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Seeking Zanshin: Blood, Sweat, Tears & Aikikai Blog Tools Rating: Rate This Blog
Creation Date: 02-24-2005 11:53 PM
One small gal + a dojo full of big guys = tons o' fun
Blog Info
Status: Public
Entries: 270 (Private: 12)
Comments: 195
Views: 817,084

In Teaching Spider-man and The Teacher's Mind Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #262 New 10-06-2010 04:00 PM
"With great power, comes great responsibility."

Good, old Uncle Ben. How true.

And how strange it feels, over a decade later, to be standing in the middle of the Auxiliary Gym at The University of Winnipeg again...this time as the teacher. To look at my reflection in the bank of mirrors along the wall and see a figure in a hakama staring back. In the same place where my adventure in Aikido began, gone is the naive and impressionable 22-year-old me in my crisp, new dogi and stiff white belt: being taught how to roll improperly and to wave my arms about, movement devoid of martial intent.

I am determined that there will be no "Mexican hat dance" in my class, no "one hour of talk, one hour of practice." That nonsense was kindly beaten out of me on the mats over the last eight years and all the better for it. There is no teacher with spurious credentials and barely-discernible mumbling, juxtaposed with moments of angry barking at beginners. That's not my style.

After some initial awkwardness that involved a creaky, perpetually dry throat and getting slugged in the stomach while teaching my first class, I suppose I'm slowly settling in to the role. But obviously not without some growing pains. Thankfully I've been receiving a great deal of support -- both from Jon and from Jeremy, who has been alternating as teacher with me.

For one, after eight years of physically taking the role of student and going through the motions of the traditional gestures that follow, it's been tough to break out of the habit, for example, of kneeling when someone else is explaining things; of standing through the whole class instead of sitting in seiza. Not being used to this, it feels strange to "hover" at the edge of the mats all the time; to be in class but not practicing consistently at every moment. To hardly break a sweat. So odd. But it's only once, every other week and a beginner class to boot, so I can't complain too much.

On the plus-side, I've gotten used to tying that blasted hakama and it's started to break in quite nicely. No more rustling, Southern debutante petticoat. Yay!

But the most exciting thing of all is how being in the role of teacher has really given me a new perspective on how I come to understand technique. It's forced me to approach my students with a troubleshooting mindset. Up to this point, as a student, you primarily concentrate on what you're seeing and feeling for yourself, in an effort to immediately apply this sensory information to your own practice.

The difference now, by taking on this role, has been due to a motivation to help new students of Aikido excel. I'm now scrutinizing another person's technique for a change - all for the sake of trying to figure out how the things they're doing can either positively or negatively effect a realistic martial exchange. So I find that as I'm watching them, when faced with a student encountering problems, I start asking myself questions about what they're doing/how they're doing it like:
"Is that martial?"
"Are they sabotaging themselves with that movement?"
"Are they adding an unnecessary/superfluous step?"
"Are they missing a necessary step/blending together movements that need to be more distinct?"
Stuff like that.

But in essence, I think what it all comes down to is simply taking responsibility for another person's learning, other than just my own. Then teaching becomes less about you showing what you know and more about helping others grow. The neat thing about it is that in so doing, I'm still learning and growing. Just in a different way.

Everything comes full circle, it seems. I just gave a new student (a petite woman like myself) a bit of a pep talk last Sunday when she was starting to get a bit frustrated about the many finicky details of Katatedori Shihonage. I told her about how, after I had been practicing Aikido for just six months, I was the only student who messed up that technique at my first Gasshuku, amidst the laughter of family and friends. Now I'm Shodan, teaching that same blasted technique to a new "generation" of practitioners. Who knew? What's cool to me is trying to imagine how far my own students will go if they stick with it, too.

My. Own. Students. Who knew I'd even be thinking that one day?

Views: 2330 | Comments: 5

RSS Feed 5 Responses to "Spider-man and The Teacher's Mind"
#5 10-20-2010 01:54 PM
jducusin Says:
Thanks, Cito - "hindi" I remembered; the rest...not so much. :-D
#4 10-20-2010 09:13 AM
CitoMaramba Says:
No problem, Jamie.. "Hindi ka nag-iisa" - "You are not alone" "Kaya mo yan" - "You can do it!" (as Rob Schneider would say, lol) Best of luck! Cito
#3 10-19-2010 03:06 PM
jducusin Says:
Cito: you'll have to translate for me - my parents didn't teach my brother and I much of our native Ilocano or Tagalog. They figured it would be confusing for us living in Canada. I know, sayang nako! ;-)
#2 10-11-2010 02:59 AM
CitoMaramba Says:
Hindi ka nag-iisa.. kaya mo yan!
#1 10-06-2010 07:49 PM
Daisy Luu Says:
Hi Jamie, I, too, started my aikido journey as a young college student in my former university, and though I don't see myself coming back to teach one day, I certainly can relate to how strange it must feel to stand in a place of the past, but in a new role. Best of luck in your teachings, and enjoy the new journey, Sensei.

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