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Old 05-31-2007, 11:49 AM   #1
Jonathan
Dojo: North Winnipeg Aikikai
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No more Mr. Nice Guy.

I wrote the following after a frustrating and irritating aikido seminar. I don't feel quite as sharply about it now as I did then.

I'm curious to know if any other aikidoka have had similar experiences and how they chose to respond:

I had an interesting experience a few weekends ago at an aikido seminar. A high-ranked aikidoka (5th or 6th dan) decided in the course of a "discussion" we were having about the themes of the seminar to "check" my tai-no-henka technique. He couldn't prevent me from turning (which I think he thought he'd be able to do), but after I had performed the pivot he would bump me off balance with his hip. I have done this to beginners in aikido to demonstrate that they are too close to uke after their pivot, but no matter the distance I put between me and this higher-ranked aikidoka he continued to bump me off balance. Finally, in the course of demonstrating to me what was "wrong" with my technique, he had me grab him. Of course, I could bump him off balance too, which, out of respect, I did gently. When he realized that I could do to him as he had done to me, he then began to lead me forward out of the tai-no-henka position (and out of position to bump him).

Now, this higher-ranked aikidoka had been trying to emphasize to me the importance of bringing my gripped lead hand right to my center. I already knew keeping my lead hand in front of me was important, which is why I bring my gripped lead hand to the inside of my lead hip before turning. I wasn't placing my hand as directly in front of my center as he was, nor was I tilting foward as he did as I moved past my lead hand to pivot and so, as far as he was concerned, I was doing tai-no-henka wrong. What was further curious to me was that his form wasn't like the form of tai-no-henka performed by the shihan teaching the seminar -- the form I was trying to emulate.

Questions (and answers) began to rise in my mind as this senior aikidoka "straightened me out":

1. If I can bump him out of his stance as easily he did me, what was the point of bumping me in the first place? There was no point, I believe, beyond making me feel that my technique was inadequate and in need of his input.

2. Why, when I performed the tai-no-henka movements precisely as he wanted, did he become so completely (actually inordinately) easy to move? To reinforce the fact that he was right, of course. Again, this was just another (and somewhat deceitful) way of attempting to establish to me that his input was valuable.

3. Since he couldn't prevent me from pivoting easily, fully and stably, and extending my arms with the form of tai-no-henka I was already using, what real benefit was there in adopting his way of doing tai-no-henka? None, I think -- except to make him feel good about himself.

This sort of thing isn't unique to my experience as an aikidoka. I've had other higher-ranked aikidoka over the years block my technique to show me their way is "better" and, until now, I've not challenged them. But, I think I'm done with this nonsense. I've been doing aikido for almost twenty years and, while I'm far from mastery of this art, I'm not completely without skill either. Certainly, I've enough skill to perceive when a person's input on my technique is genuinely useful and when it is not. I can tell now when I'm dealing with a stylistic difference rather than a legitimate mechanical/martial concern. And I can see when ego is motivating someone to "correct" my technique rather than a sincere interest in seeing me improve as an aikdoka.

No more Mr. Nice Guy. If another aikidoka (senior or otherwise) tries to challenge my technique he/she better be up to the same challenge from me (shihan excepted, of course).

Notice served.

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 05-31-2007, 03:45 PM   #2
Tinyboy344
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Mr. Hay,
There's at least one a**h*le at any seminar (regardless what rank he is). I'm suprised for 20 years this was the first time that you encountered one
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Old 05-31-2007, 04:20 PM   #3
Steven
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Next time, atemi him with the free hand. LOL

Sorry -- couldn't resist :-)
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Old 05-31-2007, 06:31 PM   #4
ElizabethCastor
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

From my experience (which is less than 20 years let me say!) I understand that there are MANY, MANY options available to both parties during a technique. What makes it aikido is the ethical choice not not to take all of the shots that you can. (Congratulations on being the person who practiced aikido in that pair.) I guess that I may have in my frustration beaten him to the hip-check, or some other atemi, after the 3rd demonstration. After all, if he can get you you could get him equally well.

