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Old 01-01-2003, 08:24 PM   #1
Dojo: Great Wave Aikido
Location: Alberta, Canada
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 543
Smile Teaching Intent

Hello folkses, and happy new year!
Here's something I was discussing with my Sensei; she agreed it would be interesting to get your inputs on this matter.
In our Dojo, we have two newcomers; a young couple. They've been in for about a month now, and are hooked on Aikido. So much so, that the guy bought his girl a gi for Christmas; wasn't that nice? Anyway; when it comes to learning aikido, they're as different as night and day - the girl (who's taken yoga in the past) is picking up the 5th kyu techniques very fast, but is having trouble with ukemi, while the guy is picking up ukemi fast and having a spot of trouble with the techniques - I'd say they balance each other nicely.
Anyway, one thing they're both having a bit of trouble with is doing either - technique or ukemi - with intent. With one of them as uke, its often difficult (at least for me) to complete a technique, either for demonstration or practice, since they stop halfway through, pull back, etc., putting themselves into a position where nage's completing the technique could be harmful to them. When they act as nage, same thing - they don't put any intent into the technique - ikkyo irimi for instance, and give up if any resistance at all is applied.
Now, please understand: this is in NO way intended as criticism; as I said, they're doing very well. They're having a lot of fun, and are a lot of fun to teach. My question is purely instruction-oriented: Has anyone any good tips for teaching a student to put intent into his/her practice? I've already used my two standby techniques - light resistance and the push game. For the first, I'll put in just the lightest touch of resistance so that nage has to use ki in order to get me over - we're still talking about ikkyo here. For the second (the Push game), I have nage put her hands against mine and push. "Push;" I'll say, "use ki; extend forward...pushpushpushpush..." until she can drive me backwards. "Excellent! Now; let's do ikkyo again; put the same amount of force into it that you just used." The student in question played the push-game well; she forced me right off the mat; half my size too. But, when we went back to ikkyo, it was back to limp-noodledom.
I understand there'll be a few different takes on this; those that believe, for instance, that they should be allowed to develop intent with experience. I personally disagree; I believe it should be part of learning the technique, so bad habits don't have time to form. That's how I'm trained; and was right from the beginning; our Sempai (whom I call the 'Welsh Wall') WON"T let me complete a technique unless it's actually working, all the way through.
So anyway, I've rambled enough; to repeat the question clearly, can anyone give me some good tips for teaching intent?
Thanks all, and have a great 2003!

Last edited by DaveO : 01-01-2003 at 08:29 PM.

Answers are only easy when they're incomplete.
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Old 01-01-2003, 10:50 PM   #2
PhilJ's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido Bukou
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 240
Hi Dave,

Since time isn't on your side, I'd say push them into being more forceful and honest with their techniques. Make them understand how important it is to embrace the new technique, and that the new pain they're experiencing in ikkyo/nikkyo/etc. will eventually go away.

I hope that sounded as silly to you as it does to me. When I was at my first aikido classes, the techniques were beautiful and powerful. I was afraid to relax -- not because I didn't trust sensei -- but because I didn't trust myself and my own control over my 'power'.

Some students need time I think. Others need encouragement, and of course, some need both. Kohei often tell me "I'm afraid I'll hurt you." I respond, "I won't let you" while smiling.

While I know personally several students who do NOT need to be reassured, some do, and you may just have a couple of them.

Not to mention the fact they probably love each other, and the last thing they want to do is cause pain or injury.

Like bonsai, some need careful and diligent attention, with a dab of patience.

Can you somehow teach technique slowly -and- effectively?


Phillip Johnson
Enso Aikido Dojo, Burnsville, MN
An Aikido Bukou Dojo
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Old 01-02-2003, 01:42 AM   #3
Thalib's Avatar
Dojo: 合気研究会
Location: Jakarta Selatan
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 504
One question... do they always partner up together?

If that is so, then make sure that they don't partner up together, or at least make it as minimal as possible. As they progressed, and it is observed they have improved the uke-nage relationship, only then partner them back up together.

I have seen tendencies of this among friends. Especially friendship among women. When I see two friends been partnering up a lot, I usually intervene and become one of the partners.

People that has relationship outside the dojo before ever joining (i.e.: Aikido), has the tendency to either be hesitant, resistant, or just plain ol' fooling around. Not saying it's always true, it's just a tendency. But, people that made friends in the dojo, are more secured from this type of tendencies. That's why if there's a friend joining the dojo, I would rather that that friend partner with somebody else for the first few training.

