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Old 06-12-2006, 07:17 PM   #1
graham
 
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Only Sensei teachers

I've just come back from class (my first after an initial observation) and was surprised that every time I asked my 'partner' for clarificaton on what I was doing wrong, etc., the reply was, "Only Sensei can teach."

I understand the reasoning (and folks were generally helpful otherwise), but is this standard practice?
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Old 06-12-2006, 07:27 PM   #2
Mark Uttech
Dojo: Yoshin-ji Aikido of Marshall
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

yes it is very good standard practice for keeping order in the dojo
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Old 06-12-2006, 07:33 PM   #3
Karen Wolek
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

This practice is highly encouraged in my dojo. If the person has a general idea, most of the time we are to "shut up and take ukemi." And if it's a brand new person, better to show them or move them than to start talking.

Karen
"Try not. Do...or do not. There is no try." - Master Yoda
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Old 06-12-2006, 08:00 PM   #4
giriasis
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

Quote:
Graham Old wrote:
I've just come back from class (my first after an initial observation) and was surprised that every time I asked my 'partner' for clarificaton on what I was doing wrong, etc., the reply was, "Only Sensei can teach."

I understand the reasoning (and folks were generally helpful otherwise), but is this standard practice?
It's standard in most dojo, but not all. Where I train the sensei encourages the more advanced to help out the more new. And he will specifically request that more senior students choose more new partners during our basics classes. But, I also notice that he keeps a keen eye and if the more senior partner is having a hard time he will step into explain. And on a few occaisions where the newer person would ignore me he would repeat what I said, and on others I've been off base in my explanation. However, I also pay attention to how he is explaining the technique to the newbie so I can do a better job of it next time.

As a result of this, I do a lot better when my partners verbally express their points.

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
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Old 06-12-2006, 08:38 PM   #5
Laurel Seacord
Dojo: Seishinkan (Ki no Kenkyukai), Tokyo, Japan
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Ki Symbol Re: Only Sensei teachers

The custom in my dojo, and in Ki Society dojos in general here, is very different. Every student shows kohai, by demonstrating and as far as possible in words, how to improve their ukemi and waza. Much in the same way we show newbies how to tie their obi, and when it comes time, how to wear and fold hakama.

The teachers often quote from Tohei-sensei, "What you learn today, you can teach another the next day".
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Old 06-12-2006, 08:47 PM   #6
crbateman
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

I'm not sure that all could make it that cut-and-dried. The sempai/kohai relationship means different things in different systems, different dojos, and different people. While the judgment of the teacher is ultimately the defining factor, many teachers encourage this sort of "mentoring" on the part of the higher ranks, as long as it is done in a giving, helpful, not-condescending spirit. Part of the training for senior students is to learn HOW to teach, as it is rare that one wakes up one morning simply able to do it. Being able to pass knowledge and experience down the line is an important way to give back to the art that gives to you. That said, it is still up to the teacher to decide if, by whom, and to what degree this is done, and it is disrespectful for any student to openly criticize or undermine the teacher, on or off the mat.
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Old 06-12-2006, 11:16 PM   #7
Jeff Sodeman
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

In my opinion the issue isn't teaching on the mat so much as doing it through talking. One of the biggest things a beginner in aikido learns is how to learn. The ability to see something, feel something, and then try to do it.

Aikido quickly grows beyond things that can be verbally communicated easily, and after that moves beyond things that can even be seen.

That said, some people think and learn verbally, and for those a few words combined with showing and doing might be necessary at the right times. I just hate to look around the mat and see people talking instead of training, I've see beginners miss getting to even try a technique because they were being "taught" by their partner through the whole round.

So I think it's easier to have a "no teaching on the mat" rule and let it slide when it's not a problem than to not have a rule and have to shut a sempai up in front of their partner.
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Old 06-12-2006, 11:57 PM   #8
Tom Johnson
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

I don't know what's tradition and what's not, but I just started my Aikido journey a couple weeks ago, and since Sensei can't devote all his teaching towards me, I learn a large amount from the more experienced students that I work with.

I think I'd prefer that, so I'm learning all the time, not only when Sensei can give me personal attention.
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Old 06-13-2006, 03:01 AM   #9
Dirk Hanss
 
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

If you do not learn from your partner, there is no need to have partner practice. You can do Karate-like kihon waza with imaginary uke (or nage) or use dummies.

While it is good behaviour not to chat, the one who thinks, he understood the technique, can support by demonstrating. If the other one has no clue at all, a short verbal hint might be OK, but this depends on the dojo rules.

