Welcome to AikiWeb Aikido Information
AikiWeb: The Source for Aikido Information
AikiWeb's principal purpose is to serve the Internet community as a repository and dissemination point for aikido information.

Sections
home
aikido articles
columns

Discussions
forums
aikiblogs

Databases
dojo search
seminars
image gallery
supplies
links directory

Reviews
book reviews
video reviews
dvd reviews
equip. reviews

News
submit
archive

Miscellaneous
newsletter
rss feeds
polls
about

Follow us on



Home > AikiWeb Aikido Forums
Go Back   AikiWeb Aikido Forums > Teaching

Hello and thank you for visiting AikiWeb, the world's most active online Aikido community! This site is home to over 22,000 aikido practitioners from around the world and covers a wide range of aikido topics including techniques, philosophy, history, humor, beginner issues, the marketplace, and more.

If you wish to join in the discussions or use the other advanced features available, you will need to register first. Registration is absolutely free and takes only a few minutes to complete so sign up today!

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old 09-24-2007, 01:21 PM   #1
mriehle
 
mriehle's Avatar
Dojo: New School Aikido
Location: Stockton, CA
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 320
United_States
Offline
A tale of two shihans

This may be misplaced, but it's all Karen Wolek's fault:

I tried to use this comparison to illustrate a point about teachers and physical limitations, but I couldn't articulate it in a way that really did that. Still, the contrast between these two shihans (whose names will not be used) has a couple of lessons in it for those of use who teach. Maybe for some who are just training.

So:

Shihan #1 is highly respected and broadly known in the Aikido world. I personally know several Aikidoka for whom I have the highest respect who train with him. I can honestly say I've learned something worthwhile every time I've been on the mat with him even though he and I have, um, personal issues.

But in recent years he has increasingly become a bully on the mat. He's always (AFAIK) been harsh and demanding with his students, but he's crossed the line into downright mean the last couple of times I've trained with him. The last time I trained with him will likely be the last time I train with him. He injured me due to his viciousness and no matter how much I can learn from him, I can't risk further injury of that kind.

So, when I was younger this would be a decision based in anger. And I would be saying some fairly nasty things about this guy. But the truth - which I can see much better now - is that he has been in chronic, excruciating pain the last couple of times I've been on the mat with him and I get the sense that this has become a part of his normal, everyday life. It doesn't change my need to protect myself, but it makes me a lot less inclined to blame him. Especially since I've been in pain like that on the mat when I've been teaching and I tried painkillers to help with the situation.

I have a considerable list of medications that doctors are likely to prescribe for me that I will not take when teaching ever again. Ever. Really. If he feels the same way, his only option is to deal with the pain. That combined with the personal issues (partly my fault, partly his, mostly circumstantial in ways neither of us could or should control) makes him a danger to me in a way that he might not be to another student.

Shihan #2 - At least as harsh and demanding. Never a bully. That being said, one of the surest signs he likes you is that he'll berate you mercilessly over the tiniest of mistakes. I've personally been publicly embarrassed in a pretty unforgiving way for stupid - if not always major - screwups ten minutes after being praised for showing an impressive grasp of something else entirely. If you are expecting a nice guy, better move down the freeway to another dojo I've been in once or twice before deciding I wasn't learning anything.

(One of the best nights on the mat with him was when he actually smiled because of something I was doing with a technique. Of course, I screwed up big time the next time because I was top-heavy from the inflated ego...)

One thing about this shihan is that he is very traditional in his training regimen, although he's quick to incorporate things he's learned from Kendo and other arts. But more importantly, he's not in constant pain.

Clearly, I can learn from this guy. Training with him is very physical, very demanding, very rewarding.

Okay, so you'd probably guess from all this that Shihan #2 is either a lot younger or takes better care of himself that Shihan #1. I'd say that Shihan #2 is younger, but I'm not convinced he takes better care of himself. The last I knew, both of them smoked, drank too much coffee and were reputed to drink alcohol at least moderately when it suited them (although, I have reason to believe that they've both given up alcohol entirely in recent years and I've never actually seen either of them with a drink in their hands). I think the deciding factor is genetics, really.

