PDA

View Full Version : Aikido - To Teach Without Speech


Please visit our sponsor:
 

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


Erick Mead
11-22-2005, 01:21 PM
As a itinerant Aikidoko since 1987 I have trained from the East Coast, West Coast, Hawaii and even (very briefly) in Japan. In a number of cases it was impressed upon me, either by simple language barriers and sometimes simply as a choice of instruction, that Aikido can be taught without any verbal communication whatsoever. I have tried it myself, and I find it changes the focus of training attention in a significant way for both student and instructor.

What experiences have you had in this way? What positives or negatives did it bring to your instruction (teaching or being taught)?

Cordially,
Erick Mead

aikido_diver
11-22-2005, 10:33 PM
My opinion is that Aikido I guess really doesn't need langauge to learn the basic aspect of the movement. I believe the whole language or verbal communication comes into it in the finer points of doing aikido. We must learn the proper mind set, and how can you show a student a proper mind set? :) For me being a gymnast for a number of years my coach was Chinese, and couldn't speak English well, however I managed with him, and actually improved my listening and communication skills on a different level. I think Aikido is very similar, everyone learns the words or names of techniques, then you go from there. Most of the time you see before you practice in class, so you get a visual of what Sensei wants. However if sensei is correcting the group or you personally then I guess you would find it very difficult. I found this whilst training in Japan before learning to speak Japanese.

When I was at the Tenshin Dojo in Osaka, I found it difficult to understand, however we managed. Also introducing yourself, and trying to explain to them that a language barrier is present allows them to teach you better I suppose. But I do believe verbal communication is very important in the advanced stages simply because we need to be communicated to for the finer points, or proper mind set or feeling.

Cheers.

bkedelen
11-22-2005, 11:38 PM
We are lucky if Ikeda Sensei says five words in a class. This creates an environment where you are researching your own technique rather than receiving formal instruction. The result is that you can focus strongly on exploring the dark corners of budo, but you have to provide all of the discipline for yourself. If you are just zoning out until class is over you will not be called on it. If you wish to inherit the organic grace and power being displayed, you literally have to steal it. All of the details of how Sensei gets things to work can easily be overlooked if you are not paying careful attention, trying things out on your own, and picking the brains of the senior students. Overall I think this is a very lonely way to practice.

Mike Collins
11-23-2005, 12:17 AM
"All of the details of how Sensei gets things to work can easily be overlooked if you are not paying careful attention, trying things out on your own, and picking the brains of the senior students. Overall I think this is a very lonely way to practice."

Maybe that's intentional.

Maybe for it to be of any value, it needs to be a personal pursuit, requiring an almost ridiculous amount of patience, perseverence, pain and practice (hey, alliteration- how poetical). Otherwise it's only a way to hurt or dominate others. Maybe in order for it to be Budo, it requires the inward questioning on a constant basis.

I don't know, I aint there yet.

Aikido doesn't require language, but learning the building blocks of which Aikido's made, language helps a lot.

George S. Ledyard
11-23-2005, 02:25 AM
We are lucky if Ikeda Sensei says five words in a class. This creates an environment where you are researching your own technique rather than receiving formal instruction. The result is that you can focus strongly on exploring the dark corners of budo, but you have to provide all of the discipline for yourself. If you are just zoning out until class is over you will not be called on it. If you wish to inherit the organic grace and power being displayed, you literally have to steal it. All of the details of how Sensei gets things to work can easily be overlooked if you are not paying careful attention, trying things out on your own, and picking the brains of the senior students. Overall I think this is a very lonely way to practice.

Hi Benjamin,
I know exactly what you are saying, I was trained by Saotome Sensei much the same way. However that teaching model is designed for "direct transmission" from teacher to student. It depends alot on the student's ability to take ukemi repeatedly over time from the teacher so he can "feel" the technique, etc.

The problem these days is that there are literally thousands of folks training just in our own organization. Most of them don't have anything like the foundation you are getting. Saotome Sensei and Ikeda Sensei are operating at such an advanced level that in the limited exposure most folks have to them, a few times a year at best, they simply don't have enough foundation to see what their teachers are doing.

I find that there is a great need out there for some teachers, the second tier instructors like myself, to give some direction via explanation of concepts and principles coupled with the physical practice, so that folks have some idea what they are trying to do. If you can get people pointed in the right direction they eventually start to be able to see what the Shihan teachers are doing but without any help most will not get it. You are extremely lucky to be where you are training directly with Ikeda Sensei.

Leon Aman
11-23-2005, 04:13 AM
As a itinerant Aikidoko since 1987 I have trained from the East Coast, West Coast, Hawaii and even (very briefly) in Japan. In a number of cases it was impressed upon me, either by simple language barriers and sometimes simply as a choice of instruction, that Aikido can be taught without any verbal communication whatsoever. I have tried it myself, and I find it changes the focus of training attention in a significant way for both student and instructor.

What experiences have you had in this way? What positives or negatives did it bring to your instruction (teaching or being taught)?

Cordially,
Erick Mead

Well, as a student, verbal communication during practice doesn't help the students to rapidly learn and too much elucidation during practice is quite disgusting on my part (no offense please) . A simple heartedly demonstration and instruction is enough and can easily be absorbed.

I believe a student will progress on his own and from his own.
When and how it is going to happen, that depends on his reponse to himself.

The way I understand the relation of a teacher to a student is that a teacher has to generously teach what he wants to teach, while the student has to listen. Students assimilitation to the instruction are not an obligatory role by the teacher but of the student.

:ai: :ki: :do:

Rocky Izumi
11-23-2005, 07:21 AM
How many times have I been talking to aging Shihan when they said "I should have explained things a little more." However, that discussion doesn't have to be on the mats but afterwards in the bar or restaurant.

