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I teach Aikido at a small dojo in Winnipeg, Canada. Been doing so for many years now. This blog is just a collection of ruminations on teaching, descriptions of the events of daily practice, and the occasional funny story.
So I had my students work on balance last night. We did a few rooting exercises and then spent the remainder of the night studying how a person can be made to lose their balance. I just had one of a pair stand, feet square, knees slightly bent and working in place to keep balanced. The other of the pair could do anything they liked to make their partner lose balance - but only with a single point of contact and with no abrupt force. We moved on to balance-taking with two points of contact and then three. Finally, I allowed the one being unbalanced to step about to maintain balance. We worked slowly, studying how to find that off-balancing angle or action that prevented any corrective steps or body shifts or that used these corrective steps or shifts to further bind the person and take their balance.
This practice was totally principle-oriented. I showed my students no particular technique whereby they could take their partner's balance and urged them to resist using actual aikido technique to do so. I asked them to be very creative about how they applied the principles of balance-taking. I think my students were both fascinated and frustrated by this challenge. Often, they would be moving along the right line, but at not quite the right angle. If their initial effort didn't induce their partner to lose balance, though, they would simply stop the action entirely and start again. I had to encourage them to feel out their action thoroughly and see if small shifts in its dir
Attendance has been ebbing these days rather than flowing. The upside of this is that I can give much more concentrated attention to the few who show up, which I think they appreciate. The downside is that it kinda' takes the wind out of my sails to have been running a dojo for so long and still find myself clawing and scraping for students.
Speaking of which, I have had some very odd would-be students at my dojo. One fellow, for example, showed up, watched a class and then began to query me enthusiastically about training. After I had answered his many questions, he then says, "Oh, actually, I should tell you that I've had torn retinas and can't bump my head or jar my body. If I do, they might tear again and then I'd be blind." I remember staring at him and thinking, "Well what in the world are you doing here?!" I mean, really, does a fingerless person take up typing? Does a blind person take up photography? Needless to say, the fellow never joined the dojo.
This keeps happening, though. I've had people with bad backs observe class and then explain that they'd like to train but they can't twist their torso, or bend their back, and falling is absolutely out of the question. I wonder if these same folk think deaf people should tune pianos?
There are also those people who ask, "What if I can only train once a week or maybe only a couple of times a month? Is that okay?" I always tell them "Sure, if you don't mind seeing people who start years after you, but who tr