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Old 07-14-2011, 08:12 AM   #1
Josh Reyer
 
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On who should teach beginners

In another thread, Mr. George Ledyard said:

Quote:
George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
I do not teach the beginners classes (something recommended by my teachers)....
I was wondering if you could expand on the reasons for this, Mr. Ledyard. It jives with my experience in aikido, but the tradition in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu is that, at least at the beginning of a keiko session, newer people are matched up with the most veteran members of the dojo, and the most inexperienced person receives instruction from the soke himself. (Relatedly, even when one learns to do uchidachi, they are not allowed to do it with the newbies, but rather only with those of similar or higher level.) This makes sense to me, as the most experienced practitioners have the skills and control to pull the student into the proper shape (without getting injured by the weird things newbies tend to do). I was wondering for what reasons your teachers have recommended that you not teach beginners. I'm not looking to criticize or argue; I'm just interested in hearing another perspective.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
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Old 07-14-2011, 10:23 AM   #2
JO
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Re: On who should teach beginners

I agree with the Yagyu tradition. I was lucky enough to start aikido in a dojo where the beginner classes were taught by the dojo-cho (currently a seventh dan shihan) and in which many dan level students participated. I was partnered with a 5th dan for my first sankyo practice, it's been one of my favorites ever since. I think this very high level of instruction went quite a ways at getting me hooked on the art from the start and contributes to the success of this particular dojo in recruiting quality dedicated students.

Jonathan Olson
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Old 07-14-2011, 11:12 AM   #3
jbblack
 
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Re: On who should teach beginners

When I started training with Kanai Sensei in Boston from day 1 I received instruction from him. This has been true in every dojo I have ever trained in.
Cheers,
Jeff
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Old 07-14-2011, 11:14 AM   #4
Marc Abrams
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Re: On who should teach beginners

Imaizumi Sensei has always emphasized the importance of teaching beginner classes. He still does so. I am not sure of how many direct students of O'Sensei still teach beginner classes.

Marc Abrams
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Old 07-14-2011, 11:34 AM   #5
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Re: On who should teach beginners

Quote:
Marc Abrams wrote: View Post
Imaizumi Sensei has always emphasized the importance of teaching beginner classes. He still does so. I am not sure of how many direct students of O'Sensei still teach beginner classes.

Marc Abrams
We don't even have designated beginners classes. So anyone can attend the classes that Suenaka sensei teaches.
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Old 07-14-2011, 11:38 AM   #6
jester
 
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Re: On who should teach beginners

New members always had a break in time period where they learned to do typical Judo breakfalls and then the basic walking kata.

After they joined the class, the high rank goes with the low rank etc.

Teaching beginners is the best!

-

-It seems to be all about semantics!
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Old 07-14-2011, 11:45 AM   #7
john.burn
 
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Re: On who should teach beginners

My first teacher who was a 5th dan when I started taught all of the beginners classes initially - it was great - he was so welcoming and friendly and worked directly with you.

I remember being 3rd kyu and going over to drop a photo off for Mr Smith at the Renshinkan and him not being aware I was going over that night... He seemed so sorry that he had to attend a meeting for something or other so called the meeting short and came back and taught the rest of the class without getting changed because I'd travelled over... So I got to train directly with a 6th dan not wearing his gi or hakama etc. It felt pretty special

Best Regards,
John

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Old 07-14-2011, 11:55 AM   #8
Basia Halliop
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Re: On who should teach beginners

I also come from the tradition where the top instructor is directly involved with beginners and beginners classes... and I also think it was a positive thing for me right from the beginning and still is. And that it helped me get hooked in the first place.

Everything starts with the fundamentals -- they're not just basic in the sense of 'beginner' or coming first, but basic in the sense that they're at the core of everything. So why not teach them as well as possible right from the start? Also when the top instructor teaches a class, everyone is more likely to come, and I think this benefits both the beginning students, who learn more from training with someone who knows what they're doing, and the more advanced ones, who learn things from continually re-exploring fundamental concepts and movements and seeing (and doing) them in a way they couldn't when they just started, and who also learn from practicing with new people.

And personally I think it's a good balance to the tendency many people get into to only ever want to do everything fast and hard (or complicated, etc) - (very common among intermediate students, even when you're still doing something wrong) . I think when you see Sensei teaching beginner's classes himself, it's easier to really believe that doing things 'fancy' or 'aggressively' aren't the only things that matter for quality. Of course that slower and more basic approach is balanced out by all the all levels and advanced classes...

We have classes every day, though - Sensei teaches 4 days a week (beginners, all levels, advanced, and weapons), but that still leaves the other three days (beginners and all levels), which are divided between several students, as well as times when Sensei is traveling. So we do both ways, I guess...

