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Old 02-07-2012, 12:50 PM   #1
dapidmini
Dojo: Surabaya Aikido Dojo
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what would you do?

I'm very recently appointed as the teacher for one of the classes in my dojo (a mere shodan) . and some of the new students told me that they're not very sure that Aikido really works without too much strength.. what would you do if you were told that?

I'm sure that my Aikido works (thanks to Sensei for teaching me well) so I was thinking of letting them attack me seriously, but I'm also afraid that they'll get hurt and it will become a big trouble for me.
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Old 02-07-2012, 01:10 PM   #2
kewms
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Re: what would you do?

Rule 1: Don't hurt beginners. Even if they ask you to...

Ultimately, the question is unanswerable, but depending on how it is phrased you can chip away at it.

Sometimes, someone will clamp down and refuse to move, thereby demonstrating that "aikido doesn't work." My answer to this is to point out all the openings created by clamping down, and demonstrate how being more fluid gives uke more opportunities, including perhaps the opportunity for a reversal.

Sometimes, someone will have a particular scenario in mind, and won't see how "aikido technique" would work in that situation. Here, I would walk through the scenario and show how aikido principles continue to apply even if what happens doesn't look like kihon waza.

If there's a more senior person available, you could demonstrate how trying to use strength grounds the attacker and is counterproductive, while a softer touch works. This demonstration can be risky with beginners because they have very little structure and are easy to throw the "wrong" way by mistake.

As a shodan, be aware that *your* aikido probably *doesn't* work in every situation that your students could dream up. "I don't know" is a better answer than confidently making a claim that you can't personally back up.

Good luck!

Katherine
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Old 02-07-2012, 01:15 PM   #3
Demetrio Cereijo
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Re: what would you do?

Quote:
David Santana wrote: View Post
I'm sure that my Aikido works (thanks to Sensei for teaching me well) so I was thinking of letting them attack me seriously, but I'm also afraid that they'll get hurt and it will become a big trouble for me.
Accident waiting to happen.

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Old 02-07-2012, 01:55 PM   #4
chillzATL
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Re: what would you do?

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Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
Accident waiting to happen.
agree
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Old 02-07-2012, 02:19 PM   #5
Phil Van Treese
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Re: what would you do?

In Aikido your technique is as limited as your attitude. I, for one, have used aikido in self defense and I am still here to tell you that it works. But the right frame of mind helps. I have used it, for real, in Viet Nam and when I was a deputy sheriff---more than once. Keep a positive attitude and train as if your life depended on it. Aikido will work for you if you stay focused.
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Old 02-07-2012, 02:41 PM   #6
dave9nine
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Re: what would you do?

when you say "one of the classes", does that mean the class in question has a specfic emphasis?
as a new teacher are you trying to lead in advanced, technical stuff?
if not, simply lead at the level you're at instead of going there with beginners.

tell them that beginners should not be focusing on such questions, as it may serve to prolong progress in the early stages. emphasize the loooonnng road ahead, and focus on basics and principles.

i agree with #2: its okay to say 'hey im only a shodan, im here to help with with basics and simple stuff'
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Old 02-07-2012, 03:14 PM   #7
kewms
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Re: what would you do?

Quote:
Dave Lewin wrote: View Post
tell them that beginners should not be focusing on such questions, as it may serve to prolong progress in the early stages. emphasize the loooonnng road ahead, and focus on basics and principles.
While all of this is true, I think it's only natural for beginners to ask such questions, and they need to get satisfactory answers if they're going to invest the time the long road takes. Dismiss the question out of hand, and you may have just lost a student.

For this reason, and also for the OP's own training, I think it's important to have a level-appropriate answer. Show the student what to expect on the road from "brand new beginner who can't even stand right" to "competent martial artist."

Katherine
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Old 02-07-2012, 04:58 PM   #8
Pauliina Lievonen
 
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Re: what would you do?

Quote:
Dave Lewin wrote: View Post
i agree with #2: its okay to say 'hey im only a shodan, im here to help with with basics and simple stuff'
Yes!

A beginners experience with aikido usually is that it doesn't "work" without strength, becayse they can't do the techniques correctly, and so the only times they have some kind of success against another struggling beginner is when they throw in some additional strength.

