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Old 06-18-2005, 02:29 AM   #1
Charles Hill
Dojo: Numazu Aikikai/Aikikai Honbu Dojo
Location: Three Lakes WI/ Mishima Japan
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"experienced" students

I have noticed that at many dojo there are often yudansha that obviously have "transfered" from other dojo. They do techniques in different ways from the teacher. This might be fine in itself but I wonder about the effect on newer students. I have also often seen this kind of person teach students during practice. I think that this is due to the open nature of Aikido. I also think that this must be irritating and problematic for teachers.

I would really like to hear from teachers who have had to deal with this kind of thing. It would also be great to hear from students who have been "taught" by seniors in ways differing from what the teacher is teaching.

Thanks,
Charles Hill
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Old 06-18-2005, 09:56 AM   #2
charron
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Re: "experienced" students

I think that the longer you stay with it, you'll see that seniors, even in the same dojo, do the same techniques differently from each other. This is just part of the growing process, and the internalization of techniques. Instead of looking at the differences, focus instead on the whole process. Try to see each person's focus on the technique, and learn a little bit from each one. You'll get a more rounded experience of the techniques, and be in a better position to eventually decide which way is best for you. Don't think that there is only one right way to do a technique. Good luck.
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Old 06-18-2005, 10:19 AM   #3
RebeccaM
Dojo: Boulder Aikikai
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Re: "experienced" students

This is why, unless the beginner I'm working with is doing something grossly wrong, I let the teacher handle it...
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Old 06-18-2005, 10:58 AM   #4
senshincenter
 
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Re: "experienced" students

At our dojo we don't do "style for style's" sake Aikido. Our forms represent what we consider to be a particular ideal energy print and its corresponding response. Thus, our subjective applications of forms come to a unified expression but only out of an intent to match that ideal energy print with its corresponding response. In the end, we all look the same and/or try to look the same - for the reason offered above. In this way, variation from this orientation is either noted as "doing something different/not working what we are working on" or it is noted as "wrong/not 100% in providing relevant details." For this reason, when senior students are doing something "different" they are instructed to please work on what we are working on or they are corrected so as to help them more closely resemble the ideal energy print and its response in all of its details.

Because of the role seniors play as examples to junior students, we never stray from this paradigm during forms training.

our take,
dmv

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 06-18-2005, 07:25 PM   #5
eyrie
 
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Re: "experienced" students

What an excellent post David!

Ignatius
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Old 06-18-2005, 10:31 PM   #6
maikerus
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Re: "experienced" students

Even between instructors I think there are differences, as has been said already. My instructors have always told me to look for what's the same...not what's different...to find the core Aikido principles.

Differences based upon height or something like that should still follow the core principles, but advice on dealing with taller/shorter uke's can be different from different people depending on whether they are taller/shorter themselves.

Of course, that being said, the people who have transferred from other dojos/styles should probably make an effort to understand/emulate what the instructor teaches. If they don't like it they can go someplace else...

My few yen,

--Michael

Hiriki no yosei 3 - The kihon that makes your head ache instead of your legs
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Old 06-18-2005, 11:45 PM   #7
Charles Hill
Dojo: Numazu Aikikai/Aikikai Honbu Dojo
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Re: "experienced" students

Hi,

Thanks for the replys. My thinking on technique is the same as David`s (if I understood all `dem high falutin words) I think that it is reasonable to say that the goal of a beginner is to copy the teacher as close as possible. So what happens when that beginner gets paired up with a "transfered" yudansha who does the technique in a different manner from the teacher. I`m asking for teachers` perspectives, especially in the situation where you think the technique is being done incorrectly. What do you do?

David, I am very interested in hearing about how what you wrote actually plays out. It is my experience that it is very difficult to instruct and correct yudansha who have gotten their rank from another teacher. Any advice on how you might get your instructions and corrections to stick?

thanks,
Charles
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Old 06-19-2005, 02:08 AM   #8
Charlie
 
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Re: "experienced" students

Why has it been difficult in your past experience?

There are many ways for an instructor to interject on behalf of the beginner when a yudansha is in need of an adjustment. Anything from a subtle suggestion to something more commanding.

Part of being a yudansha is understanding the roles of everyone involved. If the instructor is unable to control what is happening on the mat while the class is in session then why are they teaching.

