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Old 02-05-2002, 02:29 AM   #1
Dojo: Institute of Aikido Australia
Location: Perth
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 48
Beginning teaching

Hi all,

I'm interested to know at when people begin to teach.

What grade were you when you started teaching classes? How many years of training did you have behind you? Did you feel ready / prepared to teach? Does anyone worry that they're not teaching correctly or effectively?

Do people have 'lesson plans'? Does anyone have any ways of lightening things up a little, reminding students that they're there to have fun as well as to learn?

Cheers, Fiona.
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Old 02-05-2002, 04:48 AM   #2
Peter Goldsbury
Peter Goldsbury's Avatar
Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Posts: 2,308
Re: Beginning teaching

Originally posted by gi_grrl
Hi all,

I'm interested to know at when people begin to teach.

What grade were you when you started teaching classes? How many years of training did you have behind you? Did you feel ready / prepared to teach? Does anyone worry that they're not teaching correctly or effectively?

Do people have 'lesson plans'? Does anyone have any ways of lightening things up a little, reminding students that they're there to have fun as well as to learn?

Cheers, Fiona.
Hello Fiona,

I started teaching when I received shodan, nine years after beginning aikido. My teacher was expanding operations and wanted assistant instructors to cover for his increasing absences from the 'Hombu' dojo (in London, UK). The instructor kept a dojo diary, on a shelf near the kami-dana. Every single technique taught was recorded in the diary, together with any pertinent observations. The assistant instructors, also, had to record what they taught in the diary. I think this was a very good method, for it forced us junior instructors to think very carefully how to structure a class (of 90 minutes' duration). And we could see what the instructor himself had taught.

If I am teaching, I always have a 'theme' for the class, but this is flexible and depends on the numbers and level of participants. Once, during a summer seminar, I went through most of the techniques and movements in "Budo", the training manual produced in 1938. Copies of the book were available for class participants to consult (the Stevens edition and also Stanley Pranin's more recent edition with Morihiro Saito ad his son doing the techniques). The general feedback was that a theme or structure for the class / course was essential.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
Kokusai Dojo,
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Old 02-05-2002, 05:05 AM   #3
ian's Avatar
Dojo: University of Ulster, Coleriane
Location: Northern Ireland
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 1,654
Hi Fiona, I'd be interested to know where you are coming from (i.e. have you just started teaching? or are you doing a survey?) as it would help provide better info.

I started teaching about 1 yr ago, roughly 12 years after starting aikido. I hadn't graded in ages, but I went for a shodan (and got it) soon after starting. I did have a long term training plan at the start, but it was obvious quite quickly that it was too adventurous. The hard thing is to realise how little beginners know. Best to do lots of basic excercises and ukemi. Also it is important that, when learning a technique, that the majority of students feel they can do it to some degree before you do a new technique. I'm affiliated with another club so I try to focus on the techniques for the gradings in advance of the gradings, then afterwards I focus on purely self defense techniques (i.e. lots of punches or chokes).

I would never start a club just because I could - I only started it 'cos the nearest one is 1 1/2 hrs drive away. It is very hard starting a club since there are often few people who have done it before and students often learn more from who they train with, rather than who is instructing.

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Old 02-05-2002, 09:08 PM   #4
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 237

I first began teaching, or leading the class, when I was 1st Kyu. The association to which my dojo belonged required that students serve as assistant instructor for 9 months to 1 year before testing for Shodan. I learned a lot the first day I stood before the class and tried to teach a simple technique (Kotegaeshi). It's amazing how you can do something very easily yourself, but standing in front of the class that day; I felt like a complete idiot. Gee, where does that hand go again? Well, I got better and I thank my sensei very much for his direction and not letting me totally screw up the class.

The more often I led class, the better able I became at explaining how to do the techniques, which is arguably the most important thing for an instructor to learn. It's easy to stand up and do the techniques, it's entirely something different to break the technique down and show another student how it's done.

I have my own dojo now, teaching classes on an Air Force Base. Today, I incorporate much of what I learned early on in my Aikido teaching experience.

Here's some of what I learned.

- Don't talk too much, otherwise the students minds will start to drift.

- Don't just stand up in front of class and demonstrate, you need to explain what you're doing.

- And what I believe is most important, don't criticize a student for not doing something exactly the way you're doing it. Each student will perform a technique slightly differently, you can't expect them to be a mirror image of yourself. You can make sure they are putting each foot where it belongs and their hands are in the right places; you can even ensure they are not falling all over themselves because of a lack of balance, just don't say they are all wrong if they don't do the technique exactly the way you do.

Find the positive in their techniques and say, "that's good, now to make it even better try it this way". Positive feedback works much better than negative feedback.