But I agree with George. There are different ways of learning. Some people learn through hearing things, some through seeing things and others through feeling things. The same goes for different things to be communicated. Some things are most effectively communicated through sound, others through vision, and others through action. The most effective and efficient according to communications theory would be through all three transmission channels at once.

I also agree with everyone else. It is up to the student to learn to learn through the use of the other channels and one needs to learn to use all of them, including experimentation and self-analysis, because you won't have all channels all the time (as when someone with no understanding of French goes to practice in France).

In order to learn all the various aspects of Aikido, you have to use all forms of information transmission. Otherwise, you are not being efficient and that would be an anathema to Aikido.

Rock

happysod
11-23-2005, 07:29 AM
While I understand where Rocky and Leon are coming from, indeed I believe their view is more traditional for most ma, if I'm teaching and I don't communicate my ideas fully, I don't blame the student - honest it's my fault!

There's some very good arguments to avoid teaching anything by spoon-feeding, but even if you're expecting some original thought and experimentation from a student, be sure to make the bread-crumb trail at least obvious.

As regards verbal communication, I'm for it as long as it doesn't (a) become an excuse for an impromptu knitting circle and bitching session and (b) nagging and over correction (the one I have to watch myself for)

SeiserL
11-23-2005, 08:56 AM
I train under Sensei Dang Thong Phong of Tenshinkai Aikido (Westminster Aikikai). He speaks very little English, so what little verbal instruction we get is through a few translated words by fellow students. It forces us to just practice and "steal" the technique for ourselves. There are some benefits to this, especially since the body doesn't speak in auditory language, but responds best to copying visualizations.

OTOH, being a western white man, sometimes the head really doesn't get it and it will take me a long time to figure it out for myself. So i read a lot and discuss it here on the Internet.

ruthmc
11-23-2005, 09:01 AM
As regards verbal communication, I'm for it as long as it doesn't (a) become an excuse for an impromptu knitting circle and bitching session and (b) nagging and over correction (the one I have to watch myself for)
I agree. My experience is that when you stand up in front of the class, you don't know if they are all listening to you or not.

Chances are, half of them are more concerned with the fact that they are in seiza and it's getting uncomfortable, quarter of them have seen the technique before and switch off ("I already know this so I don't have to watch" syndrome), an eigth of them are thinking about something else entirely (dinner, TV, work), a sixteenth of them are chatting to or winding up their neighbour, and the remaining sixteenth are actually paying attention, although half of those may not understand what you are doing anyway!

The best way is to go around and teach the individual pairs as the whole class is practising, then you know if you're getting through to them or not. :)

Ruth

Erick Mead
11-23-2005, 12:10 PM
The best way is to go around and teach the individual pairs as the whole class is practising, then you know if you're getting through to them or not. :)
Ruth
One way that I often teach without much talking is to note a error, and then be uke for the student who made the error. I can then show the opening or kaeshiwaza created by that error, and let nage see the consequence of it. Then I take the other student as uke and show how to avoid or close the opening when performing the technique. Then I let him or her perform it correctly on me as uke again.
I like to teach as uke. It is a healthy corrective to impress on nage the problems of reversal. Sometimes I have to show the difference in how the way uke reacts to the technique changes the progression. It is good then to serve as uke again to restore the student's confidence in the correct technique or movement.

Cordially,
Erick Mead
:triangle: :square: :circle:

happysod
11-23-2005, 12:33 PM
Erick, you and Ruth make good points about how to effectively use non-verbal communication to work, but in both cases it involves "being involved" in the actual practice. While this is fine once the technique has been set and the dojo is wandering on it's normal haphazard constellation of techniques, mishaps and downright conniving slacking (yes, we always do see you...), for the initial presentation of the technique I'd still err on the side of verbal for emphasis, not just show-do.

I've trained under both and found that, for beginners especially, the more ways you have of repeating and reinforcing what you're expecting, the better. Once you're able to wander round and train with the lil darlings, then yes, I'd go with your approach rather than becoming a "shouty sensei".

Rocky Izumi
11-23-2005, 01:09 PM
You know the comment I most often make verbally is: "No, don't look at my hands, look at my hips." or "... look at my feet." or "No, don't look at my feet, look at my head." or "No, don't look, feel." or "What the heck are you trying to do?" :)

Rock

kironin
11-23-2005, 03:31 PM
or "What the heck are you trying to do?" :)
Rock

:D
now that's funny! I have thought that more than few times.


I oscillate between silence and chattiness. If I felt have said quite a bit to make a point, I consciously impose on myself to
shut up for a while and teach through doing - being uke, etc.

Sometimes talking is useful because I express a realization about connections in practice that I might not have been fully concsious of myself till I said it. A good dose of silence right after is best for letting it sink in and be reinforced by doing.

Craig

George S. Ledyard
11-23-2005, 04:28 PM
You notice that all of the suggestions about non-verbal methods all involved how to work directly with the student - personal and hands on. That is precisley how that method works best (although there are still learning styles for whom this doesn't work well land they are apt to leave).

When O-Sensei taught the post war deshi, when I was taught by Saotome Sensei, this was how things were. You learned by watching Sensei and taking ukemi from him. If you were really lucky a senior student would give you a tip or two but mostly you muddled along doing completely incompetent technique until something would click.

I have had experience training with teachers, both in and out of Aikido, who give far more actual instruction and feedback during practice and I have found that I do better that way and I think their students are better, faster. I am not saying that this is a subtitute for good, strong, repetitive practice. But I am saying that practice yields better results when the students have a clear idea of what they are shooting for and they benefit greatly from not being allowed to go on and on making the same mistakes when they clearly don't know what they are trying to do.

