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Old 11-09-2011, 10:12 AM   #1
SoloAvatar
Dojo: Aikido of San Clemente
Location: Mission Viejo, CA
Join Date: Apr 2010
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Becoming an instructor

I'm curious to get people's thoughts about at what rank you can become an instructor. My impression is at 3rd Dan you are able to be a teacher, however I see dojos out there where the chief instructor is shodan. An extreme case is I've had an instructor that has said many many years ago they started teaching at a local YMCA when they were 3rd kyu, only because there wasn't any other teachers in the area and they still wanted to train.

Is it bad to spread the art of aikido if you are a low rank? And at what do you feel is an appropriate level that someone could begin teaching if there was a need for one?

Thank you for any insight,
Stephen
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Old 11-09-2011, 10:29 AM   #2
JO
Dojo: Aikikai de l'Université Laval
Location: Sainte-Catherine-de-la-J.-C., Québec
Join Date: Jun 2000
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Re: Becoming an instructor

The minimum rank to be an certified instructor in the Aikikai (Fukushidoin) is second dan. That,s the closest to an official position as you'll get. Basically, there are no rules on who can start a dojo and teach.

Personnally I think it comes down to how much input from higher level people you can get. Second dan is not a bad level for a dojo cho if there isn't anybody more experienced around and he still maintains regular contact with higher ranking teachers. I would be skeptical of anybody working completely independently (no technical oversight and correction from above) unless he/she had reached shihan level (minimum rank of sixth dan in the Aikikai).

Of course the real tricky thing is that dan grade and skill level are only loosely correlated, especially when you start comparing between different dojos and/or organisations.

Jonathan Olson
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Old 11-09-2011, 10:34 AM   #3
kewms
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Re: Becoming an instructor

There's a difference between being an instructor and starting your own dojo.

The best rank to start teaching is when your teacher says you should. In my case, I started subbing occasionally at 1st kyu, and teaching regularly at shodan.

The best rank to open your own dojo is when you have no choice: there are no dojos in the area at all, or none where you feel able to learn. The lower your rank, the further you should be willing to go to avoid taking this step.

The big risk of opening your own dojo, no matter what your rank, is that you stop learning at that point. If you're going to keep growing, you have to be willing to be wrong. That's harder when you're in charge than when you're just another student.

Katherine
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Old 11-09-2011, 01:03 PM   #4
Garth Jones
Dojo: Allegheny Aikido
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
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Re: Becoming an instructor

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
no matter what your rank, is that you stop learning at that point. If you're going to keep growing, you have to be willing to be wrong. That's harder when you're in charge than when you're just another student.

Katherine
That is so true! If I don't have space to be wrong, to totally screw up, even when I am teaching, I'm not going to progress much. Fortunately my students understand that. And as time goes by, it happens less and less. Every time I do a technique, even if I am explaining the basics of ikkyo for the zillionth time, I try to be mindful of my posture, timing, connection, etc. etc. That way I can learn something from everybody, even if my teacher is far away (which she usually is). I'm far from perfect, but that's what I strive for anyway.

As far as teaching goes, I started leading class when I was 2nd kyu, because there was nobody else. My wife taught occassionally at 4th kyu for the same reason. Generally I think that basics can be taught by folks at the shodan/nidan level.Regardless, Katherine is absolutely right - instructors need to get out, see their teachers, and train with their sempais in order to keep progressing.

Cheers,
Garth
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Old 11-09-2011, 02:59 PM   #5
Russ Q
Dojo: Shohei Juku Aikido Gibsons
Location: Gibsons BC
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Re: Becoming an instructor

Hey Katherine,

Exactly! I have my own dojo and the balance, for me personally, is confidently and effectively demonstrating and teaching a technique while paying attention to my mistakes and where I need improvement. I guess that's just part of training too but it sure is more straightforward when you are simply a student in another's dojo.

Cheers,

Russ
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Old 11-09-2011, 03:39 PM   #6
Conrad Gus
 
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Dojo: Victoria Family Aikido
Location: Victoria, BC
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Re: Becoming an instructor

I think it's a mistake to believe that the instructor should never screw up.

My original sensei was a shihan, but he said that he didn't go for 100% perfection. He said he was happy if his technique worked 60% of the time. I think he was being overly modest! I believe the point he was trying to make is exactly what other posters on this thread are saying: if you are still progressing it means that you are occasionally going to do something different from usual (as an experiment) that doesn't necessarily work. Everyone in the dojo knew that he was way further along than his students and was a truly excellent teacher.

