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Old 12-11-2009, 04:45 PM   #1
Paul Hanks
 
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Interesting dynamic in my club

My dojo is rather small, only about 20 students. Half are shodans. The rest are pretty much newbies with one 3rd kyu in the mix. The shodans are very patient and competent when they work with lower grades. So far, so good.

However, I've been noticing that unless you're somewhat aggressive (and quick), the shodans have a tendency to work among themselves. Very often, 2 newbies will be working together. . .either doing the technique badly, or not getting it at all. Sensei does come around and correct quite often, but I still find this situation a bit strange.

I'm new at the club, so I don't feel it's my place to start complaining--yet. Any suggestions?

Last edited by Paul Hanks : 12-11-2009 at 04:48 PM.

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Old 12-11-2009, 05:00 PM   #2
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

At my dojo, the yudansha should work with the lower rankers. Beginners shouldn't really work with other beginners (at least not for a while). However, a yudansha shouldn't have to wait for a partner. The beginners should be scrambling to work with them.

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Old 12-11-2009, 06:30 PM   #3
dalen7
 
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

Thats an interesting situation which I have seen in our dojo... mind you we only have but one shodan...

However we have had the issue on more than one occasion where two newbies would be training together - typically the instructor corrects this as soon as he sees it.

The problem arises, I believe, because there is not a balanced training on the opposite end... mid to higher kyus training with each other. [This may have been one of the reasons some people left about a year ago, as they pretty much were stuck with us beginners at the time.]

I have gently addressed this apparent imbalance by suggesting that the time be split up to accommodate for mid to higher kyus to train with each other. [I can pretty much count on one hand the number of times I have trained with one of the 1st kyus, which is the second highest rank in our dojo, and most of the time I spend training with those ranked under me.

Admittedly this does cause some frustration, as I can only give as much guidance as what I receive.

Again, Im of the mind that there should be a balanced training, and when sensei does call to change partners, you should never train with the same partner more than once.

Often people are drawn to who they are more comfortable to be around. There are a couple of guys, who one is really friendly, but for some reason we rarely train together.
The point is that having a true rotation helps to gently get you out of and expand your comfort barrier - you learn to work and deal with different energies, which to me, is what Aikido is about.

At the end of the day, this is something that the instructor really has to address as we will always gravitate to the familiar and what seems to benefit us best at the time.

Best to you in your training...

Peace

dAlen

Last edited by dalen7 : 12-11-2009 at 06:33 PM.

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Old 12-11-2009, 07:35 PM   #4
SteveTrinkle
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

It's interesting... When I began my training in Japan, I was told to make sure to grab my senpai to train with. Like Ashley said, as kohai, it was my job to run to the yudansha and grab them - literally. It was pretty funny sometimes when a couple white belts would both run to sit next to their favorite (or their scariest) sempai when Sensei called to demonstrate the next technique - to manage to be right next to them ready to shout "onegaishimasu!" Got pretty competitive and the sempai would pretend not to notice us fighting over them. I believe it was taken as a sign of respect and eagerness to learn. I believe this tradition, right or wrong, helped me learn to stay alert. Now in the USA, our group tends to operate the same way. And also, I think there's a lot to be said for beginners struggling together to figure out a waza and to not necessarily be "fixed" right away. Just my point of view.

Last edited by SteveTrinkle : 12-11-2009 at 07:38 PM. Reason: forgot something

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Old 12-11-2009, 08:56 PM   #5
Janet Rosen
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

I think that in a dojo where folks change partners often during a class, there is something to be said for "mixing it up" - training with partners higher, lower + peers whenever possible. If there is but one partner for the class, if it were a mixed class rather than a beginners class w/ all newbies, it is pretty much up to the chief instructor to set the tone/create the culture - in some dojos, senior students look for newbies to work with to get them started, or for kohei they know need advancing. Higher level folks need a chance for their own training to advance by working with their peers but they also, in my opinion, have the responsibility to bring along the next generation.

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Old 12-11-2009, 09:17 PM   #6
Rob Watson
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

I'm all for eager beginners to assert themselves and grab a senior to train with.

In our beginner classes sensei always says '"white belts with black belts". Funny because lately there have been 3 or 4 to 1 ratio of seniors to juniors or only one white belt to go around.

In mixed classes that are not specifically beginner classes it is catch as catch can.