The arena where I think this whole issue really becomes of crucial importance is at seminars. As I have talked about elsewhere, most Americans doing Aikido do not have the luxury of training with a Shihan level instructor. Their only exposure to the teachers they are following comes a couple times a year at seminars or camps.

I went to a seminar conducted by a Shihan level teacher. This teacher would demonstrate a technique several times, set everyone to training, and then stand and watch the clock until it was time People did the technique exactly as they had when they came in and no feedback was given. The idea that there is instruction taking place and that the students were getting something out of training in the august presence was simply a hoax. This teacher is burned out and is going through the motions.

I am used to a much more involved instruction from many other teachers. The problem is that even the ones who offer actual explanation of what they are doing have only recently started doing so. And the level at which they are executing their technique is so much more sophisticated than the foundations of the students has prepared them for that even with the sparse explanation now being offered (far more than in my early days) the students at these seminars and camps do not understand enough of what is being shown that they can go back to their dojos and practice for six months or a year and come back again ready for the next lesson. Instead you see the same folks year after year not being able to do the same things year after year. And the big problem here is that these are the serious folks! they are the ones that actually go to camp(s) every year, travel to other dojos for seminars, etc.

What I am seeing is that there is a generation of American teachers arriving at the higher levels who can explain what they do in a very organized, principle based manner. When you train with them you will come away with a sense that you know what you should be working on until the next time you see them. Theycan explain the whys and the wherefores and get you pointed in the right direction so that possibly at some point when you see the top Senseis again you will actually SEE them.

What is sad is that people generally don't appreciate what what a resource their American instructors are. At the Expo you could see a high ranked, top status teacher doing absolute beginner basics in a class that filled the mat while someone like Gleason Sensei or Matuoka Sensei were delivering absolutely amazing insights into high level Aikido to a handfull of people.

It's my opinion that it is very important to maintain ones connection with ones teacher by attending regular seminars and camps and preferably hosting them at your own school if that's possible. But if you want to make real progress towards figuring out what they are doing, train with one of their senior students who not only has had to figure stuff out on his own but can explain what he's found out. Then go back and train with the main teacher with new eyes.

This is the only way the "transmission" can be salvaged at this point I think. It's disheartening to keep going to seminars and camps and seeing a couple hundred people on the mat with about a dozen who actually get what the teacher is doing. People can remember verbal explanation and take that with them whereever they go. They can access those instructions whenever they train, long after the camp or seminar is over. Merely training with the top Shihan doesn't do it unless you are there every day putting your hands on them; then the old teaching method works (sort of).

Rocky Izumi
11-23-2005, 09:59 PM
I guess I should not have put my statement rhetorically since a lot of people seem to have misunderstood me. My point was that many times in the past few years, I have been with some of my older instructors, a number of them who are now dead. During casual conversation, they seemed to feel that they should have talked and explained things a little more while they instructed, and now it is too late.

I have lately been interpreter for two of those older instructors during their visits overseas or to do seminars and I now find that I am having to do a lot more interpretation than twenty years ago. It is so much interpretation these days that my knees are aching from sitting while up front. And they are using a lot of terms now which are somewhat difficult to interpret and they did not use before.

Yes, even the Japanese Shihan are talking more these days in order to explain things before it is too late. And yes, George, they do notice that a lot of people have never understood and still do things incorrectly after twenty years of practicing the same incorrect thing. I have, at times, had to take the punishment for people who don't change even after I have translated the correction to the often senior student. It seems to me that these people don't want to be corrected, even by a Shihan. I can only apologise for my poor translation and take the painful demonstration when he does it on me this time, instead of his normal uke. For those of you out there who refuse to listen to what the Shihan is saying . . . I'm comin' for ya to get my revenge. :)

Rock

Erick Mead
11-23-2005, 10:19 PM
This is the only way the "transmission" can be salvaged at this point I think. It's disheartening to keep going to seminars and camps and seeing a couple hundred people on the mat with about a dozen who actually get what the teacher is doing.
"Those who see the path, follow it; those who do not see it, follow those who say they do."

All for better or worse.

For me, the transmission (in my entirely haphazard journey) lies in knowing the fact that there is a path, and having a sense of ways to recognize it when I stumble across it from time to time. I do not know how to explain it, even so. I know enough not to ask anyone else to follow my blundering meander through the jungle.

Cordially,
Erick Mead

George S. Ledyard
11-24-2005, 03:38 AM
I have, at times, had to take the punishment for people who don't change even after I have translated the correction to the often senior student. It seems to me that these people don't want to be corrected, even by a Shihan. I can only apologise for my poor translation and take the painful demonstration when he does it on me this time, instead of his normal uke. For those of you out there who refuse to listen to what the Shihan is saying . . . I'm comin' for ya to get my revenge. :)

Rock
Years ago I was at a seminar in Seattle at which Sensei was hosted, not by me, but by some other folks who had joined the ASU. He started class and looked at what people were doing, clapped, and said, "No, look at what I am doing. It's not the same as the way you have done it before." He then demonstrated several more times. People started training again and went right back to what they'd been doing before. He again stopped the class, demonstrated quite clearly what he was after, and they all again went right back to what they already knew. This happened three times. After the third time I was watching Sensei and there was an instant in which he sort of changed channels. He called for bokken and taught the rest of the seminar for his students that were there. He worked with anyone from the other school who looked like they were making a legitimate effort but he completely ignored the senior people who were so stuck doing what they'd always done that they couldn't even see anything new, even when it was directly pointed out to them. Glad I didn't get blamed somehow for their issues...

eyrie
11-24-2005, 06:44 AM
If you don't get it, it's my fault! But if you're lost and you don't ask a question, then it's your fault.
- Lawrence Kane (Martial Arts Instruction - Applying Educational Theory and Communication Techniques in the Dojo)


Different people have different preferred learning modalities. As a teacher, one must necessarily adapt one's teaching style to suit the student. I have attended seminars and classes by many different teachers on many different subjects (not necessarily martial in nature), and IMHO, the best teachers are the ones who can best engage the student, and provide (direct or indirect) feedback on areas that the student needs to work on.