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Old 02-06-2002, 11:08 PM   #5
Dojo: Institute of Aikido Australia
Location: Perth
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 48
Originally posted by ian
Hi Fiona, I'd be interested to know where you are coming from (i.e. have you just started teaching? or are you doing a survey?) as it would help provide better info.
Hi Ian,

Thanks for your comments (and thanks to you too, Peter & Louis).

I train with a small club, and my Sensei has said that he plans for my shodan grading to be held this June, along with 2/3 others. He teaches twice a week, and the other dan grades rotate teaching once a week. At the moment, though, for various reasons three of our six dan grades aren't training.

Sensei is hoping to focus on teaching the higher grades and leave the beginners to the other dans. I've taught a couple of classes already, and I'll be doing a lot more teaching from later on this year. I guess I'd just like to garner some opinions on ways to teach aikido well.

Cheers, Fiona.
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Old 02-11-2002, 05:26 AM   #6
JJF's Avatar
Dojo: Vestfyn Aikikai Denmark
Location: Vissenbjerg
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 803
I don't teach - hope to do one day though, but currently I don't have the time nor the skill.

Usually in our dojo you could begin teaching classes when you feel like it, but usually not before shodan. Actually none of our current sho-dan's teach on a regular base, but they could if they would. We don't use assistant instructors since we have rather small classes.

Funny thing though: due to a sudden lack of teacher capacity our current head of the dojo and chief instructor started teaching at 4. kyu. That's allmost 20 years ago now.

- Jψrgen Jakob Friis

Inspiration - Aspiration - Perspiration
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Old 02-14-2002, 12:49 PM   #7
Dojo: Eagle Rock Aikido, Ammon, ID
Location: Ammon, ID
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 120
Not quite on topic..

I found that one of the hardest things in teaching is this..
When you are a student, you do the warm ups the same every time. But when you switch to the teacher, you have to switch the side you start on or people who are used to doing it that way forever will get all confused.

Just my 2cents.

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Old 02-14-2002, 02:56 PM   #8
Dojo: North Winnipeg Aikikai
Location: Winnipeg, Canada
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 265
A lot of what you need to know to teach well will be learned in the process of teaching.

Lots of great input on this so far.

I have found that a principle discovered through personal effort is often more valued, and thus remembered, than one handed out by the teacher. When a student finds that "sweet spot" in a technique on their own that discovery seems far more deeply imprinted in them than if I had taken twenty minutes to explain how to find it. I have realized that often my comments just get in the way. Balance, though, right? Saying nothing is not what I'm suggesting you do either. When you think you should say something to a student struggling with a technique wait another five minutes (unless, of course, they ask you to help). Be careful to watch, but slow to speak. I've taken these days often to saying to repeatedly asked questions or to exclamations of frustration about technique, "Practice" or, "If you you could do it perfectly you wouldn't have to be here". My students get my point. Ultimately it is in doing the technique that the learning of it is accomplished. The teacher is merely a sign post on the road, not a car that will carry them down the road.

Just my 2 cents.

"Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
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Old 02-14-2002, 07:19 PM   #9
Dojo: Aikido of Norwalk
Location: CT
Join Date: Nov 2001
Posts: 205
Originally posted by Jonathan
The teacher is merely a sign post on the road, not a car that will carry them down the road.
Very nice . . . god, I love metaphors!
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Old 02-15-2002, 04:41 AM   #10
Jim ashby
Dojo: Phoenix Coventry
Location: Coventry, England
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 303

Our Sensei, when asked "can you teach me?", sometimes replies "no, but I can help you learn".
Have Fun

Vir Obesus Stola Saeptus
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Old 02-15-2002, 06:44 AM   #11
Join Date: Dec 2000
Posts: 114
Funny that this thread showed up this week.

We've got an interesting Dojo demography when it comes to ranks. We have 4 people with Dan ranks, and then myself at 3rd Kyu (as of last week Friday) being the next highest rank that shows up regularly. With the exception of two others (4th and 5th Kyu) the rest of the class is 7th Kyu.
So just this Monday, class is beginning, and we have one injured Dan, one MIA, one sick, and the other had family business. So - I wait as long as I could waiting for someone with a hakama to show up, to no avail. So the very next class after receiving 3rd K, I get forced into leading class.

Did I have a game plan for Monday? Of course not! So I just took one attack, munestuki, and showed that you aren't just tied into the techniques that show up on tests. I wanted to show that your intial movement is never "wrong" in aikido. It may be "wrong" for a certain technique, but as long as you get off line from the attack (at least with munetsuki) it is never wrong for the attack. So, I began class with 4 different tai sabaki for munetsuki, and then showed what techniques are available from those tai sabaki.

