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Old 07-25-2002, 09:13 AM   #1
akiy
 
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Responsibility: Teacher's or Student's?

So, here's a (linguistic) thought I've been having.

The Japanese terms that we hear being used most often in aikido that refer to a "teacher" are "sensei" and "shihan."

Taking a look at these two terms linguistically, we know that "sensei" literally means "born/lives before" and "shihan" literally means "master example." Neither of these terms (as opposed to other terms in Japanese like "kyoushi" and "kyouju") contain a literal character in its terms for "teaching."

In other words, neither the term "sensei" nor "shihan" connote that the person with such a title has to "teach," per se, but just keep doing what he has been doing. In this approach, it's the student's responsibility to learn through modelling and "stealing" the teacher's teachings.

I'm surmising that this has roots in the classical "master - apprentice" system, but I really have no firm basis for this.

Any thoughts? I'm especially interested to hear from folks like Peter Goldsbury who have extensive experience in the martial arts as well as a good basis in the Japanese language...

-- Jun

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Old 07-25-2002, 09:48 AM   #2
Chuck Clark
 
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Re: Responsibility: Teacher's or Student's?

Quote:
Jun Akiyama (akiy) wrote:
In other words, neither the term "sensei" nor "shihan" connote that the person with such a title has to "teach," per se, but just keep doing what he has been doing. In this approach, it's the student's responsibility to learn through modelling and "stealing" the teacher's teachings.

I'm surmising that this has roots in the classical "master - apprentice" system, but I really have no firm basis for this.
Jun,

I'm certainly not in the league as Peter in the Japanese language, but here's what I have picked up over the years.

What you stated above is pretty much the heart of it. However, the best teachers that I have experienced (in Japan or elsewhere) also so some "teaching" in the relationship. It's the students responsibility to present themselves in the proper "spirit" to learn and take the practice into themselves. The teacher should almost feel like there is a force coming from the student that's a tractor beam pulling at the teacher all of the time. Eagerness, open-mind and heart, trust, etc. should be going both ways between student and teacher.

My Shinto Muso Ryu teacher, Phil Relnick-sensei continually says, "This is your practice, take responsibility for the practice."

Hope Peter (and others) can add their knowledge to this subject. I think many students do not understand the relationship between student and teacher. We all have much to learn from each other.

Regards,

Chuck Clark
Jiyushinkai Aikibudo
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Old 07-25-2002, 11:40 AM   #3
Wayne
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Just a thought or two from a beginner...

I do not have any background in Japanese and I've only been practicing aikido for a few months. Perhaps my ideas have some small validity though, since perception counts for a lot.

Anyway, I recently found a website that listed the Hombu Dojo requirements for being affiliated with aikikai. I don't have the link at hand but I probably found it through a URL posted on aikiweb. The site also described the requirements for recognition as shihan, shidoin, and fukushidoin (sp ?). If I remember correctly, fukushidoin status is for 2nd and 3rd dan, shidoin status for 4th and 5th dan, and shihan for 6th dan and higher.

Even before I started practicing, I assumed that senior students had a responsibility to help junior students. The ability and willingness to help also affected their rank, promotion, etc. I see this during my own practice with even 3rd kyu students frequently helping me with a technique. Carrying this a step further, I see the yudansha in the dojo helping the 3rd and 2nd kyu students as well as helping out as guest instructors during some practice sessions. Finally, I see the chief instructors leading the advanced classes.

It may be that my perception of the terms has moved outside of their linguistic roots but I see measuring improvement in technical skills as very difficult in the higher yudansha ranks. Teaching, on the other hand, is more easily recognized and can be evaluated. Certainly length of time leading seminars, quality and quantity of publications, and overall respect are plausible means of comparison.

Summing up my somewhat rambling post, I have always assumed that the definition of shihan included teacher. Even if it started from master - apprentice, perhaps it has come closer to Master Teacher.

Wayne
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Old 09-05-2002, 05:32 PM   #4
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Just thought I'd revive this thread as it's still in my mind...

Anyone else have thoughts on this?

-- Jun

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Old 09-05-2002, 07:54 PM   #5
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My humble thoughts in the matter...

From what I understand of knowledge such as this (where you have to do it/ practical rather then theoretical), learning comes from experience.

