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Old 11-08-2008, 07:33 AM   #1
Simone Chierchini
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Everybody Is An Instructor….

At least once every Aikido practitioner has had the opportunity to explain something to a partner during practice. This article will start from this simple and common act in order to give students clear information about teaching.
Traditionally in Martial Arts the Master is the unquestioned head of the school. Teaching passes directly from him to the pupils through personal instruction without any assistance. This teaching is based on a method which uses the minimum in terms of concepts and words. The student has to get used to the method of learning using his eyes more than his ears. Western culture, however, is different — we all are used to a rational way of learning and thinking. In Aikido practice the emphasis is put not on the rationalisation of its theory but on the re-awakening of what comes before the rational. Aikido focuses on the discovery of free and spontaneous forces that may sometimes spring out in our daily gestures.
This natural force is the only thing that can save you in case of a sudden attack. This force permits us to find immediately a correct answer for every situation we live daily. Such pre-rational method is based on the diligent and silent observation of every gesture of the Master, both onto the tatami and in daily life. The student repeats what he has learned exactly.
At a certain point in the student's training, what was once only repetition becomes an integral part of his being. At this stage the student is ready to put in practice what he has learned — both physically and spiritually.
It is obvious therefore that in a Martial Art school it is the Master and only the Master who is responsible for the line of the teaching. That is why he is the Master —he is responsible for creating and managing what we could call a sort of transfer. Constant and diligent Aikido practice creates that transfer between instructor and student.
Therefore no one must forget who has in charge of correcting the students' mistakes during the class. This is a basic point and must be kept in mind especially by the students who are practising a few years. Because they still have not much experience, they tend to overcorrect their partners' mistakes even if their partners do not request help. This may be even though they have understood only one part of the technique which may have a thousand aspects.
Living on the tatami the first rule is modesty. I say to former beginners e.g. 3rd Kyu that if the Master of 3rd Dan was to train with them and correct them in the same fussy way they correct the beginners, they would not progress. In comparison to the Master's level they too are doing the technique imperfectly.
Everyone must quietly permit their partners to make mistakes. Instead they must try to understand their own mistakes which surely must be many.
Students must be conscious that the Instructor is checking out and supervising those mistakes and giving the correct and appropriate amount of guidance — at the right time, directly to the student and not through an assistant. Good Instructors do never stop to look after the students and observe everyone's progress daily.
If for a special reason a senior student has to substitute for the Instructor, his duty is to stay as close as possible to the Instructor's way of teaching. One could, for example, repeat what was done in the previous class, giving everyone the opportunity to refresh and fine tune one's technique.
What is unacceptable in a Martial Arts dojo is that in an occasion like that senior students transform the class in a personal "show". This is selfish and a waste of time. It has nothing in common with the actual teaching of the Instructor and fellow students are there to learn his teaching.
The dojo only runs smoothly when there is total respect for everyone's role.
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Old 11-08-2008, 09:05 AM   #2
mickeygelum
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Mr. Chierchini,

Well said, thanks.

Train well,

Mickey
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Old 11-09-2008, 05:10 PM   #3
Jonathan
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Not every "Master" ought to be teaching. This thought occurred to me as I read your spiel. In a couple of local instances I can think of this is definitely true. One fellow has the all the people skills of a rabid dog and the other is so megalomaniacal you get the feeling he's surprised that he hasn't yet floated up to heaven in a hazy beam of light. In both cases, transmission of Aikido skills from teacher to student is extremely poor.

I think it would be worthwhile warning students before anything else to evaluate carefully who they choose as their "Master." Being skillful in performance of Aikido doesn't necessarily translate into an ability to pass on that skill.

I would be especially wary of the teacher outside of Japan who strictly imposes the Japanese way of learning on non-Japanese. Forcing non-Japanese to operate within a learning paradigm that plays to the strengths of Japanese is foolish and inefficient. The idea of "stealing techniques" from the teacher, in particular, I think is nonsense and will, ultimately, diminish the art.

Anyway, just a few thoughts that passed through my mind as I read your post.

Take 'er easy!

Jon.

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 11-10-2008, 06:37 AM   #4
Shany
 
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Even if the master is there to guide you, still learning is up to you. I rather listen to ueshiba's message that training should be fun experience insted of getting hard on your self and enjoy training as a spirit clensing tool.

