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Old 10-21-2009, 07:21 PM   #1
DougAvery
Dojo: Aikido of Arlington
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Unhappy Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Hi all,

Just began training in Aikido, and feeling really disheartened. It's taking forever to learn the simplest things, and I seem to be testing the patience of everyone in the dojo when they get stuck with me as a partner. Worse, the feeling that I'm imposing constantly just makes remembering techniques and getting a 'relaxed movement' seem impossible - I'm acutely aware of how frustrating I am to work with, because my nervousness makes me screw up the same thing over and over. Going to class is starting to feel like going on a high-pressure job interview, so I know something needs to change.

I've worked (briefly) with a lot of techniques, but they still feel like ballroom dancing - my mental image of each one is "right foot here, left hand here, right hand here," etc...there's no flow or logic to it yet, and the more of them I try to learn, the more I mix them up.

I guess the big question is: How can I better understand and learn techniques? What are the common threads, the ideas I should be watching for when Sensei demonstrates? Any tips for beginning, remembering techniques, or failing gracefully would be greatly appreciated.

(Another constant question when in the dojo: "Which hand is my 'left'?" But I might need to figure that one out myself. )

Last edited by DougAvery : 10-21-2009 at 07:23 PM. Reason: Poor spellin'.
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Old 10-21-2009, 07:58 PM   #2
Voitokas
 
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Ha ha! Don't be too discouraged! It is really confusing at first, especially if you're coming to it totally new. Don't think of yourself as an imposition - it's their duty as elder students to help you and work with you, and the worse you are the more opportunity you are giving them to be virtuous sempai.

Some things to watch for are:
- how the teacher engages uke (feet pointing what direction, hips pointing what direction, what is Sensei touching, what does uke look like at the moment he or she is engaged by the teacher)
- the overall direction of the technique and in what spatial relation to the attack (straight through the attack but offset behind the attackers back? 20 degrees off the line of attack?)

maybe watch some youtube videos? give it a few weeks, anyway...

good luck!

I am not an expert
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Old 10-21-2009, 08:08 PM   #3
Adam Huss
 
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Once you pick up on some basic lingo, basic body movements, and ukemi to the point where you aren't sore, aikido gets to be really fun and addicting...and your frustrations will lessen significantly.

Ichi Go, Ichi Ei!
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Old 10-21-2009, 08:09 PM   #4
tim evans
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Quote:
Doug Avery wrote: View Post
Hi all,

Just began training in Aikido, and feeling really disheartened. It's taking forever to learn the simplest things, and I seem to be testing the patience of everyone in the dojo when they get stuck with me as a partner. Worse, the feeling that I'm imposing constantly just makes remembering techniques and getting a 'relaxed movement' seem impossible - I'm acutely aware of how frustrating I am to work with, because my nervousness makes me screw up the same thing over and over. Going to class is starting to feel like going on a high-pressure job interview, so I know something needs to change.

I've worked (briefly) with a lot of techniques, but they still feel like ballroom dancing - my mental image of each one is "right foot here, left hand here, right hand here," etc...there's no flow or logic to it yet, and the more of them I try to learn, the more I mix them up.

I guess the big question is: How can I better understand and learn techniques? What are the common threads, the ideas I should be watching for when Sensei demonstrates? Any tips for beginning, remembering techniques, or failing gracefully would be greatly appreciated.

(Another constant question when in the dojo: "Which hand is my 'left'?" But I might need to figure that one out myself. )
Doug,welcome to aikido you have your whole life to learn it everyone you partner up with at your dojo has been where you are at the beginning of there training so just shrug it off and keep pushing through it. I am no different I,m struggling now but heres a few things that helped me 1.If you have a computer get on you tube and check out aikido videos or if your USAF like I am purchase them then watch and try to mimick them as best you can you may not be perfect but it will put you in the ballpark all you will need is polishing up.2.breathe and relax the hardest two imho to master for a beginner I,M still struggling also take it slow 3.Try to be at the dojo everytime the doors open you will learn more and move up the learning curve faster and lastly on your rolls take it slow from kneeling level first just to get the mechanics Waite sensei has a excellent ukemi video that rocks but hang in there and here on aikiweb.you,ll get thruogh it,
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Old 10-21-2009, 09:19 PM   #5
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Doug, breathe. Deep breath in and slow exhale. The techniques will come eventually. Being frustrated just means you're learning, albeit slowly. Don't be in too much of a hurry. If your fellow students are getting frustrated with working with you that is their shortcoming. Working with newbies is good for everyone. It teaches us patience as well as how to teach or help a fellow student work through a technique. Just breathe.

