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suren
11-02-2004, 12:41 PM
I'm sure this was discussed somewhere, but I can't find that, so if instead of answering you could redirect me to the appropriate thread, that would be greatly appreciated.
Now to ask my question I have to explain the situation. Today I had a class with two sempais (since the number of students was not even), both of them are yudanshas and more experienced than all others present except sensei. I noticed one of them was periodically doing a mistake which was specificly addressed by sensei during the class. Would you correct him at that point or not?
I chose not to do so because of the difference in the ranks and the situation was very inappropriate. Person who trains for a long time may not feel well to such correction from a beginner especially in a presence of another highly experienced person.
Usually I adjust my behaviour to the person which I'm dealing with and in most cases I do correct them in a manner not to hurt his feelings. But this case was special. I have never corrected that person before I never saw any flaw in his technique and even if he is ok with being corrected by a kohai, the situation could hurt his reputation and ego. So what do you think about this? Was I wrong and person doing Aikido for many years can control his ego? Was I right by not telling him about the mistake? Should I tell him in a more appropriate environment?

happysod
11-02-2004, 12:55 PM
Wait until he partners someone else, watch for his mistake then snitch loudly to sensei (add nasal whine for full effect)...

Seriously, your have three options
1. traditional route: ignore and stick to your own training, if the instructor's good, they'll pick up on it
2. sneaky route: ask the sempai directly if you're doing it how your instructor's wanting it, hopefully they'll be good enough to see their error in your technique
3. my preferred route: if they do it again while your practicing with them, ask them if they're sure as this wasn't your interpretation

Seriously, why should it affect their ego so much (egos in aikido, the very idea)? Everyone makes mistakes, it's often the quickest way to learn. Also, if they're doing it wrong and they're a respected sempai, they'll end up teaching it wrong - bad idea.

Go with what your comfortable with, it's your training, I just suggest you make very certain you're right if they're any sort of prima donna.

suren
11-02-2004, 01:15 PM
Oh, I have to add that I noticed that when I was watching him working with our third partner (there were 3 of us working together).
Sensei has not seen the mistake because you should be at the right place and at the right time to see it and there are others to look for. The technique was done very fast, which also adds compexity in discovering a mistake.
And another thing... This is a type of person who will never show if his feelings are hurt, but believe me, you don't want to make him angry and then take ukemi from him :D Man I still have some self preservation instincts!

aikidoc
11-02-2004, 01:31 PM
Although you may perceive he was doing something wrong it is generally not your place to correct him. There should only be on instructor on the mat unless so designed by the the teaching instructor. My experience is that those correcting others on the mat are themselves often doing the technique incorrectly. A more subtle approach would be to use your ukemi to guide them in the proper execution of the technique. I know it is tempting to show the person what is wrong but I think your are asking for more problems and being disrespectful. A good sensei will either catch it out of the corner of his/her eye or by direct observation. Also, your goal is to focus on your training. Perhaps if you do it correctly and the other of the three does it correctly the person doing it incorrectly will catch on and correct himself without your intervention.

Ron Tisdale
11-02-2004, 02:00 PM
Yeah, I like to preserve my physical integrity too! I usually just try to model the technique the way I was shown, and let someone else worry about what they do, as long as it doesn't risk injury to me. Some people I will make exception for and tell if I already have that kind of relationship with them. I try to establish that kind of relationship before hand by asking questions...why do we do it this way, why is that way better, how do you do X, why does Sensei do Y...things like that.

There was one time when I was receiving instruction in buki waza from a senior that is really good in buki waza...but I knew it was incorrect. So I politely asked if I could ask another senior, because if I was doing it wrong, I'd been doing it wrong for years at that point and really needed to know. It may have p*ssed him off a bit...but in that case it was really worth it to me to know. At this point, I can take a few hard throws. I guess it just depends on how important it is to you. And I would start by building the relationship up.
Ron

MaryKaye
11-02-2004, 02:28 PM
A kind of oblique way to make the point: "Can you help me out? I thought sensei said to do X, but you seem to be doing Y, and I'm confused."

This makes it sound as though sempai is teaching you, rather than vice versa, and can reduce the bad feelings. Some might find it too oblique, though.

In my home dojo I usually just correct them, but humbly because I'm junior: "Would it help if you did X?" or "It feels a little rough; maybe X would help?" I get the same thing from my juniors, and I like it because frequently they're right and I learn something. But this is something that varies tremendously among dojo and I know it would be out of line in a lot of places, perhaps a majority.

Senior person is then free to demonstrate why I'm wrong. They're nice people and I trust them not to break my bones, but occasionally it does turn out that the answer is "I was being a bit ineffectual so as not to force you into the hard ukemi...." or "Doing this well would involve an atemi into that huge opening you're leaving...."

Mary Kaye

Jordan Steele
11-02-2004, 02:41 PM
Never, totally inappropriate regardless of circumstances. I have declined to train with a sempai and even ignored their corrections but it is not acceptable to correct a senior student.

Amassus
11-02-2004, 03:00 PM
Never, totally inappropriate regardless of circumstances. I have declined to train with a sempai and even ignored their corrections but it is not acceptable to correct a senior student.

I have to disagree with this.
If the senior partner is at all open-minded it should not be a problem. If they have changed the technique for a specific reason, I'm sure they would mention it when questioned. However if they have made an honest mistake with the technique (as they are human after all) then they should be able to simply accept that and move on.
Of course, how you mention this is important, don't come across arrogant when you mention it. Be subtle and gentle in the approach.

suren
11-02-2004, 03:13 PM
Thanks for your responces. Interesting... So I have several contradicting opinions. As I understand:
IH,DS - yes, JR-no, RT, MK-depends and JS-never!
Anybody wants to conclude this?

Charles Hill
11-02-2004, 03:26 PM
Sempai/kohai is a cultural thing and I doubt it can be understood well by someone who is not knowledgable of Japanese psychology. Also, I believe that the system has been twisted and abused so much in Japan, that it is, for all practical purposes, dead here. I would never correct a sempai, but I might correct a senior member though. (I think Ron has the right idea about using "senior") It would depend on the situation.

Charles Hill

DCP
11-02-2004, 03:30 PM
It depends on the dojo culture, but if you're unsure, err on the side of caution and keep it to yourself.

jester
11-02-2004, 03:50 PM
Why don't you just ask him why he does it that way.

That way your not degrdating him in any way. He will reveal his mistake to you if you ask him to slow it down so you can understand it a little better.

What was the big mistake anyway?

Sometimes if your teaching something very specific, you might not necessarilly care about other parts of the technique and go past them just to get to the part you want to talk about. I'm not sure if he did this, but to correct him in front of other people isn't cool.

You can always play dumb and say "For some reason I thought we did this", that way you don't directly confront him.

Anyway, he should be open to these type of questions.

stuartjvnorton
11-02-2004, 04:06 PM
Another alternative is to wait until your sensei is walking past & then do it the way your sempai does it. If he doesn't pick you up on it, put on the confused look & ask him "if this is right". He'll correct you & maybe your sempai will get it.

kironin
11-02-2004, 04:14 PM
I would say pay attention to your own training. It's not your job to be picking out mistakes of other students. Your job is to be picking out your own. If you respect your teacher then don't insult him by figuring you seen something he is not aware of mistakes/habits that one of his senior students does or does not do. There is one teacher on the mat at a time.

Correcting yourself and keeping your own ego in check is a big enough job already. :D

Janet Rosen
11-02-2004, 04:14 PM
It depends on the dojo culture, but if you're unsure, err on the side of caution and keep it to yourself.
That's how I feel--the wide variance in replies so far really are a reflection of various dojo norms.
But let's see, this deviation from what was demonstrated is being done by somebody not currently partnered with me, is not putting anybody in danger, and the person doing it is actually doing something as opposed to standing and looking confused? Not my problem.
Not only am I not the instructor, but sometimes people might chose to do things differently, sometimes people are experimenting for a moment, etc. and it's just not my business.

Peter Goldsbury
11-02-2004, 04:46 PM
I think Craig Hocker is right on the mark with his post.

When you are training your prime responsibility is to have a fruitful learning encounter with the instructor. The fruitful learning relationship you have with your partner(s) are relevant only to the extent that they further this primary aim.

Actually, I am surprised that you have the sempai / kohai system in the first place, since I believe that this does not export well from Japan. There is too much other cultural baggage. In fact, we do not have sempai/kohai in my own dojo here in Japan.

So, if we put aside the sempai/kohai stuff, the question then becomes: should you correct a senior student, because in your judgement the technique is not the same as the chief instructor's. I do not see how this furthers the primary aim of enhancing your own learning relationship with your instructor.

Yours sincerely,

Don_Modesto
11-02-2004, 05:11 PM
I agree with Craig and Peter.

Something which hasn't been broached is concentration: Talking shatters it. There's more to training than making sure your feet follow the foot cut-outs on the dance floor. When someone talks at me during class, it destroys a lot of what I come to training for. Cultivate your own garden.