A good stance and posture reflects a proper state of mind
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Old 01-14-2009, 02:49 PM   #5
Russ Q
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Well said Simone and a good point from Jonathan. I think once you've chosen the right teacher for you, absolutely you should (as is oft repeated here) shut up and train.....My teacher has always instructed us (on the matter of teaching your partner) to show/teach with your ukemi, to only speak to your partner if you are asked a direct question (answer succinctly & directly and keep moving). She is fond of telling the story of one of her early trips back to Japan. She was "teaching" a lower ranked student who was her partner and her teacher (Morito Suganuma Sensei) tapped her on the shoulder and politely said "If you teach him everything I will have nothing to do...". So, she now likes to make this point clear with her students...and rightly so.

Cheers,

Russ
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Old 10-30-2009, 06:28 AM   #6
PhilMyKi
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Just a thought as I really should be doing what I am paid to do! But it is Friday afternoon

Over the past few months there have been a few people at my dojo that like to share their own particular / peculiar spin on what sensei has been showing. I can neither confirm nor deny if I am a culprit, but I do make an effort to call over sensei if my partner is having issues rather than relay my own understanding. Last night when there were only seven people going through jo suburi and three voices ‘instructing'! The instructor quite rightly pointed out that he should be the only one teaching and focus should be on him.

I got to thinking last night, how do you deal with a training partner that insists on lecturing. I have tried avoidance and / or deafness. Sometimes the instructor on the night will intervene, but they can not catch it every time. I personally do care for what one culprit says most of the time, I am happy in my own little world with a good bunch of people who can show as much as they tell. But what do you do if you see someone lecturing without qualification.

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Old 10-30-2009, 06:44 AM   #7
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Really nice post and very well put. I always appreciate feedback form my partners but sometimes it can go a little overboard. Generally I think that the "lecturer" is just so excited about what they have learned that they can't help trying to share it. They forget their place.


Quote:
But what do you do if you see someone lecturing without qualification.
I let them have their say, usually tune them out, and then when they are done I go back to working on what the teacher told us to work on. Its a great excercise in patience. And sensei will more than likely handle it if it needs to be handled.

Last edited by Shadowfax : 10-30-2009 at 06:52 AM.
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Old 10-30-2009, 06:45 AM   #8
mickeygelum
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Quote:
(snip)...how do you deal with a training partner that insists on lecturing....
As the Old Aikido sage once uttered, " Shut up and train!"

Train well,

Mickey
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Old 10-30-2009, 08:31 AM   #9
drabson
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Quote:
Philip Purcell wrote: View Post
I got to thinking last night, how do you deal with a training partner that insists on lecturing.
This happened to a friend of mine at a seminar, amusingly after we had been talking about the exact same problem on the drive up there. She let him finish whatever sage advice he was giving and then said, "You do your thing and I'll do mine". All was fine after that
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Old 10-30-2009, 08:37 AM   #10
PhilMyKi
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Quote:
Doug Rabson wrote: View Post
This happened to a friend of mine at a seminar, amusingly after we had been talking about the exact same problem on the drive up there. She let him finish whatever sage advice he was giving and then said, "You do your thing and I'll do mine". All was fine after that
Pretty much what I think to myself! But, they sometimes never get the hint and they move onto another 'victim'!

Last edited by PhilMyKi : 10-30-2009 at 08:49 AM.

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Old 10-30-2009, 08:56 AM   #11
Marc Abrams
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

I spend a lot of time teaching students how to give good, constructive feedback as both uke and nage, so that the students can become their own best students. The teacher is simply a guide. Teaching students to become acutely aware of what is happening inside of their own bodies and being acutely aware of the connection with the partner is a very important feedback loop that is critical in helping the learning process to be more efficient, effective and within the realm of control of the student.

People may not want to hear certain feedback, but if something is not working and the same process is being repeated, bad habits are simply being reinforced that will later we harder to become undone. Everybody can offer some useful advise if they are taught how, when and what information can be of help.

Marc Abrams
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Old 10-30-2009, 09:04 AM   #12
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Well, it's tricky . . in a traditional Japanese dojo everyone is trying to model their teacher, their senior, etc. But then if part of what's demonstrated is to lecture and teach at the microcosmic level, then everyone will model that to some degree. If you're told not to do that, but then that's what modeled . . you see the disconnect? There's no easy fix, it's just something to be mindful of that may need to be addressed at some level in some way (even if it's just to reconcile it within yourself).
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Old 10-30-2009, 09:46 AM   #13
Marc Abrams
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Quote:
Budd Yuhasz wrote: View Post
Well, it's tricky . . in a traditional Japanese dojo everyone is trying to model their teacher, their senior, etc. But then if part of what's demonstrated is to lecture and teach at the microcosmic level, then everyone will model that to some degree. If you're told not to do that, but then that's what modeled . . you see the disconnect? There's no easy fix, it's just something to be mindful of that may need to be addressed at some level in some way (even if it's just to reconcile it within yourself).
Budd:

Although I train in a traditional dojo in NYC and with Ushiro Sensei here and in Japan, I do not teach in that manner. I specifically do so because I do not believe that it is the most efficient and effective teaching model. I am careful not to let the feedback loops destroy the continuity and flow of practice. The feedback loop is critical in stopping the reinforcement of mistakes at an earlier stage, while setting up the awareness of "burning in" better movements. My teaching style is in development as I seek to find the best teaching model. That means effective, efficient teaching that allows my student to hopefully go beyond me.

