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This is my first blog post on the forum, so perhaps I should write a couple of sentences about myself. I have parcticed aikido for 14 years, I am a nidan, and I regularly teach in our dojo. So I am just another beginner
It's enlighthning to read the blogs written by beginners because they show me how they think. This post is really a reaction to a number of posts by people who have practiced for less than a year and who like to talk in terms of "sensei's favorite ukes" and "sensei's correcting students".
While it is impossible not to prefer some students over others, one should not judge sensei's preferences based on who he talks to or calls up during class. When I leave a student alone that is almost always because he is doing fine (which is not the same as doing perfectly), not because I dislike him. The worst thing I can do is to interrupt someone who is learning well by himself. And I call up ukes according to their abilities and characteristics. If I want to show that sankyo is effective, I'll call up a strong guy who cannot take pain. If I want to show to a short person how to do a technique, I'll call up the tallest person available, and vice versa. And for spectacular throwing around I'll call up someone who will take it easily and will immediately get up for more, with the characteristic expression on their face that says "That was fun but where am I?"
I used to think I corrected students when I showed them various points of technique. But nowadays I experience the process in terms of showing them how I do things and how I percieve what my teacher does. It is really up to the students to figure out what is going on and what they want to do. Even though beginners don't believe it, at least not here in the Western society, they learn more when I just work with them as a partner than when I stand around and preach.
I once read (in "How children fail" by John Halt I think) that the trouble with teaching is precisely the fact that teachers think they can instill knowledge into children directly, whereas at best they can only hope to help the children learn by themselves. It's precisely the same in aikido.
Of course, the best strategy for a beginner is to just try to learn the technique by observing his sensei. Eventually they will start thinking about technique as just a prop, but usually that does not happen until they have some experience (and a high kyu rank).