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Old 03-20-2007, 11:59 AM   #1
GBiddy
Location: Victoria, BC
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A dilemma in the Dojo

First of all, hello from a new member. This site is a fantastic Aikido resource, and I look forward to participating and contributing to the discussions.

I'm relieved to find this forum because I have a problem that I'm not sure how to address.

I've been practicing for about 12 years now, and spent the last 3 years studying in Japan. I'm now back in North America, and at the dojo I'm attending I've been really surprised by the lack of martial knowledge and 'presence' of many of the shodan+ students.

Since I'm a lower 'rank' I have no right to suggest technique improvements or point out mistakes, but my time in Japan taught me much and I'd like to share it. But I don't know how to make suggestions without offending or coming across as arrogant.

Usually I would simply discuss this with my sensei or the students individually, but at this dojo our sensei is so incredibly aloof (to the point of not even saying a word to students, from change room to mats) that I'd like to get some other opinions on how to proceed.

Thanks!

GB
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Old 03-20-2007, 01:11 PM   #2
Beard of Chuck Norris
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I'm an aikinewbie.. only been practicing for a year or so.
We have had visitors come to our dojo and when i notice they were doing something incorrectly or "not how we do it" i would simply point it out to them. It was only after training that i discovered that they had been doing it for a lot longer than i have! I did feel slighlty embarrassed afterwards but it turned out that i knew things they didn't and vice versa.
You shouldn't feel haughty when trying to impart knowledge onto others. I've taught (not aiki) for a couple of years now and i always find that a passionate, honest approach works best. As long as you know in your heart that you aren't being arrogant there is no need to even contemplate it.

Like now, i am trying to help you out Mr. Biddy, you are a much more experienced aikidoka than i, but still i can pass on a little of what i know with no feelings of inadequacy or arrogance in the hope that some day someone will do the same for me.

If techniques are being done poorly i generally switch on the bastard in me so that it won't work unless done properly. but that is my failing as an aikidoka and as a teacher.

I wish you every success.

Jo.
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Old 03-20-2007, 01:11 PM   #3
Mark Freeman
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Welcome to aikiweb Gordon,

Why not start your own club, and teach what you know? Then you can set the agenda. You can even talk to your students between changing room and mats

All teachers have to guard against to challenge of 'ego' in the face of being in an elevated 'social' position. Some do better than others.

I like to chat away to all my students up to the moment we start the lesson. When I go to my teachers club, there is no talking to sensei on the way to the mat, as every student is sitting in place, awaiting the start.

regards,

Mark

Success is having what you want. Happiness is wanting what you have.
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Old 03-20-2007, 01:23 PM   #4
mickeygelum
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Are you yudansha? Easy answer...start your own club or dojo.

If what you describe is true, you are in a very frustrating situation...and might possibly lead to animosity, separation and/or
confrontation.

If you are not interested in starting your own dojo...find another that suits your needs.

Michael
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Old 03-20-2007, 01:33 PM   #5
crbateman
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

It sounds like it may be impossible in your particular situation to bridge the "culture gap" that exists. Many dojos are run by more open-minded teachers who encourage students with broader backgrounds to share what they know (with the instructor's oversight, of course), but your situation does not sound like it fits this description. It may be time to move on to a better fit. If you want to try to salvage it, let the teacher know exactly what your problem is, and maybe you'll get his eyes open, but he'll probably feel threatened by the chance for him to appear "lacking". You should absolutely NOT fall victim to the temptation to do the "let's stay after class, and I'll show you something" thing with other students. Right or wrong, it undermines your teacher in his own dojo, and that is a NO-NO. That said, even though you'll get good advice here, the final decision is yours to make, and you will be the one best able to make it.
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Old 03-20-2007, 01:36 PM   #6
Talon
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Just a s a curiosity, who are you training with?
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Old 03-20-2007, 03:42 PM   #7
GBiddy
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Thanks very much for the opinions. I'll try to find a way to diplomatically point out some of the issues, as I'd rather not leave this dojo. And as for opening my own dojo, I still have far too many techniques to learn and master.

I will continue to respect the sensei at this dojo, however I can't bring myself to water down the Aikikai Aikido techniques I practiced in Japan. So I will try to lead by example, silently.