One way to approach this could be to forget "no strength" for now, and focus with them on "less effort" . Often you can show people how if they do technique more correctly it will cost them less effort. And that gets the beginners working in at least the right direction. Throw in a joke about how aikido is for lazy people and you're good to go.

kvaak
Pauliina
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Old 02-07-2012, 05:41 PM   #9
Mark Freeman
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Re: what would you do?

Quote:
David Santana wrote: View Post
I'm very recently appointed as the teacher for one of the classes in my dojo (a mere shodan) . and some of the new students told me that they're not very sure that Aikido really works without too much strength.. what would you do if you were told that?
Hi David,

I would show them how it does work with little strength at all... very slowly and very definitely.

I must say though, when I was at shodan level, I was not completely confident that I could make aikido work, at least not in the way that I can now. Confidence does have a pretty big part to play.

Quote:
I'm sure that my Aikido works (thanks to Sensei for teaching me well) so I was thinking of letting them attack me seriously, but I'm also afraid that they'll get hurt and it will become a big trouble for me.
Not a good idea, for you or for them. And depending on your own skill level and their relative size and strength of attack, you could potentially come off worse. Again, not good for you or them.

regards,

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 02-07-2012, 05:45 PM   #10
mathewjgano
 
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Re: what would you do?

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
While all of this is true, I think it's only natural for beginners to ask such questions, and they need to get satisfactory answers if they're going to invest the time the long road takes. Dismiss the question out of hand, and you may have just lost a student.

For this reason, and also for the OP's own training, I think it's important to have a level-appropriate answer. Show the student what to expect on the road from "brand new beginner who can't even stand right" to "competent martial artist."

Katherine
Hi Katherine,
I really like that approach of "let's break it down togeter." One of my sempai who teaches a class was asked about rear bear hugs and he worked through it with the person. The "new" guy was fairly tough, something even folks with little or no formal training can certainly be, so it didn't look pretty. It was a good teachable moment for everybody, and in a number of ways!

Quote:
OP wrote:
I'm very recently appointed as the teacher for one of the classes in my dojo (a mere shodan) . and some of the new students told me that they're not very sure that Aikido really works without too much strength.. what would you do if you were told that?

I'm sure that my Aikido works (thanks to Sensei for teaching me well) so I was thinking of letting them attack me seriously, but I'm also afraid that they'll get hurt and it will become a big trouble for me.
Ask you sensei, since it's his or her dojo, however, the first thought that comes to mind is that how much strengths it takes depends on how well it's understood and that different people understand differently. Maybe point out that shodan means "first step." I would never ask someone to attack me "seriously," but I like the idea of working through questions as they arise.
Take care,
Matthew

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 02-07-2012, 08:36 PM   #11
kewms
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Re: what would you do?

Quote:
Pauliina Lievonen wrote: View Post
One way to approach this could be to forget "no strength" for now, and focus with them on "less effort" . Often you can show people how if they do technique more correctly it will cost them less effort. And that gets the beginners working in at least the right direction. Throw in a joke about how aikido is for lazy people and you're good to go.
I like this answer. "No strength" is something that even fairly advanced people struggle with. "Less effort" is easier for a beginner to understand, is intuitively desirable, and is more likely to give good results. (Which for beginners means "uke falls down.") And puts people on the right track: keep reducing effort, and eventually you get to zero.

Katherine
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Old 02-08-2012, 03:02 AM   #12
Amir Krause
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Re: what would you do?

A simple and practical suggestion:
a. Ask you teacher.
b. Ask another Shodan to come to class, and demonstrate more realistic situations, higher intensity etc with him - to keep things safe.
c. You can extend b, and ask your students to suggest situations for you two to show

Note, b&c the above assumes your Aikido really works, and people practicing other M.A. would have said the same thing watching you. Are you sure of this?

Amir
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Old 02-08-2012, 09:30 AM   #13
lbb
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Re: what would you do?

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
While all of this is true, I think it's only natural for beginners to ask such questions, and they need to get satisfactory answers if they're going to invest the time the long road takes. Dismiss the question out of hand, and you may have just lost a student.
The answer to any of these questions is the same: "Oh, I'd just have the circus ponies trample him to death." And when they ask, "Wait, where did you get circus ponies?" you answer, "The same place you got a 6' 5" heavily armed deranged Navy SEAL who wants to kill me (for reasons unexplained), and who was able to approach me without my realizing it until he was six inches away." Or, you know, fill in whatever improbable scenario they're talking about. In this scenario, I suppose it would be, "a very strong guy who has a very strong grip and an invisible force field around himself that allows him to grab onto someone else and simply stand there without anything happening to him." Ultimately, any of these "does it REALLY work" questions can be answered with the circus ponies: if the questioner has the right to set up an absurd proposition as the premise for the question, why should the respondent not have the same leeway?
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Old 02-08-2012, 10:22 AM   #14
Janet Rosen
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Re: what would you do?

