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Old 07-14-2000, 10:26 AM   #1
Yo-Jimbo
Dojo: formerly Windward Aikido, formerly at Keewenaw Schools of Aikido (ASU)
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Circle

One thing that I learned as Kohai was that my
favorite partners were "Mute Sempai". When i first started in 1991, there was very little talk in our dojo. In fact, if I asked even some of the shodans other than our sensei a question about technique their usual reply was to look me calmly in the eye and wait to do the exercise again. I quickly realized that the best way to learn was to pay attention to both of our bodies during ukemi.

Now I'm a "Mute Sempai" whenever I have the restaint. It sometimes confuses and frustrates my Kohai when I refuse to verbally reply to their questions the first two times or so. I always hear them and slow my nage actions down and exaggerate their troubled part. When taking ukemi, I try to blend into the ruff spots to smooth them out.

What more should be said than, "Feel this here."? How much talk goes on in your training?

"One does not find wisdom in another's words." -James D. Chye
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Old 07-14-2000, 11:14 AM   #2
Nick
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Not more talking than is needed. My sempai and sensei will usually do both- exaggerate the part I'm messing up, and explaining how to do it correctly.

I agree that there shouldn't be much talking.

-Nick

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Old 07-14-2000, 04:30 PM   #3
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I agree, Nick. Communication is what's important. Just enough talking to fill in the gaps so that we all learn and use all of our learning tools.


Chuck Clark
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Old 07-14-2000, 07:41 PM   #4
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Of course, every now and then Shihan will yell "no talking!" and that makes it fun to try and get corrected. That's when I learned the true 'mute sempai' theory, because if they were not, they faced Shihan's wrath .

-Nick

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Old 07-14-2000, 09:55 PM   #5
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I think it depends on the person. Some people are auditory and would rather listen to an explanation. Others are visual and would rather see it. Some others may be kinesthetic and would rather feel it.

I think that we're all some combination of the above, although we may have different proportions. I tend to rather feel the technique but may sometimes need to see it from "the outside." Because of this, I'm usually one of the silent people on the mat (although I think some folks get intimidated by my overall silence)...

-- Jun

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Old 07-16-2000, 08:29 AM   #6
Keith
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Personally, I don't think talking is such a horrible thing. I was at a seminar at a school where there wasn't a lot of talking. Not a lot of laughing either, which bothered me. But anyway... We were working on a technique with which I was unfamiliar, and it wasn't happening for me. Rather than roll, my uke (yondan or godan, and dojo-cho of that school) would just run a few steps. I watched her with other students, and she'd fall when they got it right, and when she threw me, there was no running out. So obviously the problem was me. After my second go round without a throw, I said "What am I missing here?" She muttered "What are we all missing?" I thought that was a really crappy answer. Obviously she wasn't missing it. So no help there. Then after a couple more go rounds she stood and turned her hips a couple times. OK, so I'm not turning my hips? When? Still no help. Never once got the technique right. A couple weeks later I thought I might have caught on, but by that time I was home and the only people were junior to me, so I can't be sure that I really got it. If she'd just said "at this point in the technique, try doing this a little better," THEN did that hip turning thing, I would have gotten it in a second.

Another thing about that whole mute sempai thing is that it discourages questions. I don't think that's a good thing. When people are left to figure stuff out for themselves, then their understanding of Aikido is going to be limited to what they can figure out for themselves. I recently made a correction to the way I'd been teaching a sword technique. When I demonstrated it, I asked (as I always do after demonstrating a technique) "Any questions?" My senior student's hand immediatley shot up and he asked "Why?" So I told him. Later I thought that it might be pretty rare for a senior student to openly question the teacher like that, but that's the way I run things. I don't think I'm good enough to be shrouded in an air of mistique (speaking of that, I really liked the X-Men movie. Favorite line: "It's all right, it's me." "Prove it." "You're a dick." "Okay."), and by allowing the students to feel intellectually free, I have to stay on my toes. My answer to a question has never been "because that's how we do it." A couple times it's been "I'll get back to you," like when a student asked what I meant by spiritual growth. That was a tough one. But they know that everything we do has a reason. I don't think they would if I allowed no talking.

