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Old 01-02-2006, 02:36 AM   #1
IP Hash: 17e0966d
Anonymous User
not underestimated : (

Hello all,
I've read a lot of threads about people who say they are quite good at aikido, but underestimated because of their age/sex/height/whatever. What about people who are, frankly, not very good in the first place? I have been doing aikido for about a year now and although I really enjoy it and love training, I've never really gotten past the crap beginner stage-- can't remember what things are called, how to do ANYTHING from one session to the next, and really have trouble translating watching demonstrations into doing it myself. Also I am quite shy and training with new people makes me sort of freeze up with nervousness. I don't exactly lack confidence-- I can see I'm learning things all the time-- but people can see I'm the eternal hopeless beginner and treat me accordingly, so it is sort of hard to get into a groove of doing things right when everyone expects me to do them wrong all the time. There are a few people who don't do this and it's really dramatic how much better I am when I'm training with them, so I don't want to just give up! Any thoughts on patronising people who really do deserve to be patronised? Is there a right and wrong way to offer advice? How much basic respect should we give to training partners-- nothing to do with skill, but just common politeness? And any ideas about how to become less of an eejit would be great!!
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Old 01-02-2006, 03:12 PM   #2
Dojo: Seattle Ki Society
Location: Seattle
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 522
Re: not underestimated : (

For those of us who did not start out physically coordinated, a year is about right for the "hapless beginner" stage. It can be frustrating when other people get through it in six weeks. One comfort is that members of the awkward squad who *do* stick out the first year tend to stay forever, whereas the really talented, in my experience, often drift away....

I was a really hapless beginner. I found out later that all during my first year, my sempai were saying things like "You know that older woman who can't roll? She's still here! Can you believe it? But she still can't roll, it's so sad...." It took me five months to forward roll at all, and quite a bit longer to do so competently. Luckily my sempai didn't say this to my face, for which I will forever be graceful, because I *did* get it in the end.

I didn't remember names for anything until my first test, and got in trouble over it. After that I went home every evening and wrote down names and descriptions of as many techniques as I could remember. I'm a verbal learner and this helped immensely. Your description of "can't learn by watching" sounds like me, and this got a whole lot better when I had more vocabulary and could tell myself what I was seeing. (I still can't learn totally unfamiliar patterns by watching, but there are a lot fewer of them now.)

Sympathies on getting good training partners. If you seem awkward, many people will attack without commitment "to help you" but most techniques work poorly on uncommitted attacks, so this is a vicious circle. Try asking partner for a slow but committed attack. And figure out who the good partners are and grab them quick at partner changes!

I don't know about your dojo, but one thing that helped me with the nervousness issue was leading warmups. In many of our classes, some random student is suddenly chosen to lead warmups and solo exercises (hitori waza). We have about twenty hitori waza so this is an exercise in trying to remember things under pressure. It has the advantage that if you screw up it's only embarrassing, not painful.

But the really important thing is, if you hang in there you *will* get better. Maybe not on the timetable of other members of the dojo, but you'll get there. And finding ways around the shyness is likely to pay off in all sorts of ways, not just aikido.

Mary Kaye
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Old 01-02-2006, 03:47 PM   #3
Lan Powers
Dojo: Aikido of Midland, Midland TX
Location: Midland Tx
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 660
Re: not underestimated : (

Wisdom plus some very sound advice.

Play nice, practice hard, but remember, this is a MARTIAL art!
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Old 01-02-2006, 06:21 PM   #4
SeiserL's Avatar
Location: Florida Gulf coast
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 3,902
Re: not underestimated : (

IMHO, it sounds as if the person who is treating you the most like a hopeless beginner is yourself. You will never get past you own under-estimation. We all tend to live up to our own estimation or standard. So, raise the standard a bit for yourself.

A lot of us were awful in the beginning, but believed someday we would improve so we stuck it out. Some people did improve. Some of us are just having a good time, not worrying about improving.

Get out of your head and into your body when you train and you will eventually get better.

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 01-02-2006, 07:12 PM   #5
Dojo: Aikido of Ashland
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 395
Re: not underestimated : (

get aikido 3d and study your @$$ off. I got it for christmas and it has really helped me tremendously. Its so easy to use and not that expensive really.

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Old 01-02-2006, 09:31 PM   #6
"other slow beginner"
IP Hash: 3e3f66d8
Anonymous User
Re: not underestimated : (

Hi anon

Mary's post was great, I'll just add my 2 cents worth. It also took me a looooong time to get past that stage. My solution was to train more, to come to every class I could get to and put 100% in every time, no matter how stupid I felt - and I'll be doing my Shodan grading in the next month. My sensei always says Aikido is something you learn by DOING, so the only way to improve is to train. Also, you are female, aren't you? One thing I always notice - in myself, and especially female beginners, is how much less confident we are than the males! The males seem to just assume they can do it, so they can (a huge generalistion, I know). You say yourself that you train better with people you think have a different attitude towards you - make it so it's YOUR attitude that counts and not theirs, and be confident with all your training partners. (Easier said than done!)

