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Old 05-11-2006, 02:38 PM   #1
da2el.ni4na
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Questions re: mistaken presumptions

(I°«ll start with the questions Do you as instructors or seniors ever catch yourself using language, or realize that you normally use language, that the listeners may not be understanding? Also, do you, or when do you, get involved when a student appears to have an incomplete, lopsided, mistaken, or inconsistent grasp of certain concept words?

Perhaps a teacher may never say explicitly, °»Ikkyo is the name of this technique,°… but through the use of the word, the context, and putting two and two together, a student may figure out this thing they°«re doing is °»ikkyo.°… Not just °»ikkyo°… but more abstract, vaguer concepts like °»center°…, °»connect°…, °»opening°…, etc. could simply be °»figured out°… by students. In my experience, often students appear to have an incomplete, lopsided, mistaken, or inconsistent grasp of certain concept words that are used frequently by instructors. This is sometimes the case even when the students are fortunate enough to have exposure to instructors who can manifest those concepts well to one degree or another. More strikingly, many people seem to keep their mistaken, etc. grasp of the concepts for an exceedingly long time. This is circumstance would then seem to indicate that the process of °»putting two and two together°… is not working very well, especially when the student must rely all or mostly on his/her intrinsic capacities.

My personal experience leading to these questions: I was leading a small class comprised of beginner-level people. We were doing the following in seiza. I asked °»uke°… to push with one hand on the °»nage°«s°… shoulder. The person being pushed was at first free to make attempts to stay upright, then later to stay more or less upright and move their shoulder around. I asked the person pushing to try to continue to do so in a consistent manner i.e. keep constant pressure, even with the other person moving their shoulder. At some point I tried to elaborate by asking °»nage°… not to push with a rigid arm nor push so strongly that he/she unnecessarily tenses him/herself, and accordingly not let his/her hand slip off just because °»nage°… moves his/her shoulder. (I think) I demonstrated the not-slipping detail while saying something like, °»Do you see that I°«m still pushing toward partner/partner°«s center?°… I can°«t recall precisely how or when I used the word °»center°… but subsequently I noticed the students pushing somewhat randomly or haphazardly. Then I thought about how I had framed the activity. At the end I asked them, °»Earlier I asked you to push toward partner°«s °∆center°«. Did you understand what I meant, even when I showed it? What is your understanding of °∆center°«?°… No one had any answer.
I realized that, even more than I had thought previously, the abundant use of the words °»center°… and °»connect°… that I had observed in other classes were truly being not understood or misunderstood, in contrast to being in the process of becoming understood. I say it doesn°«t appear to be a process because I observe people °»working on°… the same things in the same ways for a strikingly long time. I believe that process, especially in people with less experience, is comprised of apparent change, both good and bad, with plenty of plateaus.
I understand the °»strikingly long time°… and °»plateaus°… are inherently subjective, so I ask you to contribute your subjective opinions.

My own reflections: The "best" way to convey many ideas is to convey the essence, specifically through lots of actual moving around. The concepts can supplement understanding by providing imaginary or hypothetical references. In order to realize those imaginary or hypothetical references however one must really move instead of only thinking or figuring out, then moving. Beginners of course cannot move (yet). So the concepts can be helpful. Teachers who cannot (or don°«t feel confident that they can) competently manifest the essence of the concepts lean toward explaining what they are doing, or how things should be done. With beginners and such teachers, we have an audience who is willing to listen without much question, and speakers who feel affirmed in doing things the way they°«re doing them. That is, the instructors do not realize in what ways they are leaving behind or keeping behind their students. The result is a cycle in which a clear line between the giver and receiver is perpetuated unwittingly.

Sorry for rambling and the abrupt end!
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Old 05-12-2006, 08:11 AM   #2
SeiserL
 
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Re: Questions re: mistaken presumptions

Words are inadequate.
Mind reading ability is worse.
We do our best to communicate what little we know.

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 05-12-2006, 08:11 PM   #3
da2el.ni4na
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Re: Questions re: mistaken presumptions

Ah. Sorry, this isn't a put-down, but "mind reading" sounds so mystical. Although I did mean something like "mind-reading" in the mundane sense of what we do anytime we converse with someone or the like.
Dan
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Old 05-13-2006, 09:14 AM   #4
SeiserL
 
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Re: Questions re: mistaken presumptions

Quote:
Daniel Nishina wrote:
Sorry, this isn't a put-down, but "mind reading" sounds so mystical.
No problem, no put-down. Just conversation.