The teacher is necessary in order to provide the proper experiences and guide you in understanding those experiences. But learning it, comes from the student.

Anyone who goes to class and expects the teacher to teach him good ukemi or technique or whatever, and never even bothers to practice beyond the classroom time is going to have a rude awakening.

That I think is the best part of this type of knowledge.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 09-05-2002, 08:24 PM   #6
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I'm not a teacher or a linguist, but in my opinion the sensei teaches by doing, and it is up to the student to learn. With the sensei I'm currently 'stealing' from, I can learn from feeling him do the technique on me, watching him demo in class, or watching a class that he is a student in and watching him during it. He doesn't talk much, which is fine by me, words just get in the way. I want to feel what he does, or at least see it...he should just be himself, and the fun for me is in the learning.
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Old 09-05-2002, 09:05 PM   #7
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Responsibility: Teacher's or Student's?

Quote:
Jun Akiyama (akiy) wrote:
So, here's a (linguistic) thought I've been having.

The Japanese terms that we hear being used most often in aikido that refer to a "teacher" are "sensei" and "shihan."

Taking a look at these two terms linguistically, we know that "sensei" literally means "born/lives before" and "shihan" literally means "master example." Neither of these terms (as opposed to other terms in Japanese like "kyoushi" and "kyouju") contain a literal character in its terms for "teaching."

In other words, neither the term "sensei" nor "shihan" connote that the person with such a title has to "teach," per se, but just keep doing what he has been doing. In this approach, it's the student's responsibility to learn through modelling and "stealing" the teacher's teachings.

I'm surmising that this has roots in the classical "master - apprentice" system, but I really have no firm basis for this.

Any thoughts? I'm especially interested to hear from folks like Peter Goldsbury who have extensive experience in the martial arts as well as a good basis in the Japanese language...

-- Jun
Hello Jun,

I have not forgotten the question. In fact, I am not sure you are right. I think "Shihan" (certainly) and "Sensei" (probably) do have a very close connection with teaching and I doubt whether the structure of the words (the putative original meaning of the characters) has such a strong influence on what they mean in contemporary Japanese.

I realise that evidence is needed and I am producing it in the form of a general article which deals with Japanese terms for teaching and learning. I have almost finished it and you will have it as soon as it is ready.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 09-05-2002, 10:05 PM   #8
opherdonchin
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In my view, roles are things that we 'buy into' or 'project onto' others. They are not really Real in any deeper sense. So, if I decide someone is my teacher and learn great things from them, it doesn't matter if they are not trying to teach or thinking of themselves as teaching or taking responsibility. Similarly, when I decide that I enjoy teaching or that I learn from it, I do this primarily for myself. Whether or not anyone (except me) actually learns anything is almost beside the point. I may learn quite a bit by deciding that I am a teacher and taking lots of responsibility for the progress of a whole bunch of people, and if I did then that's important whether or not those people even knew that I was 'teaching' them.

The really interesting thing happens when people approach these roles with expectations. This can happen on both sides: teachers who feel their students are not living up to responsibilities and students who feel their teacher should be offering more. The reason this is interesting is that it creates a 'situation of conflict' that is somewhere between being 'in the dojo' and being 'out in real life.' It is a real opportunity to harmonize and learn to find creative ways of approaching the situation, without giving up what you see as your own needs.

One of my teachers was very niggardly with feedback and, at the same time, reticent about discussing his own aikido. I often felt at sea. One thing I learned was how to deal better with my own curiosity and need to know. Another thing I learned was how to find the right questions that would provoke the answers I felt I needed. Both of these were valuable lessons, although the first threw the responsibility back on me as the student and the second was about finding a way to get him to perform the role I felt he should.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 09-05-2002, 10:25 PM   #9
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I think aikido is the martial art where you find so much theory, and so much less practical applications. I have been to classes where teachers (usually non-Japanese) spend half of the class explaining the mechanics and the physics behind a particular movement, contradicting themselves almost in every sentence.

I think the traditional Japanese got it better. Most of the Japanese teachers (not the ones teaching abroad) do not teach anything really, they just perform. And it is the student's responsibility to steal the teacher's technique, or what they consider to be the teacher's technique. This is considered to be the Path or the Way of the student to realise himself and his own understanding of the style through this process. This is at least how I understand it.