Good luck and keep training.
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Old 01-02-2006, 10:14 PM   #7
Devon Natario
Devon Natario's Avatar
Dojo: Northwest Jujitsu/Coeur D'Alene, ID
Location: Coeur D'Alene
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 109
Re: not underestimated : (

I'll be honest. I have seen a student in Aikido who was horrible, and he was a horrible partner. No one wanted to partner with him. I mean he was horrible.

You could start to do any move and he would basically jump on the ground and flail around like he was being murdered. Now, being that I have trained in certain techniques for years I have become sensitive to people and their reactions to know when it works. His reaction were so blatant and in the wrong direction that it frustrated people. We actually had some talented students quit because of him. They were tired spending their money to only learn nothing with this partner.

Anyways, he stuck around for about a year, and after a year he started to do the techniques well enough. We all noticed his change and commented to him about how we felt in the past. He was a trooper and stuck it out. The Sensei commented, "I knew you were my project. If I could train you, I could train anyone."

If the people in your dojo hall are too stuck on themselves then let them be. You'll get better and you should start with self confidence.

Good luck

Devon Natario
Northwest Jujitsu
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Old 01-03-2006, 04:46 AM   #8
Dojo: Wokingham Aikido
Location: Reading, UK
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 393
United Kingdom
Re: not underestimated : (

Hi there!

I'm happy to raise my hand as another of the slow learner squad It took me 3 years to be able to do a proper forward roll. Until then it just looked horrible. All the other beginners who started with me took their first grading after 4 - 6 months. I took mine after 9 months and I had to do it by throwing the instructor around on my own while a senior student taught the rest of the class. My nickname was 'Captain No Balance'. I do have a hidden disability which affects my coordination (and to a degree my judgment of speed and distance), which I didn't know about until I'd been training in Aikido for 2 years. I'd always known I was uncoordinated and I was determined to get over it somehow. For me that meant Aikido. Until I could coordinate myself 'like a normal person' I was determined to stick it out and forge those neural connections in my brain that weren't formed before. Now I'm glad to say I did the right thing, and nobody can guess I'm any different to anybody else

So, how do you learn to learn? That's difficult at first for everyone, especially those of us who are not natural visual learners. If I were you I'd work on relaxation when training with a partner first. Don't worry about remembering anything, just concentrate on your breathing and your connection with your partner, trying to feel your own centre and your connection to your partner's centre. Be aware of when this connection breaks, when it is weak, when it is strong. Just get used to 'feeling' the movements of another person and how it affects you, both as uke and as tori. Hopefully you will be so busy concentrating on this task that you won't have time to be nervous!

As you learn to relax and go with the flow, you will free up your mind for starting to remember the shapes and names of techniques. At this stage it is very helpful for you to have a written note of what you practised in class, with the name of the technique and a picture (or several) to help you remember. Ask your sensei or the senior students to help you with this - if you are keen to learn, they will be keen to help you.

Finally, don't feel patronised. On the whole people in your dojo will treat you according to your abilities. The sensei and any of the seniors who are also instructors may push you and encourage you a little more than the other students do, which may be the difference you are noticing. Everybody learns at a different pace and most folk are happy to let you cruise along at yours. It's down to you to let them know that you are not happy cruising and wish to be encouraged to learn more! Ultimately you are responsible for your own training, so step up and claim it!

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Old 01-03-2006, 07:57 AM   #9
Amelia Smith
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Dojo: Martha's Vineyard Aikido Club
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 154
Re: not underestimated : (

I don't know what your dojo is like, but the one I train at can get awfully chatty. I think that gets in the way of some people's learning, particularly if you are a verbal learner. I know that sounds contradictory, but I was thinking about it last night when the chatter in class was driving me up the wall. Two guys, both of whom are very quick visual/physical learners, and have been away for a while, chatted through the whole class. Sure, they were talking about the technique, but they were still talking. I was practicing with a 5th kyu who tends to ask a lot of questions. Being fed up with the chatter, I insisted that he say NOTHING for a few rounds. I think it helped his technique a lot. Asking questions and thinking about things verbally, durring practice, can be distracting and re-enforce your insecurities.

