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Old 06-18-2016, 07:41 AM   #4
Dojo: Open Sky Aikikai
Location: Durham, NC
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 433
Re: Pro's and con's of asking questions.

There are different types of errors for students to make. Physical errors, or structure and relationship - these need to be felt I think. I'll ask a student about one position, or a break in their structure but I am trying to bring them mindfully to a point where they notice something kinesthetic. For most of our lives, we are told exercise is effort. Students expect and chase the feeling of effort and need to be reminded that we should chase no effort. Years of high school gym class have wired most people to not feel for less work in their exercise sessions.

If someone asks a question and I tell the rest of the class to keep going and the student looks crestfallen that they have lost their audience, that's different. If the question is to show what a genius they are, or that they just want to not sweat so much but can't say they need a break out of pride, or if they are trying to set up an egalitarian dojo where the beginner and the teacher have equal say on what is practiced; very different. If someone wants to know how to do a variation to accomodate for an injury, or a police officer is wondering how to finish a traditional pin with handcuffs, I am happy to answer privately. If a student is asking about material they are not ready for, I try to refocus them.

Other errors are about understanding. Training for options, mobility, safe positioning. Don't step overtop of me because you'll get one in the sack kinda stuff. Aikido is about being ready for an attack from any direction, but most training is one one one. In an MMA contaminated world sticking the head down or laying on top of someone might seem correct, so I ask where the door is, where the weapons rack is, what time is it, or I walk up to a pair training and lightly tap someone. If someone has good physical stuff happening but their movements don't make sense or something is wrong, I need to know why and I need to challenge the problem at it's source.

My biggest pet peeve with the never-ask-questions-it's-all-kinesthetic crowd is when it crosses the line into mind reading. Questions verify understanding. With no questions, I've seen teachers start with character assassination on the mat. Something was done wrong because you're (the student) a terrible person. Often this happens while the teacher is collecting visual data (not actually getting thrown but watching two people train so feeling nothing kinesthetic).

When a teacher never allows questions, or trained with never asking questions, then a teacher might not question how they teach something, or their own understanding of a technique or a principle. Their technique and methods become dogma, and they are untouchable and unquestionable. It is to everyone's detriment on the mat, and the art as a whole suffers.

Koryu Budo is about the transmission of knowledge. With the rise of the imperial forces in Japan, the military changed some things. It wasn't about passing knowledge teacher to student to create a new teacher, but more drill sergeant breaking down and rebuilding a platoon with the goal of rapidly created obedient unflinching never hesitating soldiers. You don't give soldiers a way of life; you give them tools to function in a group to carry out a mission and fully expect and demand they will die for doing as you told them. No variation allowed, don't-ask-me-how-high, do and die, there aren't supposed to be old soldiers attitude. I don't always keep the two training methods separate in my mind, or see where there is one or the other. I like to think questions are one of the dividing lines.
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