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Old 12-11-2009, 09:44 PM   #7
Darryl Cowens
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

I take it these are general classes?

I can only speak in my experience with basics class, but in our basics class the ratio is often 1:1, with usually no more than 2 low kyu grades per dan grade, and they always mingle amongst us... at the end of the day it would be very hard to learn if they split themselves off from us, and left us to it..

I suspect it is no different in the general classes either... its just that in the basics class we don't tend to get many higher kyu grade students, as they tend more to come on other nights..
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Old 12-11-2009, 11:02 PM   #8
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

we don't have basic or beginner classes, but yudansha avoiding mudansha wouldn't be tolerated in our org.
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Old 12-12-2009, 02:42 AM   #9
crbateman
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

I don't think the yudansha are conspiring to exclude the mudansha in this case, although individual personalities may may be involved. Rather I offer that, just as the mudansha seek to improve themselves by training with those better than themselves, the yudansha might see advantages to their own training by working with their peers as well.

They (yudansha) do have the responsibility to enhance their ability to teach by working with the "noobs", but it could certainly be said that improving their own aikido skills is easier when they themselves are working with somebody more familiar with the more advanced techniques that the higher grades are doing.

It is also possible that some of the yudansha have known and gotten used to training with their upper-graded peers for years, and might understandably have developed a level of comfort in training with them, and therefore gravitate to them, consciously or otherwise.

A good, balanced mix of class-time training partners is key to many instructors, and they will most often seek to establish this balance as they teach, rather than leave all the students to their own choices. This will differ with other instructors, and often the concept goes completely out the window at seminars, where the pairings are usually determined by the participants.

Speaking directly to you, Paul, I wouldn't complain, but you could politely ask your sensei off the mat what his/her suggestions or preferences are. It's possible he/she may think the issue warrants some adjustment, or at least might prompt him/her to keep an eye open to your concerns.
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Old 12-12-2009, 02:42 AM   #10
Paul Hanks
 
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

Quote:
Ashley Carter wrote: View Post
. . .However, a yudansha shouldn't have to wait for a partner. The beginners should be scrambling to work with them.
It's not that yudansha are avoiding beginners, they just naturally pair up. I'm relieved to see that this is going on elsewhere. Thought it was just in my dojo. I wanted to be more assertive, but didn't want to seem impolite, being the new kid on the block.

But from now on, I'm going to be "scrambling to work" with a yudansha as much as possible.

Many thanks to all of you for the advice.

Paul

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Old 12-12-2009, 05:49 AM   #11
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

Quote:
Stephen Trinkle wrote: View Post
It's interesting... When I began my training in Japan, I was told to make sure to grab my senpai to train with. Like Ashley said, as kohai, it was my job to run to the yudansha and grab them - literally

Got pretty competitive and the sempai would pretend not to notice us fighting over them. I believe it was taken as a sign of respect and eagerness to learn. I believe this tradition, right or wrong, helped me learn to stay alert.
When I started, out of respect I did not chase the higher ranking kyus and waited for someone to come to me. - [I might clarify the obvious that what makes up 'respect' varies depending on ones point of view]

However it was not made clear to me that lower kyus should seek the higher kyus... [and even on a couple of occasions when I did do this, I was skipped over for someone else who the other person already knew... kind of awkward.]

But Im kind of biased due to my experience with training, especially having started off in a dojo when I could barely speak or understand the language... [well I can still barely speak it, though I understand it a whole lot better.]

In my own personal experience, I feel like I have had close to no time with the ranking kyus. I will say that this does affect the 'art' or aesthetics to my movements...

... so Im a big proponent of making sure there is an equal time of where training is divided up. If there are not advanced classes, then at least take half the class to allow for advanced practices.
[This is what makes preparing for a test difficult as we never practice moves like koshinage, etc. - and a reason why people are not really advancing in rank, etc.]

Just a few tweaks and I believe a lot of things could run a bit smoother. Main thing is clear communication as to expectations on both sides to avoid any disappointments.

Peace

dAlen

Last edited by dalen7 : 12-12-2009 at 05:53 AM.

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Old 12-12-2009, 04:37 PM   #12
Darryl Cowens
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

I should have also included in my post that in our club the basics class follows the advanced class, so what usually happens is the dan grades stay behind and help train us newbies... You might get one or two 2nd/3rd kyu stay behind some nights as well, but generally you get a pretty polar mix.... shodan/nidan/sandan with gokyu/rokyu/ungraded...
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Old 12-12-2009, 05:20 PM   #13
Paul Hanks
 
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

Quote:
Dalen Johnson wrote: View Post
<snip>
In my own personal experience, I feel like I have had close to no time with the ranking kyus. I will say that this does affect the 'art' or aesthetics to my movements...

