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Old 07-07-2011, 11:32 PM   #85
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Open Letter to My Students

Hanna Björk wrote: View Post
Here's a blog post titled Never make demands of your students and never let students make demands of you - not written by an aikidoist, but by a budoist.

Perhaps a teacher who gets a little bit more focused on his own training and a little bit less on his students actually does everyone involved a favour? At least I think this kind of teacher is less vulnerable. And I think it makes him a better leader, someone people want to follow. Few people at the seminar? Make sure working on your own stuff, then, and be an inspiration to those who are there.

I always (well, almost) was a very busy seminar-goer. But if seminars were expected of me... perhaps I actually would feel less like going.

Honestly, Mr Ledyard. I don't think you give a good message to your students in that open letter. Not if a "good message" is measured by how much it increases their interest in training.

I hope I'm not too impertinent. Just trying to give my honest feedback.
Hi Hanna,
What would be impertinent? You saying something different from me? I certainly do not take it that way.

You don't know me and don;t know what I do about my training. My own experience has been that the more I train and the better I get, the fewer folks see themselves as being able to duplicate what I am doing. One assumes that seeing someone model something would be motivational... but it doesn't always work that way.

I had one great student quit right when he got to Brown Belt. He was actually a personal friend off the mat as well and I was able to talk to him about why he was quitting. He told me that he didn't feel as if he was getting anywhere. He looked at me and knew that he would never be able to train as hard as I was and as he watched me getting better he felt that relatively speaking he was actually falling farther behind. In other words, my own training served as a sort of "bar" for him and he felt as if the bar were constantly being raised.

Of course this wasn't really true... when he moved away he found that he missed training and looked for a dojo in the LA are where he could start up again. He traveled around checking out various schools and much to his surprise, found that he really had learned quite a bit at our school. He found a great dojo and has been training ever since.

So, I don't think it is necessarily true that just focusing on your own training is motivational for others unless they think that they can duplicate the training themselves.

What I have found is the most motivation for people is showing them that you actually do care if they get better. The whole Japanese thing of "I showed you... you get it, not get it, not my problem." leaves folks completely to their own devices. What I have seen of this has been a generation of folks who simply gave up on thinking they could be as good as the "Shihan". He was "special". The there are the rest of us.

If you can show people that they can do precisely what their teacher has been doing and show them you care if they get it, that you are willing to invest in them, that is by far the most motivational thing I have found. Occasionally, you have to remind them that it's a two way street. There's a certain effort involved that is required because no matter how good the instructions are, if you don't take it to the mat and do it ten thousand times, it won't matter.

I am not trying to motivate people who are not serious to become serious. I am telling the folks who think they are serious what that means. Some folks may realize that they aren't serious and don't wish to make the effort. They may leave or simply not change their behavior at all. The ones who think of themselves as serious sometimes need a wake up call. That's all.

I have to say that, whereas I understand what yo have said and feel that it is a perfectly reasonable approach, one that some of my own teachers have taken, in fact, I do think a statement that indicates that if you were expected to do something, you'd feel less like doing it, is a bit like a kid saying "NO! You can't make me!"

I am a teacher. People come to my school and pay money to learn. If I feel that certain things are important for their progress, it is my job to tel them so. I am the one that sets the standard, no one else. I was told this by my teachers when I asked who set the standards for the folks in our organization. What I was told was that I have the responsibility to set the standard for my own students.

If I am going to set the standards, I have to let them know what, in my own experience, is required to be able to succeed. If I didn't think having several guest seminars each year was important for their training, I wouldn't do it. So, I need to let people know that this is all part of the program. It's part of the expectation when they join up. No one forces anyone to come to my dojo and sign up. There are many other choices in my area. If folks are going to be part of the dojo they need to support the dojo. I don't see that as unreasonable. If some folks find my being straight forward about what is expected to be not motivational, they are probably at the wrong dojo.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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