I do think that trying to write techniques down after class is a good idea, though.
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Old 01-03-2006, 01:03 PM   #10
Robert Rumpf
Dojo: Academy of Zen and the Ways
Location: Kailua, HI
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 164
Re: not underestimated : (

I would suggest taking a simple technique (I'm thinking katate tori tenkan here) and doing it repeatedly with some patient (and quiet) partner before or after class for a few months. The criterion that the partner is quiet is essential, as the posters above have pointed out.

Picking the same partner and building trust with their ukemi helps this a lot. You need to build confidence in your ability to do something simple on demand.

For me, it is important to start from a known location if I want to make progress. In order to do this, I have to take a technique and make it my own. The less I feel confident in what I am doing, the more simply I need to start, and the more repetition I need to perform without being nagged about esoteric details. The simpler techniques are better for this, be it tenkan or even a forward roll.

I find that in Aikido there is often an excess of good advice and an absence of helpful insight available to me from senior students or instructors. What I mean by this is that they are often correcting my ability to tap-dance before I am even able to stand on two feet.

I see a lot of people in Aikido who stumble because they can't separate the advice from insight, and because their seniors don't understand which they need to be working on to progress in a given technique. I think this is the greatest loss in the mass-training type environments that we have at the moment - limited attention to the growth of the individual.

For me I find that there are miles between the following points:
- knowing what I am told to do (visually or audibly)
- doing what I'm told to do when prompted
- doing what I'm told to do without being prompted
- knowing what I should do
- doing what I should do when prompted
- doing what I should do without being prompted
- reinterpreting all of the above for different speeds of training, styles of technique, uke, and the type of the encounter
- doing it all in relaxed and casual manner

One's background seems to play a big role in how easy or hard it is to move between these points. Someone who his good at mimicking (imitating) doesn't necessarily seem to have an advantage when moving to the "should" category (innovating).

I've noticed that people who are often most clueless up front (because they are bad imitators) are often the best at innovating later on because they are not capable of blindly following.

By familiarizing yourself thoroughly with some basic technique to the point where you can do it reasonably well for a given set of uke (or even one uke), you create something that you use as the basis for the rest of your technique.

I think this is where a lot of those crazy examples that are given for martial arts movements are, or at least were, useful. If I told someone in Japan 50 or 100 years ago "its like tearing silk" or "its like cutting with a sword," that would presumably be something they already knew how to do at least a little, and could use as a point of confidence from which to learn the technique, and to visualize the desired outcome.

That doesn't work as much days with practitioners of varied backgrounds and limited physical experience.. so the student needs to create their own points of confidence ("so this part of ikkyo is like this part of katate dori irimi... oh!").

I hope that helps..
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Old 01-03-2006, 08:59 PM   #11
Ed Shockley
Dojo: aikikai of Philadelphia
Location: philadelphia
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 84
Re: not underestimated : (

A note of encouragement from the other side of the fence. I was a talented basketball player in my youth, arrived at the dojo in good shape and found many similarities between front court movements and Aikido footwork. It doesn't mean I wasn't a brute and awkward but things were fairly clear from the beginning and I am am progressing continually. (I say it that way because the more I learn the more I realize how little I know.) That said, I encourage you to to feel no remorse for whatever pace you travel along this path. I have and do find it enormously enlightening to work with both the first day student and the long struggling gentleman who took two years for fifth kyu. First, I respect enormously the courage that it takes to continue training when others seem to move faster. Second, I have never taught a class where I didn't learn more than my students. The act of attempting to make clear a technique or idea is like shining a bright light onto every aspect of that movement inside my head. Your difficulty in mastering the technique is making your Sensei, sempai and every student who will train with you open hearted, into a better Aikidoka. Trust me, you are giving them all more than they can possibly return to you and anyone who misses the opportunity to learn with you is likely never to achieve true proficiency in this difficult art.
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Old 01-03-2006, 11:22 PM   #12
Lan Powers
Dojo: Aikido of Midland, Midland TX
Location: Midland Tx
Join Date: Oct 2002
Posts: 660
Re: not underestimated : (

QUOTE = Second, I have never taught a class where I didn't learn more than my students. The act of attempting to make clear a technique or idea is like shining a bright light onto every aspect of that movement inside my head. Your difficulty in mastering the technique is making your Sensei, sempai and every student who will train with you open hearted, into a better Aikidoka. Trust me, you are giving them all more than they can possibly return to you and anyone who misses the opportunity to learn with you is likely never to achieve true proficiency in this difficult art.[/quote]

Very well said. Almost verbatum with sentiments from MY sensei.