I use a model that involves Showing, Telling, Asking, and Doing.

First I show how I want the technique performed. Then I tell them how I'm doing it and why. Then I ask questions to make sure they understand. I also encourage my students to ask me questions, because it improves my own understanding and gives me immediate feedback on whether I'm getting the message across or not. Then the students break off and practice, whilst I move around them and work with them, sometimes taking ukemi for them, or repeating the cycle of Show, Tell, Ask, Do.

I believe this engages the student on a multi-sensory level much more effectively, and allows the student to progress much faster.

Ironically, I am the product of the "traditional way". However, I think the traditional way has its merits for students who have reached a certain level or plateau of advancement. The traditional method works best for those lessons that cannot be taught, but which can only be lived.

IMHO, there aren't many lessons that a beginning student needs to be taught in the traditional method. After all, I'm only teaching "basic" skills, which the student needs to achieve some level of competence in order to reach the "first rung" of understanding. ;)

ruthmc
11-24-2005, 08:02 AM
Years ago I was at a seminar in Seattle at which Sensei was hosted, not by me, but by some other folks who had joined the ASU. He started class and looked at what people were doing, clapped, and said, "No, look at what I am doing. It's not the same as the way you have done it before." He then demonstrated several more times. People started training again and went right back to what they'd been doing before. He again stopped the class, demonstrated quite clearly what he was after, and they all again went right back to what they already knew. This happened three times. After the third time I was watching Sensei and there was an instant in which he sort of changed channels. He called for bokken and taught the rest of the seminar for his students that were there. He worked with anyone from the other school who looked like they were making a legitimate effort but he completely ignored the senior people who were so stuck doing what they'd always done that they couldn't even see anything new, even when it was directly pointed out to them.
Hence keeping beginner's mind - if you just watch and listen to the instructor with no presumptions you may learn something new. If you think you already know it just because you're senior you can't learn anything new.

Me - I know nothing :) (And I don't want anything to get in the way of learning direct from sensei)

Ruth

Lan Powers
11-24-2005, 11:32 PM
Years ago I was at a seminar in Seattle at which Sensei was hosted, not by me, but by some other folks who had joined the ASU. He started class and looked at what people were doing, clapped, and said, "No, look at what I am doing. It's not the same as the way you have done it before." He then demonstrated several more times. People started training again and went right back to what they'd been doing before. He again stopped the class, demonstrated quite clearly what he was after, and they all again went right back to what they already knew. This happened three times. After the third time I was watching Sensei and there was an instant in which he sort of changed channels. He called for bokken and taught the rest of the seminar for his students that were there. He worked with anyone from the other school who looked like they were making a legitimate effort but he completely ignored the senior people who were so stuck doing what they'd always done that they couldn't even see anything new, even when it was directly pointed out to them. Glad I didn't get blamed somehow for their issues...


A sad but all too believable example.
I am a beginner...three and a half years, and have had occasion to see exactly the attitude you have described.
Sensei demonstrates at a seminar, most sincerely attempt to model the movements ( to varying amounts of success) and you notice a few who blithely nod and smile and continue doing the action in their comfortable way, over and over. :disgust:
I repeat mistakes, but I try not to.
Lan

Jorge Garcia
11-25-2005, 12:12 AM
I compiled some statements about this theme and put them in a short article some time ago. The article is at this link: http://www.shudokanaikido.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=27
I didn't mean any point in an absolutist kind of way and I made my observations based as a school teacher and an aikido instructor.
Best,

ruthmc
11-25-2005, 04:47 AM
I compiled some statements about this theme and put them in a short article some time ago. The article is at this link: http://www.shudokanaikido.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=27
I didn't mean any point in an absolutist kind of way and I made my observations based as a school teacher and an aikido instructor.
Best,
Thanks Jorge - very interesting article!

I wonder how many beginning students would stick around if they were told that the responsibility for learning Aikido rests solely upon them? ;)

Ruth

happysod
11-25-2005, 08:39 AM
Jorge,

Thanks for the read, but I disagree with the following excerpt "We have seen the decline of our modern educational system in our lifetimes. .... Our approach as westerners is almost completely external". I can't agree with your implications that it's the external nature of "Western education" that is to blame. Leaving aside the changes made in how discipline is enforced and the increasing role politics plays in the system, the methods used in Western education haven't significantly altered. Instead to my mind there's been a steady erosion in the expectations of "what edukashun can do for you", "what its for" and the "consistency in which targets are set".

Similarly, whatever your preferred teaching method for aikido is, one thing I would stress is that you're consistent. People can adapt and learn how to learn across quite a wide spectrum, but if one moment you're hands on, the next lost in the midst of myth, confusion is your normal response.

Jorge Garcia
11-25-2005, 11:01 AM
Jorge,

Thanks for the read, but I disagree with the following excerpt "We have seen the decline of our modern educational system in our lifetimes. .... Our approach as westerners is almost completely external". I can't agree with your implications that it's the external nature of "Western education" that is to blame. Leaving aside the changes made in how discipline is enforced and the increasing role politics plays in the system, the methods used in Western education haven't significantly altered. Instead to my mind there's been a steady erosion in the expectations of "what edukashun can do for you", "what its for" and the "consistency in which targets are set".

Similarly, whatever your preferred teaching method for aikido is, one thing I would stress is that you're consistent. People can adapt and learn how to learn across quite a wide spectrum, but if one moment you're hands on, the next lost in the midst of myth, confusion is your normal response.