Quote:
Certainly, I've enough skill to perceive when a person's input ...is genuinely useful and when it is not. I can tell now when I'm dealing with a stylistic difference rather than a legitimate mechanical/martial concern. And I can see when ego is motivating someone to "correct" my technique rather than a sincere interest in seeing me improve as an aikdoka.
It sounds like you've decided that you met up with some stylistic ego differences. I think I agree from the description.

Let this person go. Its not worth your energy.
Enjoy your next seminar

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Old 05-31-2007, 07:30 PM   #5
xuzen
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Quote:
Jonathan Hay wrote: View Post
I wrote the following after a frustrating and irritating aikido seminar. I don't feel quite as sharply about it now as I did then.

I'm curious to know if any other aikidoka have had similar experiences and how they chose to respond:

I had an interesting experience a few weekends ago at an aikido seminar. A high-ranked aikidoka (5th or 6th dan) decided in the course of a "discussion" we were having about the themes of the seminar to "check" my tai-no-henka technique. He couldn't prevent me from turning (which I think he thought he'd be able to do), but after I had performed the pivot he would bump me off balance with his hip. I have done this to beginners in aikido to demonstrate that they are too close to uke after their pivot, but no matter the distance I put between me and this higher-ranked aikidoka he continued to bump me off balance. Finally, in the course of demonstrating to me what was "wrong" with my technique, he had me grab him. Of course, I could bump him off balance too, which, out of respect, I did gently. When he realized that I could do to him as he had done to me, he then began to lead me forward out of the tai-no-henka position (and out of position to bump him).

Now, this higher-ranked aikidoka had been trying to emphasize to me the importance of bringing my gripped lead hand right to my center. I already knew keeping my lead hand in front of me was important, which is why I bring my gripped lead hand to the inside of my lead hip before turning. I wasn't placing my hand as directly in front of my center as he was, nor was I tilting foward as he did as I moved past my lead hand to pivot and so, as far as he was concerned, I was doing tai-no-henka wrong. What was further curious to me was that his form wasn't like the form of tai-no-henka performed by the shihan teaching the seminar -- the form I was trying to emulate.

Questions (and answers) began to rise in my mind as this senior aikidoka "straightened me out":

1. If I can bump him out of his stance as easily he did me, what was the point of bumping me in the first place? There was no point, I believe, beyond making me feel that my technique was inadequate and in need of his input.

2. Why, when I performed the tai-no-henka movements precisely as he wanted, did he become so completely (actually inordinately) easy to move? To reinforce the fact that he was right, of course. Again, this was just another (and somewhat deceitful) way of attempting to establish to me that his input was valuable.

3. Since he couldn't prevent me from pivoting easily, fully and stably, and extending my arms with the form of tai-no-henka I was already using, what real benefit was there in adopting his way of doing tai-no-henka? None, I think -- except to make him feel good about himself.

This sort of thing isn't unique to my experience as an aikidoka. I've had other higher-ranked aikidoka over the years block my technique to show me their way is "better" and, until now, I've not challenged them. But, I think I'm done with this nonsense. I've been doing aikido for almost twenty years and, while I'm far from mastery of this art, I'm not completely without skill either. Certainly, I've enough skill to perceive when a person's input on my technique is genuinely useful and when it is not. I can tell now when I'm dealing with a stylistic difference rather than a legitimate mechanical/martial concern. And I can see when ego is motivating someone to "correct" my technique rather than a sincere interest in seeing me improve as an aikdoka.

No more Mr. Nice Guy. If another aikidoka (senior or otherwise) tries to challenge my technique he/she better be up to the same challenge from me (shihan excepted, of course).

Notice served.
There are two ways of going about this IMO...

1) Let it go.. go with the flow. If he bumps you, take it as an opportunity to practice Ukemi and subsequently tell him how great his atemi errr I mean bump was and laugh it out. Aikido practice is just that practice... don't let ego come into play, your or his.

or just simply....

2) Challenge him to a GONG-SAU aka RAN-DORI, JIYU-WAZA, KUMITE or simply DOJO-BRAWL. Last man standing wins. Simple.

Boon.

