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Old 04-30-2009, 09:21 PM   #1
John Furgerson III
 
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Questioning a teacher

A couple of weeks ago an instructor I have never seen before taught the Saturday morning class. I believe the two Sensei's who normally teach were in another city for the opening of a new dojo. Anyway, the class was going well but within 45 minutes he seperated me with another young girl who is very new to Aikido.
He said that a 5th kyu was in training to teach and he wanted her to practice with us for a while.
No problem even though I have never heard of a 5th kyu teaching before. We were practicing forward and back rolls, the stances of Aikido and some terminology. The other 5th kyu in the class practiced with the other high ranks. For over half of the class I was repeating basics and I was getting bored.Even though I have no rank in Aikido, I have five years experience. I was wondering why I was the only one the instructor used to help with the young girl and the 5th kyu who was training to teach.
After class someone asked me how I liked the class and I told them what I felt. I thought it was a waste of my time and money. Basics for most of the class while everyone else gets to practice with the hakamas?? Now one of the Sensei's seems a little cold toward me.I guess someone told her. Was I right in telling them what I thought?
I pay good money to be taught by Sensei's.
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Old 04-30-2009, 11:38 PM   #2
Joe McParland
 
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Perhaps now you will get precisely what you pay for, just as you wished.

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Old 04-30-2009, 11:39 PM   #3
Janet Rosen
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Three thoughts, and perhaps they will sound harsh, but I mean them sincerely and without malice:
1. It is the role of any student to put some time and energy into teaching their juniors. That's what your sempai, "the hakamas", do for you. How can you turn around and expect to not do that for your kohei?
2. Your money is not being paid for your special advancement, it is part of what contributes to maintaining the dojo community.
3. If you cannot learn something new every time you do the basics, then you are not digging deeply enough into the fundamentals of what it is to train in a martial art (or any ART, for that matter, musicians return to scales and painters to sketching from life).

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 05-01-2009, 12:33 AM   #4
Joshua Sloan
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Re: Questioning a teacher

I must largely agree with Janet's points; one can often learn just as much, if not more, from working with and teaching beginners as compared to working with sempai, and I have always been told and have found it true that one can never work enough on "the basics". Although a class full of rolls, falls, and tai sabaki might not seem as exciting or enjoyable as playing around with the sempai, these are the base components of functional, efficient, and beautiful technique and should not be so lightly overlooked.

Additionally, I might suggest a change in perspective. Rather than being upset that the sensei picked you out of the crowd to work on basics with the new girl and the fifth kyu teacher-in-training, thus "depriving" you of a workout with the sempai and "wasting your time and money", have you considered that perhaps you should have been honored that the sensei chose you in particular out of all the students present to not only instruct the new girl in the techniques most important to her future life as an aikidoka (the basics of rolling, falling, and tai sabaki), but also so you could serve as an example of a good instructor to the fifth kyu teacher-in-training? Thus, the reason for your sensei seeming cold after this incident might not be a result of you expressing your honest opinion regarding the class, but a result of the sensei's good intention of providing and rewarding you with a special opportunity to learn by teaching being misinterpreted as a punishment or waste of your time. I believe you did the right thing by responding honestly to the question of how you felt about class; if we didn't express our honest views and opinions (in other words, if we were not sincere and committed in our interactions with fellow students and instructors), then I think the communication and connection would break down and I don't feel we could progress very far as Aikidoka. I would recommend speaking with your instructor about this, explaining your feelings, and ask for their input and interpretation of the situation.

Since I began in Aikido, I've consistently been told three things:
1) "Teach what you know; if you know one thing, teach one thing"
2) "You can never get enough of the basics."
3) "The best way to learn is through teaching."

I've found these all to be very true for me. These are merely my thoughts on the matter, and I hope you find them helpful and unoffensive.

Most sincerely,
Josh
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Old 05-01-2009, 07:36 AM   #5
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Quote:
John Furgerson III wrote: View Post
Basics for most of the class while everyone else gets to practice with the hakamas??
i love "basics!"
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Old 05-01-2009, 08:15 AM   #6
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Re: Questioning a teacher

I always considered it an honor and a privilege to be asked by my Sensei to help another student.

To me when a Sensei would ask this of me it was a sign that the Sensei had confidence in me and saw potential in me.

in my dojo it is an obligation for a senior student to help a junior. As Janet points out is the role of a Sempi. It part of the learning process.