Actually Ian, I agree with you. When I put this together, I hesitated in putting it out where I would get feedback because of the very statement you referenced. My concept of externalism isn't necessarily the classic one but rather, it's an analytical one I came up with in my own research. I plan to write a book on it over the next ten years and I am gathering the data now but I need to find a competent sociologist to help me. I explain this point because I knew that I ran the risk of being misunderstood and I wouldn't be able to explain myself in a limited forum like this one. I can only say that any educational system that works from the outside in is indeed external. When the individual has internal and apriori initiatives involved, the problem may not appear but when western cultures, especially like ours in the U.S. becomes degraded and the internal factors no longer come into play, we are left with raw externalism. This is due to the loss of common values and a shared traditions due to the fragmentation of our culture. These were some of the internal touch points we previously had. We see the results of this in the loss of transcendence and reverence in the west. We are not centered internally except for being self centered which furthers the degrading process.
I will stop now because I'm headed off theme. I just hope that what I compiled will be helpful to some.
Best wishes,

Jorge Garcia
11-25-2005, 11:07 AM
Thanks Jorge - very interesting article!

I wonder how many beginning students would stick around if they were told that the responsibility for learning Aikido rests solely upon them? ;)

Ruth

Ruth,
I don't think this would work in our situation where we need the income and we are working in an open system where we take all comers. In a situation that is self financed and where the dojo is private, it might work somewhat but it would still not be akin to the days where martial arts were secret and to study or train required a lot more dedication and purpose depending on who you were wanting to train with. I do find it interesting though to make comparisons to my private school where I work and the attitudes of the parents as well as the way people come into a dojo and what they expect from us.
Thanks for the comment.

happysod
11-25-2005, 11:28 AM
Jorge, that was a very sneaky aikido-style reply - how dare you agree with me then expound on it further to tease me with a new and interesting approach, off to sulk... Seriously, thanks for the expansion, sounds interesting

Jorge Garcia
11-25-2005, 12:13 PM
Jorge, that was a very sneaky aikido-style reply - how dare you agree with me then expound on it further to tease me with a new and interesting approach, off to sulk... Seriously, thanks for the expansion, sounds interesting

That's funny, Ian. :D
You made my day.
Thanks,

Carol Shifflett
11-25-2005, 10:41 PM
. . . He started class and looked at what people were doing, clapped, and said, "No, look at what I am doing. It's not the same as the way you have done it before." He then demonstrated several more times. People started training again and went right back to what they'd been doing before....Even worse: When a guest instructor at a summer seminar demonstrated a different approach, most of the attendees did what they'd always done. No surprise there. What was remarkable was that those who tried to do what Sensei was demonstrating were actually corrected by one of the seniors in the hosting organization, who spent the entire seminar walking around the mat "helping" and "correcting" attendees back to the usual way of doing things.

"HE is doing it WRONG," students were told. "Do it THIS way."

Habit and custom or even inability to see or do is no big mystery. But I've never been clear on what lies behind the determined refusal to see or try.

Cheers!
Carol Shifflett

Jerry Miller
11-26-2005, 12:06 AM
Trust me the visiting shihan knows. I saw a visiting shihan stop everything. People were doing iriminage the way our organization teaches it. He called for an uke and did it "our" way letter perfect to show us he understood this was our way. He then showed us his way again. It is a shame when people are not paying attention. Why are you there! Beginners mind is terribly important when trying new ways. Granted I need to do it our way for testing. But nothing is ever hurt by different looks at techniques.

eyrie
11-26-2005, 05:49 PM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't O'Sensei use to lecture extensively at Hombu? And IIRC, not many people listened to him back then either?

Teaching is communication - whether it be verbal/auditory, visual, kinesthetic or even metaphysical. The best teachers are able to circumvent the student's reception and perception filters. Usually, they'll say something tangentially and the light comes on in the student.

It's not so much teaching without speaking. It's being judicious in what you say that makes the student understand what the message is. Sometimes one only needs to ask the right question of the student.

Jorge Garcia
11-27-2005, 08:26 AM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't O'Sensei use to lecture extensively at Hombu? And IIRC, not many people listened to him back then either?

My understanding is that O Sensei did indeed lecture or talk a lot during class but he wasn't talking about waza or technique. He was speaking about the various philosophies that he believed in with relation to Aikido. I also don't believe it is correct to say that "not many people listened to him...".
It would be more accurate to say that not many people understood him. The things he spoke about were vague and nebulous to most Japanese people, even back then and the students often were anxious for him to stop talking so they could start training again.

MaryKaye
11-27-2005, 05:42 PM
My head instructor recently came back from a seminar quite angry about this same point (people ignoring what the seminar instructor was teaching in favor of doing their usual thing).

Within the dojo, I think it helps to enforce the rule "Follow the person who is teaching today, even if you learned it differently yesterday." We junior students gripe about having to learn four different versions of a move, but I think the flexibility and training in close observation is worth it. If students learn at home that they are always responsible for trying new approaches, they are less likely to be hidebound at seminars.

Mary Kaye

ajbarron
11-27-2005, 10:38 PM
IMHO "There are many roads to Rome" ................

and we are all different learners. We might ask if the retention of new students sometimes is inhibited by their unfirmilarity of the learning styles we employ in our dojos?

I enjoy "trying" to steal......................... but appreciate direction when stumped.

tedehara
11-27-2005, 10:58 PM
After the war Tohei-sensei rejoined with O-sensei, training aikido instead of aikibudo, and quickly became the chief instructor -- a position now called World Chief Instructor. In the early 50s O-sensei sent Tohei-sensei to Hawaii to begin spreading aikido internationally.