I purposely use word like mind-reading and fantasy to point out that most of us are trying to figure out what is in other people's head being being too internally focused on our own.

Another example of words being inadequate, the map is never the territory, and that most (if not all) presumptions are mistaken.

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 05-13-2006, 05:29 PM   #5
Mark Uttech
Dojo: Yoshin-ji Aikido of Marshall
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Re: Questions re: mistaken presumptions

aikido is actually not about talking. instructors who like to talk like to pretend that they understand something. O Sensei's talks were sermons about various Gods and so forth. Whether he was trying to convonce his students or trying to convince himself is simply the story of his struggle.
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Old 05-13-2006, 08:20 PM   #6
SeiserL
 
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Re: Questions re: mistaken presumptions

Quote:
Mark Uttech wrote:
aikido is actually not about talking. instructors who like to talk like to pretend that they understand something.
I don't know about that. I've heard some people explain exactly what they are doing the it helped the learning curve tremendously.

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 05-14-2006, 04:44 AM   #7
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Questions re: mistaken presumptions

People learn typically in one of three ways, auditory, visually, and kinestically. I think the best methodologies employ all three. Aikido and martial arts in general are heavy on the kinestic side.

How many of you have trained with Saotome sensei? You know that he spends a great deal of time talking!
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Old 05-14-2006, 04:48 AM   #8
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Questions re: mistaken presumptions

also, talking about jargon and culture. I was teaching one of my new OCS classes one day and was lecturing them on something when I realized that they had not a clue about what I was talking about. I never realized that we had so much jargon in the army that it might be difficult for the un-iniated to understand!

I think it happens in MA as well and we must take this into consideration when we are working with new students.
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Old 05-14-2006, 02:39 PM   #9
Mark Uttech
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Re: Questions re: mistaken presumptions

Hmmm... I have attended many seminars where Saotome shihan was the instructor and never noticed him talking so much except perhaps at the beginning of the first class at the seminar and at the end of the last class of the seminar. What I meant in an earlier post about instructors pretending to understand something was most certainly not about any instructor of shihan level. Thanks to Kevin Leavitt for the second thoughts.
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Old 05-15-2006, 04:34 AM   #10
Charles Hill
Dojo: Numazu Aikikai/Aikikai Honbu Dojo
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Re: Questions re: mistaken presumptions

Hi Dan,

I remember somewhere in one of Saotome Sensei's books he said that all of the movements and principles are natural and things that we all do in daily life. The problem is when put in a martial context, we get scared and start to act un-naturally. With that in mind, I generally do two things. One is to remind students of situations in which they already use the idea.

For your example above, I might talk to a student about how they go through a revolving door, the push is to the front, but it is directed toward the door's "center." This kind of metaphor explanation seems to be helpful.

The second thing I try is to develop actions/activities where the element of fear is taken out. Basic techniques/movements that culminate in a stretch rather than a throw have worked well for me. Then once I see that students are entering and connecting well with their partners, then I progress to doing the previous movement with a throw or pin.

There are a million ways to relax students, I've found. I don't feel that verbal explanations necessarily mean that I can't physically demostrate a principle (I hope!) For me, they are a valuable tool. As you know, although Endo Shihan doesn't talk much at Honbu, he does talk a bit at Saku. This has helped me a lot.

Now, what is interesting to me is how and why this general problem of a lack of understanding has arisen. This is probably quite pessimistic, but I feel that there is little real progress and development in the Aikido world. I believe that many (most?) instructors and senior students are not actively progressing and unconsciously sabotage their students by not finding the best way to help them. This leads to a misunderstanding of concepts like center.

Charles
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Old 05-15-2006, 01:26 PM   #11
da2el.ni4na
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Re: Questions re: mistaken presumptions

Hi and thanks to those who've read and replied. First off, I'd like to clarify the original questions. I was first wondering if people teaching had had these experiences where they caught themselves after creating or perpetuating misunderstanding one some occasions or for some time.

Charles, I do agree about the unwitting sabotaging of practice. It might even be what I was getting at i.e. "Have you ever caught yourself unwittingly sabotaging your class?"