However I do believe that it is important for a student to be honest with the Sensei. If the Sensei is not ready for the truth. Then the question should not be asked.
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Old 05-01-2009, 08:38 AM   #7
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Re: Questioning a teacher

I can't think of anything more important, or any better training than the basics, without them there is no technique, and teaching the basics is a great way to really understand them.

"Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men" - Thomas Henry Huxley
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Old 05-01-2009, 08:40 AM   #8
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Re: Questioning a teacher

John, I sympathize with your frustration -- it's not fun when a class doesn't go as you wanted. We all love those classes where all kinds of wonderful things happen and it feels like you took a huge step forward. Realistically, though, such classes are rare, and the average class is practice, practice, practice of stuff you've already "learned" (but by no means mastered). That, IME, is just the way it goes with martial arts training. It's not for everyone.

Comparing yourself to others is a bad road to go down, and comparing your treatment to that of others is an even worse one. Go down that road, and your chance of inventing a lot of stuff that just ain't so is really, really high. This other fifth kyu who got to "practice with the hakamas" -- who knows why? Maybe the instructor judged that your basics would be a better example for the newbie to watch. Maybe he thought that this other fifth kyu student needed a challenge. Or maybe he judged that you weren't yet up to what she wanted the "hakamas" to do, and the other fifth kyu student was. You don't know, and certainly you shouldn't assume that because the two of you have equal rank, you should therefore be treated the same. My dojo has one fifth kyu who attained that rank last August and has trained diligently three times a week since...and another fifth kyu who got rank a year earlier, and who trained once a week...for a while...then once every other week, then maybe once a month. If you just go by rank and seniority, it's obvious which one should be "more advanced", but it doesn't work like that. Don't compare yourself to others -- even in the rare case when you are 100% right and you are "better", or are not being treated as your skill level merits, it does absolutely no good to dwell on it. Just eat what's in front of you.

Of course, you always have the option to vote with your feet, and in some cases you'd be right to do so. If you don't get many training opportunities, and you feel that classes are a waste of time, it doesn't really matter if the fault is with you or the instructor, it's time to move on. I think, though, that if you are still interested in training aikido, you need to ask yourself if your expectation of classes is realistic. Any martial art is going to involve a lot of repetition. When I was training karate, one thing that I really admired in my seniors was the way that sensei would call out "Heian shodan!" and they would all line up to do the most basic kata, as if they hadn't done it thousands of times before. Never once did I hear a sigh or a complaint or see someone roll their eyes. That's part of the training, and they understood that.

That may not be something you can do. If not, it's time to take up other pursuits. If so...well, even the right attitude can't make you happy all the time. It also can't change the fact of an instructor who really can't teach well or a dojo that's just not well run. So, if you continue to be disappointed by classes, you need to ask yourself:

1)Is it me or is it them?
2)Is it something I can change?

If the answer to 2) is yes, then you need to fix whatever was the answer to 1). If the answer to 2) is no, you need to vote with your feet.
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Old 05-01-2009, 08:59 AM   #9
John Furgerson III
 
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Thanks to you all for the advice and information. I have no problem doing basics over and over again. I love Aikido and the basics of it. I have no desire to do any other martial art.
Aikido is for me and the dojo is one that I like. Hopefully the Sensei won't be cold for long but if she is, oh well. There is another Sensei there also and he's still nice with me. They share the classes. She teaches Monday Wednesday and he teaches Tuesday Thursday.
He Saturday and she Sunday.
Basics are fine but I like to do both in a class. As for me not payingthe Sensei, I'm just paying for the upkeep of the dojo....not true. These two Sensei's do Aikido for a living. That's all they do. So some of the money they have to use to live on. Paying only for the dojo is what I did in the States. The teachers there had jobs during the day and rented a room in a church to practice in in the evenings.
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Old 05-01-2009, 09:02 AM   #10
Joe McParland
 
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Re: Questioning a teacher

If you assume that being asked to render some service is an honor, you are in the same boat as the person who assumes the teacher has taken advantage of him.

One's "honest response" - which need not be confused with a truthful response - reveals his self completely, however clear or deluded. This applies both to the student responding to the question as well as to the teacher's reaction (if in fact there was one) to the student's answer.

The student assumed the instruction was not valuable. That may or may not be true. The student assumed an "honest" answer was best. That may or may not have been true. The student assumed he is the cause of the teacher's apparent change in behavior. Again, this may or may not be true. What is true is that the student is now lost in his own assumptions.