Charles Burmeister
Aikido Yoshinkan Yoseikai

"Calmness is trust in action"
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Old 06-19-2005, 02:20 AM   #9
maikerus
Dojo: Roppongi Yoshinkan Aikido / Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan
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Re: "experienced" students

As an instructor, I haven't had very many yudansha who have moved to my dojo from another, but of the two that have...they have always checked with me first and called me over to oversee/double check what they suggest.

With those students that have gone visiting to other dojos, they usually come back with some questions on various things...and ask them after/before class.

cheers,

--Michael

Hiriki no yosei 3 - The kihon that makes your head ache instead of your legs
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Old 06-19-2005, 08:59 AM   #10
MaryKaye
Dojo: Seattle Ki Society
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Re: "experienced" students

The core teachers of my dojo come from several different lines within Ki Society, and they don't do things exactly the same, nor does it seem practical to make them do so. We have instructors' classes to work on getting a consensus on the core material, but for everything else we just tolerate the variation.

The head instructor gave a statement on this: When you are training under someone, try to do what they are showing you, even if it is different. This shows respect for the teacher, and it gives you a wider breadth of experiences from which you will eventually develop your own aikido.

If a student is coaching in another teacher's class, though, s/he had better be showing the same thing the teacher is. We are very tolerant of student coaching but it's not appropriate to contradict the teacher.

If a dojo wants all its senior people to teach the same, I think regular, stringent instructors' classes are a must.

Myself, I like the diversity and I don't mind the confusion. (Aikido is so confusing anyway, what's a little more?) I don't suppose I'll end up looking exactly like my head instructor (though I once had a Ki Society instructor in another town correctly peg where I came from just by watching me, so there's clearly a good deal of influence) but I'll still end up reflecting her principles and teaching, and that's enough for me.

Mary Kaye
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Old 06-19-2005, 03:52 PM   #11
giriasis
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Re: "experienced" students

We have a lot of transfer students come into our dojo both yudansha and mudansha of different styles and/ or associations. The way my sensei handles it is to allow them to maintain their own style, but if he wants to emphasize a point that he wants them to practice that isn't part of their style he'll tell them that he doesn't want to take away from their usual style but he would like for them to work on this particular point. But he doesn't expect them to change their sytle, just change something on one particular technique for the night in class just to experiement in something different. There is no chastisizing, no demeaning, and definently no "we do it better in our dojo so you must do it just like us."

In essence, he doesn't treat them as a "problem." If they are yudansha, he'll often allow them their own class where they can teach their style of doing things. As a result, I've been exposed to ASU, Saito/ Iwama and Chiba (Western Region) teachings.

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
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Old 06-19-2005, 09:06 PM   #12
senshincenter
 
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Re: "experienced" students

Hi Charles,

I think there are a few issues here, and the thing is that they only overlap in certain areas, so any response from one area is not going to cover the whole of this topic. In particular, I think there is the issue of getting folks to work on what is being asked to be worked on; and then there is the issue of having reason behind one's tactical architectures. Underneath both of these issues is the discourse that wants to suggest that Aikido waza is relative and prone to extreme forms of subjectivity.

Let me state up front that I do not believe that Aikido waza is subject to extreme relativism. For me, ideal phases, or waza, can be held in judgment by the constraints of consistency and reason, and thus, within their own assumed environments, they can be deemed valid or invalid. Hence, not all waza interpretations are equal.

Secondly, I do not want to suggest that every dojo need operate as ours. Some places do just fine operating under the paradigm of "I'm okay, you're okay." However, because of agendas particular to us, we have found that this model does not work toward our desired-for ends.

In answer to your question Charles, I think one presses the kind of paradigm I am suggesting in several ways. Of primary importance, I feel the overall dojo environment is the element that provides the context most needed to get folks to work on what is being worked on with the least amount of intrusion and/or direct attention. If you have a traditional culture going, and it is functioning harmoniously with the wants and desires of your student body, folks have more tendency to do what is being demonstrated, to see what is being demonstrated, and to quest after what is being demonstrated, than if your dojo is less traditional-like.