GB

PS: I'd rather not say which dojo I'm at, as it's a small world in these parts and I don't intend to criticise anyone.
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Old 03-20-2007, 10:25 PM   #8
giriasis
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

You know, if the shodan are like this perhaps the sensei of the dojo has a differing point of view towards martial training. He might have different philosophy towards "being martial" that he might feel is more compatible with Americans than Japanese. Ask him questions about where he is coming from rather than "to point things out." Then, talk about your experience.

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
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Old 03-20-2007, 10:58 PM   #9
MikeLogan
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I've recently moved to a new town, Gordon, and train there with some hesitation. I receive a bit of the "hmm, you're new in my dojo, therefore you are new in aikido." Some of it can be exasperating, combined with a hectic work day, it has made it easier to miss a few classes here and there.
Thankfully I've met 2 people roughly my age, build, outlook, and progress (give or take a little). Determining training partners that are on or closest to your wavelength will do wonders. When you train with this person(s) it acts as a nucleus upon which attention will grow if your training has all the outward appearances of viability. You will motivate each other, and perhaps, start opening up the thoughts of those around you.
It shouldn't be hard for you to pick someone who's favorable skill level is matched by a favorable personality. Or, if you recognize skill in a person who disagrees with your technique/approach, take it as a chance to objectively peek at yourself.

And, one thing that has helped me is ukemi. My home-dojo's sempai is an ukemi buff, and drills us on friday's for most of the practice. At my current dojo I get a lot of positive feedback on my ukemi from all manner of throw (technique and power thereof).

I'm rambling, but try to take what you're given and make the best of it. Regarding your previous experiences, write about what is still fresh to you, and review or add to it when the mood strikes.

keep it up.
michael.
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Old 03-21-2007, 01:38 AM   #10
charyuop
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I would approach the situtation in a different way. Instead of saying I do it this way coz my way is correct, I can actually improve your Aikido...
Try something like...Sensei sorry, I was taught this technique this way, can you explain me the difference between the 2 ways of carrying it out, pros and cons?
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Old 03-21-2007, 03:18 AM   #11
Amir Krause
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Gordon

Reading your posts, it seems to me you will never be satisfied in this dojo. Comments such as
Quote:
water down the Aikikai Aikido techniques I practiced in Japan
or
Quote:
sensei is so incredibly aloof (to the point of not even saying a word to students, from change room to mats)
After 12 years of learning you should have realized it yourself. You should look for some other place, this Sensei is not in you taste at present.
I have no idea how good he is, nor who is right and who is wrong on the technical side.
But it is clear that you are dissatisfied - look for some other place.

Amir
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Old 03-21-2007, 11:40 AM   #12
kifed_rebel
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

It sounds like a real predicament.

I'm not sure about other federations but I have noticed in my study in the Ki Federation of Great Britian there is a rather unsettling emphasis on "sensei know's best" and "only one sensei at a time". My own sensei is a fantastic and dynamic Aikido instructor (and I am not referring to him with my qualms) - but as a 'mere' nidan; his opinion is often disregarded and even ignored at larger Ki Fed seminars and gatherings. It is a well known, yet unspoken, rule that if you have a query then you are to ask the highest rank in the dojo at the time - which can be a real pain if there are 70 keen students botching a Katienage form! In fact, I think the role of the sempai is almost extinct within the grand scheme of my seminar study (but not at my particular club).

I think it is hugely important for Aikido to be a subjective art and many interpretations should be welcomed (as acknowledged by the many forms of modern Aiki). If you feel unhappy with the current setup in the dojo, I wouldn't put up with it and perhaps consider opening a dojo/club yourself.

Best of luck anyway with your descision.
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Old 03-21-2007, 11:53 AM   #13
odudog
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I think you should do the techniques the way that you like unless the Sensei specifically tells you not to. If the students are aware and curious, they will notice the differences in your technique and inquire about them and not "correct" you. I too do somethings differently than the way my dojo teaches them. If inquired about and if the person is able to handle the technique then I tell them my way. They now have 2 ways of doing the technique and it is up to them to decide which way they think is better. I am currently an apprentice Sensei at my dojo and I teach all the time that there is your way and my way. If your way is "sound" then the Sensei won't say anything to you about it, but whatever way you want to do the technique, consistantly do it that way. Don't switch back and forth for that will only create confusion.
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Old 03-21-2007, 12:20 PM   #14
Largo
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I was in a similar situation. I trained in Japan for 4+ years, then came back to the states. Everything was different, and everyone wanted a piece of the "blackbelt from Japan". Personally, I just try to absorb everything I can from each dojo where I train, and don't really try to teach anything from my "home" dojo. Honestly, I try to avoid it (it's nice having something in reserve that they don't see coming). As far as understanding the whys, instead of pointing out what is different, if you have a private minute with the sensei or upper rank, ask them to show you the technique that seems different because you don't get it. Make the emphasis on wanting to learn their "correct" way. Most martial artists I know love to talk, and love to expound on why their way is the best for x reasons. May as well use that to your advantage. (well... it works for me at least)
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Old 03-21-2007, 12:52 PM   #15
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I hate to say this but it may simply be a fact that if you really want to train, you need to move...