Marc Abrams
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Old 10-30-2009, 09:54 AM   #14
PhilMyKi
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Talking Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Quote:
Marc Abrams wrote: View Post
I spend a lot of time teaching students how to give good, constructive feedback as both uke and nage, so that the students can become their own best students. The teacher is simply a guide. Teaching students to become acutely aware of what is happening inside of their own bodies and being acutely aware of the connection with the partner is a very important feedback loop that is critical in helping the learning process to be more efficient, effective and within the realm of control of the student.

People may not want to hear certain feedback, but if something is not working and the same process is being repeated, bad habits are simply being reinforced that will later we harder to become undone. Everybody can offer some useful advise if they are taught how, when and what information can be of help.
Whilst I agree with the thread of your point Marc, there are times where the feedback that is given would entrench worse sins than being currently committed or is like introducing calculus to preschool children - they just will not get what is being said and will only become more confused. I think when discussing technique whilst training you should keep in mind a) the limitations of the recipient and b) your own limitations! I recall a post on another thread that was dealing with attitude / ability after grading that discussed just because you have proved that you can do a technique to required standard does not qualify you to correct others ad nauseum.

I am becoming a greater advocate for the "shut up and train" school of thought; like I said in my original post, but it still takes effort on my part but I will get there!!

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Old 10-30-2009, 10:52 AM   #15
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Nothing wrong with students helping each other while training. So long as too much talking doesn't take place, but there is only one Sensei in a dojo.

Lyle Laizure
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Old 10-30-2009, 11:07 AM   #16
Marc Abrams
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Quote:
Philip Purcell wrote: View Post
Whilst I agree with the thread of your point Marc, there are times where the feedback that is given would entrench worse sins than being currently committed or is like introducing calculus to preschool children - they just will not get what is being said and will only become more confused. I think when discussing technique whilst training you should keep in mind a) the limitations of the recipient and b) your own limitations! I recall a post on another thread that was dealing with attitude / ability after grading that discussed just because you have proved that you can do a technique to required standard does not qualify you to correct others ad nauseum.

I am becoming a greater advocate for the "shut up and train" school of thought; like I said in my original post, but it still takes effort on my part but I will get there!!
Phillip:

Absolutely agree with you about your observations. That is why I spend a lot of time teaching students what and how to recognize important information and how to provide timely and appropriate feedback. I think that the "shut up and train" routine should be respected in those who seek that. Frankly speaking, if I can identify where your posture fails, where unnecessary tension is being introduced, you would pick things up quicker if you gave a pause in that thinking and solicit feedback from people you respect as to what they experience in themselves and you when you are practicing.

Marc Abrams

ps.- off to my practice in NYC now - YEAH!!!
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Old 10-30-2009, 12:24 PM   #17
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

I defer to the sensei when they correct my movements, but I do like to get feedback from my partner if they feel there's something I need to adjust.
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Old 10-30-2009, 12:39 PM   #18
Marc Abrams
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Quote:
Matthew Middleton wrote: View Post
I defer to the sensei when they correct my movements, but I do like to get feedback from my partner if they feel there's something I need to adjust.
Matthew:

How many times during a class do you get that kind of specific attention from your sensei? How many times in a class do you serve as uke for your sensei? How many times in a class does your sensei serve as uke for you? What is it about feedback from a partner that you do not like?

Some of the best feedback that I receive is when my teacher is an uke for me. That obviously does not happen very often. Even serving as uke for my sensei only happens (typically) less than five times in a 2.5 hr. class. I realized a number of years ago that I had to be personally responsible for being my own best teacher. That meant that I had to become much more sensitive to what happening both inside me and with my partner. Teaching this ability has a directly positive impact upon my students.

I hosted Ushiro Sensei at my dojo this past weekend. I received a lot of comments from attendees about how they were amazed at the nature and quality of feedback that my students were able to provide and how helpful that was to them.

Dan Harden said something very powerful and true at the instructor's seminar that he ran. He said that you do not know what you do not know. That means that just going through the motions will not necessarily help you. Learning how to receive and give proper feedback is a critical part of a learning process, regardless of the venue.