Cultural differences between himself and his new Hawaiian students meant that Tohei-sensei had to innovate. His old teaching methods, learned from O-sensei, which consisted mostly of silent, repeated demonstrations of the complex physical motions of aikido interspersed with esoteric speeches, were inadequate. They relied on the cultural and religious context of Japanese society and the interpersonal awareness of the Japanese, and outside that framework his methods were ineffective.

He realized that he instead needed to convey verbally the essence of aikido, its principles. Thus were born the Four Basic Principles of Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido.from a Ki-Aikido Handbook

Jorge Garcia
11-27-2005, 11:39 PM
You wrote,
"Cultural differences between himself and his new Hawaiian students meant that Tohei-sensei had to innovate. His old teaching methods, learned from O-sensei, which consisted mostly of silent, repeated demonstrations of the complex physical motions of aikido interspersed with esoteric speeches, were inadequate. They relied on the cultural and religious context of Japanese society and the interpersonal awareness of the Japanese, and outside that framework his methods were ineffective."

I agree that the statement is correct. O Sensei was using a methodology taught to him and in common use at that time. I think it's purpose wasn't to reveal but in fact to hide. Outside of a world view that gave birth to that methodology, it is clear that westerners wouldn't know what to do with it. My discussion was bringing up the point that the method itself had some good points to it and could be useful in avoiding some of the problems of watering down our arts for modernity's sake alone. The modern method of laying it all out there has it's problems as well and hasn't solved our educational problems because people have different learning styles.
Best,

Ed Shockley
12-26-2005, 11:04 AM
Every New Year's eve we hold a misogi practice at Aikido/Aikikai of Philadelphia. One single technique for one hour usually suwari waza. (Followed by Saki and chatter.) I always learn on the mat and at the party. (We all have focused intensely on the same technique with individual revelations.) I suspect we all agree that it depends on who is talking, what they are saying and when. I have never stepped on the mat and not learned something and train five days in a bad week. I have even learned at a seminar with an uncooperative uke chattering and refusing to do the technique as demonstrated. I believe this is true for all of us. The learning is in our openness and alertness, not in the style of transmission of information. Different days, different styles are needed with different people and a great instructor senses and adapts while a great student listens and absorbs.

Jorge Garcia
12-26-2005, 02:26 PM
I agree with your statement Ed but you seem to have missed my point. I don't think O Sensei was trying to teach but rather, trying to hide. In the older culture, they didn't use "showing instead of talking" because they thought it was a better teaching method. It was because they weren't necessarily wanting to reveal the art to every person unless they could cull it out themselves. It is clear that if your goal is to teach, a person can go a long way to make sure that everyone gets it and certainly using many teaching methods would facilitate that. I think that some of us can't fathom a scenario where the teacher is trying to hide instead of reveal. When a student would ask O Sensei to show a technique again, he would often reply- no. That isn't very proactive to helping a student learn. It is clear that we can use computers, tactile methods, speaking, showing, reading, demonstrations, etc. O Sensei didn't do those things out of ignorance, it just wasn't in his worldview.

Josh Reyer
12-26-2005, 08:16 PM
If the number of kuden in Iwama style is any indication, the Founder was not above talking to reinforce some points. I count 29 kuden in the first two volumes of Takemusu Aikido alone. Of course, considering that those books account for 139 techniques (give or take), one might not say that Osensei was especially loquacious...

Jorge Garcia
12-27-2005, 02:29 AM
If the number of kuden in Iwama style is any indication, the Founder was not above talking to reinforce some points. I count 29 kuden in the first two volumes of Takemusu Aikido alone. Of course, considering that those books account for 139 techniques (give or take), one might not say that Osensei was especially loquacious...

The "kuden' you mention were his private teachings to his personal student, Morihiro Saito. These "kuden " are Saito Sensei's revelation to the world of things the Founder did not tell the average student. Iwama was the place of O Sensei's private dojo where he continued to develop his Aikido after he retired. This is explained on pages 18-21 of the book, Takemusu Aikido, Volume 1, published by Aikido Journal.

I quote,"The Founder's teaching method in Iwama were very different from his approach during the prewar years. In earlier years, it was his custom to merely show his techniques a few times with little or no explanations and then to have students attempt to imitate his movements.This was the traditional method of martial arts instruction and students had to do their best to "steal" their teacher's techniques.But now, Ueshiba had the luxury of being able to devote his full energies to his personal pursuit with just a few close students...In the last years, I was taught by Sensei almost privately...Seeing Morihiro's devotion and enthusiasm toward training, Ueshiba gradually began to rely on him more and more in his personal life. Finally, only young Saito was left to serve the Founder on a regular basis...Serving the Founder was extremely severe even though it was just for the study of a martial art. O Sensei only opened his heart to those students who helped him from dusk to dawn in the fields, those who got dirty and massaged his back, those who served him at the risk of their lives. As I was of some use to him, O Sensei willingly taught me everything."

Saito Sensei himself, in other writings, has made a big point of the fact that when O Sensei lived in Iwama and occasionally would go to the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, he would usually not teach techniques but only do some "Aiki" type demonstrations. The kuden that you mentioned were not the rule, but rather the exception to the rule.