Some might be inclined to believe I have nothing to learn from Shihan #1 while I have lots to learn from Shihan #2. They'd be wrong. There's lots I could learn from both of them. I'd be best off if I could train with them both as well as my regular teacher and a couple of other people who I respect highly as teachers. But Shihan #1 is just too much of a personal risk to me. I suspect he's going to get worse.

I hope he realizes how he's getting before he hurts someone. But I think that will require one of his students whose judgment he trusts confronting him on the subject. I know if I were in that position I'd be reluctant to be the one to do it. This is especially true since I believe that his motivation is fundamentally to be a good teacher, to demand the best from his students. He does not intend - IMO - to be a bully any more than Shihan #2 does.

And, FWIW: One of the reasons I find this contrast instructive is that I've realized I probably have more in common - in terms of personality - with Shihan #1 than Shihan #2. I'd like to think otherwise, but it's just not true.

  Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2007, 02:27 PM   #2
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
Location: Phila. Pa
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 4,614
United_States
Offline
Re: A tale of two shihans

If nothing else, that seems to be a very honest post, and it deals with important issues in what is basically a compliant art. Kudo's for posting it.

It does bring up an interesting side note for me personally. How do we deal with chronic pain especially as we get older and yet continue to slug it out in keiko on the mat?

What do we do with young'uns who get uppity in the midst of that pain? Get snarky right back? Step back, breathe, and let it go? Smile, and know they will get to the same place if they survive?

I'm trying to think of a good story to tell without embarrasing myself or anyone else...but I'm coming up short.

An interesting problem. Appreciate your honesty.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
  Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2007, 02:35 PM   #3
Marc Abrams
Dojo: Aikido Arts of Shin Budo Kai/ Bedford Hills, New York
Location: New York
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 1,302
United_States
Offline
Re: A tale of two shihans

Frankly speaking, I would not train with either one of those individuals. Training can be severe, yet it should be a positive learning atmosphere. If Aikido is about relaxing and connecting better with the uke, then I fail to see how berating a person helps towards that end. A teacher can just as easily be all over you like white on rice in a totally positive manner so that each time you move correctly, you are positively reinforced. As far as hurting students, I have commented on that before. That is typically abuse from an insecure person with an over-sized ego. You might want to ask yourself why it is that shihans in hard arts do not injure their students with the same frequency that is observed in the Aikido world? If I felt that a teacher intentionally inflicted an injury on me, I would simply leave and never come back.

Just because a person has a rank, does not make him/her a good teacher, nice person, role-model, etc.. Ushiro Sensei phrased it best when he said it is better to spend three years looking for a good teacher, rather than spend three years training with a bad teacher.

Good luck!

Marc Abrams
  Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2007, 03:53 PM   #4
James Davis
 
James Davis's Avatar
Dojo: Ft. Myers School of Aikido
Location: Ft. Myers, FL.
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 716
United_States
Offline
Re: A tale of two shihans

Quote:
Michael Riehle wrote: View Post
So, when I was younger this would be a decision based in anger. And I would be saying some fairly nasty things about this guy. But the truth - which I can see much better now - is that he has been in chronic, excruciating pain the last couple of times I've been on the mat with him and I get the sense that this has become a part of his normal, everyday life. It doesn't change my need to protect myself, but it makes me a lot less inclined to blame him. Especially since I've been in pain like that on the mat when I've been teaching and I tried painkillers to help with the situation.