Last edited by Basia Halliop : 07-14-2011 at 11:59 AM.
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Old 07-14-2011, 04:04 PM   #9
Marc Abrams
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Re: On who should teach beginners

Quote:
Jason Casteel wrote: View Post
We don't even have designated beginners classes. So anyone can attend the classes that Suenaka sensei teaches.
Jason:

Same with our dojo! We are all beginners, just different places on the path.

Regards,

Marc Abrams
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Old 07-14-2011, 04:09 PM   #10
Hellis
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Re: On who should teach beginners

For 55 yrs I have always taught both beginners and seniors with equal enjoyment - When I was in Australia I paid special attention to the beginners section - for me this was normal - to them it was unknown - they thanked me many times for my time and understanding - to me it was the norm....

Henry Ellis
British Aikido
http://britishaikido.blogspot.com/
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Old 07-14-2011, 04:37 PM   #11
Mario Tobias
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Re: On who should teach beginners

A 7th dan shihan teaches beginners class in our dojo.

I just realized that regardless if its beginners classes, for me, what seems to be basic techniques taught by a high ranking aikidoka isn't "basic" at all since you would see the intricacies of the techniques step by step if you've trained long enough.

That is why we should always take the opportunity to train with shihan as much as possible if he's teaching, beginners class. Even yudansha in our dojo don't realize what they're missing when they don't attend beginners class.
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Old 07-14-2011, 04:43 PM   #12
graham christian
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Re: On who should teach beginners

Just teach whoever needs help.

Regards.G.
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Old 07-14-2011, 05:00 PM   #13
Mario Tobias
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Re: On who should teach beginners

Quote:
Graham Christian wrote: View Post
Just teach whoever needs help.

Regards.G.
It depends on the dojo. In our dojo, the shihan is a japanese. Even if you are a high ranking aikidoka, only the shihan can teach whoever needs help. If the class suddenly gets too loud, we'll get a telling off and shihan would say: "You don't teach, I'm teacher!". I guess its a japanese thing? I heard you're not even allowed to speak during practice in some dojos.
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Old 07-14-2011, 05:07 PM   #14
graham christian
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Re: On who should teach beginners

Quote:
Mario Tobias wrote: View Post
It depends on the dojo. In our dojo, the shihan is a japanese. Even if you are a high ranking aikidoka, only the shihan can teach whoever needs help. If the class suddenly gets too loud, we'll get a telling off and shihan would say: "You don't teach, I'm teacher!". I guess its a japanese thing? I heard you're not even allowed to speak during practice in some dojos.
Mario.
Yes indeed. I've seen such and who knows, it may be very prevalent.

Funny thing tradition sometimes.

Regards.G.
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Old 07-18-2011, 09:47 AM   #15
Cliff Judge
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Re: On who should teach beginners

Here's an idea.

A shihan might tell his seniormost students not to teach beginners directly because the student should be teaching someone how to be an instructor of beginners.

This would be a very bad system for a koryu or anything like it, where a certain form must be preserved and passed on for the purpose of effecting the changes in the student that the system is supposed to effect.

But I think I am qualified to say that Saotome Sensei has never been concerned with form, and he decided in the early 70s that the right thing to do to pass on what he got from O Sensei was to create his own organization, which is pyramidal in nature.

It is probably worth mentioning that the Yagyu Kai and most extant koryu organizations are not concerned with spreading their arts to the far corners of the world. If you want to teach beginners hands on it takes up a lot of your time and there are practical limits to the number of students you can have. Koryu don't care but Aikido needs to be more expansive if it wants to survive as an art.
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Old 07-18-2011, 01:07 PM   #16
Mark Gibbons
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Re: On who should teach beginners

I don't know who should teach beginners. Years back it was much easier to figure out things when the shodan and nidans were teaching. What they were doing was generally sort of apparent. Figuring out what Sensei was doing was/is sometimes pretty tough.

My favorite classes for learning simple aikido concepts were the kids classes. For the first 6 months watching my daughters classes and listening to the explanations given to the kids really helped.

Little of what I learned as a new beginner applies to what I now think of as aikido basics. What I learned were the outer forms so that I would have some vocabulary to start learning the basics.

Mark
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Old 07-18-2011, 02:46 PM   #17
aikishihan
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Re: On who should teach beginners

Hi George,

Who better suited to teach a beginner, than one with “shoshinsha no shin”, or a beginner’s mind? One with such a humble perspective can demonstrate the same openness to fresh ideas and guidance, and share this priceless example with the so called “newbie”.

While newcomers to Aikido training may bring a clean slate to practice, it is also true that they can bring immense resources and talents unknown and untapped as well. What a true shame and loss to deny ourselves, and our dojos, of such potential treasures and value by being unconsciously blind and smug about our seemingly relative advantage.

While the accomplished consider themselves “ no greater than the least, and no lesser than the great”, why not take full and grateful advantage that each happy encounter really has to offer. Instead of lowering ourselves to teach a “newbie”, we can rise to the occasion of an exchange with a peer. Works for me.
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Old 07-19-2011, 02:17 AM   #18
dusterio
 
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Re: On who should teach beginners

1) While practising techniques, I'm sure it's much better in terms of progress for the beginner to work with higher rank students. Therefore, dividing groups into beginners and advanced is unfortunate.