... so Im a big proponent of making sure there is an equal time of where training is divided up. If there are not advanced classes, then at least take half the class to allow for advanced practices.

Peace

dAlen
Very sad. Naturally, as a very new aikidoka I feel the higher grades should help the less advanced as much as possible, while still not neglecting their own development. Part of the problem may be due to the lack of beginners' classes. Our classes meet twice a week for 2 hours per class. No class just for beginners. Everyone trains together. I suppose in the long run everything will work out, if one just hangs in there. Things could be worse. I've just started reading "Angry White Pajamas". I'm glad I'm not getting the "special attention" the author got from yudanshas in the Tokyo Riot Police course (Yoshinkan aikido).

Paul

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Old 12-12-2009, 05:40 PM   #14
lbb
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

I'm guessing there's a good chance that you're reading more into it than is really there.
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Old 12-13-2009, 02:31 AM   #15
Walter Martindale
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

When I was training in judo and it was free-practice-with-the-nearest-person time, I'd "onegaishimasu" with the highest ranking people first and get thrashed by all of them in turn.
When starting up at Aikido I'd go for the higher ranked people so I could learn what they were doing.
Be quick. RUN to someone with whom you want to practice, or call their name if your dojo does that sort of thing, and say "onegaishimasu" (or whatever passes for that in your dojo) and see if you can pick their skills from them..
W
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Old 12-13-2009, 07:35 AM   #16
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

MY dojo is also quite small. Training is 3 nights a week. 2 of those nights there are two classes. One for beginners and one for advanced. But the advanced students go to both classes. We also have a simila division of high and low ranks with not really any intermediate... well that will be changing within the year or so.

Most of the time though there is no issue of new students not getting attention from the higher ranks. One thing I was told early and often was if I wanted to train with different people I need to be proactive about it. Sit next to those I want to train with and be quick to address them first when we are dismissed into pairs. Some days I'm quicker at this than others but I make an effort to work with as many different people as I can during each class. In most cases it's me who grabs them not them who comes to me.

Rather than complaining you might consider just talking to your sensei and fellow students before or after class and just say to them that you would really like to get to work with some of them. I found that the longer I was around the more people got to know me the more I had those higher ranks looking to train with me. Give it some time and just train.

Last edited by Shadowfax : 12-13-2009 at 07:39 AM.
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Old 12-13-2009, 12:16 PM   #17
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

Sometimes the yudansha need to work with other yudansha to either further their skill or just so that they can relax and simply practice. Everybody needs a break from teaching.
I remember the story of one guy who kept coming early to practice with O'Sensei. He was trying to beat O'Sensei to the dojo so je would keep coming earlier than the previous. He could never beat O'Sensei. Eventually it became really ridiculous and the Mrs. finally had to step in and told the guy not to come so early. The morning was the only time that O'Sensei could practice on his own skills and he wanted to finish before teaching the students.
The mudansha can actually learn a lot by practicing with each other. They don't always have to have a black belt. When I started at my dojo there would be one black belt there if you were lucky. So the majority of my dojo mates came through the ranks at the same time. We got a great fellowship because of this. Now, we have the opposite problem, too many black belts and not enough white belts.
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Old 12-13-2009, 04:17 PM   #18
heathererandolph
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

Probably the black belts do want to work with each other, rather than avoiding white belts, In my dojo I allow the students to select practice partners themselves, and I don't want black belts to feel they must work with a lower belt all the time, if there are equal amounts of each. Two white belts practicing together is not the worst thing, I would probably go over to them first. As someone said, try to be proactive, and work on your attacks and ukemi, so you will be a desirable partner. If you can't beat 'em join 'em as they say.
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Old 12-14-2009, 09:01 AM   #19
grondahl
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

I would dislike to train in a dojo where I´m expected to teach during keiko unless I´m the designated instructor for the class. I would also have very strong bias against a dojo where every yudansha think that they should be teaching others even tough there is an instructor on the mat.