Lyle Laizure
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Deru kugi wa uta reru
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Old 10-21-2009, 09:35 PM   #6
Linda Eskin
 
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Welcome to Aikido. ;-) You are experiencing the same sorts of things everyone experiences. Be patient with yourself. Your body can only learn these things just so quickly. (If you want endless detail on my experiences, which are very much like yours, check out my AikiBlog here. I don't know that it will help anything, but you might feel less alone. :-))

Linda Eskin - Facebook | My AikiBlog

"Heaven is right where you are standing, and that is the place to train." - Morihei Ueshiba
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Old 10-21-2009, 09:38 PM   #7
Abasan
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

For now don't try to 'get' everything.

If you've just started, then practising the kata movement is ideal. Do it lightly first. Also do a lot of tenkan undo solo practice and funakogi undo (rowing exercise). This will help you with gaining your center and coordination of your body. Just maintain good relaxed posture throughout.

Center, extension, relax and focused intention. That should be enough for now.

Beginning level is probably the most fun. All you need to do is learn to ukemi and learn the various kata. You don't have to do it 'right' yet.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 10-21-2009, 09:49 PM   #8
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Doug my first couple of months was pretty rough. I was always in pain after a class, for several days, and pretty much always very confused. My sensei always would say to me , "don't worry, Its your job to be confused". lol finally something I could do right!!

For me I found that if I would just look for one small thing that was positive for the class it helped. So at first it might have been that I was able to get there on time without having an anxiety attack because of the city traffic. Seriously just getting to the dojo was an effort. Letting strangers grab me and throw me around was not so easy.

Were my falls improving even a little bit. Was I able to relax just a little this time for at least a few minutes? Don't worry about getting whole techniques. Look for the small positives.

For the longest time my foot work was horrible. Its still not great but its better. I trained for months before it started to improve. Forget about rolling. back rolls caused major pain issues and front rolls were pretty awkward. Now they are maybe not perfect but I am having a great time getting tossed across the mat. The faster the better some nights.

Seeing Sensi demonstrate I tried to take in so much information I would up getting none. So I started focusing only one say the foot work of the technique. Now I am beginning to find ways to notice more details of the demo. the less worried I am about getting everything the more I seem to get.

I did often think I was holding my partners back or that they could not possibly enjoy working with me. Now I know better as I have gotten to know them better. They are enjoying seeing me learn and improve. I in turn am beginning to experience a bit of that as well with some beginners that recently came. Working with beginners is a great way to go back over basics and slow it down. Helping them to understand only deepens my own understanding.

After a while the dojo will not seem so strange, you will know your sempi enough to feel comfortable working with them. And things will start to fall into place. Don't try to force it just let it happen. All will come together in due time.

Ive only been doing this for 5 months now. Give it some time and enjoy the journey.
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Old 10-21-2009, 10:07 PM   #9
crbateman
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Doug, you're not there to measure up to anybody except yourself. Only you can set the bar too high. Only you can make yourself feel like you've failed somehow. Just relax... (it's a skill you'll find great use for down the road). Everybody you'll work with was a noob once, so take my advice and fahgeddabahdit.
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Old 10-22-2009, 02:58 AM   #10
Eva Antonia
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Hi Doug,
everyone has a different frustration curve.
Me, at the beginning, was thinking that I got it immediately and then shocked to see it didn't work at all when trying kote gaeshi at home with my boyfriend. It took about one year to understand the immensity of my ignorance. No fluidity, no footwork, wrong distance, slow reaction and no capacity to respond to anything unforeseen.

Then I got the impression that it became a bit better, I mastered the basic techniques so that I didn't always have to think "what will be my next movement" and could concentrate on how doing better some aspects of a specific technique.

And then I tore my cruciate ligament doing irimi nage with wrong movements, which made me again think about the vast room for capital errors that is still there. So now I'm helping with the kids classes or just watch, which allows to observe the errors of others but also to see them advancing and becoming better and better.