If enough folks are practicing this culture, when newbies and/or visitors come to such a culture, they almost always jump right in line. It is like in a very formal dinner. If you make it formal enough, even someone from a less-cultured table will put his napkin on his lap and find the right fork to eat with, regardless if they have never done such a thing before in their lives. So my first answer: If you want folks to work on what is being worked on, develop a culture that feeds that context and do not develop a dojo culture that is counter to it.

Assuming you have that culture in place, should such action continue, you simply ask them to work on what is being worked on. With the culture in place, you have context to your request. Simply note to them that they are doing a different version and that you require them to work on what is being worked on for the sake of the juniors involved -- period. With the culture in place, such a request takes on a great deal of weight, and thus it will take a great deal of weight to refuse it. Most visitors do not want to carry that much weight. Of any that might, you now know you are not dealing with such an innocent thing as a lack of details and/or an over-appreciation of "all variations being equal."

Next, be sure to have an avenue open by which any questions and/or concerns can be addressed. Provide a platform through which they will fill free to discuss the ideas that might have been supporting their practiced version of the technique. A question and answer period after class is great for this. Open the floor up to questions and/or comments and address them in as professional a manner as you can -- being open and sharing with one's knowledge and one's ignorance. In conjunction then, one needs to know his/her own reasons for doing what he/she is doing, as well as the reasons for not doing what he/she is not doing. On the other side -- one might learn something new -- which is always great.

As a final note, we also practiced under spontaneous conditions, and this goes quite far in supporting our perspective regarding what we consider reasonable and not reasonable. For example, we have had folks come to our dojo doing tenkan one way, different from ours, and after feeling the culture, after showing their way to junior students, after being told to work on what we are working on, after discussing and addressing any underlying questions, after dealing with the reasoning in the two variations (for example), and/but after their tenkan failing time and time again in spontaneous training, they come up and say, "How does that tenkan go again?"

In the end, every one is working on what is shown. The place for variation and/or personal expression of this kind is left to other areas of training -- where more elements that are spontaneous are provided for. However, as I hinted above, practicality there as well tends to produce a certain type of singularity.

david

David M. Valadez
Visit our web site for articles and videos. Senshin Center - A Place for Traditional Martial Arts in Santa Barbara.
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Old 06-19-2005, 11:20 PM   #13
Charles Hill
Dojo: Numazu Aikikai/Aikikai Honbu Dojo
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Re: "experienced" students

Thanks again for the replies. It has been my experience that yudansha often are so used to what they have done before that they are quite unconcious to the differences between what they are doing and what the teacher is showing at that time. Not necessarily a concious defiance. My father in law is a shakuhachi shihan. He says the hardest thing to do is to teach a person who started with another teacher. However, with the shakuhachi, a student`s bad habits won`t affect another student. In Aikido, it`s different. As David has written, the culture of a dojo is what imprints itself on the beginning student most strongly. Another point for me is that I am dealing with all Japanese students, which I see now to have it`s own characteristics.

David, thanks for the detailled reply. I will think carefully about it.

Charles
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Old 06-20-2005, 03:44 AM   #14
Charlie
 
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Re: "experienced" students

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
...It has been my experience that yudansha often are so used to what they have done before that they are quite unconscious to the differences between what they are doing and what the teacher is showing at that time...Not necessarily a conscious defiance...
I have to disagree, Charles. Part of "doing" aikido is to be conscious of your surroundings. If a yudansha is doing something outside of what the instructor is doing then they have failed on a major part of aikido - adaptability.

I have attended dojos outside of my style. In doing so, instructors have commented that my technique looked nothing like they "thought" it was going to look like. All I can say is…But of course, when in Rome!

I can do this without a problem because my instructor stressed to me early on to learn the basics. Learn them real good. If you do, then you can go anywhere and practice regardless of styles. Why? Because Aikido is Aikido! The basics of Aikido are relatively similar no matter what the style. If you have the basics down then you can concentrate on whatever points that the instructor or ‘style' is emphasizing.

If someone is so used to doing what they do and attend someplace outside of their norm and STILL do what they are used to doing is just plain rude and says a lot to me about the level of quality of that yudansha.

Usually it boils down to a loss of ‘beginner's mind'.

