Thread: What I Like
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Old 03-30-2012, 07:18 PM   #8
Andy Kazama
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Dojo: Aikido South
Location: Atlanta
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 41
Talking Re: What I Like

I very much enjoyed this post. Here are a few more specific to instruction.

What I like in an Instructor (emphasis on my own personal opinion on the matter)

I also like friendly instructors. To me, this comes down to my favorite definition of humility. It is not that you think that you are terrible; rather, you think that everyone else is really great! I value an instructor that that treats everyone they meet as someone special. Although the instructor is somewhat self-effacing, they are confident in their technique. They are friendly because they know what they do works.

I like instructors who are racing me to the top. The fact that these instructors have a decades-long head-start does not turn them into the hare that stops to take a nap. They are enthusiastic life-long learners. These instructors are willing to give you every bit of knowledge that they have, and truly wish you the best in catching up to them. They are walking away from seminars with huge grins, and are the ones saying, "Hey, grab my wrist, I want to try something."

I like instructors who are perceptive. There are some nights when maybe I've had a long tedious day, and I just want to get on the mat and get some energy out. Oftentimes, my instructor will feel that energy in my attacks, and will spend extra hands-on time with me, letting me vigorously attack him. Ukemi waza can take on an almost cathartic quality! Other classes might focus on a single movement. I remember having a breakthrough moment, while spending an entire class on the initial move of the 1st kumitachi. It was the first time I felt like I could feel who was going to win before anyone started moving (yea, that's right, I said win...). My instructor may not spend hours watching the Lifetime Network, but he's sensitive, dammit.

I like honest instruction. I don't expect a nidan to handle a truly competent attack on every single technique. If my instructor makes an error, I want them to point out why their technique failed. The odds are that I will make that same error -- and much more often. An instructor who tries to cover up mistakes, either by not acknowledging that the technique failed, or by resorting to only using ukes who take the appropriate dive at the appropriate time is not providing valuable information. It is true that newer students may not have the martial competency to attack intelligently; however, "martial incompetency" should not be an Aikidoka's kryptonite. The proper response to an uke who hunkers down and gives up their back should be, "Thank you, God!" Not, "You're giving me bad energy."

I like instruction for a specific purpose. One of the tenants of aikido is to move with purpose. I find I get more out of the specific exercises when they are designated with a clear purpose. For example, "The point of this next exercise is to add resistance just to the point of failure -- similar to spotting a weight-lifting partner"; "The point of this exercise is to soak into the opening/suki"; "The point of this drill is to practice dealing with a spontaneous attacks". This gives both uke and nage clear guidelines as to what they are trying to accomplish. I want to walk away from each class at least a tiny bit better than the class before.

I like instruction containing a logical progression. The optimal curriculum begins with simple concepts and builds on them. Each class should be designed with a simple concept (in relation to the level of competency of the students in attendance), and move at a pace where everyone can follow along. Classes that go through 5 unrelated techniques do little to build long-lasting competence. An instructor should ask themselves, "Can a student reconstruct my class from start to finish and see a principle?" I just attended an incredible seminar by James Messisco Sensei, wherein it wasn't until after I made my notes that I appreciated just how many techniques we covered in a single day (> 17). It did not feel overwhelming because there was a logical progression; each technique stayed within the overall goal of the day, and each subsequent technique had only a minor change. Messisco Sensei's instruction made so much sense that we did not need to carry proverbial buckets of water up a mountain for an entire year. We could take that single day back home, progressively break each point down, and add it to our technique.

I like an instructor who takes ownership. My technique is a reflection of my instructor. If I am double-weighting myself when I attack, it is because my instructor has not bothered to correct this. If I give my center away in strong gusts of wind, that is on my instructor's head. If my rolls are somewhere in between a log roll and a seizure, his seniors will let him know about it. My instructor understands this, and this is why I am explicitly told to never mention his name in public. Just kidding, Jon!

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The basic fundamentals, refined to perfection, are your most advanced techniques.
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