Play nice, practice hard, but remember, this is a MARTIAL art!
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Old 01-04-2006, 01:22 AM   #13
ElizabethCastor's Avatar
Dojo: Castle Rock Aikido
Location: Denver, CO
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 62
Re: not underestimated : (


When I read this I had lots of thoughts buzzing about what I wanted to say and really its already advice that's been given... (stay the course, learn at your own pace, ask for some assistance before or after class) and in many cases more eloquently than I could achieve.
So the little that's left in my brain deals with these things:
Any thoughts on patronising people who really do deserve to be patronised?
I really don't think that anybody deserves to be patronized. Especially not when trying to learn a martial art. I assume that you mean that you deserve to have your partners train with you at your level. That is all anybody on the mat deserves. Some dojos have classes and/or times set aside for the fast people to practice thier speediness, slower classes for the beginner's mind and a general class is for everybody.
Is there a right and wrong way to offer advice? How much basic respect should we give to training partners-- nothing to do with skill, but just common politeness?
Yes, I have found that there is a wrong way to offer advice. The unfortunate thing is that the "wrong way" like oh-so-much in this world is different for each person. So, I have learned to look for my own answers; by asking when I feel really stuck (either my partner or my sensei) or by watching a set nearby. I have also learned to keep my mouth shut unless I have been asked a question. Often my advice is off the mark and sometimes unappreciated (huh, imagine that ).

Additionally... when I read your post I was reminded of people I have trained with. I have no clue if they're "eternal beginners" or not but my "basic respect" is to give the attack and be supportive of my classmate. The people who go through it s-l-o-w-l-y are learning too, it's not my place to judge. (Plus, I learn a lot from these folks. I'm sometimes amazed at the small things that I overlook!)

My last note is the energy I hope I gave off when I used to practice with kids (and what I try to remind myself). YOU CAN DO IT! I want to help in any way I can, and most of all be supportive so that you can be confident in your abilities too. Don't ever let anybody else tell you how or when you should have a thing "mastered." As my sensei keeps reminding me: "Even the shihan practice ikkyo now and then!"
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Old 01-04-2006, 06:24 AM   #14
Mary Eastland
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Dojo: Berkshire Hills Aikido
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 1,476
Re: not underestimated : (

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. One woman was very physically gifted but could not focus on the repetition and challenges that would make her strong, She left after 1st dan. Another woman is not so physically gifted but has stick-to-it-ness.... she is still here after many long years ......Who is better???..I guess it depends on who is judging.

Aikido is hard...if you stay around and keep training you will get better. Part of the process is accepting yourself and all your strengths and weaknesses.
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Old 01-04-2006, 07:47 AM   #15
Amir Krause
Dojo: Shirokan Dojo / Tel Aviv Israel
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 691
Re: not underestimated : (

I would like yo encourage you. In the last year I have heard several beginners complimenting my movements and wishing to be able to imitate me. I told them the same thing I would like to write for you - had you seen me about 12-13 years ago, after 2-3 years of practice you would have considered me the least gifted person around. But years and years of practice do make a difference.

Don't let anyone patronize you! Who knows, maybe in 15 years time you will become his sempai once he returns to practice after a break of 10 years ? (have happened more then once, most of those do quit again).

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Old 01-16-2006, 07:30 AM   #16
Mark Freeman
Dojo: Dartington
Location: Devon
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1,220
United Kingdom
Re: not underestimated : (

Dear annonymous

O'Sensei said that Aikido was for everyone, which I take to mean, that you as a 'not so good' beginner have just as much right to your practice as anyone else. Once we think in relative terms of good and bad we miss the heart of aiki. If you enjoy your practice as you say you do, just practice, at the end of the day that's all it is just 'practice'. Being 'good' at aikido doesn't make you 'good' at anything else other than aikido. My 'best' student is one of my juniors, not because his aikido is better than any of the others, just that he is totally committed and has been since he was seven, his attitude is great, and he just doesn't give up. His forward rolls have taken ages to develop, but he just keeps on coming and practicing. Now that impresses me.
Keep going, don't give up.
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Old 01-16-2006, 11:19 AM   #17
ian's Avatar
Dojo: University of Ulster, Coleriane
Location: Northern Ireland
Join Date: Oct 2000
Posts: 1,654
Re: not underestimated : (

- Give advice if you can deliver it in a manner which is helpful.

- Comment if you wish to determine whether you or them is doing it incorrectly or it can be improved.

- Ask questions when you feel someone can give you useful advice.

The most advanced teachers are not those that tell you everything; they tell you what you need to know to progress to the next stage. (When the student is ready the master appears)

We all have different ways and speeds of learning. Maybe you are not the right person to teach them!

Also, everyone only knows what they know. Have confidence in your own aikido, but be critically receptive of all new ideas.

Last edited by ian : 01-16-2006 at 11:23 AM.

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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