Charles Burmeister
Aikido Yoshinkan Yoseikai

"Calmness is trust in action"
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Old 06-20-2005, 05:08 AM   #15
Dazzler
Dojo: Templegate Dojo, bristol & Bristol North Aikido Dojo
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Re: "experienced" students

Quote:
Charles Burmeister wrote:
If someone is so used to doing what they do and attend someplace outside of their norm and STILL do what they are used to doing is just plain rude and says a lot to me about the level of quality of that yudansha.

Usually it boils down to a loss of ‘beginner's mind'.
"And you can take that to the bank"! (little quote for the Segal fans!)

Agree a lot with this Charles....Not all dojos are the same of course, but where I teach these days, we employ a structured development programme to take students to shodan and beyond.

Its a fairly long process which is easily hampered by visitors who offer 'help' completely out of context.

Don't get me wrong folks...I'm up to speed on variety being the spice of life and not necessarily bad aiki...sometimes its may even be better than whats on offer.

But jumping into someone elses class when they are working over a period of years with students....and acting as if your aikido is better for the student than that of the instructor who is there week in week out is a bit out of order.

If you are only trying to help - keep one eye on the instructor at the very least when offering up your experience...If he's going purple and shaking his head then maybe back off a bit!

Loss of beginners mind....hmmm. Yes - says a lot.

Thanks.

D
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Old 06-20-2005, 07:25 AM   #16
rachmass
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Re: "experienced" students

I disagree about the loss of beginners mind thing.

Aikido is learned through the body. If you have been practicing taking rolls with live toes for 20 years, I can tell you that it is extremely difficult to have dead ones when taking ukemi. The same thing goes for how you hold your feet, your hips, your hands. You have to be extremely conscious of it at all times not to get stuck. While I ALWAYS try to do what the teacher is doing, sometimes my body does not. It takes extreme concentration and energy to do it the way it is shown, and while we certainly try to do that, it doesn't always happen immediately. Switching styles takes time, and the longer you have practiced, the longer the shift takes. This said from someone who has been practicing over 20 years and has switched styles dramatically once (from a Ki style to Aikikai) and less dramatically once (Western Region to Eastern Region).

In the end it is all aikido though
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Old 06-20-2005, 07:30 AM   #17
mj
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Re: "experienced" students

Quote:
Daren Sims wrote:
"And you can take that to the bank"! (little quote for the Segal fans!)
The Blooood bank.

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Old 06-20-2005, 08:16 AM   #18
Dazzler
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Re: "experienced" students

Quote:
Rachel Massey wrote:
I disagree about the loss of beginners mind thing.

Aikido is learned through the body. If you have been practicing taking rolls with live toes for 20 years, I can tell you that it is extremely difficult to have dead ones when taking ukemi. The same thing goes for how you hold your feet, your hips, your hands. You have to be extremely conscious of it at all times not to get stuck. While I ALWAYS try to do what the teacher is doing, sometimes my body does not. It takes extreme concentration and energy to do it the way it is shown, and while we certainly try to do that, it doesn't always happen immediately. Switching styles takes time, and the longer you have practiced, the longer the shift takes. This said from someone who has been practicing over 20 years and has switched styles dramatically once (from a Ki style to Aikikai) and less dramatically once (Western Region to Eastern Region).

In the end it is all aikido though
Can't speak for anyone else...but I'm very tolerant of those that bring something else to the party. I also acknowledge that it is very hard to switch styles - to this end I do not expect anyone to become a clone and for sure a lot of experience would be lost this way.

I am situated in a major uk city located right next to the major railway station. We are also a very large and active dojo.

As such we get a lot of one night only or temporary visitors all of whom are made welcome.

My issue is when they start trying to teach it without any commitment to the long term or even to the short term lesson plan in progress.

I don't expect them to change what they do...just enjoy the practice give and take a little.

We don't try and force our aikido onto them...and as visitors we hope they have the courtesy to respect our classes.

99% have no problem with this.

Cheers

D
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Old 06-20-2005, 08:20 AM   #19
Lyle Bogin
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Re: "experienced" students

I have no problem with yudansha from other dojos showing their stuff, as long as it does not involve really harsh contact and is at least realted to what the main topic of the lesson is. My response is usually to try to learn what it is they are doing so that we can talk a bit.

I don't believe in demanding conformity unless there is immediate danger. Infact, it seems a bit odd to get twisted about it, since I have never met two yudansha with identical aikido anyway.