I have a considerable list of medications that doctors are likely to prescribe for me that I will not take when teaching ever again. Ever. Really. If he feels the same way, his only option is to deal with the pain.
It's good that you're aware of the potential problems that the meds can cause, and that you're making moves to protect your students. When I injured my knee, I was prescribed a mild anti-inflammatory pain med. Not only did my knee hurt, but every time I picked up that stick to get around I was reminded of the possibility of not being able to train any more. It bothered me a great deal, as I believe aikido to be one of the best things going on in my life, and I'm finally able to teach and pass it on. I was sad, frustrated, and pretty angry; In fact I was too sad, frustrated and angry. I hadn't been bothered by anything that much since I was a teenager! I was scaring my co-workers with the dark attitude that I had. I re-read the label on my bottle of medicine, and found that depression was listed among the side-effects. After getting the hell off that stuff, I calmed down about my predicament and was much, much happier. Luckily, I wasn't teaching at the time.

"The only difference between Congress and drunken sailors is that drunken sailors spend their own money." -Tom Feeney, representative from Florida
  Reply With Quote
Old 09-24-2007, 04:54 PM   #5
aikidoc
Dojo: Aikido of Midland
Location: Midland Texas
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 1,652
United_States
Offline
Re: A tale of two shihans

Interesting post. Abuse or injuring someone to me shows a person out of control or who lacks focus or zanshin about their technique. It is irresponsible behavior and only teaches the injured person to fear the instructor. I for one find it difficult to learn anything when my mind is constantly focused on self protection and preservation. I echo Marc's comment. I would not train with either of them.

#1 sounds dangerous and may end up seriously hurting someone. Having issues with him should definitely concern you since he may be subconsciously punishing you IMHO
  Reply With Quote
Old 09-25-2007, 06:54 AM   #6
MM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 1,996
United_States
Offline
Re: A tale of two shihans

Quote:
Ron Tisdale wrote: View Post
If nothing else, that seems to be a very honest post, and it deals with important issues in what is basically a compliant art. Kudo's for posting it.

It does bring up an interesting side note for me personally. How do we deal with chronic pain especially as we get older and yet continue to slug it out in keiko on the mat?

What do we do with young'uns who get uppity in the midst of that pain? Get snarky right back? Step back, breathe, and let it go? Smile, and know they will get to the same place if they survive?

I'm trying to think of a good story to tell without embarrasing myself or anyone else...but I'm coming up short.

An interesting problem. Appreciate your honesty.

Best,
Ron
Hmmm ... well, for all those young people full of vim and vinegar, there's judo and UFC and Pride, etc, etc, etc. Why should we expect young people who are full of energy to fall in line with how we, older students, train? It isn't the same world.

I think that having them expend that energy in another venue while also training aikido is fine. You're only young once. Enjoy it to its fullest. If they're still uppity in aikido, find another uppity youngster to pair with them. Safety first, but let them go at it.

And if there isn't another partner, I always slow things waaaaay down. It's hard to get uppity and snarky when you're moving like a snail. Plus, if you change partners, they typically won't come back to you. You're going too slow. LOL.

Sorry for the off topic-ness to an otherwise excellent post,
Mark
  Reply With Quote
Old 09-25-2007, 09:32 AM   #7
Will Prusner
 
Will Prusner's Avatar
Dojo: AikiSpirit Dojo
Location: Coral Gables, Florida
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 196
United_States
Offline
Re: A tale of two shihans

Barring the genetic defect possibility...

The fact that somebody is in constant pain might be an indication as to the possible end result of their training methods. I would have to consider this before deciding to take their path. I don't see the point in destroying oneself physically, under the guise of training. What is the ultimate goal, what is the training and preparedness for, if you will be so damaged from the training that you won't be able to effectively implement it when it counts?

I also feel that training (or, for teachers, teaching) while in constant pain is irresponsible. I am currently benched while I recover from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus (recovering nicely, BTW). This was a condition pre-existing to my beginning training in Aikido, so, the entire time I have been training, I have experienced varying degrees of constant pain. I never acted like a jerk, or took my frustration out on any of my training partners. The only time I didn't suck it up and show up to train, was when I realized that the pain was so great, that I would be more focused on MY pain, than I would on the techniques or the safety of other's on the mat. Putting other's at risk because I don't like the fact that i'm injured is irresponsible and selfish. It's also egotistical, and from everything I have been taught, read, and experienced first hand, the more concerned we are with ourselves, the more we will be aware of the separation between us and our partners. The more we acknowledge the separation between ourselves and our partner's energies, the more difficult it will be to blend with those energies, leading to our ability with Aikido suffering grievously.