Just my unqualified opinion.
Keith
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Old 07-16-2000, 08:52 AM   #7
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Keith,

In my opinion, you're right on target. Keep practicing and teaching as you described. It works.

Chuck Clark
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Old 07-17-2000, 11:13 AM   #8
Yo-Jimbo
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Mutant Conversation

Keith,

X-men was great.

I'm not saying verbal communication should be avoided at all costs. I do believe that new students gain less from talking than they think they will when they ask a question. I don't like to answer, "What am I doing wrong?" If the answer is two or three things, I'll usually straighten out someone's feet. (If I'm having trouble with something I check out sensei's feet first.) All to often, if I answer kohai that aren't ready with a direct suggestion of a simple movement change, they don't truly listen if the answer is given to easily. They hear and then their body does the exact same thing again. When I make them wait, force them to try agian without direction or skip being nage and go back to being uke, they usually learn faster. Also, they usually keep asking for help and questions, but they are typically more self-aware questions about their hands, feet or waist.

When I ask someone to show me how to do something that I know I'm doing wrong, I tell them where and when it feels weird, why I think I developed the habit I have, and what it is I think I see in how they do it that I want to learn. Not that sensei doesn't often correct me on things that I didn't even notice.

I'm open to change when it looks better. What are other's logic when asking or answering questions?

"One does not find wisdom in another's words." -James D. Chye
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Old 07-17-2000, 11:57 AM   #9
jxa127
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The learning process...

A lot of what we're talking about concerns the learning process. My understanding is that the more stimulus you use to teach, the better your students learn. In Aikido terms, that would mean learning a technique by hearing it described, seeing it done, and feeling it is better than just seeing it and then feeling it.

At the same time, I can see the point about being a mute uke -- especially when you're of low rank (like me). For a while, I was trying to explain things to nage when he ran into trouble, but now I tend to keep quieter. Part of the reason is that my sensei pointed out my tendancy to be a bit too vocal (hey, I'm a talkative guy and I'm enthusiastic about what I'm learning. It's hard not to talk about it or explain it to somebody who's struggling). Mostly, though, I'm realizing how much I don't know and that makes me a bit uncomfortable explaining things.

-Drew

P.S. X-Men *was* great!
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Old 07-18-2000, 01:42 AM   #10
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As I read this I was struck by how we learn to walk. No one (I hope) sits down with a child and says,

"stand up straight, put your center slightly forward, yea that's it, now put your foot here, no here, then move your other foot here, then, wait you need to bend your knee more and relax a bit as you are kind of tense, that's better....."

Quantity does not make up for a lack of quality as it pertains to the written and spoken word.

By the way, if I remember my numbers correctly the breakdown on how the average person learns is:

7% auditory
38% visual
55% kinesthetic or feeling
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Old 07-18-2000, 04:33 AM   #11
andrew
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X men doesn't open here for weeks.

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Old 07-18-2000, 07:15 AM   #12
jxa127
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Learning to walk...

Erik,

I agree in principle with what you're saying except that learning to walk is a bad analogy. Walking is an instinct -- something that's programmed to happen by our genes. All humans walk on two legs, but not all humans study Aikido. Aikido may be composed of natural movements, but it is not composed of instictual movements.

I like your breakdown of how the average person learns. I think that I tend to learn a bit better from hearing something than the average person, but that breakdown looks like a good guideline.

-Drew

P.S. How many "average" people take Aikido? I thought that all aikidoka are above average.
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Old 07-18-2000, 08:37 AM   #13
Pete
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I have always considered myself pretty average at most everything, and quite below average in some other things!! In our dojo Sensei (a Kokudan) demonstrates what he wants us to do by talking through what he is doing whilst actually doing it, and then does it again two or three times and once more at a pretty good speed. Then he lets us 'loose' and watches us all quite closely (small classes!! Usually no more than about 10 or 12 people!) stopping us individually to give advice and then, IF he spots a lot of people having the same problem, he stops us all and demonstrates again two or three times highlighting the point where he saw a problem.

I find this quite good to learn from because he is allowing all three learning styles to come out in his teaching!!

Pete
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Old 07-18-2000, 08:38 AM   #14
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Meant to add a PS to that!!

X-men opens here in the UK on 18th August for those who are interested!!
I may try to catch it whilst in Florida for two weeks from this Thursday!!!

