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Old 12-23-2008, 04:59 AM   #1
avi-rosenberg
Dojo: Aikikai Rehovot
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A teaching mistake

Hello all
I would like to hear some feedback that has to do with a teaching mistake of sorts.
Our teacher has gone abroad for a month and left the senior students to manage the practices in his absence. On one occasion, when I was managing the practice, I tried to show a particularly advanced technique towards the end of the practice. I performed the technique quickly and unexpectedly and my uke did not understand what I wanted to do. Then instead of maybe doing the technique very very slowly while broadcasting my intentions, we more or less fumbled around a couple of times and then I stopped and decided we should do something else.
I once saw something similar occur with a senior instructor and he insisted on switching uke's until he came across someone who knew how to "cooperate".
What do people think would be the best way to continue when something like that happens.
Thanks,
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Old 12-23-2008, 07:18 AM   #2
Nick P.
 
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Re: a teaching mistake

Fantastic question, and one I think most of us who teach have encountered at least a few times.

The best way to handle it, or the way I would handle it?

I have done exactly as you have done.
Also, I have begun to explain WHAT the technique should be like as I am messing it up/unable to execute it before moving to another technique, and am quite clear that the technique does work, just that I am unable to, which I believe is an important difference.

As for switching ukes until finding one who can follow the technique, there is merit in that argument; clearly the teacher wants the students to see it fully executed, and that is worth pursuing....as long as it is not ego-based.

YMMV.

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Old 12-23-2008, 08:07 AM   #3
Dieter Haffner
 
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Re: a teaching mistake

I think you should have stopped doing the technique.
You probably choose one of the best uke that were available.
And even one of the best did not know how to act as uke.

Now, if you would have taken another uke that could take what was coming, changes were that noone would be able to perform the technique.
Because there are no ukes that know how to handle it.

I believe you should first have taught the uke way of the technique.
And when you see that everyone is getting familiar with what needs to be done, then you can try to do the technique again.

And better find a way to learn the ukemi without the need to go back to the technique.

Hope this rambling made some sense.
In short: if something is not working, analyze the different parts peise by peise, then put everything back together.

My 0.02 euro.
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Old 12-23-2008, 08:54 AM   #4
John Matsushima
 
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Re: a teaching mistake

The mistake was that you didn't know what you were doing. You should have practiced the technique before doing it, or you should have done something that you know how to do well.
If you blame the uke for not knowing how to cooperate or switch ukes, then what about the student who gets stuck with that person for practice? If you can't do it, then how can you expect others to?

-John Matsushima

My blog on Japanese culture
http://onecorneroftheplanetinjapan.blogspot.jp/
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Old 12-23-2008, 09:07 AM   #5
Nick P.
 
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Re: a teaching mistake

Trying a technique should be encouraged, in my opinion, whether as the teacher or the student, even if you know you cant do it properly; how else are you ever going get better at it?

Not all the time, of course, but from time to time, why not? If all one ever does is what they know perfectly (or perfectly enough) how will they ever improve?

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Old 12-23-2008, 10:12 AM   #6
Amir Krause
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Re: a teaching mistake

Quote:
Avi Rosenberg wrote: View Post
Hello all
I would like to hear some feedback that has to do with a teaching mistake of sorts.
Our teacher has gone abroad for a month and left the senior students to manage the practices in his absence. On one occasion, when I was managing the practice, I tried to show a particularly advanced technique towards the end of the practice. I performed the technique quickly and unexpectedly and my uke did not understand what I wanted to do. Then instead of maybe doing the technique very very slowly while broadcasting my intentions, we more or less fumbled around a couple of times and then I stopped and decided we should do something else.
I once saw something similar occur with a senior instructor and he insisted on switching uke's until he came across someone who knew how to "cooperate".
What do people think would be the best way to continue when something like that happens.
Thanks,
I prefer the simplest solution, saying "OOPS, forget it, I made a mistake. Lets do something else." and returning to teach something much more basic. In this, I follow my teacher, who does not hesitate to act this way even though he is senior.

Another advice my sensei insists on is one should not teach anything he does not control at a relativly good level (one can always improve...).
Experimenting is good, and is encouraged, but you should not experiment while teaching, that goes against your obligation to your students. Unless, of course, you are instructing them to experiment and try to show them some directions (in that cas, you must be willing to admit mistakes and electing an unfavourable solution).