Aikido is hard. It's okay to screw up, even if you are teaching. Fear is paralyzing and cannot have a positive effect. Additionally, humility can be powerful.

Peace,

Conrad
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Old 11-09-2011, 04:47 PM   #7
Lyle Laizure
 
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Dojo: Hinode Dojo LLC
Location: Omaha, Nebraska
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Re: Becoming an instructor

Anyone can hang a shingle out and be an instructor.

If I have my facts correct, my sensei's sensei started his dojo when he was a shodan. My sensei started his dojo when he was a shodan. I started my dojo when I was a shodan.

I agree with Katherine that there is a balance if you are the instructor you still have to continue training and recognize that there is a lot of room for improvement otherwise you don't grow and your Aikido doesn't improve and you do a grave disservice to your students.

Lyle Laizure
www.hinodedojo.com
Deru kugi wa uta reru
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Old 11-09-2011, 05:35 PM   #8
Ketsan
Dojo: Zanshin Kai
Location: Birmingham
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Re: Becoming an instructor

Aikido being what it is I don't think rank is much of an issue as much as actually being able to teach.

Look at it this way, a 1st kyu probably has 6-8 years experience which is more than in most arts where you could easily be 2nd dan and since they'll be teaching beginners they don't have to be anything special as long as they are competent teachers. 3rd dan is, IMHO, over kill for teaching beginners. Also you have to consider what rank the instructor will be when his students reach shodan.

For instance my instructor was shodan when he started the dojo, he was san dan by the time we were 1st kyu so his capacity to teach and his own knowledge base was always far enough ahead of us that there wasn't any issues.
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Old 11-10-2011, 03:45 AM   #9
Tim Ruijs
 
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Dojo: Makato/Netherlands
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Re: Becoming an instructor

Basically learning and teaching Aikido are two sides of the same hand.

In our lineage we say when you start your own dojo you get shodan. As this is the first step to independence and finding your (W)way. This does not mean you then go without a teacher .

In the past my teacher suddenly start asking if I had started my own dojo yet, which off course I had not. Next time I saw him, again the question. Then you start :-)

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 11-10-2011, 04:41 AM   #10
Dazzler
Dojo: Templegate Dojo, bristol & Bristol North Aikido Dojo
Location: Bristol
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England
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Re: Becoming an instructor

Aren't you teaching when ever you have a more junior partner? "Put your foot here, ...your hand there"...Its still teaching....until someone senior comes along to take over.

Likewise anyone with a degree of competence and confidence can run a class to the best of their ability as "the Instructor" until someone better comes along. **

Mistakes occur when junior teachers set their ideas in stone and don't take advantage of that senior person...or even worse encourage 'their' students not to take advantage of a superior resource.

There are of course, responsibilities that come with being 'The Instructor'...you set the tone in behaviour, take the technical lead etc and in all manner of ways are responsible for steering the dojo in a healthy direction to advance the Aikido of all present in an environment that is appropriate. Not every will agree what is appropriate or what is the right thing technically and these are heavy burdens to bear as usually the final decision resides with 'the Instructor'.

For myself - I am a student who instructs. I do not know it all and there are lots that know better than me. When they are present they get the opportunity to do so. When they are not I do the very best I can for the dojo as a whole and take Instructor responsibilities very seriously. I believe this is the right thing to do.

Regards

D

** legislation / organisational parameters may set measures which stipulate who may or may not teach.
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Old 11-10-2011, 07:30 AM   #11
Walter Martindale
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Re: Becoming an instructor

I started teaching introductory stuff shortly after gokyu. It was a new dojo. Sensei was Yondan and asked me to lead occasional beginner sessions.
Caveat: I am a professional coach, and had previously a judo shodan

Sensei didn't ask me to teach anything he didn't think I was ready to teach.
W
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Old 11-10-2011, 02:54 PM   #12
Diana Frese
Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
Location: Stamford Connecticut
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Re: Becoming an instructor

Fascinating thread, like the recent ones so much I just have to jump in. Briefly, I was shodan, but I could travel an hour each way (we're on Long Island Sound) to New Haven and to New York. My mom wanted me to come home from Japan and sent an ad for "Hakido" at the local Y. I went in and John Gawlak the physical director answered when I asked whether it was Hapkido or Aikido he said he didn't know because the class never happened and where did I just come back from and could I teach it.