I suppose a related question might be, seeing ourselves in the spectrum of guiding students <-> laissez-faire, in which cases would we debate with ourselves about whether to get involved?
A clear example for getting involved could be if someone thought that aikido practice involved injuring or intimidating others.
An example in which we might let the dojo culture do the work: a new person with (harmless) new-agey preconceptions that do apparently take up more than their fair share of mental space, hindering general progress.
What about someone who seems to grasp "connection" as the two partners pushing very clearly and strongly against each other (via their wrist/hands, e.g.)?
What about someone who is over-sensitive/anxious regarding the idea of having openings, and is busy protecting themselves at the cost of doing everything else? and when they manage to forget about openings, the specific costs in posture, angles, etc. is high?

I think that one ideal is people developing the sensibilities that are normed in the dojo culture, with the dojo culture being, well, ideal.
Another ideal is for each person to get precisely the attention they need. Perhaps in the 'suki'-anxious example above, it would be appropriate to let that person's technical level suffer while they deal with their potential issues of feeling weak or defenseless. But what would you do when you wanted to emphasize atemi or suki to the rest of the group? Or even emphasize it to people in the group who are at the opposite end of the spectrum i.e. under-conscious of openings?

I realize that it is impossible to "cover" (however you wish to take that word) the scope of all things in leading any aikido group, and that the process is inherently human and imperfect, and takes time.
To narrow the scope of what I'm trying to get at here in this second question is related to mediocre-ization of aikido practice: many people practice aikido but get by without paying attention or taking responsibility to make their education complete. Consequently, when showing one part of the proverbial elephant, the serious student may examine that one part deeply and seek out other elephant parts to study, while the not-so-serious student will examine not-so-deeply, not seek out as thoroughly, and not wonder about things that the serious student does (e.g. finding only the elephant's ears, nose, mouth, and never asking, "Don't elephants see?") For students who are *evidently, from the teacher's subjective view* not inclined to seek deeply, what material should the teacher put forth? I do think that teachers do need to consider what they are presenting to individual students, as opposed to selfishly pursuing their own interests (which may include being popular to students) and leaving the responsibility to the students, the listeners, to take *any* message from the teacher and make constructive use of it.

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
Hi Dan,

I remember somewhere in one of Saotome Sensei's books he said that all of the movements and principles are natural and things that we all do in daily life. The problem is when put in a martial context, we get scared and start to act un-naturally. With that in mind, I generally do two things. One is to remind students of situations in which they already use the idea.

For your example above, I might talk to a student about how they go through a revolving door, the push is to the front, but it is directed toward the door's "center." This kind of metaphor explanation seems to be helpful.

The second thing I try is to develop actions/activities where the element of fear is taken out. Basic techniques/movements that culminate in a stretch rather than a throw have worked well for me. Then once I see that students are entering and connecting well with their partners, then I progress to doing the previous movement with a throw or pin.

There are a million ways to relax students, I've found. I don't feel that verbal explanations necessarily mean that I can't physically demostrate a principle (I hope!) For me, they are a valuable tool. As you know, although Endo Shihan doesn't talk much at Honbu, he does talk a bit at Saku. This has helped me a lot.

Now, what is interesting to me is how and why this general problem of a lack of understanding has arisen. This is probably quite pessimistic, but I feel that there is little real progress and development in the Aikido world. I believe that many (most?) instructors and senior students are not actively progressing and unconsciously sabotage their students by not finding the best way to help them. This leads to a misunderstanding of concepts like center.

Charles
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Old 05-24-2006, 12:49 PM   #12
ramenboy
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Re: Questions re: mistaken presumptions

Quote:
Lynn Seiser wrote:
I don't know about that. I've heard some people explain exactly what they are doing the it helped the learning curve tremendously.
hi guys, sorry if i'm resurrecting a bit of an old thread...lynn, i agree with you. although there are many insturctors who do like to talk, and may contradict themselves given enough time, it is good to explain exactly what you want uke or nage to do...

one situation comes to mind. recently, after a class at camp, a few of us went out for food with Seki sensei. the conversation went from aikido, to the dog races we'd been to, to the food we were eating and then back to aikido. one of the guys said something like 'sensei, i'm trying to do this (movement) and we lose the connection. uke kees letting go. how do i get him to hold on?' and Sensei answered, 'well, in japan, we tell them to hold on'

...
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