That is where corrective action should be applied

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Old 05-01-2009, 10:10 AM   #11
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Quote:
John Furgerson III wrote: View Post
Aikido is for me and the dojo is one that I like. Hopefully the Sensei won't be cold for long but if she is, oh well.
...or you could do the difficult thing and have a conversation with her. It's probably better in the long run than letting it fester.

Quote:
John Furgerson III wrote: View Post
As for me not payingthe Sensei, I'm just paying for the upkeep of the dojo....not true. These two Sensei's do Aikido for a living. That's all they do. So some of the money they have to use to live on. Paying only for the dojo is what I did in the States. The teachers there had jobs during the day and rented a room in a church to practice in in the evenings.
I think Janet's point was that the rent on the dojo needs to be paid whether you feel you had a great class tonight or not. Also, remember that in any halfway decent dojo, the most important ingredient in whether you have a great class is you. It's not like buying a pizza where the only thing you contribute is your cash. If you buy a pizza and it sucks, you are entitled to ask for your money back, since it was none of your doing. Martial arts training isn't like that.
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Old 05-01-2009, 10:41 AM   #12
Janet Rosen
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Quote:
John Furgerson III wrote: View Post
I'm just paying for the upkeep of the dojo....not true. These two Sensei's do Aikido for a living. That's all they do. So some of the money they have to use to live on. Paying only for the dojo is what I did in the States. The teachers there had jobs during the day and rented a room in a church to practice in in the evenings.
I didn't say "pay for dojo upkeep." I said contribute to maintaining the dojo community. Whether or not that includes paying sensei is irrelevent.

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 05-01-2009, 11:33 AM   #13
Joe McParland
 
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Re: Questioning a teacher

You can call me an idiot, but you may get punched in the nose.

Takemusu is finding the spontaneous, appropriate response to a situation. So, ask yourself something about your honest, spontaneous response to your situation: was it rooted in a clear, open, relaxed mind, or was it rooted in the accumulated resentment of your perceived your situation? Was it a response, or was it a reaction? Is calling the teacher an idiot the perfect aikido-esque verbal irimi designed to clear this situation, or was it just your own noisy self resonating with resent?

I would venture that if it was a pure response, you would not be so bothered by the potential fallout; instead, it seems you're dealing with your ungrounded reaction and the situation you may have exacerbated for yourself.

Fortunately, this is now just another situation to consider. What will you do with it?

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Old 05-01-2009, 11:38 AM   #14
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Did it ever occur to you that you got paired up with her because you have good forward rolls? In my aikijitsu class, if someone needed to learn rolls, I was always put with them. It isn't an insult, they probably think you are a great example and feel you are a good teacher for demonstrating and teaching forward rolls. How can you ever expect to be a teacher if you can't bother helping or teaching those below you..... that is what teaching is all about! Passing on your knowledge and experience to others.....

I say stop whining and feel honored that you were asked. Sorry if that is a bit harsh...
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Old 05-01-2009, 12:36 PM   #15
Mark Peckett
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Quote:
Joshua Sloan wrote: View Post

Since I began in Aikido, I've consistently been told three things:
1) "Teach what you know; if you know one thing, teach one thing"
2) "You can never get enough of the basics."
3) "The best way to learn is through teaching."

I've found these all to be very true for me. These are merely my thoughts on the matter, and I hope you find them helpful and unoffensive.

Most sincerely,
Josh
Those 3 excellent pieces of advice; I'll remember them for myself and pass them on.

Thanks, Josh.
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Old 05-01-2009, 03:53 PM   #16
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Quote:
John Furgerson III wrote: View Post
A couple of weeks ago an instructor I have never seen before taught the Saturday morning class. I believe the two Sensei's who normally teach were in another city for the opening of a new dojo. Anyway, the class was going well but within 45 minutes he seperated me with another young girl who is very new to Aikido.
He said that a 5th kyu was in training to teach and he wanted her to practice with us for a while.
No problem even though I have never heard of a 5th kyu teaching before. We were practicing forward and back rolls, the stances of Aikido and some terminology. The other 5th kyu in the class practiced with the other high ranks. For over half of the class I was repeating basics and I was getting bored.Even though I have no rank in Aikido, I have five years experience. I was wondering why I was the only one the instructor used to help with the young girl and the 5th kyu who was training to teach.
After class someone asked me how I liked the class and I told them what I felt. I thought it was a waste of my time and money. Basics for most of the class while everyone else gets to practice with the hakamas?? Now one of the Sensei's seems a little cold toward me.I guess someone told her. Was I right in telling them what I thought?
I pay good money to be taught by Sensei's.
I think it is a clear mistake of instructor to ask you practice with her half of the class. Normaly you change a partner for every technique, this way every student has a chance to practice with more advanced and with beginners.

