View Full Version : teachers who don't speak

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12-29-2005, 06:48 AM
I've been taking Aikido for less than a year now and I've encountered a teaching style that I don't quite understand.. teachers who don't like to explain techniques, they just do them over and over again and never say "put your leg here, hold your arm this way.." Does anyone know whether this is traditional Japanese or just a personal teaching style?

12-29-2005, 07:32 AM
Does anyone know whether this is traditional Japanese or just a personal teaching style?

Based on my limited experience, the older generation of Sensei I've encountered tend to teach in this way. They don't explain so much and expect the students to 'copy exactly'. In this way, students 'internalize physically' the movements. It's a bit harder to learn from these Sensei because you tend to miss the subtler parts of the technique. I guess you can call it a traditional Japanese way of teaching, where students are supposed to 'steal' the technique from the Sensei.

Having trained in Japan under different Sensei, I find the younger Japanese Sensei tend to explain the movements more fully... so, the traditional way of teaching (even in Japan) may be slowly fading...

Lyle Bogin
12-29-2005, 07:39 AM
Imaizumi Sensei essentially teaches this way, but it's not so much a "copy exactly" situation as it is a "develop your own style" situation. He answers questions and does explain things, but is mostly quiet because he does not want to interfere with his students' personal development. You can see the results in the variations between his senior students. All good, all different.

12-29-2005, 08:36 AM
From what I understand, this is the Japanese "old style of teaching"

Out of curiosity though, is the sensei only silent when he is demonstrating the technique to everyone in the room? I mean to say, does he speak and try to explain when he stops demonstrating and walks around the room to inspect your practice? Or is he pretty much a statue the entire time?

In many ways I see this as an "east meets west" story. In Japan's early history (pre Meiji), there has never been a defined "teaching method" per se. Mostly these "teaching methods" are actually "practice methods" EG "Go strike a tree with your bokken 3000 times a day and figure it out" Remember that Japan, for the longest time, was "sink or swim" empire and thus, the teaching methods were too. American athletes and students simply take it for granted that we've had long time academic study and trial and error about how to teach people and how to teach them so they learn something quickly.

I'm not sure where I heard this next anecdote but I think there is some truth to it.(if anyone can tell me wear it's from, let me know) When Tohei sensei first began teaching in the United States regularly, he was approached several times on the mat by an American asking him "how is this technique done" or "why do we do it like this?" His response was usually along the lines of considering their inquiry extremely rude and foolish and then preceded to throw the confused student extremely hard to teach them a "lesson"

After this had happened several times he realized that the "old" way of teaching wasn't going to work for the American way of learning and began to open up the teaching method more.

Though I think there is something to be said for the "sink or swim" teaching method, I also think that it can be grossly unfair to the uncoordinated and slower learners of the dojo (and every dojo has them) As a student, you're probably paying tuition so that you can be taught aikido, not so that you can simply "watch it and try to mimic"

Lyle Bogin
12-29-2005, 09:34 AM
Imaizumi Sensei used to move me a lot like an action figure. He'd just move my body into postion and push me in the direction i should be going.

12-29-2005, 09:39 AM
I've never been involved with him without a dojo full of students, he tends to demonstrate something three or four times with a senior student, and then say "OK" repeats the name of the technique in Japanese and everyone starts practicing. The problem is that the senior students who sometimes teach are mimicking this style of instruction and we're getting a second generation of teachers who don't like to talk.

I understand that you can't learn Aikido by talking about it, but I've had to learn some Ukemi rather painfully when it could have been much faster and easier on my 40+ body if someone would have said "when you're thrown like this.. fall like that.." etc.

12-29-2005, 09:51 AM
Yep, pretty traditional and common.

I too like to use my head. When I started many of my Sempai helped me out. Now I talk too much too.

12-29-2005, 12:46 PM
I like this traditional way of teaching. I also know that like was stated before, Americans need to have things explained to them verbally especially the younger generation. My sensei has me teaching officially now since I'm getting up in the high kyus. I will use both versions. I told my dojo that I won't talk so that they can get introduced to the Japanese way of things since this is a Japanese martial art and that I really want to bring them to Honbu without them having the expense. This way they have to concentrate on what I'm actually doing. The entire technique, and not just the fun part at the end when you get to hit or throw uke. You find out who is really paying attention teaching this way. But I will talk when I want to explain a particular point in the technique. The talking is so that they can learn where this part of the technique came from or is trying to do and that I want them to focus on this particular point in the techniqe.

12-29-2005, 01:50 PM
That is definitely the traditional way, and not just for Aikido. Oddly enough, this method is useful in preparing the students for a much more contemporary situation...that of training under someone who doesn't speak your language. If you learn the technique non-verbally, you are much more likely to think of it and identify it as a technique, rather than as a package of words to be remembered.