SeiserL
11-02-2004, 10:32 PM
IMHO, it all depends on the Dojo and the Sempai. I personally welcome corrrections/feedback from anyone I work out with regardless of rank.

DonnaQ
11-02-2004, 11:06 PM
Hmm, I have, personally, used the approach of saying how I am slightly confused because his/her (the black belt teaching me) technique is different from sensei's and if they could explain to me if there is a difference in effectiveness if I were to do it his/her or sensei's way. It worked out just fine without any negative repercussions. I really think it is just the attitude that you use when you address the person (I was genuinely curious). However, there are those that get defensive rather easily. Perhaps you should feel out the person more before thinking of correcting them or not.

Charles Hill
11-02-2004, 11:33 PM
In fact, we do not have sempai/kohai in my own dojo here in Japan,

Professor Goldsbury,

I am very interested in hearing how you were able to do this. In my experience in Japanese dojo, it is almost automatic to enter into a (supposed) sempai/kohai relationship. For you to have successfully defused it is incredible. I`d like to hear how to do the same.

As for sempai/kohai outside of Japan, I noticed that "sempai" really refers to yudansha and "kohai" means non-yudansha. A linguistic mistake.

Charles Hill

Peter Goldsbury
11-03-2004, 07:19 AM
Professor Goldsbury,

I am very interested in hearing how you were able to do this. In my experience in Japanese dojo, it is almost automatic to enter into a (supposed) sempai/kohai relationship. For you to have successfully defused it is incredible. I`d like to hear how to do the same.

As for sempai/kohai outside of Japan, I noticed that "sempai" really refers to yudansha and "kohai" means non-yudansha. A linguistic mistake.

Charles Hill

Hello Charles,

Well, first off I think that the fact that all the instructors are non-Japanese sets quite a different tone from the 'normal' dojo here. Another fact is that we do not yet have a hard core of yudansha whom we ourselves have trained. The most junior instructor is 4th dan and the most senior regular student is 3rd kyu. All the other yudansha who regularly practise here have included our dojo in their training schedules in addition to their 'home' dojos, because we teach things that these dojos do not. But there is no basis for their being sempai other than rank\which is not really a basis for the sempai/kohai relationship in the average Japanese university dojo, since rank is dependent on the date of entry.

Then there is the fact that all the instructors train when they are not teaching. So there is a much more hands-on relationship with all the members than with a shihan/dojo-cho, who sits at the top of a pyramid of yudansha and appears rather remote to beginners.

Of course, if you were to ask me in ten years time, when I hope to have trained up a good number of yudansha, I might give a different answer, since these yudansha might have established their own sempai/kohai relationships with successive generatons of beginners. At present dojo numbers are so small that there is no need for sempai/kohai relationships.

Best regards,

MaryKaye
11-03-2004, 09:01 AM
It seems as though the instructor/student relationship matters here as well as the student/student one.

I don't hear my instructors saying "You're here to learn from me, so focus on that." It just doesn't fit our dynamics. In fact, the highest-ranked of our sensei rather frequently says to us "Watch what this student here is doing. Can you see the problem? Can you explain it?" Generally she already knows, but wants to develop our ability to spot problems. There is a very strong emphasis, stronger than anywhere else I have trained, on learning how to teach.

This is why it would be fully appropriate for me, here, to correct (cautiously) a senior student of any rank. It's part of my education, an exercise in teaching. I may be criticized heavily if I do it wrong, but that's part of the learning experience.

It is important, though, if sensei is specifically focusing on X, not to correct Y. We'll get called on that if we do it, and she has remarkably sharp ears.

Mary Kaye

Magma
11-03-2004, 11:28 AM
I think that focus on the instructor removes from the person the obligation they have as a student to learn. Saying that there is one instructor on the mat is a bit short sighted in this, for as I would readily agree that there is one person in charge of the class - in charge of demonstration, explanation, lecture, and/or facilitation - there is not one source of learning.

We learn from everything in the class. We watch the conduct of students more senior to us to better understand the relationship and responsibilities that are required of us, for example. More germaine to the topic, we learn a *great* deal from our partners. As such, it is not too much to ask to make sure that both my partner and I saw the same technique from the instructor. After all, if I did not see it properly and the other person did, I want to know that before I practice it wrong a dozen times.

Now I agree that a lower rank should never correct an upper rank, but that doesn't mean that this situation should go unresolved. It is just a matter of attitude and phrasing. Some examples have already been given... some I agree with and some I do not. Those that I do not agree with are easy to spot, as they are the ones that presuppose that it was the lower rank who saw the technique correctly and needs to set about correcting the upper rank. The impetus should be simply to resolve the discrepancy so that learning is better facilitated.

This could be as simple as saying, "I thought I saw (this) happen. Did I miss something? Could you show me?" This is normally enough for the upper rank to realize the discrepancy and, if it is their mistake, to ask for clarification from the instructor. If they saw it correctly and are trying something else, this is enough to remind them that lower ranks are training with them and are being confused by the change.

On a related note, I once saw a group of people refusing to do techniques the way the instructor was demonstrating. It was shortly after the death of our organization's leader, and the organization was forging a stronger bond with another japan-based organization. We had a visiting shihan from that organization for a camp, and he was asking us to perform kotegaeshi in a particular way different to how we had all been taught in our organization. The shihan stopped the class several times to emphasize the difference, even specifically mentioning that we might have learned it in this manner before but he wanted us to do it another way for that day.

No big deal. Even if you disagree with the instructor's point, they are the instructor and while you are in their class you do it their way. Consider just another tool in the toolbox.

But that was not the case for at least one group of students (we were doing group practice). Though they were high enough ranks that they should have caught on (if only after the second or third stoppage and explanation), they *continued* to throw the technique the way the deceased shihan had asked for it rather than how the living, current instructor was asking for it in that class. The class was very crowded and I do not think that the instructor saw what was going on... or maybe he did and he was just seeing if they would respond to general instruction rather than direct correction; ie, did they respect him enough to do as he asked? Maybe that was why he stopped class several times.

In any event, that was sad to see.

suren
11-03-2004, 11:32 AM
Thanks for your responces.
Well even though my particular dojo is pretty liberal and it's not unusual for student to correct another student (even with slightly higher rank), I now think I was right by not expressing it. When I said sempai, I ment a student with higher rank than mine (actually very much higher rank).
It was not a big mistake and he did not have any problem with doing technique, but that particular issue was emphasized by sensei while he was describing the technique (so it's kind of a minor, but major thing).
Anyway, I'll keep an eye on my own technique and if I find that person to be ok with corrections, I'll correct him then, otherwise not.
And when I say correct, of course I'm not talking about "Hey, what are you doin' man?! Are you crazy? Haven't you heard what sensei said?!" :D

ruthmc
11-03-2004, 11:32 AM
Today I had a class with two sempais <snip> I noticed one of them was periodically doing a mistake which was specificly addressed by sensei during the class. Would you correct him at that point or not?
It happens. Sometimes you just have to ignore it, if you don't know the other student very well!

My Aikido friends and I correct each other all the time - it's part of our commitment to helping each other along the path. I don't care who is senior and who is junior - all of them are valuable training partners. :) I have also developed an open approach to my training partners which allows for me to be corrected by other students, and for them to be corrected by me, even if we do not know each other.

The secret is to leave your ego off the tatami and to treat each practice partner as a learning opportunity. This openness shines through and allows real learning opportunities and a far greater degree of connection and co-operation than would otherwise be achieved. We are all on the tatami to help each other, not just ourselves.

There's nothing sadder than two Aikidoka training in silent individual frustration when they could be helping each other - communication is the key, and it doesn't have to be verbal.

Ruth

Lyle Laizure
11-03-2004, 12:33 PM
As a general rule it is inappropriate for one to correct thier sempai. I have found ways around it by asking questions. There is however an exception to every rule. If one is their sensei's otomo then you can correct your sempai as you would be acting on your sensei's behalf. Be careful though that you are acting on your sensei's behalf.

Jordan Steele
11-03-2004, 01:45 PM
I am really shocked at some of the responses on this subject. I will concede that correcting a senior is barely acceptable and should be done with the utmost caution but correcting a sempai is extremely inappropriate regardless of circumstances. Unless he is open minded and asks for my thoughts and advice I wouldn't dare correct him even if he was completely wrong.

akiy
11-03-2004, 01:50 PM
So, for those of you who are advocating never (or hardly ever) correcting someone more senior than you in the dojo, even if they're wrong -- why not?

What would/might be the consequence of doing so?

-- Jun

Chuck.Gordon
11-03-2004, 02:06 PM
No.

But then, of course, I HAVE no sempai.

No. Really.

Chuck
Who wishes I had some ...

Don_Modesto
11-03-2004, 03:08 PM
So, for those of you who are advocating never (or hardly ever) correcting someone more senior than you in the dojo, even if they're wrong -- why not?

What would/might be the consequence of doing so?

I find correcting ANYONE presumptuous. I prefer not to do it unless specifically asked and really dislike it when someone does it to me ("Shh. Let me work on it."). The consequences are distraction, broken concentration, noise on the mat, a degraded training experience. We can talk after class. In class, training is sacred, talk is profane.