Over the years, I have had to learn to drop my ego and learn from everybody, including rank beginners. You never know when superb feedback will be given. To me, always being open to it and actively soliciting it is important in my training.

In the end, I respect your desire to practice how you see fit. I am just interested in becoming a better teacher in that I can teach my students how to be their own best teachers.

Marc Abrams
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Old 10-30-2009, 12:49 PM   #19
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Hi Mark,

I think you might've misread my comment - I LIKE getting feedback! In fact, I received some feedback from the person I was practicing with a couple of days before my 6th Kyu test with regards to my Katatetori Shihonage that gave me the "aha!" moment I needed to do the technique less badly

What I was trying to say is that feedback from my partner is valuable, but that I always defer to my sensei's advice, since it's their class and they have my respect.

With respect to your question about how often I practice directly with the sensei, at our dojo they generally work with most/all students, by moving between each of the pairs and observing them. If the students are having trouble, the sensei will provide additional instruction, and on occasion step in as one of the partners to explain the technique.

Last edited by MattMiddleton : 10-30-2009 at 12:54 PM.
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Old 10-30-2009, 08:27 PM   #20
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Quote:
People may not want to hear certain feedback, but if something is not working and the same process is being repeated, bad habits are simply being reinforced that will later we harder to become undone. Everybody can offer some useful advise if they are taught how, when and what information can be of help.
I agree and as others have said I value feedback from my partners very much. Several of my fellow students have been valuable in helping me to prepare for my recent test.

That said there is a difference between feed back and all all out lecture that no only takes up valuable training time but also prevents me from listening to what my senses are trying to tell me. Sometimes it really helps to just shut up and just feel what is going on until you can understand it. At least for me that's a very necessary part of learning.

Lucky for me I get to work one on one with my sensei's quite often since we have a smaller group. One of the best training experiences I have had was just me and two sensi's in the dojo for an hour. I counted myself very fortunate to have had that opportunity.
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Old 10-30-2009, 09:00 PM   #21
Walter Martindale
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Uke is your instructor. Beginners are your instructors. Sensei are your instructors. Learn from every attempt to do a technique, and learn from every technique you receive. There's so much going on in even the simplest movements.

When you've been practicing with someone a few dan higher than you, and you think you've seen everything he has to offer and all of a sudden Whoops! What was THAT! Wakey-wakey this ukemi's gonna be special WHAM!

That's also a pretty good instructor...

Walter
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Old 10-31-2009, 01:17 AM   #22
PhilMyKi
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Quote:
Cherie Cornmesser wrote: View Post
That said there is a difference between feed back and all all out lecture that no only takes up valuable training time but also prevents me from listening to what my senses are trying to tell me. Sometimes it really helps to just shut up and just feel what is going on until you can understand it. At least for me that's a very necessary part of learning.


I think there is also a differentiation between an instructor and learning partner, both can serve the same purpose and 'teaching' can overlap. IMHO to maintain a consistent learning thread and momentum there can be only one instructor on the mat.

Last edited by PhilMyKi : 10-31-2009 at 01:27 AM. Reason: school boy error spelling mistake

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Old 10-31-2009, 11:51 AM   #23
Joe McParland
 
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Looking at this askance a bit: There are so many threads dealing with maintaining a connection between Uke and Nage during practice. Here there are points of view that disregard Uke altogether.

The connection is more than the grab or the strike, right?

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Old 10-31-2009, 02:05 PM   #24
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Quote:
Here there are points of view that disregard Uke altogether.
Really? What points?

Quote:
Uke is your instructor. Beginners are your instructors. Sensei are your instructors. Learn from every attempt to do a technique, and learn from every technique you receive. There's so much going on in even the simplest movements.
I don't see anyone here disagreeing with that.

The experience this thread is referring to I have only run into a handful of times. But I can certainly tell the difference between learning from and with your partner and being "given instruction" by someone who is perhaps pushing a bit beyond proper boundaries. Sometimes said instruction gets in the way of being able to examine and learn from those simple movements and attempts.
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Old 12-30-2009, 11:19 AM   #25
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Re: Everybody Is An Instructor….

Becoming an expert in a martial arts discipline takes years of study and hard work. Let’s face it, the gold standard is a black belt, and without one you probably shouldn’t be instructing (though non-black belts can gain valuable teaching experience from helping out at their school).

The majority of the teaching skills will be gained from modeling past instructors. Further, martial arts schools tend to ask their higher belts to teach their lower belts; take advantage of this to help bolster your teaching skills. Finally, you can also gain valuable experience in martial arts instruction by way of teaching at community centers and schools with little or no money down.

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