Then closed class by calling each student to the front of class and demonstrating with an uke one of the techniques. Apparantly what I wanted to show worked, because the first (and lowest rank) student called up, moved outside the attack, started kotagaeshi, and immediately yelled out, "That's not what I wanted!" but she finished technique. And I had to point out that's the point I was trying to make - get offline and you can do something. I then called the next higher rank up, and had them show something different until everyone showed something different. It just so happened that the number of techniques we worked on during class was equal to the number of students. I then finished class by showing every technique and about about 4 more techniques that we did not work on. Just to show that there is more out there that we don't always see.
Was it a good class? I don't know, but we do have a 5th Deg Black in TKD that owns his own studio who is a 7th Kyu now, that said it was great class. So I guess it was ok.

Oh...and I've only been doing Aikido for 18 months.

Then the same thing happened with missin Dans on Wednesday!

Last edited by cbrf4zr2 : 02-15-2002 at 06:48 AM.

...then again, that's just me.
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Old 02-15-2002, 10:30 AM   #12
Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 168
Teaching vs. Learning

Seek your own expression in teaching, just as you do in your aikido.

From college curriculum on teaching and experience on the mats, I have found that I have done my best when I remember that it is not my job to teach anyone - it is the students' jobs to learn. For this reason, I will often say that I am "leading" the class, rather than teaching it. In fact, I doubt whether anyone can be "taught" anything. Rather, by being the example for them to look to (in attitude, demeanor, etiquette, and technique), the student "steals" the knowledge from the instructor. In fact, in my opinion, this is what sets the good student apart. Plus, this way the student makes the connection for themselves (as has been mentioned already), making the knowledge much more personal and better understood by the student.

For the other part of your question, I led an (extremely) occasional class when I was 3rd kyu. I think that this helped alleviate the pressure - having a rare class to lead ensured that I had something to say (whatever I might have been working on in my own training), and having something to say definitely helps when you are in front of the class. However, this is not the first step. The first step is believing that you have something worthwhile to say, something worthwhile for the students to learn.

Believe this and everything else will follow.

It's a sad irony: In U's satori, he forgot every technique he ever knew; since then, generations of doka have spent their whole careers trying to remember.
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Old 02-27-2002, 11:38 AM   #13
Bruce Baker
Dojo: LBI Aikikai/LBI ,NJ
Location: Barnegaat, NJ
Join Date: Sep 2001
Posts: 893
Teaching ...

Although I have taught in Karate, I have yet to teach an Aikido class by myself. On the other hand, my studies have led me to understand many of the fine points that many black belts do not find until they start 5th or 6th dan?

What you should ask yourself is ... what is the basic movements that get you here to there? What are they based on? How do we teach them so other people will remember how to put them together?

The most advanced teachers always are trying to refine the simplest of techniques! Always start simple. Body movement, position, protect yourself, and the most effective use of movement. From this will come a lesson.

My teacher tends to find a theme in a lesson, then at the level of the classe begins to show this theme with at least three techniques. If you can intersperse with weapons, all the better, but stressing correct movements will reveal secrets, years later, you never knew were there.

Always remember the eight directions, the triangle, the square, and of course the circle. If you can teach and explain these, then you can teach any beginners. Even you will learn, especially as you make mistakes when you teach!
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Old 03-19-2002, 07:32 AM   #14
Roger C. Marks
Dojo: Tetsushinkan London
Location: London
Join Date: Oct 2001
Posts: 25
United Kingdom
Although I have been 'doing' Aikido for around fourteen years, I am technically ungraded at my current dojo. However I do assist sensei and other assistants with a children's class where I conform to sheepdog status. With children (these are from age 5 to around age 12) it is noticable that when we approach a ratio of teacher to students of around 1 to each pair then the group works best in terms of mutual enjoyment and achievement.
My main experience of teaching both children and adults Budo is Judo, which I have over 40 years experience of and over 30 of these years teaching. The more I do the more I realise that I am learning as much as are the students and I also question the relationship of teaching to learning - I believe that my sessions should be a learning and not a teaching experience.
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Old 03-19-2002, 10:35 AM   #15
Dojo: Muhu Dojo
Location: Middle of nowhere in California 14 miles from Buellton
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 238
I dont wanna sound all philosphical and crap but just a little bit of my 2 cents I believe everytime you train with a person you are teaching.. but on the scale of the whole class.. i have been doing that alot latly for some reason my sensie goes to the two oldes ( me and my best friend Ryan.) and we "teach" the basic movements and basic tech

Dallas Adolphsen
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