SHOMEN-ATE (TM), the solution to 90% of aikido and life's problems.
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Old 05-31-2007, 07:46 PM   #6
xuzen
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Addendum:

Although good solid posture or excellent Kihon Dosa is desirable and all, it is not the the end in itself.

That is why, if someone correct me this and that I will just go with the flow. Kihon Dosa is after all just stance which confers to you the most stable position to launch any aikido techniques. And the most stable position is the one you feel most comfortable in. Again, IMO Kihon is a guide, it is not a rigid dogma cast in stone.

For me, my kamae or kihon dosa is the one which gives me the most stable platform to launch an attack or counter-attack. Only I know what is good for me.

I think this trying to make kihon dosa this way or that way is a bit micro-managing things. Rather than say that your hands must be 13.1356" above your waist and your legs must be 89.1165 degrees and 12.5758" apart etc bla bla bla... just ask the student, are you stable?

From my experience with my Sensei, if someone tries to be funny and gives him resistant (moi included) he just simply change the technique and Wham!, Uke still gets planted on the mat (moi included). And BTW, he doesn't even hold kamae anymore... he just ask us yudansha to come and punch him anyway we like. To me, these ability to move freely and achieve instantaneous victory is more desirable than striving for a perfect kamae/kihon dosa etc.

Boon.

SHOMEN-ATE (TM), the solution to 90% of aikido and life's problems.
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Old 05-31-2007, 09:24 PM   #7
Roman Kremianski
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Quote:
1) Let it go.. go with the flow. If he bumps you, take it as an opportunity to practice Ukemi and subsequently tell him how great his atemi errr I mean bump was and laugh it out. Aikido practice is just that practice... don't let ego come into play, your or his.

or just simply....

2) Challenge him to a GONG-SAU aka RAN-DORI, JIYU-WAZA, KUMITE or simply DOJO-BRAWL. Last man standing wins. Simple.
Agreed with 1)
Just go with the flow. If he really wants to "bump", strap on a pair of gloves and see him in the ring. Otherwise just keep practicing.
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Old 05-31-2007, 09:35 PM   #8
DonMagee
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

I actually know exactly how you feel. When I first started aikido, I would get shut down by the higher belts. Everything would not work. Then would then give me advice, usually in a meaningless way (to a begininer) such as extend more, or relax more, or look at the wall, move with your center, etc. I would try my best to do what they asked, and it would work. One day, I had just come from judo, and was very tired and really annoyed for no real reason (probably lack of suger). I should of went home, but instead I got on the mat. I was very absent minded about my techniques, and not really listening to input. One senior student would grab my hand, I would try to move and he would shut me down. He would then give me instructions (which I was ignoring and just really wondering how much longer I had to be there) and I would do the exact same thing I just did, only he would exagerate a nice fall and say "That was much better!".

I realized this after I got home. For the next few months (this is before I stopped aikido to focus on judo) I would "test" this senior rank by never taking his advice. Every single time he would stop me, tell me I'm not doing X, I would do it the exact way I did before, and he would fall and tell me how much better I just got. It really didn't matter what I did the second time, he just wanted to think he was teaching me. I also think in his mind he was "building me up".

It was an extremely frustrating time for me. However now that I only train aikido 1 to 2 times a month, he usually does not give me advice. I have a lot more fun training there now.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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Old 05-31-2007, 09:42 PM   #9
kironin
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Quote:
Jonathan Hay wrote:
What was further curious to me was that his form wasn't like the form of tai-no-henka performed by the shihan teaching the seminar -- the form I was trying to emulate.
A cardinal sin in martial arts :

Playing teacher when it's not your time to be teacher instead of being a student.

Shoshin.

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Old 05-31-2007, 10:32 PM   #10
Dan Rubin
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Quote:
Jonathan Hay wrote: View Post
(shihan excepted, of course).
Why "shihan excepted" but not "5th or 6th dan" excepted?
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Old 05-31-2007, 10:48 PM   #11
Edward
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Sometimes one is not in a mood for such friendly advice, but I usually try to accept the criticism with an open mind. At least it teaches me what not to do....
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Old 05-31-2007, 11:38 PM   #12
Upyu
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Quote:
Jonathan Hay wrote: View Post
<snip> my technique he/she better be up to the same challenge from me (shihan excepted, of course).