BR
Amir

P.S.
Send my regards to Zeev
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Old 12-23-2008, 10:49 AM   #7
Ron Tisdale
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Re: a teaching mistake

Interesting topic.

Completely aside, and not casting any aspersions on any method of handling the situation...I remember reading how Sogaku Takeda and even Ueshiba senior would pick the hardest man in the dojo to throw. And simply throw them.

Then simply teach around what just happened.

Best,
Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 12-23-2008, 12:27 PM   #8
Jonathan
Dojo: North Winnipeg Aikikai
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Re: a teaching mistake

I avoid teaching what I don't understand. This means that I don't demonstrate techniques with which I am unfamiliar in front of my class. What would be the point - except to show that I am out of my depth? If I cannot move uke through the technique as I wish, then I don't understand the technique well enough to attempt to teach it to others.

Occasionally, I will flub a familiar technique when I'm demonstrating to my class. I'm usually distracted by something, or tired, and don't focus properly on what I'm doing. In any case, when I do screw up the performance of a technique I simply smile and say, "That's how not to do the technique!" or "I must keep practicing, too!" Mistakes are common in training - even necessary. Consequently, I don't want to create an atmosphere in training, by reacting strongly to my own mistakes, where the prospect of making a mistake is feared by my students and becomes inhibiting to them.

And on a side note: Merry Christmas to all!

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 12-23-2008, 03:02 PM   #9
Joe McParland
 
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Re: a teaching mistake

To say that the technique failed is to say that what you wanted to happen did not happen. Analysis afterward can point to yourself, your uke, or any other circumstances, but the ultimate cause was that your expectation was not met. Aikido could have still happened, but you got stuck.

Actively teach that things go awry---embrace it! Show that when this doesn't work, then we have that. If I lose this, I still have that. Etc.

I think it's a much more productive mental angle to teach students earlier not to get stuck than it is to perfect a form. I suspect it saves trouble later

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Old 12-23-2008, 04:29 PM   #10
Russ Q
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Re: a teaching mistake

Hi Avi,

Sounds like you bit off more than you could chew....kinda....I think you did the right thing by stopping practise and redirecting the other students focus to a different technique. You were, maybe, too far down the road to turn back and re explain what you were trying to do (dojo energetics from the instructors POV are very interesting eh?). Next time break down the "advanced" techinque into principles that can be easily understood and shown to your classmates. Put them together in a logical way over the time of the class as drills or smaller pieces of the larger technique and save the advanced technique (where these principles or pieces of technique come together) for later in class.

On the bright side you'll never make this same mistake again:-)

Sincerely,

Russ
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Old 12-23-2008, 11:19 PM   #11
gdandscompserv
 
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Re: a teaching mistake

Quote:
Avi Rosenberg wrote: View Post
I tried to show a particularly advanced technique
I would simply avoid "particularly advanced techniques."
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Old 12-24-2008, 12:47 AM   #12
Rocky Izumi
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Re: a teaching mistake

The only way to REALLY learn something is to make mistakes. By trying to make sure you never make a mistake, you ensure that you stop learning. Just make sure you correct it for the next time. Figure out what you did wrong, then try something else. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a good definition of insanity.

Enjoy everything you do. Enjoy making mistakes because it means that you are trying to learn. I like to make sure that when I am demonstrating a technique, I make sure that my uke is the person least likely to cooperate or least able to cooperate. That way, I get my practice and learning in while demonstrating so that the demonstration serves more than the single purpose. That way, I have a lot more fun when teaching. I just have to make sure that I don't spend too much time playing around when doing the demonstrations and make the students sit and watch too long instead of practicing.

Rock
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Old 12-24-2008, 01:05 AM   #13
Nafis Zahir
 
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Re: a teaching mistake

You should leave the teaching of advanced techniques to those who are advanced. There are plenty of basic techniques that need to be worked on. Whenever you do teach an advanced technique, it should be advanced for the students and not for you.