MaryKaye
11-03-2004, 03:50 PM
About a year ago I was training with a rank beginner. He said, "You're a bit too close" a few times. I tried keeping more distance and he was right. This happened over and over, and finally I asked, "How come you understand ma'ai so well after only a month of training?"

He said, "I guess it's the years of boxing."

I just feel myself lucky he spoke up, instead of throwing an atemi!

If the dojo normally trains in silence, then sure, the junior student should be silent. But allowing seniors to correct juniors and not vice-versa just seems to say that seniors don't have anything to learn from their juniors, which is definitely not true.

Mary Kaye

Amassus
11-03-2004, 04:22 PM
But allowing seniors to correct juniors and not vice-versa just seems to say that seniors don't have anything to learn from their juniors, which is definitely not true.

Amen to that!

I didn't realise how strongly I felt on this subject but obviously strong enough to voice my opinion.

I guess it comes down to how people learn and how they like to be taught.

Of course if you have one person who likes to train in silence but another that likes to be a bit more casual or talk more there is going to be problems. This is all aikido to me. :)
Harmonising, blending, its all good.

Love this topic btw.

suren
11-03-2004, 04:50 PM
One part of me strongly supports Dean and Mary and I feel to be cheating my training partner by not telling him his mistake, but on the other hand I agree that reaction may lead to the broken relationship with my partner and instead of helping him it may harm both of us.
I think it really depends on your partner being open to that sort of behaviour and I prefer to establish better connection to understand what his reaction can be before doing smth like this. If we can establish a partner relation, then it's possible, if we stay at sempai/kohai relationship, then I would not risk my chance to learn from him.

Charles Hill
11-03-2004, 05:00 PM
Prof. Goldsbury,

Thank you for your reply. I understand now that you don`t have a typical university club with students practicing for 3 and a half years (if that) and then graduating with nidan. I understand that most uni clubs compensate for the short time by putting the kids through "jigoku" training and abuse. The corrupt sempai/kohai relationship is undoubtably useful for this. Of course this often produces bad technique and a worse attitude, the former in evidence every year at the Zen Nihon Enbu and the latter when guys from a few years layoff join our club to "get back into shape."

What would/might be the consequence of doing so?

1. I may be wrong and thus proving myself to be an idiot.

2. I may be right but also have major things wrong with my own technique thus proving myself to be an idiot. (something about splinters and logs in people`s eyes?)

3. I may be robbing a person the experience of figuring something out on their own.

I would never correct a senior member of my dojo but I might reverse his technique.:)

Charles Hill

Jordan Steele
11-03-2004, 05:13 PM
Verbally correcting sempai is wrong. Ignoring his/her correction or declining to train with them is fine though. Training should usually be carried out in silence anyways and only the instructor speaks. Aikido should be felt not heard. I support the idea that seniors have things to learn from juniors but it should be seen or felt and stolen without a word spoken. If there is one thing that my sempai taught me, it's that learning Aikido is the art of stealing. When you see or feel someone do something that you like, you steal it from them and make it your own. I am also aware that my sempai has learned from me as well. He's a huge guy and I'm a small guy but I can throw larger people hard. He uses way less effort than he used to and still produces the same effect. The point of this story is that I didn't tell him or correct him when he used brute power. He felt my more subtle power and stole it from me. We both benefit.

suren
11-03-2004, 05:15 PM
I would never correct a senior member of my dojo but I might reverse his technique.:)

Mr. Hill, excuse me my lack of knowledge, but what do you mean by "reversing" a technique?

suren
11-03-2004, 05:22 PM
Training should usually be carried out in silence anyways and only the instructor speaks. Aikido should be felt not heard. I support the idea that seniors have things to learn from juniors but it should be seen or felt and stolen without a word spoken.

Not in every dojo. You may find many dojos to be pretty open to using verbal communication during a class. My sensei sais Saito Sensei was very open to asking and answering questions during a class. This may be specific to Iwama style (since I have no exposures to other styles yet), but I doubt it.
And if as you say seniors have smth to learn from juniors and verbal teaching is appropriate, then why only sensei should speak?
I'm not questioning the privilege of sensei to teach, but I think this sort of limitation can be an obstacle in the learning process. On the other hand in some cases that limitation can be advantageous. I think the "golden middle way" should be chosen.

cguzik
11-03-2004, 05:51 PM
So what about when your senior is taking the class while your instructor is out? He teaches something you know to be flat out wrong. Would you allow your training group to be tainted or would you raise it as an issue?

You don't have to challenge him in front of the class, but you could discuss it afterwards or take him aside during training. I think it is one's responsibility to foster the continuing elevation of the levels of every student in the group. To let such a thing happen in my opinion borders on irresponsibility.

Some people may say that the more junior student does not know as well what is right and should defer to the more senior student, but people progress at different rates in different areas. So it is quite possible that one student may identify something her senior is doing wrong.

Sometimes it may not matter, but other students emulate the senior students and we have all seen examples of students emulating quirky things that they have seen others do that don't really fit any purpose for the situation. Is it not our responsibility to address these issues, as long as it is handled in a way that does not destroy the training environment in the dojo and the relationships between students?

Chris

Jorge Garcia
11-03-2004, 05:55 PM
So, for those of you who are advocating never (or hardly ever) correcting someone more senior than you in the dojo, even if they're wrong -- why not?

What would/might be the consequence of doing so?

-- Jun

It is said that in Aikido, it is the student that selects the teacher and not the other way around. When a junior corrects me, he is assuming I plan to listen to him or that I respect his Aikido enough to let him correct me. Someone can't force his "teacher hood" on me. Deciding who you allow teach you is a personal choice. Giving someone advice that isn't being asked for assumes a right of oversight and competence that may not exist. It could be considered intrusive, rude and somewhat arrogant to give advice to someone who isn't asking for it. Going around telling people how to comb their hair better, run their home more efficiently or even improve their marriage is crossing a personal boundary. That personal boundary exists also on the Aikido mat.
Best always,

Peter Goldsbury
11-03-2004, 06:02 PM
Prof. Goldsbury,

Thank you for your reply. I understand now that you don`t have a typical university club with students practicing for 3 and a half years (if that) and then graduating with nidan. I understand that most uni clubs compensate for the short time by putting the kids through "jigoku" training and abuse. The corrupt sempai/kohai relationship is undoubtably useful for this. Of course this often produces bad technique and a worse attitude, the former in evidence every year at the Zen Nihon Enbu and the latter when guys from a few years layoff join our club to "get back into shape."
Charles Hill

Hello Charles,

Yes, I encounter the sempai / kohai relationship very often and not just in the aikido world. Very rarely is it a productive relationship and so I fail to understand why it is encountered so often outside Japan. When we opened our dojo here, the university club model was the one model we did not want to follow.

Best regards,

Rupert Atkinson
11-03-2004, 06:21 PM
The senior/junior distinction is quite apparent in Korea but not really where I teach/train. Maybe it a 'foreigner thing.' People here wear white or black belts and at times, a junior is obviously better than a senior yet nothing is really said. Reasons are various - some people come to Aikido in Korea with a lot of prior experience (Hapkido / Kumdo / Judo), which obviously affects the learning curve. Such juniors rarely tell seniors what to do, of course, but seniors are in no doubt about where they stand in terms of skill in such situations. But after a year or two it all equalises out. Then, a senior might ask the junior what they think - I have seen this many times - such is Korea - in the dojo, as time passes, people become friends rather than senior/junior and the grade becomes less important, in fact, once friends, the grade means nothing at all, even on the mat. Actually, most students are not actually aware of the actual grades of others, they have little interest (far less than in the West). I think I have seen about ten or so of my closest students get to BB - but it is hard to know who my students are really as they are also taught by others. They are also graded by others so I do not know what actual grades they all have. Anyway, in Korea there is surprisingly little problem with such dojo etiquette or ranking as compared to the West. Almost every man is BB in something (TKD) so BB means little. Come, train, go - that's it.

Oh, just a thought. The other day one of my students said my posture was wrong and gave me some good advice ...

PeterR
11-03-2004, 06:45 PM
Hi Peter;

I see sempai/kohai, rank, age all interacting together, modulating each other. Frankly speaking at Shodokan Honbu, Tsukuba Daigaku (where I first started Aikido) and from what I've seen at the local university clubs such us Tenri Daigaku and Kinki Daigaku I just don't see the horror stories. So the first year students carry the bags - excuse me while I laugh and give them mine. There is a very strong bonding that can develop and I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing. Sempai watch out for Kohei and help them in their training - I see the same at the local Judo club with 10 year olds diligently helping 6 year olds.

I do agree that the principle does not export well but can potentially. I've always explained the meaning but put more emphasis on who past through what stage of their training (ie. rank). Senior student should help junior.

As to correcting a senior student. That's even more tough and really depends on circumstance. I have and will again but generally speaking the senior student runs the pair. So he's wrong, in a few minutes you'll have another partner. In the instances where I have corrected the senior student and I were engaged in free practice or the senior student indicated that he didn't quite understand what was happening.