The West Coast is not the hotbed of hard training and the North West tends towards a less martially oriented practice. In the Seattle area, very few of the folks running dojos have done any other martial arts training. I am familiar with the Canadian West Coast Aikido scene, I've taught many times in Vancouver, and it's a lot like Seattle.

My point is that it is quite possible that your observations are simply correct... these folks don't train the way you have trained before, they don't have the martial depth you are looking for, and it is extremely unlikely that they will change. So, you either accept that fact and your Aikido will never go very deep because you have no place to train where you can take it that far or you move and find a place to train which meets your needs.

I don't mean to sound harsh but there are plenty of dojos where you can put in thirty years of almost daily training and you still won't know anything. The way that they train simply won't get you "there" wherever that is...

I had a guy who used to come cross country to our place to train twice a year. He really liked what we taught and how we practiced. He went back to his dojo and was dissatisfied. he spoke to the Chief Instructor, who was fairly senior in this case, but the teacher was uninterested in doing anything different. So this fellow has now quit Aikido entirely and is doing Systema because he could get what he wanted. I felt bad because he really liked Aikido but he couldn't get it the way he wanted it where he was.

You sound as if you may be in the same situation... move and find an Aikido teacher with whom you can go far, or switch arts (assuming that you have someone teaching that art who is really good). Frankly, Robert Mustard Sensei is up there in Vancouver I believe. Call him up and talk to him. He is exceptional and he didn't get there by dancing around. He may have a suggestion for you. Victoria is a bit off the mainstream and that is often the price you pay for getting a bit more away from it all. It's all about choices.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
AikidoDvds.Com
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Old 03-21-2007, 12:55 PM   #16
GBiddy
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I could move to another Dojo, but I've decided to instead practice the way we did in Japan. When a senior student tries to correct my technique, I will quietly point out that this is how I learnt it in Japan and how I prefer to practice it.

We're talking nuances and very minor variations; stuff only senior students would even catch. Should someone mention this to sensei, I'll use that as an opportunity to discuss the difference approaches.

Thanks again for all the comments...

GB
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Old 03-21-2007, 07:15 PM   #17
Mary Eastland
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Quote:
Gordon Biddy wrote: View Post
Thanks very much for the opinions. I'll try to find a way to diplomatically point out some of the issues, as I'd rather not leave this dojo. And as for opening my own dojo, I still have far too many techniques to learn and master.

I will continue to respect the sensei at this dojo, however I can't bring myself to water down the Aikikai Aikido techniques I practiced in Japan. So I will try to lead by example, silently.

GB

PS: I'd rather not say which dojo I'm at, as it's a small world in these parts and I don't intend to criticise anyone.
How noble of you.

My feeling is if you want to teach, open a dojo.
Don't come to mine and show how you are better....because you are not. You are just different.

If you want to train at our dojo you should practice what we are teaching to the best of your ablity....otherwise go somewhere else.
Mary
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Old 03-21-2007, 07:44 PM   #18
mriehle
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Quote:
Mary Eastland wrote: View Post
If you want to train at our dojo you should practice what we are teaching to the best of your ablity....otherwise go somewhere else.
This is the meat of your comment. I attended a seminar this weekend where the instructor has radically different ideas from what I'm used to. There is no doubt in my mind that some of it is just style differences that I will eventually ignore.

But...

While I'm on the mat with him I do it his way. Period. Otherwise I will not learn from him and may disrupt his class.

I'm not likely to go train at his dojo, but if I did I wouldn't go in saying, "Well, we did it this other way where I used to train".

As a teacher I've had people come in to train with their own ideas about how things should be and it really makes it difficult to teach a coherent class. I pretty much don't put up with it anymore at all. When I was a really green teacher I allowed it through lack of confidence, but I just step on it now.