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Old 12-24-2008, 05:10 AM   #14
Stefan Stenudd
 
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Re: a teaching mistake

Things like that happen, and not just with advanced techniques. No big deal.
I would remain with that uke and try to solve it, even if it takes time, because that process is also very interesting for the students to watch and learn from.

You can do it slower, and even guide uke to the response you wish for. It doesn't have to work perfectly the first time (or any other time, for that matter). It is very interesting to involve in the process toward perfection.

And I do believe that every teacher needs to explore her or his limitations, even when it means making mistakes in front of the students. As long as nobody gets hurt.

Stefan Stenudd
My aikido website: http://www.stenudd.com/aikido/
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Old 12-24-2008, 06:23 AM   #15
Flintstone
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Re: a teaching mistake

I'm sure I'm reading all of this thread wrong, but does it seems to me that you are blaming uke for not reacting as "they should"? I believe uke's always right, and that it's tori's who is always wrong.
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Old 12-24-2008, 09:53 AM   #16
David Maidment
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Re: a teaching mistake

Quote:
Alejandro Villanueva wrote: View Post
I believe uke's always right, and that it's tori's who is always wrong.
The problem with ukes is that, if they're expecting something and trying to figure out what you want them to do as you're doing it, they'll act unnaturally and potentially mess things up. If someone came at you on the street and you tried the technique, it might well work flawlessly. The best uke is one who is not being an uke, if you get what I mean.
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Old 12-24-2008, 02:38 PM   #17
Michael Douglas
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Re: a teaching mistake

Quote:
Avi Rosenberg wrote: View Post
...On one occasion, when I was managing the practice, I tried to show a particularly advanced technique towards the end of the practice. I performed the technique quickly and unexpectedly and my uke did not understand what I wanted to do.
Showing off?
You were supposed to be "managing the practice".
I agree with the posters who have implied 'do something simpler you can do well'.

Quote:
David Maidment wrote: View Post
...The best uke is one who is not being an uke, if you get what I mean.
You don't usually get many of them in an Aikido dojo, and bear in mind for a lot of posters on this forum the 'best' uke is one who is absolutely being an uke. But I absolutely agree with you David.
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Old 12-25-2008, 01:53 PM   #18
Walter Martindale
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Re: a teaching mistake

You learn more from "Oops" than you do from "Wow". It's a bit rough trying to learn something on the fly when you're trying to teach it, but I run into that all the time.

I coach rowing (and train other rowing coaches) - ok, it's not Aikido, but the thing is, they're in a boat, I'm in another boat, and I can't touch them and guide them through the movement - I have to do it by suggesting exercises or changes in their movements, or occasionally through demonstration/simulation (I'm in a motor boat, they're in racing shells, a minimum of 4 meters away from me). There are a couple of reasons I can't touch them - first - in the boat, they're remote. Second, even when they're on the land on rowing machines, I still can't touch them (without permission, whether they're male or female) because I'm a single male in my 50s and they're usually teenagers or in their 20s. I have to have all kinds of different ways to verbally guide them through learning how to row effectively and efficiently without more contact than a handshake or a pat on the shoulder. (Parenthetically, try running an aikido class without touching any uke, by talking both uke and nage through their movements, and by demonstrating the movement nage should be trying to do, but without an uke.)

Coaching/teaching/training/guiding Aikido is different in that it's done with personal contact and feel, where you attempt to control uke's core/centre through positioning yourself and manipulation of their peripheral bits. I'm just now starting to recognise changes in uke/nage when in contact, and am starting to feel ways that my partners are messing up their techniques in a way that allows me to help them not mess up. When they start getting it, I usually end up on the floor more quickly, more cleanly, and asking "wasn't that easier?" or "That felt a lot more like when (sensei) threw me." oops - the dreaded sempai teaching...

Every person you try to teach/coach/train/guide into the "correct" movement is a different person and you don't share their nervous system, so you don't know at the outset how they'll react or learn. We all learn by trying, doing, repeating, and gradually gaining more sensitivity, smoothness, and ability to recognise the difference between what we're trying to do and what we've done - if you never make mistakes, your improvement is slower.