Yudansha, mudansha or whatever: The instructor teaches the class, the rest train.
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Old 12-14-2009, 11:17 AM   #20
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

Quote:
Paul Hanks wrote: View Post
It's not that yudansha are avoiding beginners, they just naturally pair up.
I didn't think I suggested that they were avoiding white belts... or if I did, that isn't what I meant. I just simply said that yudansha should not have to wait for a partner. They should be one of the first students to be taken off the table so to speak.

I also have to agree with others. In my dojo, everyone works with everyone (we change partners after each technique) and yudansha can work with yudansha. HOWEVER, if people are complete beginners, which is how I interpreted the question, then I do not believe they should work together. They need to get a better understanding so that they aren't giving eachother bad advice (such as someone previously mentioned).

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Old 12-14-2009, 10:06 PM   #21
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

Black belts like to train with black belts because it is fun. If you like to throw people,then you want to throw whoever takes the best ukemi. I don't think that means black belts are avoiding whitey!
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Old 12-15-2009, 09:43 AM   #22
Aikilove
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

Quote:
Mike Braxton wrote: View Post
I remember the story of one guy who kept coming early to practice with O'Sensei. He was trying to beat O'Sensei to the dojo so je would keep coming earlier than the previous. He could never beat O'Sensei. Eventually it became really ridiculous and the Mrs. finally had to step in and told the guy not to come so early. The morning was the only time that O'Sensei could practice on his own skills and he wanted to finish before teaching the students..
The sensei was Tokimune Takeda and the student K. Kondo

Re: the topic - Everybody trains with everyone and everybody learns something. Sometimes the yudansha likes to train with peers and often mudansha should train with sempai.

/J

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Old 12-16-2009, 07:53 AM   #23
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
Black belts like to train with black belts because it is fun. If you like to throw people,then you want to throw whoever takes the best ukemi. I don't think that means black belts are avoiding whitey!
Haha and I like to train with black belts... or at least very experienced Kyu ranks because I love to fly. It seems the better my ukemi gets the more often the higher ranks look for me to play with them.

But you are right. I'm sure sometimes those more experienced people want to be able to just let loose and really train hard without having to worry too much about injuring uke. Something they cannot do when working with a beginner.

That said everyone has something to offer. Even those who started after me and are technically lower in rank (not by much) can give very useful feedback. Feedback is not quite the same as teaching. Teaching is for the sensei to do not for any student, including the black belts in the class.
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Old 12-16-2009, 12:55 PM   #24
Walter Martindale
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

Quote:
Peter Gröndahl wrote: View Post
I would dislike to train in a dojo where I´m expected to teach during keiko unless I´m the designated instructor for the class. I would also have very strong bias against a dojo where every yudansha think that they should be teaching others even tough there is an instructor on the mat.

Yudansha, mudansha or whatever: The instructor teaches the class, the rest train.
It is possible to assist someone learning a movement - if you can feel the gap and if they're "switched on" - by doing a couple of repetitions with their "error" (in your opinion) and then doing a couple of repetitions with the "error" (IYO) corrected... If the partner is switched on he or she will detect the difference and the next time it is his or her turn to be nage, they may attempt to do a modified movement, more closely approximating "good" technique.

Or you can call the sensei over and ask why your partner is having so much trouble throwing you.. Or you can call the sensei over and (using what you perceive your partner to be doing) ask why you're having trouble throwing your partner...

But that's making some assumptions that your movements are "right". If it is possible, see if you can get a video taken of your (and your partner's) movements. One of the big things about seeing your movements in video is that you can correct the difference between what you think you're doing and what you're actually doing. We all TRY to do what we think the sensei is doing, but because we don't share nervous systems with the sensei, we have difficulty actually doing the movement...

W
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Old 12-16-2009, 02:52 PM   #25
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Re: Interesting dynamic in my club

In my Daito-ryu class everyone gets to work with everyone, each class, for each kata/waza. I will first demonstrate the kata or waza on the senior most person there (often the fellow teacher) and than everyone lines up in order of rank. I will go through each person doing the kata on them and than step down and the next most senior person will do the kata on everyone. It continues this way until everyone has done it to everyone. I like this because you get to use different bodies to try out each time. It allows me to feel what they are doing and see what they are doing to better offer teaching points. I also like it because I get to work with different people and play with different body types and different skills. All of the people that train with me are experienced martial artists in their own right coming from kempo/JKD, judo, BJJ, aikido, and koryu so each one feels very different.

Chris Covington
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