The one thing that does bother me is the excuses, or defenses, I have heard, particularly what call the "natural defense". This happens when someone says something like "oh, I used to do it that way, but this way follows the natural bend of the joints much better". It's the fall back point in a lot of arguments, and to me it has absolutely no meaning since the body is flexible and so many "natural" positions.
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Old 06-20-2005, 01:48 PM   #20
DaveO
Dojo: Great Wave Aikido
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Re: "experienced" students

We've had some dealings with this in our dojo - not much; but a couple of occasions. It is to be sure a very, very nice thing to deal with - new friends, new skills etc.
The way we look at it; If the visitor wishes to show us what he/she knows and has different ideas of movement etc. great! We learn more. However while learning technique; the instructors expect that all participants practice the technique being taught. If someone is doing something different; we'll say something like "That's an excellent technique - I'd love to learn it later. It's just not the technique we're doing right now."
IOW there's a time and place for experimention, showing your own skills, etc. and a time for doing what the teacher says. A good dojo I think balances those 2 times out well.

Answers are only easy when they're incomplete.
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Old 06-20-2005, 03:24 PM   #21
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Re: "experienced" students

While I read each of the replies with interest, I was a bit surprised by the perspective adopted. What I mean is, the question seemed to indicate, "…as uke" how do we feel about someone who doesn't seem to be doing what the teacher is doing? The key phrase being as uke.

As uke our role is very specific. As uke we:
  • focus on our committed attack of Nage
  • focus on maintaining our attack of Nage
  • focus on protecting ourselves during our attack of Nage
above is active/action ------------------ below is passive/interraction
  • focus on following Nage's center
  • focus on our ability to sense and feel, thereby "receiving" nage's waza, and not opposing it
  • focus on improving our ability to transition from one attack to the next via rolling
  • and in the advanced stages, understanding how to transition from receiving nage's waza to applying kaeshi-waza (reversals)

Nowhere in that list will you find "judging nage's waza" regardless of the fact that as uke we will have some opinion about Nage's waza.

As a teacher, I remember clearly being a student. As a student, I remember often hearing the teacher say, "…when I hear talking I begin to think that people know everything there is to know about a technique…" which brought about something that I have been known to say from time to time, "When in doubt, try to find the answer by taking ukemi." When I see students focusing on how to throw, either as uke or as nage, I know they have yet to reach an intermediate level of learning, that being learning how to learn (as uke) or teaching how to learn (as nage). It is not that this is necessary to improve, rather it is a preferred model for any dojo. Of course, only the rarest of students comes in with any understanding of how to learn, so fact is that the focus tends to be on what to learn, rather than how to learn.

Teachers should encourage any seasoned senpai at their dojo, irrespective of whether they are native to that dojo, or not, to take uke who are junior to them through a process of learning, sensing where they are stuck, limited, unconscious, overconfident, ...etc. rather than the typical egotistical exercise of showing themselves what they already know they know, and uke what he or she already knows he or she doesn't know. Nage should be leading uke on a physical level, but not only on a physical level. In each and every interaction, they should be using their experience and seniority to assist uke to gradually move the next level.

When one looks at the totality of our aikido experience over the lifetime of our practice, any particular interaction with any particular person amounts to only an infinitesimally small percentage of our training. While the question is very valid, it indicates a need for a change in the mindset of the person asking the question as opposed to indicating anything about the person about whom he is asking the question. Outside of practice that borders on injury, as uke we should merely focus on improving ourselves. Of course, that applies to nage as well, but that is not the focus of this particular thread.



.

I no longer participate in or read the discussion forums here on AikiWeb due to the unfair and uneven treatment of people by the owner/administrator.
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Old 06-20-2005, 04:44 PM   #22
senshincenter
 
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Re: "experienced" students

Here's the part of what Charles wrote that I think most folks are trying to relate to (I know I am):

"This (i.e. folks not doing what the teacher is doing) might be fine in itself but I wonder about the effect on newer students. I have also often seen this kind of person teach students during practice. I think that this is due to the open nature of Aikido. I also think that this must be irritating and problematic for teachers.

I would really like to hear from teachers who have had to deal with this kind of thing."


