Hi and thanks to those who've read and replied. First off, I'd like to clarify the original questions. I was first wondering if people teaching had had these experiences where they caught themselves after creating or perpetuating misunderstanding one some occasions or for some time.
Charles, I do agree about the unwitting sabotaging of practice. It might even be what I was getting at i.e. "Have you ever caught yourself unwittingly sabotaging your class?"
I suppose a related question might be, seeing ourselves in the spectrum of guiding students <-> laissez-faire, in which cases would we debate with ourselves about whether to get involved?
A clear example for getting involved could be if someone thought that aikido practice involved injuring or intimidating others.
An example in which we might let the dojo culture do the work: a new person with (harmless) new-agey preconceptions that do apparently take up more than their fair share of mental space, hindering general progress.
What about someone who seems to grasp "connection" as the two partners pushing very clearly and strongly against each other (via their wrist/hands, e.g.)?
What about someone who is over-sensitive/anxious regarding the idea of having openings, and is busy protecting themselves at the cost of doing everything else? and when they manage to forget about openings, the specific costs in posture, angles, etc. is high?
I think that one ideal is people developing the sensibilities that are normed in the dojo culture, with the dojo culture being, well, ideal.
Another ideal is for each person to get precisely the attention they need. Perhaps in the 'suki'-anxious example above, it would be appropriate to let that person's technical level suffer while they deal with their potential issues of feeling weak or defenseless. But what would you do when you wanted to emphasize atemi or suki to the rest of the group? Or even emphasize it to people in the group who are at the opposite end of the spectrum i.e. under-conscious of openings?
I realize that it is impossible to "cover" (however you wish to take that word) the scope of all things in leading any aikido group, and that the process is inherently human and imperfect, and takes time.
To narrow the scope of what I'm trying to get at here in this second question is related to mediocre-ization of aikido practice: many people practice aikido but get by without paying attention or taking responsibility to make their education complete. Consequently, when showing one part of the proverbial elephant, the serious student may examine that one part deeply and seek out other elephant parts to study, while the not-so-serious student will examine not-so-deeply, not seek out as thoroughly, and not wonder about things that the serious student does (e.g. finding only the elephant's ears, nose, mouth, and never asking, "Don't elephants see?") For students who are *evidently, from the teacher's subjective view* not inclined to seek deeply, what material should the teacher put forth? I do think that teachers do need to consider what they are presenting to individual students, as opposed to selfishly pursuing their own interests (which may include being popular to students) and leaving the responsibility to the students, the listeners, to take *any* message from the teacher and make constructive use of it.
Charles Hill wrote:
I remember somewhere in one of Saotome Sensei's books he said that all of the movements and principles are natural and things that we all do in daily life. The problem is when put in a martial context, we get scared and start to act un-naturally. With that in mind, I generally do two things. One is to remind students of situations in which they already use the idea.
For your example above, I might talk to a student about how they go through a revolving door, the push is to the front, but it is directed toward the door's "center." This kind of metaphor explanation seems to be helpful.
The second thing I try is to develop actions/activities where the element of fear is taken out. Basic techniques/movements that culminate in a stretch rather than a throw have worked well for me. Then once I see that students are entering and connecting well with their partners, then I progress to doing the previous movement with a throw or pin.
There are a million ways to relax students, I've found. I don't feel that verbal explanations necessarily mean that I can't physically demostrate a principle (I hope!) For me, they are a valuable tool. As you know, although Endo Shihan doesn't talk much at Honbu, he does talk a bit at Saku. This has helped me a lot.
Now, what is interesting to me is how and why this general problem of a lack of understanding has arisen. This is probably quite pessimistic, but I feel that there is little real progress and development in the Aikido world. I believe that many (most?) instructors and senior students are not actively progressing and unconsciously sabotage their students by not finding the best way to help them. This leads to a misunderstanding of concepts like center.