I can see the difference at our own dojo where the Thai teachers will come and insist on the placement of one foot or hand, or even the direction of one toe, whereas the Japanese just walk around nodding in approval, even if the students are not following exactly their instructions, as long as the technique seems to work for them. And their interference would be limited to demonstrating on the student himself the correct way of doing the technique without getting into lengthy theoretical explanations.
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Old 09-06-2002, 02:03 AM   #10
Jim ashby
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I go back to a quote that came from my Sensei when he was asked "can you teach me Aikido". He replied "no, but I might let you learn".

Have fun.

Vir Obesus Stola Saeptus
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Old 09-06-2002, 07:13 AM   #11
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It (Sensei) is like a finger pointing its way to the moon. Don't look at the moon or you'll miss all the heavenly glory.

Bruce Lee, Enter the Dragon

Yeah...yeah, I know this is taken from Buddhist Doctrines, but it sounds cooler wihen Bruce says it.

Peace and Blessings
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Old 09-06-2002, 09:52 AM   #12
akiy
 
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Re: Re: Responsibility: Teacher's or Student's?

Hi Peter,

Welcome back! I hope your trip Europe went well.
Quote:
Goldsbury Peter (Peter Goldsbury) wrote:
I have not forgotten the question. In fact, I am not sure you are right. I think "Shihan" (certainly) and "Sensei" (probably) do have a very close connection with teaching and I doubt whether the structure of the words (the putative original meaning of the characters) has such a strong influence on what they mean in contemporary Japanese.

I realise that evidence is needed and I am producing it in the form of a general article which deals with Japanese terms for teaching and learning. I have almost finished it and you will have it as soon as it is ready.
I've be very interested to read what you find about this, as my "hypothesis" is pretty much only that -- just some thoughts I've had without real etymological nor social research. I'd appreciate any insight into this matter!

Regards,

-- Jun

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Old 09-06-2002, 02:14 PM   #13
jimvance
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Quote:
Peter Goldsbury wrote:
I think "Shihan" (certainly) and "Sensei" (probably) do have a very close connection with teaching and I doubt whether the structure of the words (the putative original meaning of the characters) has such a strong influence on what they mean in contemporary Japanese.
I think that the contemporary view of the word "teach" also differs from its Old English origination. The word "teach" is overused and has lost much of its purity, as have the words "teacher" and "teaching" (noun). My own personal view on this subject is that most of what we call "teach" is actually "instruct", and that "teach" is a much more subtle and powerful force than what is relegated to the general process of social education.

The commonality between Japan and the West in terms of its educational patterns would have to be the feudal "master - apprentice" system Jun alluded to. It is there that we should identify the motives of teaching, study, and learning as well as their methods.

And Jun, you never got back to me on the essay I sent you. I think I redid parts of it, so if you would like a new version let me know.

Jim Vance
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Old 09-06-2002, 02:59 PM   #14
jimvance
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Caveat Lector....

Quote:
Edward wrote:
I think aikido is the martial art where you find so much theory, and so much less practical applications. I have been to classes where teachers (usually non-Japanese) spend half of the class explaining the mechanics and the physics behind a particular movement, contradicting themselves almost in every sentence.
I don't know why this response infuriates me so much. Maybe it's the racial preference, or just the closed-minded attitude. I believe that explanation of what one does shows control not only of the body, but also of the intent, what one means to do. I understand that there are those instructors "out there" who contradict in action what they are saying. To ascribe that as a problem to those "usually non-Japanese" or to those who "spend half the class explaining" raises my hackles.
Quote:
Edward wrote:
I think the traditional Japanese got it better. Most of the Japanese teachers (not the ones teaching abroad) do not teach anything really, they just perform. And it is the student's responsibility to steal the teacher's technique, or what they consider to be the teacher's technique. This is considered to be the Path or the Way of the student to realise himself and his own understanding of the style through this process. This is at least how I understand it.
This is what, in my previous post, I attribute to the motives of a feudal society. This is not education in a pure sense, the act of educing. It is indentured servitude given sufferage under the tenets of social Darwinism. This has produced wonderful, beautiful things, that in some respects only exist because of who the Japanese were and are. But it squashes creative insight, stratifies understanding rather than unifying it, and eventually feeds upon itself.
Quote:
Edward wrote:
I can see the difference at our own dojo where the Thai teachers will come and insist on the placement of one foot or hand, or even the direction of one toe, whereas the Japanese just walk around nodding in approval, even if the students are not following exactly their instructions, as long as the technique seems to work for them. And their interference would be limited to demonstrating on the student himself the correct way of doing the technique without getting into lengthy theoretical explanations.
You imply that the Japanese instructors think you are getting it. That is dangerous ground. The concepts of harmony within the group and individual expression are vastly different from the way most Westerners think, even if they are outwardly very cogent. I am not saying they have ulterior motives, just that what you are perceiving and what may actually be happening might not be the same thing.