I would never try to do anything but good ukemi, when I realise, that sensei is watching.

What if sensei is watching us and I do not recognise? Well, he steps in, corrects my partner, and my mistakes, and maybe he tells me to shut up. But my major fault i not chatting, but lack in zanshin, in the meaning of not focussing only on my partner and the technique, but the whole dojo.

Just my opinion, how I live it and what is mostly accepted by partners and sensei in different dojo. Of course, I have to adopt to the specific dojo rules, even if they are not formal. That is a part of learning aikido - feel the finest reaction and adapt your technique accordingly. I am far away from perfect, but I am going forward, step by step.


Dirk
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Old 06-13-2006, 03:58 AM   #10
justin
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

Quote:
Graham Old wrote:
I've just come back from class (my first after an initial observation) and was surprised that every time I asked my 'partner' for clarificaton on what I was doing wrong, etc., the reply was, "Only Sensei can teach."

I understand the reasoning (and folks were generally helpful otherwise), but is this standard practice?

Without knowing what you was doing right or wrong its hard to call, this happens to me often and if I am way of the mark with what I think the movement is my partner will say better ask sensei if it is a slight alteration I find they make the comment, it's a kind of fine balance we have achieved through regular practice together, I am very fortunate that I train with a great bunch of people.

Knowing your partner helps a lot as I am sure we have all been there, suggest something and get shot down for making an honest observation don't suggest it and get criticized for not helping, so sometimes saying nothing is the easy way out.
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Old 06-13-2006, 04:45 AM   #11
Yann Golanski
 
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

So, you would rather have your partner perform a technique that does not work than offering him/her some advice as to how to make the technique work?... <psycho penguins>Well, that sucks</psycho penguins>.

If you can do a technique then you can teach it. For me, that's the definition of knowing something. If neither of you can teach it then how about looking at another pair to work out what they are doing? How about trying and asking for feedback? How about asking sensei or another older student? Maybe sensei did not explain it right? *SHOCKER*

There's a world apart between relevant talk on the mat (feedback, compliment, advice to improve technique) and just messing about cause you don't have camera time. The first one is fine, the second not so much.

The people who understand, understand prefectly.
yann@york-aikido.org York Shodokan Aikido
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Old 06-13-2006, 05:04 AM   #12
Mark Freeman
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

Quote:
Graham Old wrote:
I've just come back from class (my first after an initial observation) and was surprised that every time I asked my 'partner' for clarificaton on what I was doing wrong, etc., the reply was, "Only Sensei can teach."

I understand the reasoning (and folks were generally helpful otherwise), but is this standard practice?
Hi Graham,

the first step on the never ending path has been taken. Many things will be unfamiliar, confusing and generally weird for quite a while.

The best thing to do is just relax and take on board the dojo rules, they will become second nature in time.

The 'only sensei can teach' paradigm is a good one, as the extreme alternative would be for everyone to be doing it, and that would be chaotic at best. The whole atmosphere and wellbeing of the dojo is the teachers resposibility, safety is also a consideration.
This should be a general rule accepted by all the students. It maintains the harmony we need to practice correctly.

Of course there may be times when the teacher instructs a higher grade to help out a beginner or lower grade, but it is at the teachers discression.

There seems to be a period ( around 3rd kyu ) when students feel they are 'starting to get it', and are very keen to 'show/tell' the beginners 'how' it should be done. Their confidence is misplaced and their 'teaching' ability is not based on true understanding. Luckily this phase passes and humility kicks in, when they progress a bit further. By shodan most folks will tell you that they know enough to understand how much they don't know!

-Has anyone else noticed this phenomenon, or is it just me?

regards,

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 06-13-2006, 05:55 AM   #13
graham
 
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

Thanks for all of the comments, folks. I should clarify that I didn't mean this as a criticism in the slightest. (As if I could challenge how things were done in my first week!)

It just struck me as odd because I spend much of my time in an environment where I helping people to move beyond old authoritarian modes of practice into thinking for ourselves (meaning, learning-together, not solely on our own). However, a lot of what has been said makes complete sense. I guess, in the end, each dojo (even each class and group of people) is going to have its own culture, ethos and emphases. I just need to get used to that! :-)
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Old 06-13-2006, 08:52 AM   #14
MikeLogan
 
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

I personally prefer the model described by Anne-Marie,
1 Sensei demonstrates technique.
2 We get started for a bit.
3 After a few cycles if there are problems or questions, commentary, or we seek the teacher's advice, at which point sensei calls class to pay attention so they can clarify once, instead of repeating themselves over and over.