Ed Shockley
12-27-2005, 08:55 AM
I may well be missing the point and if so apologize for wasting time. Aikido is a young art and the teaching of Aikido is therefore also young. Aikido is an evolving art and its teaching techniques are also evolving. My understanding of what we are discussing is the advantage or disadvantages of verbal explanations. Any of us who are at larger dojos with many senior students guest teaching are likely to have experienced the chatty instructor who takes ten minutes to explain what our bodies would have learned in four throws. Conversely, when we attend seminars, often there is extensive explanation, sometimes even through a translator. I don't think that contradicts Mr. Garcia's premise because those events are dominated by instructors so they could be perceived as sharing "secrets" with the inner circle. I find it far easier to examine the result of the two approaches than to guess the motivations. (I've read that Osensei was playful and would sometimes demonstrate the same technique two different ways to senior students and chuckle at the clash of egos.) I do know that I trained with Osawa shihan who either doesn't speak much English or wasn't talking to me. I didn't know who he was until afterward since he was just taking class before teaching his own. He extended his arm and stood grim faced. I grasped katate then he tenkan-ed and applied a brilliant kotegaeshi. He was stone faced as he did it three more times. I then did my throws and he remained almost grim. His next turn he proceeded more slowly and paused at the first point of contact. He did this three more times. I then tried to reproduce what he had demonstrated and (key thought) what I had felt. When I performed it to his satisfaction he burst into a beautiful smile then returned to his stone face again. We proceeded through each step of the technique with the pause point moving further and further back always followed by a heart warming and brief smile when I seemed to receive his instruction. Later in his class, he used a translator to explain subtle points that the entire room seemed to be misinterpreting and I found that no less effective. It seems that demonstration works best (as someone said before) when it is small class format, like Osensei seniors, while explanation corrects universal movement misinterpretations. The key is knowing when to speak and what to say.

Josh Reyer
12-27-2005, 09:42 AM
Saito Sensei himself, in other writings, has made a big point of the fact that when O Sensei lived in Iwama and occasionally would go to the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, he would usually not teach techniques but only do some "Aiki" type demonstrations. The kuden that you mentioned were not the rule, but rather the exception to the rule.

I'm aware of that, but the point remains. In Iwama, with a few students, he was given to vocal instruction. Indeed, in Traditional Aikido 1, two of the kuden are in fact well-known douka.

I'm not saying that Saito-sensei did not have a special relationship with the Founder that gave him certain insight. But on the flip side of that, I find it hard to believe that these were super-secret revelations taught only to Saito when they are so technical and concerned with the basics: "After you take their balance, step forward with your left foot to push them, and then draw up your left foot." (Ikkyou) "Take the back of your partner's collar and pull with your left hand towards your chest." (Irimi-nage). Particularly in the context of post-war Iwama training, where it's mentioned that the Founder began using a serial method of training, and would take the time to demonstrate the technique with each deshi in turn. The fact that pre-war training was mentioned as being "without explanation" (説明なしに) when comparing it to post-war Iwama training suggests that post-war it was with explanation. Not a lot; I doubt it was as much as the average sensei today. In any case, that passage suggests that the last thing Osensei was trying to do in post-war Iwama was hide something. He wasn't giving away the store, to be sure, but the simple silent demonstration method Tohei learned under was not in use, as far as Iwama was concerned.

Incidently, this sentence:
As I was of some use to him, O Sensei willingly taught me everything." ...is not in the Japanese original. And that passage is in the context of Osensei's relationships with his students, not with regard to his training methods. In the Japanese version, at least, Saito-sensei is merely explaining how he became so close to the Founder; other deshi had to live far away from the dojo in order to have the time and freedom to look after their own farms and families, something they could not do if they had to be at Osensei's beck and call.

The tendency of the bilingual versions of Takemusu Aikido to have some things in the Japanese version but not in the English, and some things in the English but not in the Japanese version is, to say the least, a little annoying.

Jorge Garcia
12-27-2005, 10:09 AM
Ed,
You're right. The original question was, "What experiences have you had in this way? What positives or negatives did it bring to your instruction (teaching or being taught)?" Some people though were discussing what should be done.
In addressing the original question, I would say that it's an interesting question because for me, in the simple things, verbal instruction was helpful. When I was starting, telling me to put my foot here or there saved a lot of time and guided me in the form in a way I would have delayed a long time in seeing myself. Also, by those who do use a lot of verbal instruction, it was helpful to me if they were skilled observers. A teacher or fellow student who was telling to do this or that but was himself not seeing what I was doing incorrectly did me no good. For example, recently In a kids class, one of my instructors was teaching the class for the first time. He noticed that some of the kids had a bad forward roll so he gave them a long lesson on rolling forward with a long toss forward. I knew immediately that he was wasting his time because these were kids that couldn't do a short roll. He was missing a step in the progression. His instruction did them little good.
On the other hand, when a skilled teacher has told me certain things I was doing, I immediately improved because his "wordsmithing" was accurate.
On the non verbal side, I have also observed that no matter what I say to some people, no matter how simple and clear I make it, they still can't see it. I can talk about extension, I can show my arms extended, I can grab the students arms and extend them and in the very next technique, they will have their arms folded in half !
I myself was this way when told by my instructors some things for years that I have only recently begun to see and do. My teacher says that you have to learn how to understand the teaching for yourself and that is the only way to really learn. For myself, I have come to the place where I try to show the best I can show and I do use words when necessary.
Best wishes,

Ed Shockley
12-28-2005, 11:04 AM
Jorge. I completely agree that a clear statement can often save minutes, day, years or fumbling. It is a bit like placing the carrot before the horse (I'm confessing my age now). By knowing intellectually what should be happening I am often likely to pursue it more consistently and recognize it sooner. On the flip side, my love of weapons has convinced me that the best lessons are in motion. Every one thousand ken cuts whisper their secrets more clearly than any conversation. Moreover, and this is purely a personal preference, the casting about for the lesson of the sword point reveals a wealth of pearls that often are far more significant than the carrot placed in front of my plodding feet by the instructor. In my preferred world, talking is to establish the concept of today's class and to avoid injury. The rest is practice with each student taking from the experience the lessons that he or she needs. Having said this, I talk far too much when I teach. I name every technique as accurately as I can with limited knowledge of the Japanese language. I quote whose interpretation of the technique I am demonstrating and in the later set of throws, I will announce what specific nuance we are exploring that differs from what is expected by our sensei on tests. I justify this chattiness by saying that I am a sempai and "teach as a practicing Aikidoka." Everything that I demonstrate should be recorded in pencil until validated or disregarded by a shidoin. I completely understand your example of the kids class and agree that too much information can easily exceed the attention capabilities of adults as well. I do think that we can console ourselves with the knowledge that Aikido teaches and we are simply there while it happens.

thanks for your patience.