In other words: Is this a problem or not a problem for a teacher and/or a dojo. If it is not a problem why not? If it is, why, and how do you remedy it? For me I understood Charles to be asking us to contemplate over pedagogical and institutional matters of curriculum and not necessarily the personal trials and tribulations of simultaneously being an uke and a kohai.

However, I may be mistaken - perhaps Charles can reword his question so as to make things more clear.???

dmv

David M. Valadez
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Old 06-20-2005, 06:46 PM   #23
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Re: "experienced" students

I believe that awareness of differences between what is being shown by the teacher and what is being executed by students is one of the most interesting aspects of my training. There are many different reasons why such differences occur as we are training, only one of which is stylistic difference due to ingrained prior training. A person's observational skills, and their ability to relate what they observe to their practice should develop naturally as a result of training. If they do not, then a core component of the development of their ability to learn is missing.

Considering the situation where a junior student and a senior student are training together, I believe that it is the senior's duty to his partner to help develop this sense of awareness. This may even include pointing out the difference and the reason for it. Previous training, different body types, getting it wrong, different situation arose. ...All good reasons for differences.

Depending on what the teacher is emphasizing, it may be appropriate to ignore a particular difference or to focus on it, slowing down and working through why it is occuring. In this way both the senior and junior student are learning, and neither is allowed to operate on auto-pilot.

Chris
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Old 06-20-2005, 08:39 PM   #24
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Re: "experienced" students

I think most dojos go through this. There are two kinds of Yudansha: The first type readily adapt and are the ones who continue to learn; the second do not adapt and do not learn new stuff, either by intent as they like their old stuff (which is OK if good), or by design in that they just don't get it. Beginners need sameness but after awhile, a healthy dose of difference is also necessary.

I am an TESOL English teacher and recognise that students need to understand American, Australian, British, Scottish, Irish and all other kinds of English. But in the beginning they need something constant to get started.

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Old 06-21-2005, 12:53 AM   #25
Charles Hill
Dojo: Numazu Aikikai/Aikikai Honbu Dojo
Location: Three Lakes WI/ Mishima Japan
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 837
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Re: "experienced" students

David summed up my questions pretty well. I have been thinking about these things for awhile, but after watching a video of a particular teacher`s class, I was inspired to think about it again and to post here to get some opinions.

On the video were three classes.

I have never visited the dojo.

The teacher is Japanese, the dojo is in America, and the students are mixed; Japanese and American.

The teacher taught some very distinctive movements. The students can be said to be in three groups; high level students who move like this teacher, high level students who didn`t move at all like they were showed, and beginners who struggled with the techniques (naturally, of course).

On the tape there are two moments where two people (in different pairs) are doing the same wrong movement. The teacher carefully watches both. He helps the one who is a beginner, who finally gets the movement. The teacher doesn`t say anything to the other, who is a yudansha and is paired up with a partner from the first group,ie. his own high level student. I`m guessing that the teacher is thinking something like, "you can`t teach an old dog, new tricks." (this is a guess, just like my guess that there are 3 types of students.) I think that there will be some on this forum who would criticize the teacher, but I think he is correct to do this. I`d like to hear other opinions on this.

In another class on the tape, the teacher shows a kokyu nage. Then the tape shows a yudansha verbally instructing a beginner on how to do the technique, even though (in my opinion) the yudansha is doing the technique wrong and obviously different from the teacher. We can see on the tape that the teacher is aware of what is going on and chooses to ignore it. I think that I would not. I`d like to hear opinions on this, too.

The teacher, in my opinion, is a master Aikidoka. From what I have seen and heard, I think that he is also a master teacher. There are also undoubtably factors that can`t be known just from watching the tape. That is why I wrote in general terms, as I think that this kind of thing is very common.

Also, I would like to give my basic framework of thinking towards the practice of Aikido. I think the correct progression of aikido is to first solidly copy one`s teacher to the point where another can tell who your teacher is just by watching your technique. Then there is the stage of doubt and experimentation. A student at this level can benefit by visiting other dojo, seminars, and watching videos. The next level is where the basic feeling is internalized and one`s own Aikido emerges. This is my understanding of shu, ha ,ri. I write this because I know that many disagree with it, and don`t approach the above situation with the same basic thinking as I. To hear this kind of person`s opinion is interesting but not exactly what I am looking for.

Sorry about the length,
Charles
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