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
The answer to any of these questions is the same: "Oh, I'd just have the circus ponies trample him to death." And when they ask, "Wait, where did you get circus ponies?" you answer, "The same place you got a 6' 5" heavily armed deranged Navy SEAL who wants to kill me (for reasons unexplained), and who was able to approach me without my realizing it until he was six inches away." Or, you know, fill in whatever improbable scenario they're talking about. In this scenario, I suppose it would be, "a very strong guy who has a very strong grip and an invisible force field around himself that allows him to grab onto someone else and simply stand there without anything happening to him." Ultimately, any of these "does it REALLY work" questions can be answered with the circus ponies: if the questioner has the right to set up an absurd proposition as the premise for the question, why should the respondent not have the same leeway?
Because sometimes the questions are realistic and merit respect.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 02-08-2012, 10:32 AM   #15
lbb
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Re: what would you do?

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Because sometimes the questions are realistic and merit respect.
I thought it was abundantly clear what sort of questions I was talking about, Janet.
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Old 02-08-2012, 11:13 AM   #16
Phil Van Treese
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Re: what would you do?

If I ever heard one of my shodans say to people/students that "I am just a shodan and am here only to help with the basics simple stuff", he'd be a white belt again so fast he wouldn't know what hit him. When you put the black belt on, you did something to earn it. If your instructor(s) have enough confidence in you to promote you to shodan, you'd better be able to show that confidence when you are teaching. If you don't know the answer to a question, it's perfectly acceptable to tell them you don't know BUT will find out the answer and get back to you. That's a leader and shows confidence. You'll get a lot more respect like that rather telling them that "I am just a shodan.............."
You don't have to prove yourself to anyone on the mat. If they ask me if aikido works, I usually tell them it depends on your attitude and how hard you practice. What you put into it is what you get out of it. Just because it doesn't work for you doesn't mean it won't work for someone else. If you radiate confidence, believe me the students will read it.
"I am just a shodan..............." is the ultimate disrespect to your instructor(s). Why would your instructor(s) promote you if you didn't know anything???? All I can say now is God help the student of mine that says that and I hear it.
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Old 02-08-2012, 11:28 AM   #17
phitruong
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Re: what would you do?

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Phil Van Treese wrote: View Post
"I am just a shodan..............." is the ultimate disrespect to your instructor(s). Why would your instructor(s) promote you if you didn't know anything???? All I can say now is God help the student of mine that says that and I hear it.
really? i said that when i was shodan. and i thought shodan was the beginner. i was on the mat with Endo sensei at one seminar. he was wearing a brand new white gi with a brand new white belt that came from the same package (his luggage didn't make it in time). he said through the interpreter "I am just a white belt and don't know much about aikido. I'll show you what I know." to outside observers (there were quite a few at the time), there was this old man in white gi, white belt, no hakama, throwing black belts all over the place like they were rag dolls.

if that was me, i would have said. I'd ask you for your patient. I'll show you what i know. we work through the aikido basics. and we can find the answer to that question and other questions you have together. and if the answer is beyond my capability, then we can ask my teacher(s).

"budo is putting on cold, wet, sweat stained gi with a smile and a snarl" - your truly
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Old 02-08-2012, 01:08 PM   #18
dave9nine
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Re: what would you do?

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Phi Truong wrote: View Post
really? i said that when i was shodan. and i thought shodan was the beginner.
thanks. that was the spirit/idea i had in mind.

it occured to me, that the response in the scenario would depend on different things, and thus, there cannot be one blanket answer for this.

i am reminded of the concept of paradoxical teaching, wherein a teacher says seemingly contradictory things to different people to teach the same thing, and the idea is that each person needs to hear something different to get them to understand. i think, with this in mind, i would revise my first comments to include other possible responses, suited to the person/people asking.

regardless, i am confident that my sensei would not take such a thing as an 'insult' to the rank ive been awarded; we come from the 'shodans are just beginners' school of thought, as well.

-dave
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Old 02-08-2012, 03:05 PM   #19
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: what would you do?

