Dojo: Aikido Center of Los Angeles
Location: Los Angeles
Join Date: Apr 2002
Haha! I like that very much - "can-opener" and "twist-off cap" teacher. I was always taught that most teachers are "beer-bottle opener" teachers. Oops! Sorry about that, it just slipped out! (Btw, I am not a drinker at all, myself.)
I don't think "communication" necessarily has to be "words" and "chatter." There are many types of communication - especially in the dojo. Demonstrating the techniques, simply being the teacher conducting himself in class, the etiquette of the dojo and how you maintain a smooth running dojo, and your interaction with your seniors and co-classmates are all forms of communication and part of the Aikido learning process. I think that if you think of "communication" as something more than just dialogue and conversation or asking questions, you will find that the whole world of learning, experience and instruction opens up to you instantly.
In my dojo, I try to open up as many lines of communication as possible, I have a monthly general meeting of all the students where they can ask any questions they like and all announcements are made, I used to have a Budo Study class and go over all of the traditional classics on martial arts with open discussion, bulletin board postings, periodic lectures and seminars, a monthly newsletter now in its 22nd year, and a website where Daily Messages are posted and inquires and questions are answered and discussed, and monthly seminars. I try to not chatter away too much in the regular classes for fear of taking away from the students' training time but sometimes, if it is called for and important, I will stop the class to discussion a point. For people who are uncomfortable to approach me directly or other problems or issues, I have an executive advisory board and of course, they can always discuss anything with my senior students and assistants.
With all of this, I get bored sometimes because they do not ask enough questions and I often think that they should be asking about this or that in further detail but they seem to go blissfully on with their training. I get questions from all over the world, except my own students! I often wonder why they don't have more questions to ask of me. . . . .
Once in a while I get a talker in class and that is all he wants to do. I don't want to answer aimless questions or questions just for the sake of answering questions. Questions do have to be relevant to Aikido and one's training or something about the Dojo.
In the traditional Japanese style, it is less talk and more doing - this comes from a long tradition of seeking the "ideal' of teaching - teaching which comes "directly heart-to-heart." Also, one of many words for learning in the Japanese arts, is "mi-narai," which literally means to "observe and learn." I don't remember too many "verbal" instructions from my old teachers, but I don't deny that I learned tremendously from them.
In the Buddhist tradition which influence this artististic culture, Buddha sought teaching "outside all scriptures and words. . . . ." In the Confucian tradition, Confucius remarked, "I give the student three corners and I expect him to come up with the third by himself. . . ." In Zen, my Zen master used to say, "teaching is like shooting two arrows into the sky hoping that they will both hit each other." In other words, teaching is difficult and often best taught by actions and behavior alone. He also used to say, "you can't teach a student until he finally understands it for himself." - I had a lot of trouble with this lesson for many years!
Once a woman asked Pope John II, I pray to God everyday, sometimes several times a day, but he never once answered me!" Pope John replied something like, "Look around you, he is answering you all of the time, every second, everywhere!"
Instead of looking for opportunities to ask questions, for a little while, just for a change, try to observe your teacher very carefully in class, and I will think that you will see that he is teaching you all of the time and answering all of your questions. You are very blessed to have an excellent, 1st class teacher - this alone should give you great confidence in your training.
"It is not what a teacher says or how he talks, but what he does on the mats and what he keeps in his heart. . . . ." Many thanks.