Oh yeah (he posted as I did) what Rupert said. Friendship definately gets tossed in the mix.

maikerus
11-03-2004, 06:47 PM
Most of my instructors have been Japanese both in Canada and in Japan, so I have been part of the sempai/kohai system since starting Aikido.

I think that we may be missing the point that it is the Sempai's *responsibility* to guide and help the kohai. In fact, they are expected to take care of them. Really, to make sure that they are fed, watered, get enough sunlight and are learning what they are studying. It is not confined just to Aikido, but also includes the general well being of the kohai. In return for this the kohai runs errands, cleans up, folds clothes, carries bags, makes sure the sempai's beer glass is full and generally does his or her bit to make the hardships of the sempai a little easier. It's a mutually beneficial relationship.

With that in mind, the idea of "correcting a sempai" shouldn't come into play. Asking about something that you don't understand or asking about *apparent* differences should invoke the responsibility of the sempai to help you with your studying; it should not invoke his/her wrath as long as it is done with respect and within the confines of the relationship.

There is lots more to it than this - after all an entire culture is built up around it - but for the purposes of this discussion remember that a sempai has responsibility to their kohai.

--Michael

maikerus
11-03-2004, 07:20 PM
Sempai watch out for Kohei and help them in their training - I see the same at the local Judo club with 10 year olds diligently helping 6 year olds.


This is a good point about how pervasive the concept is in Japanese culture.

My son is about to turn 6 and has been going to the same daycare for the last 4 years. He is now in the top age group there and part of his responsibilities are to take care of the younger kids in the playground and when doing activities together. This includes things like sharing toys, making sure they get their snacks.

Not a bad thing at all. And it certainly helps when I can ask him to get something for his 2 year old brother and he doesn't complain.

cheers,

--Michael

Lyle Laizure
11-03-2004, 07:36 PM
correcting a sempai is extremely inappropriate regardless of circumstances
Jordan, would it make a difference if it was a safety issue?

Jordan Steele
11-03-2004, 08:02 PM
If my physical safety was on the line with anyone in the dojo I would, as I said before, refuse to train with that person. If I sense inevitable injury or a lack of awareness, I don't correct my sempai's technique, I simply bow out and join another group.

PeterR
11-03-2004, 08:10 PM
Jordan, would it make a difference if it was a safety issue?
I found Jordan's views a bit extreme in this context including silence while training. Not quite the way I'm used to things but each is own.

However, in my view safety is sempai's primary responsibility. If you feel that your safety is being compromised than the relationship goes out the window. The sempai/kohei relationship was directly attributable to the deaths from multiple shihonage that occurred in certain Japanese Universities - at this point the relationship had long since ceased to be mutually beneficial and had morphed into something else. I believe this is what Peter G. is referring to when he expresses his distaste. I on the other hand don't think one needs to toss the baby out with the bathwater.

Peter Goldsbury
11-03-2004, 08:52 PM
In my earlier post I wrote,


I encounter the sempai / kohai relationship very often and not just in the aikido world. Very rarely is it a productive relationship ...


I am thinking of the relationship in a school, company or academic life. In addition, the relationship has varying degrees of intensity and so it should not be assumed that the relationship is identical whenever it occurs. I think it manifests itself differently in companies, university sports clubs and academic seminar rooms.

The problem in Japanese universities is that this relationship tends to become a template for other relationships and also extends to areas where it should not. In fact, in my own university the relationship is generally less harmful in Tai-ikukai martial arts clubs than in other areas, such as English language education, where leaders and led blindly and blithely fall into the ditch together. I get very upset to discover that class assignments have been done by someone's kohai, because the sempai was too lazy to do it himself and exploited the relationship accordingly.

Best regards,

MaryKaye
11-03-2004, 09:20 PM
I've been in the situation where my senior is teaching as a substitute instructor and makes an obvious mistake. (I won't say 'sempai' because although my dojo uses the word, clearly we don't mean anything like what the Japanese mean by it.)

That's the one time I resolutely do keep my mouth closed, because beginning as a teacher is so hard that it's cruel to make it any harder. Even if the person teaching is my own rank and I *know* I'm in the right, it is absolutely the wrong time to push the issue. A new instructor needs the respect of the class and the space to gain confidence. Any non-safety-critical mistake can always get fixed later. Even the two ikkyu (now both shodan) who have been teaching for a year or more are still getting their feet under them, and they need my support a lot more than they need my critiques, especially given the good odds that I'm wrong.

The only exception I'd make is for a clear safety issue, but no one ends up teaching in our dojo without having been through a lot of watchful scrutiny on safety, so I don't expect this to arise.

I would feel flatly unsafe in a dojo where the expected response to a safety violation was to silently refuse to train with the person. To me this ducks the responsibility all of us have to care for each other. Sooner or later someone too inexperienced to recognize the danger will be injured, and I feel that everyone who silently allowed the problem to continue will be partially to blame.

I was a member of a (non-aikido) group where one member was sexually predatory. I, and several of the other senior women in the group, found this out and silently arranged not to be alone with him or give him opportunities. As a result one of the junior women, who didn't know and wasn't warned, got molested. I feel extremely bad about this, and I hope never to make that mistake again. (And yes, at that point we took legal action, but it was too late to prevent harm.)

Mary Kaye

Charles Hill
11-03-2004, 09:32 PM
Jordan,

I am afraid your replies don`t make sense from a Japanese point of view. True, one should not correct sempai. But also, one cannot "bow out." You have to take and put up with whatever the sempai gives you. Of course, if you are not talking from a Japanese perspective and are just expressing your or your dojo`s customs, then it doesn`t matter.

Suren,

I had a real learning experience that I think addresses the problem here. My teacher one day talked about reversing a technique, that is, doing a technique in response to your partner`s technique. This is possible if the partner`s technique has some flaw. After class, I asked if I should try to reverse a sempai`s technique if I could. He said I should think about the person and do it only if it were appropriate. I said ok, and then promptly forgot about his advice. The next class, I was practicing with a very large sempai with poor technique. I got tired of taking bs ukemi to his iriminage and slipped under his arm and did iriminage on him. It worked like a charm and I successfully "corrected" him. To which he showed his appreciation not by improving his technique but by doing it even faster and harder.:)

If you are interested in a better way of reversing techniques, I suggest Saotome Sensei`s book, the Principles of Aikido or else you can ask your teacher about "kaeshiwaza."

Charles HIll

p00kiethebear
11-03-2004, 11:08 PM
Being one of the sempai of my dojo, and having taught classes. I don't mind correction. My kohai know i'm not sensei and don't know everything. And usually if a correction comes up it's something i knew but forgot about. The only time I don't like it is when i'm actually demonstrating technique because it's distracting to people. I would rather finish and have the kohai approach me about it. (what if the kohai is wrong in the correction? It has happened before. "Nathan don't you step over here" "we used to but now we don't")

The only time I really don't want to permit it (but it's never even come up) is in the kids class. It's not good at all to look incompetant in front of parents who are watching. But lke i said, i've never been corrected when teaching a kids class.

I think every sempai should approach a teaching position reminding themselves that they are not the authority and can still be wrong as anyone about this kind of stuff. It's when ego's get inflated that trouble starts...

PeterR
11-03-2004, 11:31 PM
Hi Nathan;

If you are teaching class then you are sensei. The sempai/kohei relationship does not come into play at all except possibly in who your teacher chooses to teach the class. It is a very different situation.

happysod
11-04-2004, 02:20 AM
It's odd, but this thread has depressed me. I didn't realise that so many of you out there not only practice in such a stratified caste system, but actively support it and defend it so vocally. Sorry, but it makes no sense to me, especially when many of the posters are Western and (I presume) have not been brought up in a culture which actively propagates sempai/kohai relationships.

How it works for us is that at any point in time, there's one instructor on the mat who has the final say of what and how things are done. The rest of us train, we interact, we coach each other and rank is normally just a way of showing who will go splat and who will roll like a little rubber ball. The whole idea that anyone would have to take into account someone's ego while training is frankly pitiful.

If I'm doing it wrong or differently, I want to know. I don't care who tells me or what their own motivation is in telling me, if they're right they're right and I'm grateful (sometimes grudgingly I admit).

I simply cannot see what a rigid adherence to "rank" is gaining anyone, least of all the supposed senior.

batemanb
11-04-2004, 03:10 AM
Why not.

Sempai means that they have been in the club longer than you, it`s not a reflection on rank or ability. Therefore, there may be times when I am teaching a class that I may make a suggestion to one of my sempai to try it a little differently, my answer being yes, if it was something key. But ultimately, all of my personal sempai are dan grades, therefore even if I spot them missing something that I was doing, I would prefer them to figure it out through practice.

rgds

Bryan

PeterR
11-04-2004, 05:07 AM
Sorry Ian but there is only one poster that seemed rigid to me. Mostly the sempai/kohei relationship is one of many threads defining a relationship.

It actually is very ethereal.