Patience is what is needed

Wish you good luck and much perseverance!

Eva
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Old 10-22-2009, 04:52 AM   #11
SeiserL
 
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

IMHO, learning to overcome some one else's body is good, learning to overcome your own is better, but learning to over come our mind and emotions is the true art.

I spent my first year going home and bashing the heavy bag.

Welcome to Aikido.

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 10-22-2009, 04:56 AM   #12
drabson
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Quote:
Doug Avery wrote: View Post
Hi all,

Just began training in Aikido, and feeling really disheartened. It's taking forever to learn the simplest things, and I seem to be testing the patience of everyone in the dojo when they get stuck with me as a partner. Worse, the feeling that I'm imposing constantly just makes remembering techniques and getting a 'relaxed movement' seem impossible - I'm acutely aware of how frustrating I am to work with, because my nervousness makes me screw up the same thing over and over. Going to class is starting to feel like going on a high-pressure job interview, so I know something needs to change.
This caught my attention. As a relatively senior student where I practice, I always feel that it is a privilege to work with beginners - I get to learn a lot about a technique or movement by attempting to help someone else learn it. Try to spend as much time as possible working with senior kyu grades and yudansha - they should be happy to practice with you and you will be both safer and more likely to learn with them.
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Old 10-22-2009, 05:20 AM   #13
Voitokas
 
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Second what Doug said about working with the yudansha. It's perfectly acceptable (and even traditional) in most dojos to scramble to work with the "highest" sempai, or with the one who just took the ukemi for the teacher.

I am not an expert
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Old 10-22-2009, 08:06 AM   #14
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

The othe thing I tell new students is to "take just one thing home at the end of practice." It doesn't matter what it is just take that "one thing" and bring it back with you next practice. This way each time you will be building on something and before long you will have a nice foundation.

Lyle Laizure
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Deru kugi wa uta reru
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Old 10-22-2009, 08:14 AM   #15
lbb
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Quote:
Doug Avery wrote: View Post
Just began training in Aikido, and feeling really disheartened. It's taking forever to learn the simplest things, and I seem to be testing the patience of everyone in the dojo when they get stuck with me as a partner.
Emphasis mine. Do you understand why I'm laughing?

You're a noob. There are no shortcuts. Just keep training and stop expecting to master anything.
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Old 10-22-2009, 09:08 AM   #16
bleepbeep
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Hi Doug,

I would not worry too much about it. As a beginner, it's really part of a process of re learning how your body can move and affect your balance and the other person's balance.

When I was beginning, I felt foolish and really dense. It's okay.

I am sure things will get easier once you get the basic movement and exercises. These are the things that count the most anyway, doing the basics well. So stick with it and when you feel discouraged or you failed or are afraid, think about what comes after when you conquer or manage these feelings.

It's okay to make mistakes, or fumble or be confused. Just keep at it (at practice I mean.)

best regards,
Stella
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Old 10-22-2009, 10:34 AM   #17
MattMiddleton
 
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Hi Doug! I've experienced the same concern about imposing on your partner, but as much as you can learn from them, they can learn from you too! Especially if they would like to be able to teach one day, they'll need to learn how to understand what you're doing (especially if it's not correct).

As for the time thing...I have to agree with everyone who has said "spend more time practicing". Since I've increased the frequency and duration of my practice, I've found my understanding of the techniques is improving. It can be really difficult sometimes, but you have to make the time for training.
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Old 10-22-2009, 11:40 AM   #18
tim evans
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Emphasis mine. Do you understand why I'm laughing?

You're a noob. There are no shortcuts. Just keep training and stop expecting to master anything.
Mary your such a breath of fresh air how would all of us noobs get along without you

one of the "corn fed boys"
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Old 10-22-2009, 11:41 AM   #19
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Hey. I know it can be overwhelming at times. You are learning all these techniques in one class and the next class you are doing something new again. I guess a great analogy would be you are trying to get a drink using a teaspoon from a gushing fire hose. Sure, you are missing a lot of water that is rushing by you, but just getting that teaspoon of water is enough for now.

No need to put undue pressure on yourself while frantically trying to capture the entire stream of water that is rushing by you. You will end up like Lucy in the chocolate factory; frustrated and soaked with water (instead of stuffed with chocolates!). If your higher rankers are frustrated to work with you, then that isn't your fault. That is another issue completely. Most senior students enjoy working with beginners and should eagerly do so. Working with beginners has always been a humbling experience for me. It is great to have empathy for those who are where you once were.