Probably instructors in this dojo are not experienced enough to understand such basic thing. I think it is a good idea to give them a feedback, however you should tell it directly to involved instructor and you may do it in polite way. This way the communication is clear and the instructor could tell you his reasons for such decision.

Nagababa

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Old 05-02-2009, 03:12 PM   #17
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Quote:
John Furgerson III wrote: View Post
A couple of weeks ago an instructor I have never seen before taught the Saturday morning class. I believe the two Sensei's who normally teach were in another city for the opening of a new dojo. Anyway, the class was going well but within 45 minutes he seperated me with another young girl who is very new to Aikido.
He said that a 5th kyu was in training to teach and he wanted her to practice with us for a while.
No problem even though I have never heard of a 5th kyu teaching before. We were practicing forward and back rolls, the stances of Aikido and some terminology. The other 5th kyu in the class practiced with the other high ranks. For over half of the class I was repeating basics and I was getting bored.Even though I have no rank in Aikido, I have five years experience. I was wondering why I was the only one the instructor used to help with the young girl and the 5th kyu who was training to teach.
After class someone asked me how I liked the class and I told them what I felt. I thought it was a waste of my time and money. Basics for most of the class while everyone else gets to practice with the hakamas?? Now one of the Sensei's seems a little cold toward me.I guess someone told her. Was I right in telling them what I thought?
I pay good money to be taught by Sensei's.
[quote=I think it is a clear mistake of instructor to ask you practice with her half of the class. Normaly you change a partner for every technique, this way every student has a chance to practice with more advanced and with beginners.

Probably instructors in this dojo are not experienced enough to understand such basic thing. I think it is a good idea to give them a feedback, however you should tell it directly to involved instructor and you may do it in polite way. This way the communication is clear and the instructor could tell you his reasons for such decision.[/QUOTE]

Perhaps we need to look at our mindset and make a decision to either train as directed or not to train.

Lyle Laizure
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Deru kugi wa uta reru
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Old 05-02-2009, 03:46 PM   #18
Walter Martindale
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Quote:
Szczepan Janczuk wrote: View Post
(snip)
Normaly you change a partner for every technique, this way every student has a chance to practice with more advanced and with beginners.
(snip)
That depends on the dojo. Aikikai Hombu in Shinjuku, you spend the entire hour with the same partner.
Morning practice at Aikido Bozankan - same partner for the first 40 minutes, then some form of jyuwaza for 20 minutes
Most dojos, new partner every 5-10 minutes.
W
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Old 05-03-2009, 10:02 AM   #19
Min Kang
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Quote:
John Furgerson III wrote: View Post
I was wondering why I was the only one the instructor used to help with the young girl and the 5th kyu who was training to teach.
John,

I've been in your shoes more than I liked during my time training. And, frankly, felt the same way at the time. But when I started teaching, I realized that I learned not only from seeing the mistakes that beginners make, but also from the process of explaining the technique or ukemi. Yes, I'd still prefer to fly around the mat, but I know that I learn maybe more, but certainly in a different manner, when I teach: It's good training for me to have to articulate what I kinda maybe thought I understood

Now, in this particular case, from what you've written, personally, I'd feel honored: An instructor whom your senseis trusted their class to saw you for the first time and thought highly enough of your aikido to entrust not only a beginner, but someone he wanted to learn to teach, to you to work with them in basic ukemi. From that, I'd gather that your ukemi is pretty darn good; and more, your demeanor and approach on the mat must be great as well.

Pretty heady compliment, I'd say

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That do not do the thing they most do show,
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Old 05-03-2009, 02:28 PM   #20
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Re: Questioning a teacher

I remember training with a young girl, maybe 7 or 8. My sensei asked me to. She was so small that all our techniques were hanmi handachi, with me always in live seiza. It was great fun! Maybe it was because she was so respectful and precocious, and maybe because it was something new for me. After much waza, my toes were killing me but I "played through the pain," and it's a memory I cherish. I also trained at a different dojo with a ~9 year old lad. His technique was incredible and it reinforced my belief that Aikido is alive and well, with the new generation is embracing it.