PeterR
11-04-2004, 05:34 AM
It's very common at Shodokan Honbu for Sempai to take a class from Kohie. It has very little to do with ability.

Ron Tisdale
11-04-2004, 08:13 AM
So what about when your senior is taking the class while your instructor is out? He teaches something you know to be flat out wrong. Would you allow your training group to be tainted or would you raise it as an issue?

If Sensei puts someone in charge, they are in charge. They teach what they teach. I am there to learn. If there is an obvious safety issue, I may mention it privately off to the side. But that's it.

Personally, I like Don's silent approach best. But I also enjoy less formal environments from time to time. It all depends...

Ron

gregstec
11-04-2004, 09:48 AM
We all learn sometihng from each other on the mat regardless of the rank separation - seniors learn from juniors and juniors learn from seniors.

Maybe 'correct' is not the proper word to use here. In my opinion, the only individual that should be doing any 'correcting' during a class, is the sensei; which could be any individual regardless of rank who is actually teaching that particular class.

Now if a training partner (regardless of rank) is performing a technique different than what I think is correct, I would simply ask them if this is a variation, and if so, how and why is it different than the way I am familiar with.

This approach brings out your concern, does not bruise any egos, and presents a positive situation for all concerned.


Greg Steckel

jester
11-04-2004, 10:49 AM
Suren, what was the actual correction that was observed?

I'm sure that would be a topic in itself.

Don_Modesto
11-04-2004, 11:02 AM
Hi Nathan;

If you are teaching class then you are sensei. The sempai/kohei relationship does not come into play at all except possibly in who your teacher chooses to teach the class. It is a very different situation.

I think Chiba related in an interview once that he was a 5 KYU UCHIDESHI "teaching" a class with 4 DANS in it.

Don_Modesto
11-04-2004, 11:02 AM
I've been in the situation where my senior is teaching as a substitute instructor and makes an obvious mistake.

I was in a class once where the instructor apologized after class for one of the techniques which was sort of clumsy to do. I glossed over it to him but smiled to myself as I'd found trying to work around the clumsiness one of the more stimulating parts of the class. We cherish UKE for providing attacks and training opportunities; wouldn't mistakes be regarded similarly?

(Truth be told, I've seen Jpn SHIHAN fumble and motor through with clumsy techniques, too. Anyone up for correcting them?)

I was a member of a (non-aikido) group where one member was sexually predatory.

It's a good point you make, but I doubt many people were considering bad intentions when speaking of correcting SEMPAIs' mistakes.

Don_Modesto
11-04-2004, 11:04 AM
The whole idea that anyone would have to take into account someone's ego while training is frankly pitiful.

"take into account someone's ego "

Would other terms for this be courtesy? Consideration? Compassion?

Don_Modesto
11-04-2004, 11:06 AM
Suren, what was the actual correction that was observed?

I'm sure that would be a topic in itself.

Ah! Another can of worms!

Good point.

happysod
11-04-2004, 11:52 AM
Peter, you're right, I'm just reading too negatively.

Don - disagree re courtesy. The problem as I read it was not upsetting someone because they were of higher rank (rank being the key issue). I'd expect basic common courtesy in the dojo from anyone, basing training behaviour on rank is pandering to egos.

William Westdyke
11-04-2004, 12:35 PM
Well, I've been following this thread for a while and have now decided to post on it because everyone seems to feel so strongly about it. I must admit I am kinda shocked at everyones intensity on this issue of sempai/kohai corrections. Maybe I have a completely different approach to my training, and that of my peers, than most of you. When I step on the mat to train I do it with the full intention of giving my most believable or helpful effort to the person I'm dealing with. The only thing I use rank for is to judge which approach is appropriate. When dealing with my kohai I often show them the correct way to do something by "leading" them through the technique. This consists of resistance in the directions that are incorrect and dynamic energy in the directions that are correct. I'm sure most of us do this to some degree or another. With my sempai it is completely different. I don't fall (period) unless they make me. There are a billion variations on any technique and any one of them can be right for a given situation. If you resist hard and they slam you, they did it right. If you resist a little and they slam you, again, they did it right. If you resist a sempai and they can't throw you, they will figure it out or move on to someone who "falls" for them. Either way at least I know I've done my best to make them a better martial artist. The ball's in their court, as they say, after that. I guess you could say I don't correct anyone. I just make them do it right.

suren
11-04-2004, 01:04 PM
Sorry for some confusion. In my dojo we call our senoiur students "sempai" and as I understand sometimes this means other things. Again sorry for confusion.

suren
11-04-2004, 01:16 PM
Suren, what was the actual correction that was observed?

I'm sure that would be a topic in itself.

I would not like to make a topic from it, but the correction was that during shihonage the leading hand (one which is over partner's thumb base) does not grab, but instead does "kokyu", which adds power and helps unbalancing uke. It's difficult to notice if technique performed full speed and if you do not watch for it from the correct place. Sensei was emphasizing that detail.

Janet Rosen
11-04-2004, 02:48 PM
I'm even more firmly of the opinion that it was not your place to say anything: Sensei may have been emphasizing it, but the student may have consciously been working on something himself.
I know that sometimes the best way for me to understand the "way that is being shown" is to spend a part of the time playing with other ways so I can compare how it feels in my body and how it affects/doesn't affect my partner. While I generally murmer to my partner, asking indulgence, it certainly would look "wrong" to any observor.
To me this is part of me being responsible for my own training. I'm not saying that the student you observed was deviating on pupose, just that it may not have been his unconscious error. As we cannot know people's motives, it's just one more reason for focussing on your own training.

raul rodrigo
11-04-2004, 05:54 PM
It really depends. I have seniors who I have that kind of relationship with and we can talk each other through a technique that one of us may be struggling with. "How was that?" "Felt rough/left an opening/needed a little more of x...." "Okay, that felt like blending, not clashing." It's not an ego issue, because we are both yudansha and I think we are doing it in the proper spirit. But in general yes, I would hesitate to do it, particularly outside my own dojo, if the sempai has not asked for help or feedback.

Peter Goldsbury
11-04-2004, 05:55 PM
In a long and complex thread like this, it is sometimes good to go back to the beginning and read everything again. Several issues have surfaced which are separate from the issue of whether there are, or should be, sempai in a dojo. The issues have been run together and should perhaps be separated:

1. If you are not teaching the class, do you correct someone's technique if you perceive it to be not what the instrucor is teaching?
2. Do you do this verbally, or in some other way?
3. Do you do this even if that someone is supposedly more experienced or proficient than yourself?

1. The actual mistake that Suren indicated was not really a mistake, in the sense that it made the technique impossible to execute, but note also that his verbal explanation of the correct way was not so clear. The instructor was showing a particular form of shiho-nage, where the leading hand does not grab, but does "kokyu". Well, kokyu is breathing and can be done with or without a grab. In this case you would need to be pretty clear about what the correct way of doing the technique actually was. So you might end up thinking, "Well his/her way of doing the technique is clearly wrong, but, of course, my way is not necessarily right" (though you perhaps might not add this last bit).

Other examples would be the ways of blending with a shomen-uchi attack in irimi-nage, or the footwork in kaiten-nage ura. I remember teaching this latter technique at the 2002 Aiki Expo, but very few people did what I showed. I suspect that this was because they had involuntarily superimposed their own 'image' of the technique on what I was doing.

I occasionally used to take classes where the late Rinjiro Shirata Sensei was teaching. In the politest of Japanese he would not so much correct as suggest to the student another way of doing the technique (i.e., the way he was actually showing) that was worthy of consideration. And he was the instructor. Nobody else did any correcting in his classes.

2. Aikido is training in awareness, but this training/awareness does not necessarily need to be stated verbally. I suppose it depends on the culture\and the culture of the dojo. In Japan great value is placed on silence and training in silence.

3. Given what I have said above, I would usually answer this question in the negative. Development of awareness is very difficult, but the more you practicse, the more you develop preferred ways of doing things, especially if you have trained with one shihan. Thus, yudansha usually have a greater grasp than beginners of the hidden subtleties in techniques. On the other hand, compared with beginners, they tend to be reluctant to give up preferred ways of doing things and look at something new. I have seen this over the years especially when I have given training courses as a visiting instructor.

Best regards,

maikerus
11-04-2004, 06:22 PM
With my sempai it is completely different. I don't fall (period) unless they make me. There are a billion variations on any technique and any one of them can be right for a given situation. If you resist hard and they slam you, they did it right. If you resist a little and they slam you, again, they did it right. If you resist a sempai and they can't throw you, they will figure it out or move on to someone who "falls" for them. Either way at least I know I've done my best to make them a better martial artist. The ball's in their court, as they say, after that. I guess you could say I don't correct anyone. I just make them do it right.

I've only been on this board for a few months, but I've noticed alot of emphasis on resisting a technique and that shite must do the technique to *make* uke fall at all costs.

I have a couple of problems with this and this thread perfectly suits one of them.