My best advice would be to just keep going. Practice, practice, practice! It may feel like you aren't learning, but you are. Eventually, a new person will join down the road and you will begin to realize just how far you have come! Also, feel free to check out a few people's blogs on here. Several people who blog are fairly new at this aikido thing... so you can also see what types of trials they face, how they deal with them and see that you really aren't alone in the way you feel.

Best of luck to you!

~Look into the eyes of your opponent & steal his spirit.
~To be a good martial artist is to be good thief; if you want my knowledge, you must take it from me.
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Old 10-22-2009, 11:47 AM   #20
lbb
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Quote:
Matthew Middleton wrote: View Post
As for the time thing...I have to agree with everyone who has said "spend more time practicing". Since I've increased the frequency and duration of my practice, I've found my understanding of the techniques is improving. It can be really difficult sometimes, but you have to make the time for training.
Er, well. I'm not sure I agree with this 100%. If training two days a week is good, training four days a week isn't guaranteed to be twice as good...or even any better at all. There is a point of diminishing returns, and no one can tell you exactly where yours is -- it depends on your fitness level, your ability to learn new physical skills, your body's ability to recover from a workout, other demands on your time, your tolerance for frustration and the uncomfortable parts of the learning curve, and a slew of other things. You have to feel your way to where this point is for you.

Where "more time" makes sense, IMO, is not necessarily more hours per week, but more time on the calendar. if someone has been training for a few weeks and they're getting discouraged at their "lack of progress" and thinking about quitting, I'd say that's a sign that aikido may not be for them -- unless they can shift their mindset from the typical one of expecting instant gratification and easy results. That shift of mindset, if they can make it, may be one of the most valuable gifts that aikido can give someone.
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Old 10-22-2009, 11:54 AM   #21
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Of course, this has a lot to do with why there are fewer people at your local Aikido dojo than those McDojos down the street we all make fun of. Read these replies. 100% of the folks said they felt or still feel the same way.

So we are asking people to come in and pay dies every month so that they can be disregarded by the seniors and feel like incompetents. That's a great marketing strategy.

It was the same when I started. I walked in and simply joined in class. The first thing I learned was shihonage (ura version) because that was what happened to covered in class that night. I learned to roll by being thrown, along with a bit of verbal instruction about what to do. I was totally bruised all over my body and spent every class wondering what the hell was going on. Of course I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Within six months I was training seven days a week. I also noted that most folks didn't feel that way. We were training under one of the finest Aikido teachers in the world and the dojo had thirty members. They barely kept the doors open.

Anyway, it's hardly surprising that it's so difficult to keep students. We want them to spend their time and money coming in and being frustrated. And because we all did it, we think it's the way it should be. It's the sort of "my Daddy beat me and I turned out ok." kind of attitude.

At my own dojo, we now have a beginner program which is separate from the rest of the program. The seniors aren't allowed to attend. We try to kick anyone who's been in it too long into the regular classes so that we don't develop a group of know it alls within the class group.

So everyone in the class is really new (at least how we conceived it) so that the new folks don't feel like they are surrounded by folks that get it and they don't. There are no seniors to over instruct, act impatient, look like your wasting their valuable training time, etc.

The instructors are under orders to "teach to the test". Only the material that is on the 6th and 5th kyu tests is to be taught. I redid our requirements from what we had used for years to make them sequential in terms of the skills targeted. We made then EXTREMELY user friendly by taking out any techniques from striking attacks initially. The first techniques they learn are all static from one single attack (kosa dori) so the students don't feel over whelmed by what they are being asked to learn. This allows them to focus on what I fekt was nost important for them initially, namely, posture, relaxation, and how proper technique should feel.

Well, I have to say that the program has been a great success in terms of retention. The beginners have stayed longer by magnitudes than they had been. The ones that have joined the open level classes have been better prepared and have joined in more easily. The quality of the early testing has risen. All good.

But the real problem is, I can't get most of them to leave the darn class. II would say that the number of people staying with their training once they make it to the open levels classes isn't any higher than it was before. So basically, it's clear that folks want the safety of very basic training, that they want to feel like they are progressing towards knowing something definable. If the task feels too big, they quit. If it's more frustrating than enjoyable, they quit. If they get hurt all the time, they quit. The fact of the matter is, most folks quit.