Aiki LV
12-29-2005, 02:39 PM
The older Sensei I have encountered have tended to talk less than those who are younger. I think it is somewhat of a generational thing. Either way I don't really mind if a teacher does not talk much or if they explain a little more. If they choose not to elaborate on a technique or idea it forces you to really focus and pay attention. Also I think some aspects of aikido have to be felt by a person, you can't exactly explain to someone what they should feel. If that makes any sense? Sometimes depending upon the person there knowledge of English might be limited too. Some Japanese concepts are hard explain if you don't know a whole lot of English. Hey sometimes it is hard enough for those of us who are native English speakers to explain these things.

Mark Uttech
12-29-2005, 02:43 PM
Teaching without speaking is a method of teaching one's intuition. Those who learned by carefully watching developed a dynamic intuition that spread to other areas of their lives.

Thomas Milton
12-30-2005, 06:25 AM
My first teacher was Juba ( Nour, 5th ? Dan under TK Chiba Shihan), and he said very little. The only things he said on the mat were "you're too stiff", and "no talking". My second, TS Okuyama Sensei just paced the mat with a Cheshire -cat smile.The lesson was this: when the teacher starts talking, the student stops moving. Period. And it can degrade to a condition where precious time that might be spent moving is wasted standing.

No Talking!


01-04-2006, 04:39 PM
When I was looking at Aikido classes in my area, I went to one school that was rather small and quaint. It looked like a Japanese school with it's decorations and such.

The instructor was aloof until class started. He began by doing a technique over and over from different angles. He was working with a Black Belt.

Then it was time for people to practice the techniques. There were 2 sets of black belts that grabbed each other, and the numerous left over white belts all found partners.

I saw the Black Belts do the technique and it looked pretty good. When I looked at the white belts. confusion and awkwardness is all I saw.

The instructor, who was standing suddenly, and quite angrily stopped the class and all the students dropped to the ground on their knees. He then grabbed a white belt and did the technique on him a few times. He then attacked the white belt. The white belt didn't even come close to doing anything. It was a wrist grab technique.

The instructor didn't say anything but kept resisting every time the White belt tried the technique. He then yelled at the white belt asking him why he wasn't listening to him.

After that I never went back to his school. I'm sure that his boastfulness and silence gets a lot of people through the door thinking this is some mysterious art and they might want to be in that type of school, but I thought it was arrogant and a way to keep his high status as an instructor.

I tried to ask him a question at the end of his class, but with a look and a hand wave, one of his Black Belts ran up to me and created interference, then the instructor disappeared to some back room.

I have been to seminars where the Instructor didn't speak English or they didn't say a lot, but the message still got through. So I'm not saying all silent instruction is bad, but the way this first instructor used it, it seemed to be all about his ego.

01-05-2006, 01:11 AM
It is quite uncommon in our organisation to teach without talking - we have no Japanese teachers at all and the European/German ones donīt seem to do it much (at least the ones I know). This does not refer to teachers who donīt say much because they donīt have much to say though :) but teachers who consciously decide not to talk.

I need explanation myself and am glad that my teacher gives it. He doesnīt give a lot though - it is more like what Dave Lowry described in his chapter on sotaku doji: he waits and watches and then, eventually, when the student is ready, gives the tip that the student is ready for. I like this a lot and find it a great gift/asset in a teacher.

However, one of my favourite training partners is a nidan who never corrects me verbally at all. Instead he will highlight what I need to change in my own technique by doing his slowly, and he puts a lot of emphasis on what he thinks I need to change. I also learn a lot from him and enjoy this totally different way of understanding. I find that both ways complement each other.

I attended a seminar recently with a teacher who didnīt speak at all. He demonstrated a lot, but to me it was quite impossible to get what he wanted (it seemed more like he was showing off all the techniques he could do than anything else).
IMO if ones teaches without words, one needs to be very clear about what one shows and how one shows it. It is a way of teaching that needs to be done consciously.
In the said case I felt like the teacher just wasnīt actually interested in teaching, and that was the reason why he didnīt talk and not because he thought that it is the best way of teaching.

I probably didnīt get it because I didnīt know the teacher and had never trained under him. If I was practising under that teacher regularly I would probably learn to read him better. But going to a weekend seminar with someone I donīt understand at all seemed a bit pointless (apart from the fun I had on the mat, with the people, etc of course).

01-05-2006, 02:30 AM
One of my friends who spent couple of years in japan said that there are still 2 places where you can find this "traditional" way of teaching - japanese classical (NO?) theatre and some MA dojos.

In other places it's turning for the better:)