The sensei is a guide for students who are willing to do the necessary work within one’s self. The sensei can teach techniques, encourage the progress of the students, but cannot make the students change. A student can be sincere in the desire to change and learn, but in absence of putting the time in and making the most out of the time, change might not occur at a pace that anybody would be comfortable with. Part of the this teaching and learning process involves the deepening ability to successfully engage in a process of self-correction. This is the manner in which you, the student, becomes your own best teacher. I will list some steps that you can take to help yourself become your own best teacher.
1) Do Not Walk Away From A Mistake: There is a common tendency for students to stop the execution of a technique when it is not working and ask to do the technique again. This action actually makes it more difficult to learn to improve the technique! The instant that the process of executing a technique is “walked away from”, is the instant that the opportunity to become aware of why the technique did not work disappears. One of the hardest parts of the learning to change is to embrace the “failure” as an opportunity to learn. If you do not feel comfortable with how a technique is workings, simply ask your uke to stop so that you can engage in a dialogue with yourself and your uke. It is important to gain awareness of what the uke’s experience is so that you can compare this to what you are experiencing.
2) Dialogue With The Uke: It is important to know what the uke experienced. When the uke made contact with you, did you either freeze or unbalance the uke? Did the uke feel unbalanced throughout the execution of the technique? Where and when did the uke feel as though the technique was beginning to fail? This type of dialogue is important so that you can gain some understanding as to what the connection with the uke felt like to the uke.
3) Dialogue With Yourself: It is important to become aware of what you are doing correctly and incorrectly. Are you extending energy (Ki) beyond the point of attack? What is your posture like? Where is there too much tension in your body? Which muscle groups are tensed? Which joints are “frozen” due to muscular tension?
4) Immediate Self-Correction: If you and the uke have stopped the technique process, you now have the immediate ability to try and make some important changes. After having become aware of what you believe is not working, experiment with trying to “self-correct.” Try and fix your posture; release the unnecessary muscle tensions in your body; unfreeze your stuck joints; and extend energy beyond the point of attack. This should enable you to successfully complete a technique.
5) Take the information that you are learning about where things are going wrong and try and become even more aware as to when this process is beginning. This should begin to allow you to work on moving in a better and more integrated manner so as to stop the problems from arising in the first place.
The interesting part about becoming your own best teacher is that you can really begin to track your positive changes. The other interesting aspect of this process is that you will become more and more aware of how much you are doing that is not working. Do not despair from this awareness. The more that you know, the more that you realize about how much you do not know! To me, there is simply nothing better than facing all that is ahead of me in my own learning process.
Marc Abrams Sensei
(Original blog post may be found here