As a student I've had to move from one dojo to another and adapt to a new way of doing things. It's a difficult transition, but it's always been worth it to me.

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Old 03-21-2007, 08:32 PM   #19
Karen Wolek
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I'm with Mary and Michael. Actually, when I read your reply earlier today, Gordon, I was a little shocked....I didn't respond because I'm only 1st kyu. But what the hell, ha. Anyway, I have been brought up in aikido that you always do whatever the sensei wants you to do, even if it's different, even if you think it's wrong, even if you think you know better. His class, his dojo, his way.

I have taken classes in other dojo, I have taken a ton of classes from other sensei at seminars. I would never ever tell someone that I choose to do it differently because that's how it was done in my dojo. That's not respectful at all.

Karen
"Try not. Do...or do not. There is no try." - Master Yoda
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Old 03-21-2007, 10:26 PM   #20
Nick P.
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

The dilemma in that dojo....is you.

Reverse the roles for a moment. If you were training in the dojo you just came from (Japan), and a new student arrived who refused to even try, or attempt to try, and follow what was being taught, how would you and the other students, and sensei, deal with you?

At best, the "My way only, if you don't mind" -student would be considered more than an odd egg and eventually be relegated to "That guy" who would be tolerated, because frankly, every dojo has to have one.

I'm all for keeping and honing what one believes to be the "true" path, but what you propose, at best, will likely undermine not only your fellow students' pursuit of their path, but yours as well.

Find a better fit, for everyone's sake, and good luck.

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Old 03-21-2007, 11:32 PM   #21
crbateman
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

Gordon, if you're testing your diplomacy skills in this thread prior to trying them in the dojo, then you need to work harder. I'm going to have to say that I'm with these recent posters who have issues with your attitude. It is very disrespectful to go to another person's dojo and presume to train the way you want, with little or no regard for the fact that, right or wrong, your way may not suit them, or is contrary to what others may be trying to accomplish. I told you that you ultimately would have to decide how you wish to train, but not how those around you have to train. Aikido is about blending, and your attitude blends like oil and water.

I was hopeful that your reasoning in coming here was to sincerely seek some useful advice, but your statements make it seem more like you had made up your mind beforehand, so those well-intended people who spoke up here have wasted their time. Respect is earned, not imposed, here or in the dojo, and if you go anyplace and insist on training your own way, you will most likely be shown the door. Consider the chaos that would ensue if suddenly everybody in the dojo decided to follow your "example" and insist on their own way of doing things. Impossible.

Last edited by crbateman : 03-21-2007 at 11:46 PM.
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Old 03-22-2007, 06:03 AM   #22
Rupert Atkinson
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I understand exactly as I was in the same boat at some point past. Best thing you can do is keep your mouth shut and train. Try to do it their way and see if there is something to it. From what I saw on returning from Japan, many dojos are barking up the wrong tree. However, I also discovered that there are some dojos that are better than in Japan. Just keep your eyes open - the truth is out there.

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Old 03-22-2007, 09:41 AM   #23
Basia Halliop
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

It isn't really clear to me why you want to study at this dojo at all. If you don't feel like you are learning a lot from the sensei and are unimpressed by the results of his teaching, it seems like kind of a waste of time and money at best.
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:39 AM   #24
tenkan
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

I, like many know this situation well. After coming back from Jp after 10 years I went to the local club. Everyone from 2nd time in class students to the instructor told me I was doing it wrong. At first I just smiled then one class I had enough and when the instructor was doing his thing, taking turns throwing all the students, I did a very aiki thing and went with his energy and threw him on his ass. He tried to scratch and poke my eyes becoming visably enraged and said I could do many other things to which I laugh, pushed him out of the way said I don't want to fight I was just showing you the "wrong way"
Since then the cobra kai attitude from all the other students really showed and I left. I started my own school, although I have few aikido students, these people have spread the word and I get calls from local Universities wanting a self defense teacher ,so it has worked out. Do what makes you happy
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Old 03-22-2007, 10:51 AM   #25
Erik Calderon
 
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Re: A dilemma in the Dojo

When I came back from Japan, I was pretty much in the same position as you.

I opened my own dojo and it has been and is the best thing I've ever done!

www.shinkikan.com
aikido shinkikan
Erik Calderon.

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