If geographically and schedually (New Word?) possible, Graham, I would recommend looking for other training locations just to see if any dovetail with your career-path of:
Quote:
helping people to move beyond old authoritarian modes of practice into thinking for ourselves
While sensei is the go-to guy/gal when the question needs resolution, if all you get from your training partner is "I'm not allowed to tell", it could get tedious most ricky tick. Then again my early aikido experience was with a small group of nidan, sensei included, and one 1st kyu, all of whom are PhD researchers at a government lab. They had the verbal skill to discuss the complex portions of technique, and at that point I was lacking in the physiological vocabulary, so it helped a lot.

As they say, your mileage may vary.
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Old 06-13-2006, 08:59 AM   #15
Dennis Good
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

I am firmly on the side of the fence that encourages students to help one another learn. First, to teach another will cause one to think more in depth about the technique and give a deeper understanding of the technique. Second, my teaching style comes from my Bando instructor from many years ago. His philosophy was that you start by teaching the framework of a technique. No subtle points just the basic movements. At this point in the PROCESS it is helpful for the students to work together and figure it out . In essence teaching each other. If one has seen the technique before, so much the better. When the student can do that the instructor points out the 3 and only 3 biggest points to be worked on. Once they get that you point out the next 3, so on and so forth. At this stage actual instruction between students is not so important but proper feedback is. The further into the process you get the more important this becomes. If one student is losing control at a certain point or is yanking the arm, they need their partner to inform them so they can work it out or ask for assistance, and not just take ukemi and hope they figure it out. That in my opinion is cheating your partner and yourself of a valuable learning experience.
I think a lot of the reason for the "Only Sensei can teach" thing is they don't want one student to teach another the "wrong" way. That is fine but even if the instructor is the only one to teach and they teach it the "right" way that doesn't mean the student will do it the "right" way. It is a long process of learning and refinement. Eventually each student must find what works for them through analyzing the techniques, breaking it down. This type of critical thinking should start as early as possible. Third, I believe being able to teach is so important for each persons development that on occasion I will have a class where I will have each person that is Sankyu or higher teach a technique to the class. These are just my thoughts on the matter.

Dennis
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Old 06-13-2006, 09:16 AM   #16
happysod
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

I can understand this one as occasionally I've banned all verbal communication for one or two techniques after seeing one poor little 6th kyu being effectively harangued by well meaning, but contradictory advice given at high speed by not just one, but two more senior people. It was a bit like watching a verbal version of "when sharks attack".

All in favor of communication in general though.

Mark - so you get humility from your lot, lucky bugger, mine just seem to want to hit me harder.
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Old 06-13-2006, 09:41 AM   #17
Brian Vickery
Dojo: Aiki-Buken Aikido
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

Quote:
Graham Old wrote:
I've just come back from class (my first after an initial observation) and was surprised that every time I asked my 'partner' for clarificaton on what I was doing wrong, etc., the reply was, "Only Sensei can teach."

I understand the reasoning (and folks were generally helpful otherwise), but is this standard practice?
Having "Only Sensei teach" is a good way to prevent Shadow Teaching.

Shadow teaching is when a student shows his own version of a technique being taught by an instructor. But he may not be aware of the reasons why a technique is being taught in a certain way, or in what direction the instructor is planning on taking during the class based on a technique being performed in a very specific way. His shadow teaching may interfere with this process, or at least, cause confusion with his partner/student.

But there's a big difference between helping a new student get the basic movements down on a particular technique and a sempai shadow teaching during a class.

Also, if a student isn't comfortable elaborating on a technique and redirects your question to the instructor, that's much better than him winging it & giving you bad information.

Brian Vickery

"The highest level of technique to achieve is that of having NO technique!"
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Old 06-13-2006, 01:59 PM   #18
odudog
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

This so called shadow teaching is the problem with the senior student and not the dojo. I have told all the people at my dojo that I am doing something different so don't follow/copy me, do what the Sensei is teaching. I do a lot of research and it's not very often that I researched a different way of doing a technique then we just happen to do that technique in class. I then have to steal that opportunity and do it the new way that I just researched so that I can actually learn the nuances of the new version. We have the freedom to help out our partners wether they are junior or colleagues. The few times that I haven't said a word is when my partners, one in particular, gets very concerned for they are wondering if they are really doing it the way that was just instructed.
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Old 06-13-2006, 02:23 PM   #19
Brian Vickery
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

Quote:
Mike Braxton wrote:
...I do a lot of research and it's not very often that I researched a different way of doing a technique then we just happen to do that technique in class. I then have to steal that opportunity and do it the new way that I just researched so that I can actually learn the nuances of the new version...
Mike,

I'm assuming you're doing this with the approval & permission of your instructor, if not, you really should talk to him about this. Doesn't your dojo have advanced classes for such things?