If you are expected to make the technique work against your junior no matter what, won't this lead to you doing a technique perhaps improperly, or changing the technique so you never learn the one principle you are trying (or need to) to practice or perhaps applying the technique with more strength than you *should* be using. Even worse...doesn't it give the impression that you have nothing left to learn to your junior??!!

All of these results are bad if you are honestly trying to learn something and not just show that you are stronger than your junior.

If the culture of your dojo is that juniors resist and don't fall *unless you make them* how does that help you improve your Aikido. Where is the Kohai -> Sempai respect in requiring you to prove yourself every time you do a technique? What are we, a pack of wolves?

And if you've been taught that you *must* make your junior fall *no matter what* how can you learn technique and then pass it on to your juniors. You can't - you're learning how to use strength or how to change to a different technique. Why don't you just kick them in the knee when they aren't looking? Where is the Sempai -> Kohai respect in that? Don't you want something meaningful to pass on?

My understanding of Aikido implies that a technique takes two people. In training, both people should be learning. If the goal of your training is to be able to do techniques when you are 84 and frail because you have found ways of using balance and timing to your advantage then studying with someone and in a dojo culture that requires you to overcome more resistance than you are able to (at your level and through pure technique) - so you move on to strength or do a different technique - then that would seem to me to be a waste of time and energy on something that isn't even the goal we've put out for ourselves.

Expecting anyone (senior or junior) to go from no understanding of a technique to executing a perfect technique without having to fumble through the middle part called learning is pretty dumb, even if they are your senior.

I am *not* advocating just falling because you are training. I don't train that way and I don't want to train that way.

I am advocating that there is a relationship there that means both people can work together to improve their technique. Work on the principle and slowly, but surely you will get better. Feedback is important. Show what is working or what is working partially, but to stand their silently resisting is just an ego trip.

If you try and bypass the learning of Aikido because someone wants you to prove yourself then you are, as far as I am concerned, wasting your time. And there is far too much to learn to waste time like this.

William...this wasn't actually directed at you, but your post really brought into sharp focus the adversarial training methods and comments that I've seen over the past few months. Thanks for that.

My few extreme yen...but hopefully it'll get a point across,

--Michael

Rupert Atkinson
11-04-2004, 06:34 PM
Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more honest than the approach taken by 100% of Judoka. The closer you get to black belt, the more determined the rest of the 'underdogs' become to plant your backside firmly on the mat. And there is no decrease in intensity on attaining BB. Of course, a lot of bad technique emerges in the process, and no one criticises it except the teacher, but there is also some truly great stuff that rises almost spontaneously out of the mire. The key is to recognise it and make it one's own. Not many can do that.

suren
11-04-2004, 06:47 PM
The instructor was showing a particular form of shiho-nage, where the leading hand does not grab, but does "kokyu". Well, kokyu is breathing and can be done with or without a grab. In this case you would need to be pretty clear about what the correct way of doing the technique actually was.
Peter,

You know Japanese much better than me so I can't really argue about the meaning of this word and as one of our students noticed "everything in Aikido is called kokyu" :) But as I understand, usually when my sensei talks about kokyu he means an open reasing hand like in Morote Dori Kokyu Ho or in Kokyu Doza. And the way he was showing it was pretty clear.
Anyway, I'm really not in any position of telling what's right and what's wrong. If my sensei shows something and another student does something else, I will tell him if I have a good relationship (understanding) with him and will ignore that otherwise. In that case even if I'm wrong, he will just explain his motives of doing it differently.
Since I haven't built such a friendly relationship with that particular person, I'm not telling him anything for now.

Thanks again for your responces.

BTW, my understanding of the second situation, if sensei is away and sempai is teaching, then he is sensei during that class, and subsequently he can't do something which is different from what sensei is teaching.

PeterR
11-04-2004, 06:59 PM
Mike;

I've convinced the powers to be to hold a workshop in Yokohama either this year or early next - last time I only met Mike Kimeda. This time I would bring dogi.

Anyhow - the point about resistance at all costs is something I've noticed too and it always leaves me puzzled. Like Judo, Shodokan has a very powerful way of introducing that sort of practice just as (quick remind to Rupert) Judo also has non-resistant training such as uchikome and kata. Other forms of Aikido have their own way of introducing resistance training. With all there is a distinct time and place. I can't help thinking that these statements are nothing more than macho posturing and wonder how their Aikido can possibly improve if the relationship is so absolute.

raul rodrigo
11-04-2004, 07:18 PM
Mike;

Anyhow - the point about resistance at all costs is something I've noticed too and it always leaves me puzzled. Like Judo, Shodokan has a very powerful way of introducing that sort of practice just as (quick remind to Rupert) Judo also has non-resistant training such as uchikome and kata. Other forms of Aikido have their own way of introducing resistance training. With all there is a distinct time and place. I can't help thinking that these statements are nothing more than macho posturing and wonder how their Aikido can possibly improve if the relationship is so absolute.

I'm with Peter and Michael on this: how many times have we had uke who are determined to screw up your technique no matter what? And what is the point? Just recently we had a practice with aikidoka from another dojo and some yudansha were determined to prove that our aikido was no good: eg, crouching down at one point in irimi nage to make it nearly impossible to enter with the irimi arm. Of course all this means is that I should either elbow them in the face or something similar to get compliance, or I would slip behind them and strangle the living daylights out of them. Either way, what would have been learned? In such a situation, my sempai chose to let the other guy have his little victory and walk away happy. But is this aikido? What is honest ukemi after all?


R

Don_Modesto
11-04-2004, 08:29 PM
I know that sometimes the best way for me to understand the "way that is being shown" is to spend a part of the time playing with other ways so I can compare how it feels in my body and how it affects/doesn't affect my partner.

Kindred soul!

As we cannot know people's motives, it's just one more reason for focussing on your own training.

Yes.

Don_Modesto
11-04-2004, 08:34 PM
...basing training behaviour on rank is pandering to egos.

So often I see blather and ego in corrections. It just distracts with a social element unnecessary.

Without exaggerating, I've seen beginners on the mat for a total of 15 minutes correcting people. Women have told me that men seem to think they have a genetic advantage and correct them despite vast gaps of experience and accomplishment favoring the women.

The dangers of condescension and distraction greatly outweigh the presumptive benefits of instruction.

maikerus
11-04-2004, 10:20 PM
Mike;

I've convinced the powers to be to hold a workshop in Yokohama either this year or early next - last time I only met Mike Kimeda. This time I would bring dogi.

Hey...lets meet up. You have an open invitation to RYA...as do any and all aikithugs :) I also know about 47 good bars we could hit :)

Anyhow - the point about resistance at all costs is something I've noticed too and it always leaves me puzzled. Like Judo, Shodokan has a very powerful way of introducing that sort of practice just as (quick remind to Rupert) Judo also has non-resistant training such as uchikome and kata. Other forms of Aikido have their own way of introducing resistance training. With all there is a distinct time and place. I can't help thinking that these statements are nothing more than macho posturing and wonder how their Aikido can possibly improve if the relationship is so absolute.

There is a time and a place for resistance and I can't help but think that if you try and do it all the time you are just spinning your wheels and not focusing on getting better or learning about anything.

I mean if we learned to walk by trudging through a meter of snow uphill while carrying a full backpack while people were pelting you with snowballs...why stop crawling and try and leave the house? Okay...bad example, but you know what I mean.

--Michael

xuzen
11-04-2004, 10:43 PM
Hi all,

Thank god in the Yoshinkan syllabus, there is a standardised format of technique (grading syllabus). It is rigid and my guess it forms the gold standard of minimum techinical competency. When all things fail and there is a disagreement, go back to the basics and start from the source in this case the standard format. The dojo sensei (the highest authority of any particular dojo) should have the final say on how the technique is interpreted.

Knowing that we are all individual with individual minds, disagreement are not an uncommon thing, but it will be good to refer to the grading syllabus as the gold standard and work from there.

Any unconvetional technique that one wishes to explore should be encouraged but only outside the official classroom time (eg. afterclass).

Boon.

William Westdyke
11-05-2004, 12:09 AM
OK, first for Raul, (only because yours is the last post I read) everyone hates that beginner or person from another dojo who is there simply to prove, as you say, "aikido was no good." But that has nothing to do with a fair amount of Resistance in the proper direction. For example, running through an irimi nage arm if it isn't solidly in someones center. It is definitely "falling down" for a 6'5" guy to fail to run though an irimi nage delivered off balance by a 5'8" guy. It does nothing for either the uke or nage in respect to training. It only cushions the smaller guys pride in the fact that he can't deal with the bigger attacker. As to your statement about strangling or elbowing, it simply boils down to the fact that a good aikidoka shouldn't need to resort to violence. The violent atemi isn't aikido anymore. Sure, I can through an elbow in, to make the technique easier but that is NOT aikido. Its aikijujutsu. Any shodan should be able to do any technique against an untrained attacher without delivering injury (pain is OK) even if they resist. Anything less and they need to be working on their basics again.
(By the way this post isn't meant to be directed against you personally, only the idea of the violent atemi.)

Second in regards to Michael's Post,
Thanks for your direct and honest approach replying to my post. Please allow me to respond in turn with no hard feelings.