Notice served.
Why Shihan excepted??
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Old 06-01-2007, 01:31 AM   #13
PeterR
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Quote:
Jonathan Hay wrote: View Post
No more Mr. Nice Guy. If another aikidoka (senior or otherwise) tries to challenge my technique he/she better be up to the same challenge from me (shihan excepted, of course).

Notice served.
Laughs.

It's one of the things I dislike about large seminars - there is always someone who wants to show you their superior understanding so badly that what the Shihan (ie the person you actually paid to see) does is irrelevant. The good news is that partners change frequently enough so it really doesn't matter.

One would think that Shihan have enough teaching experience to not put themselves in such a silly position but at least here he is doing, by definition, exactly what he was demonstrating (just badly).

In both cases, being the wonderfully polite young man that I am, I would just bite my tongue. However, in the Shihan's case he would loose future custom.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 06-01-2007, 02:48 AM   #14
antonis paps
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

"shihan excepted, of course"

why?

Τὰ πάντα ῥεῖ , What Flows, Is.
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Old 06-01-2007, 04:34 AM   #15
Dazzler
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Apart from doing the bump...did you ask him what he was trying to show you?

In these situations - I'll listen. If the answers good I'll say thank you.

If its not I'll say thank you.

Then move on....

Its not important.

Regards

D
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Old 06-01-2007, 06:43 AM   #16
SeiserL
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Yep, a point I have been trying to make for years, IMHO just because you can get rank and throw people around, doesn't mean you have your ego in check. We all have met a few. I just try hard not to be one, yet know I probably sometimes am.

OTOH, learn from it, what not to do. Just because there is one jerk in (even leading) the seminar, doesn't mean there has to be two. Don't let him take your center and lead you long after the seminar is over.

Yet, I seldom get accused of being a "nice guy".

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 06-01-2007, 07:21 AM   #17
gdandscompserv
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Quote:
Jonathan Hay wrote: View Post
after I had performed the pivot he would bump me off balance with his hip. I have done this to beginners in aikido to demonstrate that they are too close to uke after their pivot, but no matter the distance I put between me and this higher-ranked aikidoka he continued to bump me off balance. Finally, in the course of demonstrating to me what was "wrong" with my technique, he had me grab him. Of course, I could bump him off balance too, which, out of respect, I did gently. When he realized that I could do to him as he had done to me, he then began to lead me forward out of the tai-no-henka position (and out of position to bump him).
Old age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill.

Anyway, I was thinking...should we be able to "bump" each other off balance after performing the pivot? I think I'll explore that in class this week. I want to become UN-BUMPABLE baby!
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Old 06-01-2007, 08:04 AM   #18
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

What is it that we are training for? I look at these things as test of my own ability to stay calm and non-reactive. That fact that the other guy is a butt head is simply not my problem. What's the upset here? This guy has some ego issues going on and he's running them on you... It's not your problem until you buy into them. Now you have ego issues going on. You've allowed someone to push your buttons and get you pissed off.

How will you approach the same issues in your life? If your partner in your relationship has a bad day and pushes some of your buttons, will you push back? Most folks do of course so it's no big failure... but then most folks end up divorced as well.

What do you do when it's a co-worker? Get into a pissing match? Management will notice of course... What happens when that guy gets promoted and now he's your boss?

I did some training years ago for some serious juvenile delinquents. These kids were on their last chance before big time adult jail. One of the things I said to them was that Aikido is about freedom. How can you live non-reactively, control your own life... Some of these kids went through life totally reactively. Someone "disses" them and they feel that they have to shoot them in response. I pointed out to them that living this way, you aren't free; you are letting everyone else determine your actions.

I think the first step in ones training is to start acting better than the other guy. That takes some work since it's a lot easier to give in to those impulses when you get disrespected. Later you can shoot for getting to the point at which you don't even get mad. That's harder. Ultimately, why not try for the state at which you don't even notice that the guy is being a butt (that's the real hard one and not many get there)?