The commercial McDojos have developed systems that are 100% geared towards retention. You can bet those schools with a thousand members aren't making their students feel like idiots every time they come in the door and then tell them its for their own good.

We are up against a shifting demographic in which fewer people wish to do traditional martial arts. If you want to keep your dojos open, it will be important to find ways not to make the few students your school does attract feel like this fellow has described. We need to learn some lessons from the McDojos about how to make people feel welcome, how to make them feel like they are progressing, how to make them feel like they can do it. They need to have "wins". Unless you want to be teaching out of your garage this is going to be important. When there were a hundred new people coming in to your school each year, it might have seemed ok to lose all but ten. But now, with increased pressures, both financial and social, making it difficult for your existing students to keep training, and the number of folks coming through the doors down by half, retention is the only way folks are ging to keep their doors open. Already, in my area we are seeing the marginal dojos closing or being right on the edge. This is a survival issue in the long run. There are folks who seemed to have figured it out and they have thriving schools. Others struggle along year after year wondering why they don't grow.

Well, if your new folks are having the kind of experience this newbie is, then I can guarentee you won't be growing much either.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 10-22-2009, 12:27 PM   #22
MattMiddleton
 
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
If training two days a week is good, training four days a week isn't guaranteed to be twice as good...or even any better at all.
Yeah, you're right - I should've been more specific in my response there I did find a positive difference when I increased my training schedule from a single class per week to two classes per week, but I think maybe this is also because I was focusing more in-class when I was going twice a week.
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Old 10-22-2009, 12:34 PM   #23
MattMiddleton
 
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
The commercial McDojos have developed systems that are 100% geared towards retention. You can bet those schools with a thousand members aren't making their students feel like idiots every time they come in the door and then tell them its for their own good.
I can't speak for anyone else here, but my experience was that my feelings were caused by my own self-doubts, not the behaviour of anyone at my dojo. Quite the contrary, everyone there has been so supportive of my efforts (as well as those of everyone else at the dojo). Certainly, none of the instructors have made me feel like an idiot, and I don't think I've ever seen them do that to anyone else.
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Old 10-22-2009, 01:12 PM   #24
Dan Richards
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Quote:
... the feeling that I'm imposing constantly just makes remembering techniques and getting a 'relaxed movement' seem impossible - I'm acutely aware of how frustrating I am to work with, because my nervousness makes me screw up the same thing over and over. Going to class is starting to feel like going on a high-pressure job interview, so I know something needs to change.
Doug, I wonder if you may not be in the right dojo. There are sucky dojos with sucky teachers and students. There are all types of martial arts schools full of ego, pride, impatience, etc.

It also may just not be the right fit. That is not uncommon.

Not sure of this. I just don't want to assume that it's all on you. It might help if you could expand on your experience a little more...

Last edited by Dan Richards : 10-22-2009 at 01:18 PM.
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Old 10-22-2009, 01:19 PM   #25
Shadowfax
 
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Re: Discouragement, Failure, Fear! (Newbie Anxiety)

Quote:
Matthew Middleton wrote: View Post
. Certainly, none of the instructors have made me feel like an idiot, and I don't think I've ever seen them do that to anyone else.
Not to say they or you have or have not... but very often someone who has been made to feel like an idiot will not mention it. After all they might be made to feel like an even bigger idiot if they did. Important to pay close attention to peoples body language.

On frequency of training. You need to know your body and what you can handle. In the beginning for me it was once or twice a week. I needed longer recovery times in between classes. As things progressed I was able to get up to three days a week and then eventually got allowed to join in the more advanced classes so uped it form 3.5 to 5.5 hours a week. Right now this is as much training as I can handle. Yes I felt my learning rate increase with increased training but I think I was also ready at that point to take in that extra learning.

Ledyard Sensei makes a very good point that should not be taken lightly.

My dojo has a great program for a special introductory class to help new ones know what to expect in a regular class. I've sen some students come in not having taken advantage of it and struggle a little. Even so the instructors do a great job tailoring the class to fit the newer ones as well as helping the more advanced ones to go forward. They are great about being encouraging and making everyone feel welcome.
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