I hope that my responses do not ruffle feathers unduly, but I have done my best to stick to the topic at hand without allowing my emotions to unbalance my words.

Jim Vance
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Old 09-06-2002, 03:04 PM   #15
opherdonchin
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Nicely put Jim. I have a lot of sympathy with the notion of the 'silent teacher' and a real admiration for many aspects of Japanese culture, but I think that (like most things in the world) it is important to see both sides of the coin.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 09-06-2002, 10:06 PM   #16
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Re: Caveat Lector....

Quote:
Jim Vance (jimvance) wrote:
I don't know why this response infuriates me so much. Maybe it's the racial preference, or just the closed-minded attitude. I believe that explanation of what one does shows control not only of the body, but also of the intent, what one means to do. I understand that there are those instructors "out there" who contradict in action what they are saying. To ascribe that as a problem to those "usually non-Japanese" or to those who "spend half the class explaining" raises my hackles.This is what, in my previous post, I attribute to the motives of a feudal society. This is not education in a pure sense, the act of educing. It is indentured servitude given sufferage under the tenets of social Darwinism. This has produced wonderful, beautiful things, that in some respects only exist because of who the Japanese were and are. But it squashes creative insight, stratifies understanding rather than unifying it, and eventually feeds upon itself.You imply that the Japanese instructors think you are getting it. That is dangerous ground. The concepts of harmony within the group and individual expression are vastly different from the way most Westerners think, even if they are outwardly very cogent. I am not saying they have ulterior motives, just that what you are perceiving and what may actually be happening might not be the same thing.

I hope that my responses do not ruffle feathers unduly, but I have done my best to stick to the topic at hand without allowing my emotions to unbalance my words.

Jim Vance
Well, It might be that what my opinion infuriates you or you might find it as non-sense. Sorry for that. However, I do consider most of your own posts as non-sense, but they never infuriate me, because I respect your right of having an opinion, no matter how silly it might be.

So please show more respect to others silly opinions in the same way they show respect to your silly ones.

To go back to the topic, most non-Japanese teachers I have met always try to explain the techniques using scientifical terms, and want to analyse the mechanics and physics behind them, spending valuable time talking non-sense, since as you might assume, they are no PhDs in Physics or any similar field. Their technique might be great, but they spoil everything when they try to understand it and explain it rationally. I assume you belong to this group, hence your fury...
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Old 09-07-2002, 12:14 AM   #17
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Besides teachers, I have heard lawyers, doctors, accountants scientists and politicians addressed as "sensei". I guess its a respectful way of addressing someone in these professions, a way of showing that you recognize their status in society.

Should it be used all the time? Is it necessary to call someone "sensei" everytime you see them? Can seem like blowing sunshine up a hakama.

Actually this is very common in Japanese society. Even company presidents or heads of associations are always addressed as "president" or "chairman". Some of my Japanese friends who were presidents of their own companies didn't get into this but others really got off on it.
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Old 09-07-2002, 03:55 AM   #18
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beating a dead horse

Aikido is a skill. A sensei can't just teach you the skill (like a professor teaches history) -- he can only guide you in such a way until you learn it.

Caligraphy is not a mystical art -- it's just a way of keeping records, and a very inefficient one at that.

More words count less.
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Old 09-07-2002, 10:36 AM   #19
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Many professors of history would say that it is also a skill that (beyond a certain level) is more learned than taught, I suspect.