If you're trying to demonstrate something that you're not that familiar with, and if you've got an odd number of people in the dojo, you could borrow the singleton and pre-practice the movement you're thinking of demonstrating prior to interrupting the class, work out whether or not you understand it well enough to teach it, and then interrupt practice to do the demonstration. If you decide that you don't understand it well enough, wait until sensei returns, or work with some of the others who are at or slightly ahead of your level to see if you can sort out how to do it. If you decide to go ahead and try the technique, let the class know you're still working out how to do it. All that said - if you can't do or adapt the technique "on" someone who doesn't really know how they're supposed to move, you may not know the technique that well. I run into that myself quite frequently...

Better stop before a "quick reply" gets really long

Cheers,
Walter
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Old 12-27-2008, 04:19 PM   #19
avi-rosenberg
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Re: a teaching mistake

Thank you all for your responses. They have been very instructive and I think they have given me a wider perspective on how to approach this kind of situation.
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Old 12-27-2008, 10:43 PM   #20
sarahhair
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Re: a teaching mistake

I notice my sensei (almost all of them!) taking a student aside to practice the next technique before they do a formal demonstration. They do not do it all the time, but rather often, especially if they are trying to teach a particular movement throughout the class, they might try several techniques on an uke before deciding which to teach the whole class.

Once in front of the class, this ensures uke has some practice and sensei has made a decision.

It is also fun that the rest of us get a quick preview from the corner of the eye on what is coming next!

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Old 12-28-2008, 06:44 AM   #21
David Maidment
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Re: a teaching mistake

The sensei in our dojo do the same thing. It's always nice to be chosen as uke for the private practice and then public demonstration.

With some instructors, I've noticed that when they 'mess up' a demonstration, they'll tend to turn it into another technique, blame the uke but joke about how it was their [the instructor's] fault. It's a good approach, because it not only shows that things (for whatever reason) can go wrong, but also shows how those failures can be salvaged.
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Old 12-29-2008, 04:41 AM   #22
Stefan Hultberg
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Re: a teaching mistake

Hi, this happens to all of us and it can be a good thing. When a technique does not work, for whatever reason, it is an opening and an opportunity for learning. I really love it when sensei takes the time (and he often does) to explain in detail what makes a technique work and what makes a technique fail, even to the point of explaining what to do if & when a technique fails - "ok, now you're here, what do you do" kind of thing. Showing the technique on different uke's is very helpful, not necessarily in order to find an uke who "knows what to do", but to illustrate that people are different and an uke looking like schwipsenegger is not the same as one looking like Kate Moss.

Showing techniques that fail are not mistakes but a natural and necessary part of aikido teaching.

Big new year's mile to everybody

Stefan Hultberg
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Old 12-29-2008, 11:34 AM   #23
GeneC
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Re: a teaching mistake

I wonder if doing the technique with ken(s) in hand would reveal anything?

Only between a single breath is Yin/Yang in harmony
Emotion is pure energy flowing feely thru the body-Dan Millman
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Old 12-30-2008, 01:39 PM   #24
Shannon Frye
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Re: a teaching mistake

[quote=Amir Krause;221802]I prefer the simplest solution, saying "OOPS, forget it, I made a mistake. Lets do something else." and returning to teach something much more basic. In this, I follow my teacher, who does not hesitate to act this way even though he is senior.

Well said. And very good advice. I've done exactly that myself. It shows ME that I need to spend some time relearning that technique. And it shows STUDENTS that even a teacher should remember to be humble.

Shannon

"In the end there can be only one"

www.AikidoFellowship.com
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Old 12-30-2008, 07:27 PM   #25
GeneC
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Re: a teaching mistake

Quote:
Shannon Frye wrote: View Post
I prefer the simplest solution, saying "OOPS, forget it, I made a mistake. Lets do something else." and returning to teach something much more basic. In this, I follow my teacher, who does not hesitate to act this way even though he is senior.

Well said. And very good advice. I've done exactly that myself. It shows ME that I need to spend some time relearning that technique. And it shows STUDENTS that even a teacher should remember to be humble.

Shannon
So Shannon, if one does that...how does anyone learn anythng? What's the parable Christ said about casting seeds on rocks.....?

Last edited by akiy : 01-04-2009 at 07:06 PM.

Only between a single breath is Yin/Yang in harmony
Emotion is pure energy flowing feely thru the body-Dan Millman
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