On these "pecking order" issues, I always remember Funakoshi's statement that "if it's not important enough to die over, you shouldn't be fighting". All this pushing and pushing back etc is just incipient fighting. Might as well practice letting it be beneath your notice.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 06-01-2007, 08:07 AM   #19
Mark Uttech
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

The Buddha handled this by saying, "If someone hands you some filth on a silver tray, and you do not accept it, who has it? It is left to the one trying to hand it to you."

In gassho,

Mark
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Old 06-01-2007, 08:54 AM   #20
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Quote:
Ricky Wood wrote: View Post
Old age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill.

Anyway, I was thinking...should we be able to "bump" each other off balance after performing the pivot? I think I'll explore that in class this week. I want to become UN-BUMPABLE baby!
tai sabaki

Τὰ πάντα ῥεῖ , What Flows, Is.
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Old 06-01-2007, 11:06 AM   #21
jonreading
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

My dad says, "if you learn from mistakes, even an idiot can teach you something." It's a shame conduct is not better in seminars, but at least the guy was trying to help you. I have also seen yudansha injure students trying to to correct their aikido. If I pay money to attend a seminar, it's because I feel the seminar instructor is worth the money. I don't like my seminar time dominated by someone else trying to peddle their aikido. I look for a partner who can help me figure out what the instructor demonstrates. As a partner, I view my job is to help my partner figure out what the instructor demonstrates.

Sometimes we get stuck with people who do not view training the same way and we are trapped for minutes of our life. Be polite, thank him (or her) for his (or her) assistance and find someone else with whom to train. If everyone reacted to poor partners in this manner, bad uke would become sore spots on the mat that could be identified from miles away - they would not have a partner with whom to train.
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Old 06-01-2007, 12:19 PM   #22
Jonathan
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

I understand the "ignore the jerk" attitude. I've practiced it many times over the twenty years I've been doing aikido. I just got a little fed up, y'know? The instance I wrote about was one in a recent series of such events. I'll have visiting aikidoka at my dojo who will try to instruct my students and even myself about the "right" way to do aikido. I've tried to be open and take these times as opportunities to investigate other kinds of aikido, but I'm feeling a little saturated with people trying to impose their version of aikido on me.

I think my problem is that I'm way too diplomatic, way too accommodating in dealing with these people. George L.'s advice to "start acting better than the other guy" is something I've always done -- especially with obnoxious higher-ranked aikidoka -- but doing so, it seems, often only encourages their obnoxiousness. I'm thinking now that, with certain individuals, giving as good as I'm getting is more appropriate than turning the other cheek.

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 06-01-2007, 02:20 PM   #23
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Quote:
Jonathan Hay wrote: View Post
Notice served.
I like you post. LOL
Aikido practice in good spirit must be well balanced. Doesn't matter you practice with 6th dan or 6 kyu. I other words, if someone shut down your technique, you must do exactly the same to him, not more, not less. It is not you problem if he can handle your response or not.

When I was young and beatiful, I learned that way many most important things. It is very natural for un aikidoka to be able to reestablish good balance. O sensei did it many times, shihans also -- even if was perceived as contrary to aikido "philosophy"

In the other hand, if aikido should lead you to create the rightest response spontanously, I'm a bit surprised after 20 years you have some doubts how to react in such simple situation.

Nagababa

ask for divine protection Ame no Murakumo Kuki Samuhara no Ryuo
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Old 06-01-2007, 03:33 PM   #24
aikidoc
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

sounds to me like his ukemi is not good. If it was, he would help lead you as a junior student into the appropriate position rather than knock you over. If you could do it to him, I'd reciprocate since he set the standard. I don't allow my students to stop someone unless they are demonstrating a really poor posture habit. It's easy to stop someone if you know how they are going to move.
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Old 06-01-2007, 03:37 PM   #25
James Davis
 
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Re: No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Maybe you could post rules on the dojo wall, including a rule that there is only one instructor at a time.

Aw, crap. There I go trying to tell you how to run your dojo!

"The only difference between Congress and drunken sailors is that drunken sailors spend their own money." -Tom Feeney, representative from Florida
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