Drew
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Old 05-04-2009, 04:18 AM   #21
philippe willaume
 
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Quote:
John Furgerson III wrote: View Post
A couple of weeks ago an instructor I have never seen before taught the Saturday morning class. I believe the two Sensei's who normally teach were in another city for the opening of a new dojo. Anyway, the class was going well but within 45 minutes he seperated me with another young girl who is very new to Aikido.
He said that a 5th kyu was in training to teach and he wanted her to practice with us for a while.
No problem even though I have never heard of a 5th kyu teaching before. We were practicing forward and back rolls, the stances of Aikido and some terminology. The other 5th kyu in the class practiced with the other high ranks. For over half of the class I was repeating basics and I was getting bored.Even though I have no rank in Aikido, I have five years experience. I was wondering why I was the only one the instructor used to help with the young girl and the 5th kyu who was training to teach.
After class someone asked me how I liked the class and I told them what I felt. I thought it was a waste of my time and money. Basics for most of the class while everyone else gets to practice with the hakamas?? Now one of the Sensei's seems a little cold toward me.I guess someone told her. Was I right in telling them what I thought?
I pay good money to be taught by Sensei's.
Hello
I would say ask the question to your sensei, you will know if you were right or wrong.
Most of us do not know her how the hell would we know?

Personally, in my medieval fencing class, I always have someone demonstrate and teach the 5 core (and only) strikes that are part of the warm up. (There is not other way to do basics that repeat them at nauseam because they are the foundation on which everything is built)
I think you learn a lot by teachings others via their mistake and the way you have to organise your thoughts to present the technique.

My last comment would be a lesson is going to be as interesting as you make it.
Phil

Last edited by philippe willaume : 05-04-2009 at 04:21 AM.

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Old 05-06-2009, 01:51 AM   #22
Sarah Lothmann
 
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Quote:
John Furgerson III wrote: View Post
....Now one of the Sensei's seems a little cold toward me.I guess someone told her. Was I right in telling them what I thought?
I pay good money to be taught by Sensei's.
For whatever it is worth, here are my two cents:
  • One is never wrong for having a thought.
  • One is never wrong for expressing their thought.

That having been said, I was reading a Question & Answer book my Sensei has in his dojo. It is a transcribed document of questions asked of and answered by his Sensei, Akira Tohei. I read a section that resonated very deeply within me. I feel this may apply to your current experience. As I pass this along, please keep in mind, I am only paraphrasing...

...when one reaches a plateau with their art of Aikido, one must take a moment to ponder what he is doing wrong....

My thought that I pass along to you, keep it or toss it depending on how it resonates with you, is if you are finding you are not experiencing what you want from Aikido, then perhaps your approach needs shifting?.....

The universe is infinite with blessings.
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Old 05-06-2009, 11:34 AM   #23
Janet Rosen
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Re: Questioning a teacher

Quote:
Sarah Lothmann wrote: View Post
That having been said, I was reading a Question & Answer book my Sensei has in his dojo. It is a transcribed document of questions asked of and answered by his Sensei, Akira Tohei. I read a section that resonated very deeply within me. I feel this may apply to your current experience. As I pass this along, please keep in mind, I am only paraphrasing...
...when one reaches a plateau with their art of Aikido, one must take a moment to ponder what he is doing wrong....
I find this very interesting, because it is accepted that in learning most skills it is normal to reach a plateau and stay there for a while. This is a phase in which one seems to be in stasis but in actuality is integrated what has been learned so far. It applies to aikido, other sports, and also to people who have had strokes or traumatic brain injuries.
Perhaps the writer of this was referring to a permanent plateau, a cessation of exploration of growth.

Last edited by akiy : 05-06-2009 at 12:51 PM. Reason: Fixed quoting

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 05-06-2009, 12:28 PM   #24
Keith Larman
Location: California
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,566
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Re: Questioning a teacher

You do realize that you're doomed to a life of frustration. As you get better the odds of being "stuck" with someone "below" you goes up. If your attitude is that you "pay good money to train with sensei" maybe you should be asking for private lessons with those sensei. That way you'll have their undivided attention.

The (what should be self-evident) reason group classes cost less than private lessons is that you're not getting private lessons. And you may find yourself helping someone else less experienced.

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Old 05-06-2009, 01:15 PM   #25
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
Location: Phila. Pa
Join Date: Jun 2002
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Re: Questioning a teacher

I don't know, but I was always glad when Utada Sensei asked me to help someone. I guess I felt it meant he trusted me with his students.

Maybe that's just me.

Best,
Ron (hey, I've been glad ever since he stopped chuckling when watching me do waza )

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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