And by the way, what you've described is NOT shadow teaching. Please re-read the description of it to see the difference.

Best of luck with your training!

Brian Vickery

"The highest level of technique to achieve is that of having NO technique!"
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Old 06-13-2006, 05:16 PM   #20
Mark Freeman
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

Quote:
Ian Hurst wrote:
Mark - so you get humility from your lot, lucky bugger, mine just seem to want to hit me harder.
LOL

I'll send you up a few of my pixies they will work for you for food and the occasional treat, with them on your side you will command some serious respect.

cheers

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 06-13-2006, 08:34 PM   #21
odudog
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

Brian,
I play around with techniques during class on my own. I don't discuss it with my Senseis. I'm positive that they have seen what I've been doing and haven't said anything to me about it {were are not very big}. We don't have advance classes at my dojo. This is going to cause a problem for us pretty soon for there is 6 of us that are going for Shodan next year and the rest of the mates are pretty far behind us. I just happen to be the most advanced out of the 6 in terms of Aikido. I had studied a different style of Aikido a very long time ago and when I came to this dojo a couple of years ago, one of the instructors could tell right away that I wasn't exactly new to the art. I have several books and DVDs of different styles of Aikido that I incorporate into what I do. So when I am playing around, either experimenting with a new way of doing a technique or just doing the technique in the way that is already ingrained in my body and is different from what the Sensei has just demonstrated, I tell my uke not to study what I'm doing and to do it the way Sensei is teaching it.
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Old 06-13-2006, 11:22 PM   #22
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

Some dojos are very strict about certain things; maybe from past experiences which necessitated such restriction. I've been to 3 different dojos to train and all three had sempai giving me explanations when I seemed to need it. But, I've been given advice from students who thought they understood a movement, but were a little off too, so there's a fine line and double-edged sword to that method. I do know that as a beginner I had more questions than could really be answered, so to a certain extent, I really dig the "shut up and train" mentality. Questions are never bad in my opinion, but sometimes, too, one has to have enough experience before one can develop familiarity with the language and concepts used.

Last edited by mathewjgano : 06-13-2006 at 11:25 PM.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 06-14-2006, 02:38 AM   #23
topan tantudo
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

In my Dojo. ussualyy after a session of practice the students can ask about the waza they just thought. Like what is the advantages of the waza.

The answer can be answered by senpai, but after the permissions from the sensei, so the traditions can be kept.

i think it would be better if you ask to sensei than to your senpai.
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Old 06-14-2006, 06:24 AM   #24
Steve Mullen
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

In the dojo i train in, (and in white rose ing general) newbies and lower grades are actively encouraged to train with the higeher grades and ask their advice on technique. When Sensei Cassidy (a.k.a Sean Cassidy) gets a new student he tells a senior grade to teach them a certain technique at the side of the mat, and if by the end of the class the newbie hasn't got it, the higher grade gets a beasting in randori

Its not necessarily the higher grades teaching the newbies, as the technique is demonstrated first, its more helping out. How can anyone expect to be able to teach, when they are a sensei, if they are never given the chance to learn when they are a sempai?

"No matter your pretence, you are what you are and nothing more." - Kenshiro Abbe Shihan
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Old 06-14-2006, 09:12 AM   #25
DonMagee
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Re: Only Sensei teachers

In larger classes it could be impossible to only have one instructor. Imagine trying to give person instruction to 100 white belts. In a smaller class I could see the only sensei teaches thing working. But in a larger class, sensei is going to need some help. If only due to time constraints.

Where I trained it was open. Our teacher encourages helping each other and really encourages feedback from uke. But they were a small close group of guys and everyone really knew everyone else's skill level. In a slightly larger class I could see issues.

My bjj class has about 50 students with 25-30 training at any given time. Our instructor recently sat us down and let us know that while he will always teach the class, it is impossible to give the same level of personal attention to each one of us. And not to get upset if he is spending more time with a higher rank guy going to a competition then he is to a guy who just does it as a hobby. He enouraged us to find higher ranked mentors and use them when he was busy.

- Don
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" - Albert Einstein
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