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Phi Truong wrote: View Post
if that was me, i would have said. I'd ask you for your patient. I'll show you what i know. we work through the aikido basics. and we can find the answer to that question and other questions you have together. and if the answer is beyond my capability, then we can ask my teacher(s).
In my opinion, this would be a respectable response, though not the way I would handle it, but this, also IMO does demonstrate a level of confidence and competency that the statement of "I'm just a shodan." does not convey. I would interpret this statement as a cop out or excuse. It's like saying "you can't expect much out of me because I'm only a shodan."

Lyle Laizure
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Old 02-08-2012, 03:34 PM   #20
kewms
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Re: what would you do?

We had a weekend seminar with Saotome Sensei last weekend. Monday night, I unexpectedly found myself teaching the class. I asked for requests, and a couple of people asked to work on "that exercise Saotome Sensei was doing."

I'm not him. I can't do what he can do. That's just a fact.

But I could say: here's what I think was going on, and here are some exercises that should get you headed in the right direction. Let's work on this together.

Katherine
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Old 02-08-2012, 04:05 PM   #21
Janet Rosen
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Re: what would you do?

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Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
I thought it was abundantly clear what sort of questions I was talking about, Janet.
Mary, you said "the answer to any of these questions..." and none of what had been previously discussed nor the way folks were responding to the OP seemed to be things that would be in that category.

Janet Rosen
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Old 02-08-2012, 04:09 PM   #22
Janet Rosen
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Re: what would you do?

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Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
We had a weekend seminar with Saotome Sensei last weekend. Monday night, I unexpectedly found myself teaching the class. I asked for requests, and a couple of people asked to work on "that exercise Saotome Sensei was doing."

I'm not him. I can't do what he can do. That's just a fact.

But I could say: here's what I think was going on, and here are some exercises that should get you headed in the right direction. Let's work on this together.

Katherine
And I think this is the right spirit: understand where you need to stop teaching per se and start leading the exploration. Takes a real ability to be secure in oneself (as opposed to in one's technical chops) to take that leadership with smiling equanimity rather than feeling defensive because of feeling challenged.

Janet Rosen
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Old 02-08-2012, 05:09 PM   #23
scarey
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Re: what would you do?

Quote:
David Santana wrote: View Post
...so I was thinking of letting them attack me seriously, but I'm also afraid that they'll get hurt and it will become a big trouble for me.
A beginner's definition of a serious attack is very different than a shodan's definition. This is probably a good learning opportunity for both of you.

Last edited by scarey : 02-08-2012 at 05:12 PM.
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Old 02-08-2012, 06:02 PM   #24
lbb
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Re: what would you do?

Quote:
Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
Mary, you said "the answer to any of these questions..." and none of what had been previously discussed nor the way folks were responding to the OP seemed to be things that would be in that category.
Quote:
Sometimes, someone will clamp down and refuse to move, thereby demonstrating that "aikido doesn't work." My answer to this is to point out all the openings created by clamping down, and demonstrate how being more fluid gives uke more opportunities, including perhaps the opportunity for a reversal.
Quote:
The answer to any of these questions is the same: "Oh, I'd just have the circus ponies trample him to death." And when they ask, "Wait, where did you get circus ponies?" you answer, "The same place you got a 6' 5" heavily armed deranged Navy SEAL who wants to kill me (for reasons unexplained), and who was able to approach me without my realizing it until he was six inches away." Or, you know, fill in whatever improbable scenario they're talking about. In this scenario, I suppose it would be, "a very strong guy who has a very strong grip and an invisible force field around himself that allows him to grab onto someone else and simply stand there without anything happening to him."
Context...
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Old 02-08-2012, 06:26 PM   #25
kewms
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Re: what would you do?

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Janet Rosen wrote: View Post
And I think this is the right spirit: understand where you need to stop teaching per se and start leading the exploration. Takes a real ability to be secure in oneself (as opposed to in one's technical chops) to take that leadership with smiling equanimity rather than feeling defensive because of feeling challenged.
Still working on that part...

It's actually easier once you accept the challenge, though. That is, avoiding the question -- whether it be "how does aikido handle real attacks" or "what was Saotome doing" -- looks defensive. But once you say "I don't know, let's explore" it feels to me like there's a lot more freedom to try things that don't "work."

(And by the way, trying something that doesn't work in front of a class will not cause you to die of embarrassment. I know this from first hand experience.... )

Katherine
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