I believe that my capacity for blending with someone else is inversely proportional to the size of my ego on any given day. The more humility I can possess, the better my Aikido becomes.

Thanks,

W.


I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration...

ART! - http://birdsbeaks.blogspot.com/
  Reply With Quote
Old 09-25-2007, 11:52 AM   #8
Marie Noelle Fequiere
 
Marie Noelle Fequiere's Avatar
Dojo: Ikashi Dojo, Port au Prince
Location: Port au Prince
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 283
Haiti
Offline
Re: A tale of two shihans

While one can sympathize with Shihan #1, you need to think of your physical safety. One of these days, he will have to face the fact that something is seriously wrong with his teaching, but you do not need to contribute with a broken arm for it to happen.
Now, Shihan #2 seems to be a very good teacher, but his attitude is a just as serious problem. Some people are "thick skin" enough to take this kind of psychological abuse, other are not. Nobody can decide for you what you can take, and what you cannot.
Come one, there has to be some other talented, and more balanced instructors out there.
Why don't you go take a look?
  Reply With Quote
Old 09-25-2007, 01:36 PM   #9
mriehle
 
mriehle's Avatar
Dojo: New School Aikido
Location: Stockton, CA
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 320
United_States
Offline
Re: A tale of two shihans

Right, so several responses here have convinced me that I've misrepresented Shihan #2 considerably. Maybe I just didn't emphasize the lack of meanness in his approach.

Here's the thing: when he upbraids a student, that student knows full well he deserves it. By the same token, when he praises a student, the student knows full well he deserves it. This Shihan is pretty sparse with both.

Honestly, most of his criticisms are the simple, "try it this way" kind of thing. What he does do is that he has high expectations of certain students. I couldn't even begin to guess what he bases that on.

What I know is that for a short while I was on "the list". Being on that list means you get a little extra attention (a Good Thing) but it also means you get called out for things someone else might not be (a Bad Thing?).

Every time he yelled at me, I deserved it and I knew it. That didn't make me any happier about it, but I couldn't complain with any real justification.

He's not the first or the last teacher to do this to me. I suppose it's a point of pride on some level. At the same time, sometimes it'd be nice to be able to keep a low profile.

To some extent, as well, I think I need the kind of teacher that Shihan #2 is. It's far too easy for me to get lazy, especially when I have a talent for something. He's a very demanding teacher, he expects the best from all his students and the ones he "picks on" (for lack of a better term) tend to get good very fast. Faster than they would without him being this demanding.

I guess, to some extent, I just like the guy.

I should also point out that neither of these guys is my regular teacher at this point. I mostly train, these days, with John Smartt in Stockton New School Aikido. Come to that, I don't train nearly enough, mostly I teach in Rio Vista.

Last edited by mriehle : 09-25-2007 at 01:45 PM. Reason: Forgot one point. And one more.

  Reply With Quote

Please visit our sponsor:

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!



Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
How many Shihans? Aran Bright General 10 04-23-2007 04:59 AM
Heir apparents to shihans Rod Yabut General 21 01-29-2007 10:46 AM
Yoshinobu Takeda Shihan's 8th Dan Celebration AikiWeb System AikiWeb System 1 04-05-2006 12:55 AM
Non-Japanese Shihans? Bronson General 44 01-26-2005 01:00 PM
New York Shihans Jan Versoza Anonymous 0 01-23-2002 02:32 PM


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 02:28 PM.



vBulletin Copyright © 2000-2014 Jelsoft Enterprises Limited
----------
Copyright 1997-2014 AikiWeb and its Authors, All Rights Reserved.
----------
For questions and comments about this website:
Send E-mail
plainlaid-picaresque outchasing-protistan explicantia-altarage seaford-stellionate