Everybody Is An Instructor….
At least once every Aikido practitioner has had the opportunity to explain something to a partner during practice. This article will start from this simple and common act in order to give students clear information about teaching.
Traditionally in Martial Arts the Master is the unquestioned head of the school. Teaching passes directly from him to the pupils through personal instruction without any assistance. This teaching is based on a method which uses the minimum in terms of concepts and words. The student has to get used to the method of learning using his eyes more than his ears. Western culture, however, is different — we all are used to a rational way of learning and thinking. In Aikido practice the emphasis is put not on the rationalisation of its theory but on the re-awakening of what comes before the rational. Aikido focuses on the discovery of free and spontaneous forces that may sometimes spring out in our daily gestures.
This natural force is the only thing that can save you in case of a sudden attack. This force permits us to find immediately a correct answer for every situation we live daily. Such pre-rational method is based on the diligent and silent observation of every gesture of the Master, both onto the tatami and in daily life. The student repeats what he has learned exactly.
At a certain point in the student's training, what was once only repetition becomes an integral part of his being. At this stage the student is ready to put in practice what he has learned — both physically and spiritually.
It is obvious therefore that in a Martial Art school it is the Master and only the Master who is responsible for the line of the teaching. That is why he is the Master —he is responsible for creating and managing what we could call a sort of transfer. Constant and diligent Aikido practice creates that transfer between instructor and student.
Therefore no one must forget who has in charge of correcting the students' mistakes during the class. This is a basic point and must be kept in mind especially by the students who are practising a few years. Because they still have not much experience, they tend to overcorrect their partners' mistakes even if their partners do not request help. This may be even though they have understood only one part of the technique which may have a thousand aspects.
Living on the tatami the first rule is modesty. I say to former beginners e.g. 3rd Kyu that if the Master of 3rd Dan was to train with them and correct them in the same fussy way they correct the beginners, they would not progress. In comparison to the Master's level they too are doing the technique imperfectly.
Everyone must quietly permit their partners to make mistakes. Instead they must try to understand their own mistakes which surely must be many.
Students must be conscious that the Instructor is checking out and supervising those mistakes and giving the correct and appropriate amount of guidance — at the right time, directly to the student and not through an assistant. Good Instructors do never stop to look after the students and observe everyone's progress daily.
If for a special reason a senior student has to substitute for the Instructor, his duty is to stay as close as possible to the Instructor's way of teaching. One could, for example, repeat what was done in the previous class, giving everyone the opportunity to refresh and fine tune one's technique.
What is unacceptable in a Martial Arts dojo is that in an occasion like that senior students transform the class in a personal "show". This is selfish and a waste of time. It has nothing in common with the actual teaching of the Instructor and fellow students are there to learn his teaching.
The dojo only runs smoothly when there is total respect for everyone's role.