I recently have found myself to be in the role of instructor for my Aikido class. I currently hold the Rank of Nidan and I know that I have a long way to go before I really know Tomiki Aikido. My problem is that the next nearest class is over 90 miles away. I am interested in improving my skills and I find myself studying the techinques that my students use to adapt a move to their different body types. Occationally, I find a better way even if it is not the original form of the technique. Am I right to use these "hybred" froms of Aikido techniques? Should I teach them to the class? Can I improve on a technique without loosing the original intent?
In our classes,our sensei emphazises on teaching principles, body feeling and letting your energy blend and flow rather than a rigid technique for a whole lesson, especially in the beginners class. If people feel comfortable with their body and its specific natural movements and abilities and are able to use aikido's principles, they find it much more easy to learn a defined technique. Also, we do a lot of randori. It's amazing how often beginners discover many techniques by themselves just by applying the moving principles of aikido.
Our sensei's aikido is influenced by different styles, mainly by Shoji Nishio sensei. So we do a lot of "freestyle" or "hybrid" aikido, too and train specifically Nishio sensei's style before his seminars or exams.
So I don't think it's bad to allow some variation if you and your students feel more comfortable. It can be very fascinating.
I was wondering if you lived near me 'cos I have just started an Aiki club up as well 'cos there are no local ones - however Jupiter is a bit far (is that really a place on earth?)
I think the important thing in Aikido is the basic principles, and just teaching your students these well should help them a lot (I have used extension on its own to throw someone in a real situ').
I try to visit other senseis as much as feasible, because I realise I feel I have a responsibility to my class to keep myself in good technique. Maybe you could do a summer school course or visit the nearest club once a month? This will help you to retain confidence in your own techniques.
One thing I find hard is that most students think of a completely different thing to you when you are teaching- they are just trying to get their feet/body arms in the right position half the time. The basics are pretty similar anywhere in aikido and can be based on your own experience.
Don't make the mistake I did, and try to teach a style that you are picking up from other instructors. I have found that many years of training makes your own style quite fixed and it is harder to actually teach how someone else does it 'cos you don't fully understand it yourself! Sometimes its good fun to try different things, but you must just teach what you know, otherwise you'll find the technique very poor.
Also, I don't know what you mean by different technique. You have to be careful with Aikido because there are many reasons why a technique is done a certain way which aren't apparent initially. This includes:
1. getting your body in a good position (e.g. if the technique fails or if you are attacked with a weapon)
2. opening up certain pressure/vital points on the opponent whilst protecting your own
3. not damaging your body!
4. maximising your use of power
5. enabling fluid movement so that you can deal with multiple attackers (i.e. if you pull people in to you too much it is easy to get into a locked situation)
6. the idea of the 'potential' of a technique i.e. just 'cos we don't harm someone doesn't mean we can't (the techniques being derived from damaging/lethal aiki-jitsu techniques).
I think everyone has there own way of doing things, but as an instructor the diffculty (and benefit) is to realise WHY you are doing something one way rather than another and whether that is good or bad; discussing this and training with other senseis is also important if you have overlooked anything.
I can't say that my technique is really that different from my original dojo - in fact when I went back there this Xmas I noticed they had changed more than me!
Hope this helps,
When teaching, especially in your early forays, it is best to stick with the fundamentals. If you are responsible to a class of mainly beginners, then they need to learn what you did as a beginner.
At our dojo here in St. Louis, I have chosen to relate each of the basic techniques to specific Aiki-Taiso. This allows the newer students the opportunity to understand that the Aiki-Taiso are important, and also helps the more advanced students to come to a deeper appreciation of the underlying principles of a give technique.
As to discovering a new technique, my surefire method for validating this is whether or not everyone else in the class can execute the same technique. Sometimes I have "discovered" something which only I can make work. This may be too idiosyncratic for anyone else, so consequently I re-examine what it is I am doing. This re-examination oftentimes tells me that I am relying too much on my size (6'2" 180 lbs) and not enough on the principles. Occasionally, I have stumbled on to something which I then share with other instructors to get their feedback.
As to your on-going training, allow your students to throw you around more than you throw them around. Then when you go to seminars and other dojos you will find that you are able to improve you skills by paying attention to what is important. I say this because it is in taking ukemi from our students that we can feel if they are learning what we think we are teaching.
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