they should get all the turns at being nage (after all, they're learning and I'm the experienced one -chortle - if only they knew) so they get uppity when I want a turn. I have to practise too!!

Everyone has EQUAL right to an equal number of turns in each role, from first time on the mat to 10th dan. Sensei should point this out if people aren't getting it, or how else are we ALL going to learn? When I teach a class I always say at least once "Make sure you've swapped roles" just in case anybody gets any different ideas..

You can of course request to take an extra turn, or even offer one to your partner, if you feel you or they would benefit from it, as long as it's asked for politely and not assumed. "Do you mind of I try this side one more time?" or "Please, try that one again" are perfectly acceptable. In the three-some practise a polite "Would you mind if I had a go at this technique too please?" can be enough to wake the other two up to the fact that you are there to learn as well!


Thomas Ambrose
09-03-2004, 09:47 AM
Thanks for the suggestions! I will definitely open up my communication should this look like it will happen again.

Michael Stuempel, I think I will try that pattern for 3 people next time I am in such a group.

Typically, when a partner or myself gets some individual instruction from the instructor, or if one person realizes something, there is an understanding and polite request or offer to that the person one more time to practice the technique. This hasn't been a problem. My partners have always been understanding.

The pattern with pairs has always worked too. I tend to let the more experienced person do nage first, because that helps me when my turn comes around, especially if it is my first time with a given technique.

The only problem is training in a group of three, and it only time it ever occurred was at this one practice. I think a lack of experience in groups of three, plus an uncertainty for hour to "assert" my opportunity is what caused the problem.

As for these particular partners, I am certain they didn't realize what happened. I strongly doubt that they "intended" to keep me as uke, but rather that it just turned out like that and they didn't notice what was going on. To them, they were doing both nage and uke, so everything "seemed" fine. None of the three of us are particularly high-ranked either, I am unranked, and I think the most senior of the two partners is Gokyu , which at our dojo, is the first test. At any rate, I am sure that it was an honest mistake, one that more open communication and paying more attention to a pattern would fix.

Thanks you all!

david evans
09-05-2004, 07:01 PM
I agree with Stuart Norton.

What are your partners doing not to realize that everyone in the group should be allowed the opportunity to practice?

You should be having a go just like everyone else.

Frustrating I'm sure but don't let it get you down.

09-05-2004, 07:43 PM
Sometimes when practicing its difficult to know if you are taking up too much time because you have no idea how much time the instructor has allocated in their class schedule for that particular technique.

I find that it then gets a little nerve-racking if you are trying to understand some nuance about the technique because not only are you frustrated because you can't do what the instructor makes look so easy, but you're hearing the tick-tick of your time running out and whether your partner is going to get to do the technique or not.

I've talked about it with various partners and we decided that it probably all works out in the end. If today I'm all confused and they only get a small shot at the technique then probably next time our positions will be reversed. We also decided that at least the first time we do the technique we go all the way through regardless of confusion so that we both at least get to find out what we're confused about.

It works for me.



09-05-2004, 08:02 PM
They're probably doing themselves a disservice as well by not taking uke from you (only getting half of the story & all).

PS: Mike: love the .sig! Go the biiru waza. :-)