I said yes if we call it introduction to Aikido! To make a long story short there were teachers and senpai's around so I knew I could always call for help. Anyway, grabbed the opportunity. I deferred to a senpai, who sent New Haven Aikikai people. The teacher was fifth kyu and I was shodan. But here's the catch... Donald was the instructor's assistant. He just hadn't been graded in ages. Not many months afterwards we went up to the New England summer camp in his wife's dad's really large car (no SUV's at the time) to watch his shodan test. He did really well, too.

During the two years the New Haven people came down on Wednesdays Donald taught Wednesdays and I taught Thursdays, so I got to have the experience of teaching but I wasn't the only one, so after running classes on and off for a little under a year, we had a solid two day schedule with two instructors.

After those two years, I had a student from Shorinji Kenpo who really liked the circular part of Aikido. Attending four days a week, he became the assistant, and his assistant was a rugby player. They loved to throw each other around, but they did their basics too. I came from dojos that emphasized basics so I made sure of that. Creative stuff? Did that too, but fortunately whenever I did, within two weeks I saw a senior teacher teach something like that so I breathed a sigh of relief. Validated!
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Old 11-10-2011, 03:48 PM   #13
Diana Frese
Dojo: Aikikai of S.W. Conn. (formerly)
Location: Stamford Connecticut
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Re: Becoming an instructor

Forgot to say we started at the Y in 1975, New Haven Aikikai started coming down in 1976 once a week which I attended and I taught once a week and when they no longer made the hour trip down we still attended many of the same seminars with them and visits to the New York dojos. Later, we attended many of the Five College Seminars in Western Massachusetts. Lots of training opportunities even back then

Last edited by Diana Frese : 11-10-2011 at 03:49 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 11-14-2011, 09:09 AM   #14
Crystal Aldrich
Dojo: ASNJ
Location: Westfield, NJ
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Re: Becoming an instructor

Quote:
Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
There's a difference between being an instructor and starting your own dojo.

The best rank to start teaching is when your teacher says you should. In my case, I started subbing occasionally at 1st kyu, and teaching regularly at shodan.

The best rank to open your own dojo is when you have no choice: there are no dojos in the area at all, or none where you feel able to learn. The lower your rank, the further you should be willing to go to avoid taking this step.

The big risk of opening your own dojo, no matter what your rank, is that you stop learning at that point. If you're going to keep growing, you have to be willing to be wrong. That's harder when you're in charge than when you're just another student.


Katherine
I disagree. Yamada Sensei has been quoted that you grow faster when teaching other students. I've been teaching twice a week for over two years now, and I think I've advanced more because of it. Students ask questions that make you think about how you are moving. And the ability to explain it to others also reenforces your own understanding. However, There are two pitfalls. One, you can be to become attached to the teaching where you stop listening to students and stop training for yourself. (the ego comes in) The other pitfall every time you teach you take away a chance to train (which for me, effects your stamina).

So on the bright side, you're probably more awesome that you think you are.
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Old 11-14-2011, 10:13 AM   #15
kewms
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 870
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Re: Becoming an instructor

Quote:
Crystal Aldrich wrote: View Post
I disagree. Yamada Sensei has been quoted that you grow faster when teaching other students. I've been teaching twice a week for over two years now, and I think I've advanced more because of it. Students ask questions that make you think about how you are moving. And the ability to explain it to others also reenforces your own understanding. However, There are two pitfalls. One, you can be to become attached to the teaching where you stop listening to students and stop training for yourself. (the ego comes in) The other pitfall every time you teach you take away a chance to train (which for me, effects your stamina).
I absolutely agree that teaching helps you learn. But, as I mentioned, teaching within an existing dojo is very different from opening your own place.

Katherine
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Old 11-14-2011, 11:34 AM   #16
gregstec
Dojo: Aiki Kurabu
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Re: Becoming an instructor

I think Tohei said once (paraphrase) 'That you can teach at any level as long as you know what you are teaching' - of course, that does mean you stop learning yourself - and you can learn from your students as well

Greg
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Old 11-14-2011, 02:20 PM   #17
gregstec
Dojo: Aiki Kurabu
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Re: Becoming an instructor

Quote:
Greg Steckel wrote: View Post
I think Tohei said once (paraphrase) 'That you can teach at any level as long as you know what you are teaching' - of course, that does mean you stop learning yourself - and you can learn from your students as well

Greg
oops- typo - meant to say does NOT mean....

Greg
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