I am sometimes really disappointed with the level of training our generation of aikidoka are receiving. It is simple fact that Osensei leveled his students. Pain was a part of things. His uchi deshi are all DANGEROUS. Any one of them can step on any mat with any group of people and show a proficiency at movement that is amazing. The sad thing is, that special thing they all have is slowly disappearing. The ability to do a technique under stress is becoming a very rare thing. Look at the posts about "aikido no working in a fight" or similar threads. Some people have tales of "one time I..." but most say that it didn't work for them.

I really BELIEVE in aikido. One shouldn't have to hurt another to gain the upper hand in a fight. But I don't believe someone can gain that level of proficiency without going through daily trials. If one doesn't leave the mat frustrated with at least one technique they tried that day, what have they learned. I think they have learned a false confidence in an ideal, which they can't back up.

You can't climb a latter from the 6th step up. Osensei showed us all what was achievable. He even showed his students a path up that ladder. I don't think he ever believed anyone could be as good as him without going though what he did. Now, obviously we can't all train day to day 15 hours a day, but we also don't need to make training "comfortable" or "easy" for our sempai. It should only become harder as one progresses though the levels of training.

If I stepped on any toes I apologize. I really didn't mean to be rude in this post. I surely didn't intend any of this against anyone specifically. As they say, its just my 2 cents.

William

William Westdyke
11-05-2004, 12:17 AM
LOL... I just read Michaels post about trudging through a meter of snow. All I could think about was Rocky running up snow covered mountains to train to fight the Russian. We leave the house to prove something to ourselves. We aren't trying to walk, we are trying to run up a mountain with a full backpack. Perhaps the snowballs, the backpack, and the meter of snow help us learn.

xuzen
11-05-2004, 12:35 AM
I am sometimes really disappointed with the level of training our generation of aikidoka are receiving. It is simple fact that Osensei leveled his students. Pain was a part of things. His uchi deshi are all DANGEROUS. Any one of them can step on any mat with any group of people and show a proficiency at movement that is amazing. The sad thing is, that special thing they all have is slowly disappearing. The ability to do a technique under stress is becoming a very rare thing. Look at the posts about "aikido no working in a fight" or similar threads. Some people have tales of "one time I..." but most say that it didn't work for them.

I really BELIEVE in aikido. One shouldn't have to hurt another to gain the upper hand in a fight. But I don't believe someone can gain that level of proficiency without going through daily trials. If one doesn't leave the mat frustrated with at least one technique they tried that day, what have they learned. I think they have learned a false confidence in an ideal, which they can't back up.

.William

Sniff.. sniff... I love your post William. Aikido is not a magic bullet, one has to work at it continuously to gain the sort of proficiency seen in previous great senseis. With your reminder... I should train harder and love pain more <grin>.

Gambatte.
Boon.

maikerus
11-05-2004, 12:52 AM
Hey William,

I have also sometimes been disappointed about the level of Aikido that I have seen and felt in my travels over the last several years. Its unfortunate that I always compare everyone I train with to my instructors (Chida, Takeno, Ando, Inoue, Mustard, Chino, Shioda among others), all of whom have leveled me without thinking about it and made me really, really train hard and haven't always held back (okay, they have since I am still here...but I have been knocked senseless and taken some terrible punishment) when they do a technique. Especially if I did something stupid in recent memory.

They also all taught me about the smaller movements and the sublties inside the techniques which I wouldn't have understood or even seen if I was always facing 100% resistance. Chida Sensei talks about differences in mm of how a technique is done. Takeno Sensei talks about the correct size of a circular movement dependent upon uke. Mustard Sensei stresses the attack and the timing to the microsecond. Inoue Sensei talks about how much of your skin is touching uke's. These are all really, really tiny things that make the technique unbelievably powerful. And use unbelievably such little strength.

What they really did was teach me how to learn and how to see progression in these details that they are showing me. And they used resistance to do that...just not 100% resistance *all* the time, no matter what.

The magic is in the details and you can't look at the details if you are stuck fighting your own ego when someone is resisting for resistance sake.

The sempai/kohai topic of this thread goes with this, I think, because there has to be mutual respect to give yourself 100% to your shite and they also have to have at least some respect to teach you what they know.

My thoughts ramble on...

--Michael

Ron Tisdale
11-05-2004, 07:45 AM
No Michael, no rambling there at all. What you said corrosponds exactly to my limited experiences with Inoue, Chida, and Mustard Sensei. I haven't had the pleasure (or the pain) of training with Takeno Sensei yet, but Man, have I heard stories!

The violent atemi isn't aikido anymore. Sure, I can through an elbow in, to make the technique easier but that is NOT aikido. Its aikijujutsu.

I'm sorry, but I don't understand what that is based on. Aikido has no rules. Sometimes the atemi is the technique. Of course, different teachers in aikido do teach different things, so maybe this is just one of those differences.

Any shodan should be able to do any technique against an untrained attacher without delivering injury (pain is OK) even if they resist. Anything less and they need to be working on their basics again.

Well, this I just can't agree with. In a dojo setting, I would certainly say my goal is not to injure my attacker. I might even say that my goal is to do the *least injury possible* to a real attacker outside of the dojo. But I would in no way expect to do no injury whatsoever against even an untrained attacker outside of the dojo who is larger or stronger or faster or better armed or....I think you get the point.

In Shioda Sensei's autobiography, he talks about many experiences where he used aikido outside of the dojo...for the life of me, I can't remember one where the attacker was not injured. But Kancho didn't say 'I wasn't doing aikido in that moment because I injured my attacker'. He said that it was instead evidence that aikido worked.

No offense,
Ron

raul rodrigo
11-05-2004, 08:00 AM
[QUOTE=William Westdyke]OK, first for Raul, (only because yours is the last post I read) everyone hates that beginner or person from another dojo who is there simply to prove, as you say, "aikido was no good." But that has nothing to do with a fair amount of Resistance in the proper direction. For example, running through an irimi nage arm if it isn't solidly in someones center. It is definitely "falling down" for a 6'5" guy to fail to run though an irimi nage delivered off balance by a 5'8" guy. It does nothing for either the uke or nage in respect to training. It only cushions the smaller guys pride in the fact that he can't deal with the bigger attacker. As to your statement about strangling or elbowing, it simply boils down to the fact that a good aikidoka shouldn't need to resort to violence. The violent atemi isn't aikido anymore. Sure, I can through an elbow in, to make the technique easier but that is NOT aikido. Its aikijujutsu. Any shodan should be able to do any technique against an untrained attacher without delivering injury (pain is OK) even if they resist. Anything less and they need to be working on their basics again.
(By the way this post isn't meant to be directed against you personally, only the idea of the violent atemi.)

I understand what you mean about a fair amount of resistance. For morote dori kokyu nage i expect my uke to hold really hard to show me if there is in fact something wrong with my technique. I don't mind honest ukemi. But it became (in my opinion) a contest of ego on the part of this particular uke. And I wasnt' going to play; I too am against the violent atemi. Yes, there are ways and means of getting compliance without pain, by going to a henkawaza, etc, etc. I dont want uke to salve my ego by just giving in. But at the same time I don't want to force a technique, ie, do irimi-nage when uke is positioning himself precisely to stop iriminage. One shifts to a henka -- kiri otoshi, kokyu nage. The point of my post is simply this: haven't you ever had an yudansha uke whose objective is apparently to demonstrate that your technique doesn't work?
What is fair resistance and what isn't?

happysod
11-05-2004, 10:24 AM
What is fair resistance and what isn't? Difficult one (cue for lots of caveats). In free-form sparring, I'd say any level of Resistance is "fair" as you're attempting to simulate a real (TM) attack. In normal practice, it should be based on what you're trying to achieve.

When learning the move itself (or tidying it up), minimal resistance, just enough to be dead weight and allow the balance points to be looked at, then ramping the resistance up as the technique becomes more instinctive.

We have three main levels of resistance and the type to use is normally set when the technique is asked for (and based on the shape of movement asked for) so determining how much is not normally a problem. I agree, resistance can hinder learning rather than help, but there's nothing worse than a floppy attack by a rag-doll uke.

aikidoc
11-05-2004, 12:40 PM
If atemi is not part of aikido then O'Sensei must have been doing another art.

Don_Modesto
11-05-2004, 12:44 PM
....about strangling or elbowing, it simply boils down to the fact that a good aikidoka shouldn't need to resort to violence.

Reconciliation works both ways. Knucle-draggin thugs need to learn more benevolent ways; limp wristed hopefuls need to learn a modicum of violence. Osensei wouldn't even admit a student to training unless he'd already mastered another martial art ("aikido for the world" came as an economic imperative--adapt or disappear--recognized by his son). The lovey-dovey harmony stuff the founder considered ADVANCED martial art. Violence, like the words or not, is the foundation.

The violent atemi isn't aikido anymore.

Poppycock.