Mato-san
01-02-2006, 02:38 AM
I live and train in Japan and my instructor speaks little english, It has been no problem for me at all and I learn just as well as the Japanese students but sometimes I wish I understood what they were talking about, I guess it would deepen my experience ,but like I said no problems. I am happy to be training with a highly ranked shihan that does not disregard me for the simple fact of a language barrier.

JAMJTX
01-02-2006, 01:09 PM
My only experience in training this way was actually in Iaido.
We took a trip to Japan and the instructor spoke very little English.
He would come to me, do the kata the way I did it and say "No". Then do it right and say "Yes". It worked very well and I really liked training with him.

This could probably work with Aikido to a certain extent. But there is a lot of detail so for most people I think explainations and verbal instructions will be easier.

Mato-san
01-02-2006, 06:56 PM
The basic command of english in Japan is good enough in "most" cases for teaching a martial art to a foriegner that at their schools they learn left, right, foot,wrist turn,throw,slide correct, incorrect,up,down etc You catch my drift, enough to teach Aikido. Hell I taught 4 year olds that language skill this year, some of em cant even tie their own shoelaces but they will tell you the time in 2 languages.

jonreading
01-03-2006, 12:16 PM
To answer the original inquiry, I prefer a combination of verbal advice, analogy and history mixed in with training; I am not opposed to verbal clarification between students. I am opposed to excessive communication or "chattering" on the mat. I endorse the use of Japanese terminolgy to describe the techniques and many concepts in training and I expect my students to be familiar with them.

Verbal lecture can catch attention, emphasis a point, or describe a subtle movement. Physical demonstration can do these too. I don't have any advice as to which one is better, only that I have the best luck when I find a balance between the two. I tend to stay pretty physical on black & white movement, but I'll elaborate on a complicated or subtle movement or concept...

Choku Tsuki
01-03-2006, 02:27 PM
There was a poll (http://ideas.repec.org/p/cpr/ceprdp/3603.html) where 80% of the respondents said they were better than average drivers. That tells me many were fooling themselves.

I came from 7 years in one federation to another association (for the last 3). Down to raw basics, irimi tenkan is different; no one told me, I watched, I stole and now I own it. I can do irimi tenkan two ways. Big deal. I see one more thing every day (if I'm lucky).

So I can see the difference. I think I do what the teacher's doing all the time. But I don't always catch myself falling into old habits. My sempai help me with this. When I'm not and it's pointed out to me, I start again and try again, with focus.

My point is, don't be so sure you're better than average when it comes to following the teacher. That goes for everyone.

--Chuck

Mato-san
01-05-2006, 06:47 AM
I am not sure how to take your post chuck, although I understand kinda what you are saying, to take or to "steal" a technique is like the utmost disrespect were I am training, rather than take we are obligated to recieve, learn to move and then make the moves our own. But Hey we all work different and you obviously found what you were after even if you "stole" it! No dis by me, but I am confused!

Mato-san
01-05-2006, 06:53 AM
But I guess what you are saying is dont take the instructors direction as gospel, I take it on board with that mind set, but when my instructor is who he is ,I tend to go for gospel!

Mark Freeman
01-10-2006, 06:14 PM
The key is knowing when to speak and what to say.

I think this sentence frome Ed's post is the essence of a very interesting thread.

My own Sensei learnt the traditional mostly non verbal way from Kenshiro Abbe Sensei who came to the UK in the 1950's originally to teach Judo and Karate, adding Aikido when Japan gave permission. Many years later he spent a number of years with Tohei Sensei, who's teaching method ( much more verbal instruction and explanation ) had a profound affect on him. So in these later times of over 50 years of teaching Aikido, he will quite happily tell us interesting stories of his earlier training, both on and off the mat to illustate a teaching point. I personally am glad that I am a reciever of the more verbal style of teaching. In fact in post practice chats in the Pub he has said that as time passes he has noticed that beginners are 'getting' some of the concepts of training that many of his senior students took along time to learn from show - do.

I hope at some point to visit Japan and to practice there, so no doubt I will get some first hand experience of the learning from watching. Until then I'll try to live up to the high ideals of the quote I used above.

Cheers, all.

Rocky Izumi
03-21-2006, 06:05 AM
Not only do different people learn in different ways, a person learns in different ways at different times for different subjects. For instance, Whole English Theory works well for adults who already have the fundamentals of reading English. It sucks for people new to the language or for children just learning to read. As we grow and become more literate, how we learn new words and read becomes different. Learning Aikido is no different. We all learn in different ways at different times under different conditions for different things.

In terms of teaching, sometimes if you spoonfeed your students everything there is for you to transmit to them, those students never learn to experiment and learn for themselves. They never learn to become their own teachers and critically assess what they have learned from someone else. At some time, usually by the time of Sandan, you have to begin assessing all the different things you have learned and start throwing away some things or at least reclassifying them so that you can begin to develop your own style of Aikido. Unless you have a teacher that never expects to retire or grow old and die, you have to develop your own style of Aikido. One that works for you. To do this, you have to distill all your learnings. You have to take all that stuff you picked up at different dojos from different instructors and at the different seminars, and refine that material so that you can develop a system that works for your body and philosophy and what you use your Aikido for. If your teacher gives you all the knowledge he or she has, then your teacher is doing you an injustice. He or she should, at tlmes, just be giving you the slightest of hints so that you can go out and discover things on your own.

Rock