Few reasons, that person will get to know the rest of the people in the dojo and that person will get an objective view of Aikido.

In my dojo, I round-robin, even during only one technique. I usually partner up with my usual partner first (see, I do this also), but then after we both had our turn (had a go practicing the technique), we both bowed and seek other partners. I usually seek out anybody partnered up or not and ask them if I could join the practice.

This gives me a chance to feel each of the practitioner's "Ki", if you want to call it that.

When I have to die by the sword, I will do so with honor.
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Old 01-02-2003, 07:05 AM   #4
Dojo: Baltimore Aikido
Location: Baltimore
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 586
Some techniques particularly encourage people to be less hesitant. I wouldn't say ikkyo was one of them, but the different kokyus can go more in that direction. After working on a technique like that, a lot 'randori' at the end of class (well, it's not randori, right; I mean multiple attacker with that one attack and one defense) with an emphasis on flow and pace can get the ukes and the nage moving with a little bit more intent.

Another, paradoxical, approach that I might try is working for a while slowing everything down. Sometimes very slow movements with a real emphasis on uke connecting from their palm can help people understand what connection means. If increased speed is introduced slowly, sometimes this can help uke relate the feeling of connection to the idea of commitment that comes in during a normal speed attack.

Although, of course, they'll probably figure it out for themselves, eventually. It reminds me of something a friend of mine once said: all pediatrics is emergency medicine because if you don't hurry up and cure them they'll get better on their own.

Yours in Aiki
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Old 01-02-2003, 07:30 AM   #5
Dojo: Kododan Aikido USA
Location: Radford Virginia
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 201
teaching intent

I often tell newer students who are having "limp noodledom" in their arms to think about moving with a softball under their armpits. This sometimes helps with the physical extension of the arms during technique.

My two cents.....


jon harris

Life is a journey...
Now, who took my @#$%! map?!
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Old 01-02-2003, 10:53 AM   #6
MikeE's Avatar
Dojo: Midwest Center For Movement & Aikido Bukou Dojos
Location: Hudson, WI
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 407
Although Aikido's philosophy lends itself to being soft and enjoyable, it is important to remind new people that this is a BUDO.

If you stress the importance of the art being applicable in a life or death situation they tend to take it more seriously. And it becomes inherently more realistic.

This will also allow you to address the problem of being tense and rigid early in their training, and show them how controlled relaxation makes them more powerful and more able to blend and take ukemi.

Mike Ellefson
Midwest Center
For Movement &
Aikido Bukou
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Old 01-02-2003, 02:21 PM   #7
Dojo: Baltimore Aikido
Location: Baltimore
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 586
If you stress the importance of the art being applicable in a life or death situation they tend to take it more seriously.
Each to their own, of course, but that would almost certainly have had the opposite effect on me. Of course, my problem was always too much stiffness and not too much floppiness.

Yours in Aiki
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Old 01-02-2003, 03:39 PM   #8
Location: livingston, scotland
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 715

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Old 01-03-2003, 02:32 PM   #9
Bronson's Avatar
Dojo: Seiwa Dojo and Southside Dojo
Location: Battle Creek & Kalamazoo, MI
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,677
Anyway, one thing they're both having a bit of trouble with is doing either - technique or ukemi - with intent.
One thing I like to do when I get an uke with no intent is to just stand there. We usually stand there for a bit with them holding my wrist and looking puzzled and they say "are you going to do the technique?" and I say "are you going to attack me?" If it's a strike I will often just stand there and take the weak shot to the stomach/chest. And tell them that I'm not going to move until they make me "believe" the strike. If it's a strike to the head I'll just put my hand up and stop it and say the same thing. I usually then go into the spiel about how the attacks have to be commited and how commited doesn't have to be fast, blah blah blah. I'm sure you know it already.


"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 01-03-2003, 03:13 PM   #10
Dojo: Baltimore Aikido
Location: Baltimore
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 586
If it's a strike I will often just stand there and take the weak shot to the stomach/chest. And tell them that I'm not going to move until they make me "believe" the strike.
I do this, too. One of my standard lines is: if an advanced stupid is so stupid that he hasn't learned that he has to move out of the way of the strike, then a beginning student should strive to help them learn this by showing them how uncomfortable it can be. Please, I am stupid and I'm standing here so that you can help me learn.

Yours in Aiki
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