"Violent atemi"?! Redundant phrasing here. Atemi IS violent. Moreover, this IS harmony. Remember the context whence comes aikido. The famous Jpn definition of social harmony has it thus: The nail that sticks up gets HAMMERED. No accomodation of diverse needs and desires through tacitly democratic means--Hammered!

Sure, I can through an elbow in, to make the technique easier but that is NOT aikido. Its aikijujutsu.

This demonstrates a misunderstanding of the two (?) arts.

Nick P.
11-05-2004, 01:14 PM
Ahhhhh! Not again!

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6632

suren
11-05-2004, 02:28 PM
Nick, your situation I believe is a little different. I'm not talking about correcting someone based on my own limited knowledge, I was asking whether it's appropriate to express your opinion when you see your partner does not follow sensei's instructions.
I know it became a huge thread, but if you follow my posts you will see that I do not rely on my interpretation of the technique.

raul rodrigo
11-05-2004, 08:18 PM
In this particular case,the uke crouching down to prevent irimi-nage, my shihan taught me a tsubo using the thumb and middle finger applied to the face of uke just inside the jawbone, where the molars are. Applied hard, it makes uke rear back instinctively and then you can move in with irimi-nage. It hurts and that too is part of aikido. But for me to have done this to someone from another dojo (a whole other aikido federation actually) would created tensions between the two groups that I didn't want to get into at that point. So to me its not a matter of not having the technique to work against the resistance, its a question of, as I said, what was honest resistance at that point. Against someone from my own dojo, I would have no compunction about using that method against a recalcitrant uke.

Nick P.
11-06-2004, 12:33 AM
I'm not talking about correcting someone based on my own limited knowledge, I was asking whether it's appropriate to express your opinion when you see your partner does not follow Sensei's instructions.
I know it became a huge thread, but if you follow my posts you will see that I do not rely on my interpretation of the technique.

Is not one's opinion based on one's (limited or otherwise) knowledge?

Back in Japan, there is a student who, I am convinced, is certain he is honestly attempting to do as Sensei is 1) telling him and 2) telling the whole class. How else can one explain a whole room of people (Sensei included) simply shaking their heads, but this person continues as they always have: frankly, butchering the technique to the point where it takes an awful amount of imagination to convince yourself you and this person are learning from the same teacher! He is my Sempai, so I do as he instructs me (to do otherwise would be rude to him). Then Sensei walks over, and instructs me and the Sempai in a manner best described as 180 degrees from what Sempai was just showing. Then, while Sensei watches, Sempai GOES BACK to what he was teaching me. Sensei leaves, and I am stuck there scratching my head: is Sensei condoning this? Tolerating it? What?!!! This did not happen just once, but several times over 3 weeks (True story).

If Sensei does not correct this (or other) Sempai, why could / should I? For all I know, Sensei thinks I am equally as thick / wrong as the Sempai.

I will worry about my own training; it is after all the only technique I truly can control. If one can even call it that.

And for what it is worth, no, do not correct Sempai, unless asked.

Best,
-N

GaiaM
11-06-2004, 06:44 AM
Ok, I've stayed out of this thread so far, but now I feel compelled to contribute my two cents.
First of all, I don't generally "correct" my sempai on their technique, but I wouldn't hesitate to point out in a respectful manner if they are doing something very different than what sensei showed, ie. "Is that what sensei did? I thought I saw a tenkan there." or something along those lines.

He is my Sempai, so I do as he instructs me (to do otherwise would be rude to him). Then Sensei walks over, and instructs me and the Sempai in a manner best described as 180 degrees from what Sempai was just showing. Then, while Sensei watches, Sempai GOES BACK to what he was teaching me.

I disagree with this. My first responsibility is to sensei, so if I am confident that I am doing what he showed, I will continue to train that way no matter what my partner is doing. Within this context it is possible to receive advice from a sempai on how to IMPROVE my technique, but I won't change to something different than what was demonstrated.

In your case it sounds like this sempai has a really hard time picking up what sensei demonstrates. But this is his problem, it should not affect the technique of the entire dojo.

Just a few thoughts,
Gaia

Nick P.
11-07-2004, 06:58 AM
I disagree with this. My first responsibility is to sensei, so if I am confident that I am doing what he showed, I will continue to train that way no matter what my partner is doing. Within this context it is possible to receive advice from a sempai on how to IMPROVE my technique, but I won't change to something different than what was demonstrated.

In your case it sounds like this sempai has a really hard time picking up what sensei demonstrates. But this is his problem, it should not affect the technique of the entire dojo.

Just a few thoughts,
Gaia

I disagreed (and still do) with it as well, but it still happened and continues to happen.

As long as I endeavour to the best of my ability, to do as Sensei instructs, I do not, nor should I, care what others do or say. Ever.

PeterR
11-07-2004, 05:55 PM
I don't know - is it even conceivable that you saw the wrong thing and the semapi didn't.

maikerus
11-07-2004, 06:31 PM
In a situation where you see one thing and your Sempai (or Kohai for that matter) sees, or interprets another is there any problem with asking the instructor to clarify for both of you?

GaiaM
11-07-2004, 08:12 PM
In a situation where you see one thing and your Sempai (or Kohai for that matter) sees, or interprets another is there any problem with asking the instructor to clarify for both of you?

Nope, that's usually a great plan. And our instructor will often notice things like that quickly and come over on his own.

Rupert Atkinson
12-06-2004, 05:58 PM
My piece on Judo was not meant to be about resistance, but rather to highlight the natural tendency in Judo to try to plant your senior on the mat - an indirect version of correcting your sempai! In good Judo, they do not so much resist as both attack at the same time. I attended a couple of High School competitions in Japan (serious stuff) way back when and the school sensei were the judges. In the process of the fights their sensei (judges) would chide their own students, sometimes giving them a hefty kick up the backsides, and a very loud earfull, if they did not attack constantly or played too defensively (=resistance). As a result, lots of spectacular techniques emerged - both were going for it simultaneously.

suren
12-06-2004, 07:01 PM
Wow! This thread even beats my previous record one - "Female uke" :)

In a situation where you see one thing and your Sempai (or Kohai for that matter) sees, or interprets another is there any problem with asking the instructor to clarify for both of you?

It would be a good strategy, but because sensei specifically showed that "common mistake", I'm sure I did not interpret it wrong and my sempai was doing it differently. Asking sensei to clarify would be the same as to ask him to correct my sempai...
Anyway, I did not correct him, but now I know him much better and in such situation would tell him about my observation. Being a nidan I highly doubt he will give me such a chance in the observable future though :) In any case I would be tactful and would do it in a manner to not hurt his feelings.
I realize this is not acceptable in some dojos, therefore I would not do that in another dojo, but in my dojo with people I know well that's ok and they don't mind.

Again, this is my own opinion, do not get this as a suggestion and if your sempai uses any applied technique on you after your correction, do not blame me :D .

PeterR
12-06-2004, 07:21 PM
Rupert - its a slightly different situation.

Judo randori is Judo randori - a place where you put your words on the line. Same with Shodokan randori and I dare say with other forms of Aikido randori.

In Judo kata training and uchikome the same basic rules apply as with Aikido kata training.

Still think its possible for two guys to get together and work on a technique and not worry too much who stepped into the dojo before who.

Rupert Atkinson
12-06-2004, 07:45 PM
Yes, of course Judo is a slightly different situation. Judo also has kata and they are told not to resist but to cooperate when practising kata. No one in their right mind, in Judo, would fight against a technique in kata. And Aikido is mostly, kata, yet some seem to resist like crazy. They do this becuase there is no other way to test whether it really works of not. Actually, although I used to hate this, I now really like it.

One thing that has always driven me nuts though is this scenario: Senior resists until junior does the technique the senior's way, at which time, the senior stops resisting and lets the junior do the technique, thereby implying that it must now be correct... Who is fooling who? Is this the way for correct learning? If the seniors technique is good, then all may be well and good, but often, the diference between the two (junior/senior) is not more than a couple of grades or a few months of training. But sometimes, often maybe, the junior is really not so junior, except in a certain dojo's space.

maikerus
12-06-2004, 08:19 PM
One thing that has always driven me nuts though is this scenario: Senior resists until junior does the technique the senior's way, at which time, the senior stops resisting and lets the junior do the technique, thereby implying that it must now be correct... Who is fooling who? Is this the way for correct learning?

Good point. I guess being able to truly resist until you really can't resist anymore is another skill that we learn as we continue our training. In addition, since different people can/will resist in different ways we have to train with more and more people to learn the various ways that people can resist and how to deal with the different body points.

Just a thought. But your point is valid.

--Michael

Chocolateuke
12-06-2004, 11:43 PM
There is one other possiblity, perhaps the senior student is doing a variation that works for him. Perhaps through his years of Aikido this paticular student found a way that suites him the best. Just because the movmement isn't totally identical than the sensei doesn't mean they are doing it "wrong". You could ask them what they are doing, just curiously, and they might say, Oh i found this effective way back when.... So, there are a few possiblities:

A) Said Sempai is doing the movement wrong
B) You are seing the movement wrong.
C) The Sempai is doing a varation that suites his body type/ movement.