In any sport or skill, be it football or pottery, - you need a _better_ opponent/colleague/team mate if you want to learn, to progress. If Maradona or Ronaldo spends 10 years playing football with kids - most probably their own level will fade.

And here a dilemma arises for high ranked students - if I want to progress myself, I should stick to students with higher rank than mine. If I want to help the dojo and Aikido as a movement - I should spend more time with beginners. Ego may influence the mind, on this stage, but actually we are learning how to control our egos through ukemi

2) While practising ukemi falls - I'm sure a dedicated class for beginners is very useful. It takes years to master ukemi, and many dojos don't pay much attention to it, in my experience.

If you introduce a 30 minute ukemi practice section in your advanced/regular class - many yudansha will be bored and pissed off. Therefore the only choice is to make a separate class for that.

Since you don't need a partner to practice ukemi (often) - it doesn't break any of the ideas mentioned in the first block. You don't really divide class.
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Old 07-19-2011, 03:36 AM   #19
Diana Frese
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Re: On who should teach beginners

I was fortunate to be visiting friends in Boston the year the new dojo was being built. I didn't help out much, but I did some sweeping while it was going on, not having any skills. I enjoyed the training very much, the classes taught by Kanai Sensei and by senior students. I was there average once a month for a few days, except for when there were seminars elsewhere in the area.

The other yudansha suggested attending beginner classes. At first I wondered if they thought something had been missing from my training and needed remediation .... (of course we all have things we could improve....) But I don't think that was what they meant. I arranged for my assistant to handle the Thursday classes here so I could go up a day early and I found the beginner class was full of .... yudansha no doubt learning the secrets of Aikido there.

I've told that story for years, so glad to see a thread on the topic of teaching beginners!

Instead of three or four techniques in an hour, it was one, divided into three or so parts. It was great!
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Old 07-19-2011, 04:16 AM   #20
dusterio
 
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Re: On who should teach beginners

Quote:
Diana Frese wrote: View Post
I arranged for my assistant to handle the Thursday classes here so I could go up a day early and I found the beginner class was full of .... yudansha no doubt learning the secrets of Aikido there.
In such case, it was a regular class, not a beginners class ;-) Just a different pace/structure/target
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Old 07-19-2011, 09:54 AM   #21
Basia Halliop
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Re: On who should teach beginners

Quote:
In any sport or skill, be it football or pottery, - you need a _better_ opponent/colleague/team mate if you want to learn, to progress. If Maradona or Ronaldo spends 10 years playing football with kids - most probably their own level will fade.

And here a dilemma arises for high ranked students - if I want to progress myself, I should stick to students with higher rank than mine.
I'm not really convinced that's true, at least that's not how it seems to work for me.

Of course if you practiced only or primarily with people less experienced than you, OK, I see the problem.

But as a supplement to training with more advanced people? I think it's great.

You are forced to look more carefully at everything you do to be sure you're not inadvertently teaching them something wrong or sloppy, you have to understand something more clearly and precisely and not just 'get the general idea' if you're going to show someone else, they ask questions that make you think and try to find patterns that you half-understand and figure them out more clearly so you can better explain them to the other person, and of course you learn how to make things work on people who have no idea what you're trying to do and who 'move funny', and keep enough control not to be hurting them.
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Old 07-19-2011, 10:55 AM   #22
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Re: On who should teach beginners

Quote:
Basia Halliop wrote: View Post
Of course if you practiced only or primarily with people less experienced than you, OK, I see the problem.

But as a supplement to training with more advanced people? I think it's great.
Yup, I've got to agree with you!

If you train BOTH with high rank and beginner students - that's great. Flexibility always does great in this life.
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Old 07-20-2011, 01:03 AM   #23
Tim Ruijs
 
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Re: On who should teach beginners

Your Aikido develops best when you practise both sides: teach and be taught. It is two sides of the same hand, no mountain without a valley.
Only difference is that you learn different aspects of Aikido.

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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Old 07-20-2011, 05:14 AM   #24
amoeba
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Re: On who should teach beginners

We do not even have special beginner's classes at our dojo - just some that are labelled as "basic" but all kinds of people, also advanced, come to train together. Depending on the level of the people on the tatami on a specific day, the teacher decides just how "basic" the training is going to be.
I like it that way, I think you learn a lot faster...
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Old 07-20-2011, 12:58 PM   #25
Phil Van Treese
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Re: On who should teach beginners

I my school everyone trains together---1st class rookie to seasoned aikidokas. I usually teach all beginners, esp the ukemi. Tomiki Shihan taught me ukemi and if he couldn't, Hideo Ohba Shihan did. Because of that, my students have great ukemi and can take any fall.
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