Hurrah!!
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Old 07-18-2000, 09:05 AM   #15
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Quote:
Erik wrote:
As I read this I was struck by how we learn to walk. No one (I hope) sits down with a child and says,

"stand up straight, put your center slightly forward, yea that's it, now put your foot here, no here, then move your other foot here, then, wait you need to bend your knee more and relax a bit as you are kind of tense, that's better....."
That's because the infant will most likely look at you and say "wah."

Have you ever been to a rehabilitation center for adults who are "relearning" how to walk? Or learning how to use their new prosthetic arm? I'll bet you it's not, "Here's your new arm. Just wave it around some. Oh, you might poke your eye a few times, but you'll learn."

-- Jun

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Old 07-18-2000, 09:15 AM   #16
BC
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I'm more of the belief that it is good to be able to use more than just kinesthetics to learn/teach. Yes, many people learn more by feeling a technique, but I believe that it is more helpful to occasionally communicate verbally or visually. I can remember many occasions when one of my instructors caught an error in my technique, and had me watch him and my partner doing it correctly which led to a breakthrough for me in understanding a certain point or aspect of a technique. The same goes for verbal communication as well.

Just last night I practiced with a sempai that I have avoided for several months because the last time I practiced with him, he did nothing but just "shut me down" during one class, without saying a word. In fact, he wouldn't even make eye contact with me. I literally couldn't even get a technique started - he wouldn't let me move. Last night, however, when he shut me down again, he would at least offer up a point or two if I still couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. For me this was much more helpful than just plain stonewalling me, and I actually came away from our practice together having learned something - which was not my previous experience with him. Yes, I probably would have eventually figured out what I was doing wrong if he hadn't communicated it to me verbally, but it could have taken a while and class time is limited, and neither of us would have gottern much practice in actual techniques. I think you really have to strike a balanced and flexible approach when practicing with different partners - at least I found this to be true when I was an instructor in another martial art years ago.

By the way, I also disagree with the learning to walk analogy. As a father of a nine month old who is on the verge of walking, I can assure you that no one that age is even remotely capable of understanding any detailed auditory instructions in learning to walk. Their main source of learning such an activity is limited to kinesthetic and visual resources, because they just haven't developed their verbal communications skills at that age.

IMHO

-BC
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Old 07-18-2000, 11:23 AM   #17
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Quote:
akiy wrote:
That's because the infant will most likely look at you and say "wah."
Which is precisely my point. I didn't say no explanation just too much explanation. So what happens in this situation? You give the child an excellent role model (most everyone around it walks) plus tons of support and love. You can't talk a child to death so you support, help, show it and give it unlimited opportunity to try and fail. My point is that some people will spend 55% of their time talking and 7% of it feeling. I don't think that will work terribly well for most people although I suspect that some would love it.

Quote:
Have you ever been to a rehabilitation center for adults who are "relearning" how to walk? Or learning how to use their new prosthetic arm? I'll bet you it's not, "Here's your new arm. Just wave it around some. Oh, you might poke your eye a few times, but you'll learn."
And I'll bet that learning to use a prostethetic isn't a 2 week lecture followed by a hearty good luck and far thee well. I bet they get some explanation but that the vast majority of time is spent giving them an opportunity to use the device time and time again.
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Old 07-18-2000, 11:35 AM   #18
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Quote:
Erik wrote:
My point is that some people will spend 55% of their time talking and 7% of it feeling. I don't think that will work terribly well for most people although I suspect that some would love it.[/b]
As I wrote above, I tend to show with my body rather than show with my words. I personally dislike it when people do a "data dump" onto me regarding a technique. Let me feel it and let me work on it...

Another reason why I prefer the "shut up and train" method is that it teaches people how to feel the other person. If you can't feel what the other person is doing with their body during a technique when you're uke, then how can you hope to do the same as nage to affect them in an effective manner?

-- Jun

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Old 07-18-2000, 12:34 PM   #19
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Quote:
akiy wrote:
As I wrote above, I tend to show with my body rather than show with my words. I personally dislike it when people do a "data dump" onto me regarding a technique. Let me feel it and let me work on it...

Another reason why I prefer the "shut up and train" method is that it teaches people how to feel the other person. If you can't feel what the other person is doing with their body during a technique when you're uke, then how can you hope to do the same as nage to affect them in an effective manner?

-- Jun
I completely agree.
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Old 07-18-2000, 03:52 PM   #20
Yo-Jimbo
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Red face The Mute Trombone

One of my early sempai used to be very melodramatic as he trained. He would act like I was hurting him every once in a while (and I really don't think that I was) and then just as he switched to nage he would have the "I'm going to get even" look in his face and body. Sure enough he would do the next technique a bit harder, causing more pain, but never injury. I was gullible and would almost everytime, apologize or ask him if he was hurt. He said nothing. He just gave me the look. I think he was just having fun with me, but it taught me to trust what I felt more than what I saw or was told. I knew I hadn't hurt him; I knew he wouldn't really hurt me. He was teaching me to trust myself. He would explain technique if asked, but on this one point he was always a ham.
Another sempai used to be scary for another reason, she had deadly technique hiding just below the surface at all times. She would be working on keeping things smooth, but if my ukemi was not cooperative, the ride to the ground would become much more direct.
Some sempai have given me the distinct feeling that every moment of their ukemi was a gift, the techinques would feel smooth and perfect, but had the edge like I was following as nage and reversal was present at every moment.

Talking is important, but I can't remember that much of what they said to me. One must talk sometimes to be more effective, it would be very hard to argue otherwise. Instead, if one feels that something should be said during training, and the instinct is to say something a bit "Zen" rather than, "move the left foot six centimeters at a 43 degree angle." Is it an appropriate answer to kohai to occasionally say, "I don't know." "I'm just learning this myself." or "Perhaps one of the many things that I'm doing wrong." I've found that kohai are often in need of confidence direction more than physical direction. Technique is easier to study when the learned are "just studying" and not always quick to pretend like everything has an easy answer. I would hope that we all try to find a balance between showing, talking, doing and sometimes satirizing or philosophizing on technique. Once everyone finds what balance they are comfortable with, I challenge one to train once in a while in a way that one is less comfortable with. Take away the balance and study the poles.
Does anyone have favorite "Zen" come backs to, "What am I doing wrong?" besides, "What are we all doing wrong?" or "I was about to ask you the same thing!"?

"One does not find wisdom in another's words." -James D. Chye
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Old 07-18-2000, 04:13 PM   #21
Kristina Morris
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Re: The Mute Trombone


If someone asks me "What am I doing wrong?", I usually say something to the effect that 'I don't know, but we will work it out together' or 'I think we should ask sensei' or 'Let's just keep trying. If we don't get it this time, there will be plenty of other opportunities.'

Kristina
still haven't gotten the hang of using the quotes.....
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Old 07-18-2000, 04:58 PM   #22
Yo-Jimbo
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Wink Kristina's Kind

Kristine,

Most of the time it is important to empathic and sincere, perhaps even logical. Don't you ever say anything to your partner something that tests the edge of your mutual reality? If you think that I'm making fun of you, I am, but only because I loved how freshly honest and straightforward your answer was. Still, now I've pushed you and I would like to see if you respond with irimi, tenkan or atemi to my suki.

Peace,
James

"One does not find wisdom in another's words." -James D. Chye
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Old 07-18-2000, 05:08 PM   #23
Nick
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Re: Re: The Mute Trombone

Quote:
Kristina Morris wrote:

If someone asks me "What am I doing wrong?", I usually say something to the effect that 'I don't know, but we will work it out together' or 'I think we should ask sensei' or 'Let's just keep trying. If we don't get it this time, there will be plenty of other opportunities.'

Kristina
still haven't gotten the hang of using the quotes.....
We usually do almost everything wrong. We are only human. I agree with your reasoning though- if you can't help, find someone who can.

Sorry for being kinda OT... this topic has had everything said that can be...

-Nick

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Old 07-19-2000, 12:30 AM   #24
Mike Collins
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I am neither smart enough to learn by listening nor above average.

For I am the exception which proves the rule!
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Old 08-13-2000, 09:34 PM   #25
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I like the pain analogy. I have often said it's amazing how quick you learn to correct things when it hurts!

On a slightly different note, I can't be the only one who's noticed that different teaching styles work better for some than for others? If I can't help someone within a couple of trys (in a session) I revert to silent mode.

N-
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