Certainly that's true in science.

I guess in anything there is a technical level and beyond that a level where things become individual expression or creative understanding.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 09-07-2002, 11:16 AM   #20
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Re: Re: Caveat Lector....

Quote:
Edward Karaa (Edward) wrote:
Well, It might be that what my opinion infuriates you or you might find it as non-sense. Sorry for that. However, I do consider most of your own posts as non-sense, but they never infuriate me, because I respect your right of having an opinion, no matter how silly it might be.

So please show more respect to others silly opinions in the same way they show respect to your silly ones.
I can't find the words "non-sense or silly" in this exchange anywhere other than in this quote.

I suggest that you take your own advice and show some respect.

On the topic: It seems to me that it is just this simple...people have natural learning tools that are often very different. Why should everyone have to be the same? I think really good teachers provide the information in as many ways as possible so that everyone gets the message. I have experienced Japanese shihan that do this as well as non-Japanese teachers. What is the big deal? (other than that most of us like to argue about differences that do not make a difference) There is room for everybody as long as the end result is committed attacks, efficient waza with everyone taking care of their partner, and mutual respect shown to all.

Chuck Clark
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Old 09-07-2002, 12:17 PM   #21
opherdonchin
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Maybe in some ways it is more about what we're looking for than what a teacher "should" be. Some like teachers who look 'at' us and focus on us -- it can give us the feeling of being supported and nurtured. Others prefer teachers who lok 'at' themselves and focus on themselves -- it can give us the feeling of being inspired and liberated.

Similarly with words versus demonstrations. Words can bring the feeling of nurturing and insight. Silent demonstrations can bring empowerment and creativity.

It's all about what you're looking for which is, in many ways, about what you think AiKiDo "is" which is, in many ways, about what you yourself are.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 09-26-2002, 10:32 PM   #22
Paula Lydon
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~~I believe it's got to be a blend of the two. I've had old-school teachers who thought students had to 'steal' the art, and would even teach things incorrectly here and there just to keep their secrets. Perhaps this motivated the students to find the truth for themselves, as must we all, but it was also a pain in the butt and time consuming.

~~Absolutely I believe that the student needs a 'fire in the belly' to learn, that it's not the teacher's job to cajole or motivate the student, but...encouragement at times to a regular student is beneficial.

~~I can learn alot from watching and then doing, but there are times when I need to feel my teacher's movement and have them feel mine, if I'm stuck somewhere. This just makes sense to me. As a parent I let my kids stumble around some, experiment, etc. but stepped in with a little guidance at a certain point because that's what seniors do for juniors. I would like someone to correct me before an incorrect movement becomes a bad habit.

~~My two cents...

~~Paula~~
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Old 09-27-2002, 09:24 AM   #23
Alan Drysdale
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Paula said:

"I believe it's got to be a blend of the two. I've had old-school teachers who thought students had to 'steal' the art, and would even teach things incorrectly here and there just to keep their secrets."

Perhaps rather than being a blend, we should teach in the way we are personally most effective. Some people don't have the background to analyse the physics, some do. It is probably important to know which you are.

I'm sure all teachers have been asked which foot to put forwards and had to go through the motions to answer the question, so performance is also important. But some excellent performers just don't know how to teach. OTOH, if you don't have the information, it doesn't matter how good a teacher you are.
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Old 09-28-2002, 03:07 AM   #24
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staying alive

Running a good, high-spirited dojo is a team effort. I encourage all students at 2 kyu and above to begin to observe the entire class structure and teaching techniques, and to properly assist in the instruction. When students begin to truly understand not only aikdio waza, but how classes are run and how to teach, the rate of progress and satisfaction can be multiplied for everyone, including the teacher.

Teaching is like being in the driver's seat. You have to pay a lot more attention to all sorts of details. Being a pure student is sometimes like being a passenger -- it's easy to just pay attention to your own thing, and awareness, especially after you "think you got the hang of it," tends to decrease. This is when students start to feel like they're in a rut. They're not learning any more about ikkyo because they think they know it. At that point, I have them teach it -- sometimes in front of the class. When they basically bummble through it, I tell them to start paying more attention to "how to teach ikkyo," and other basic waza, because I need them to help me teach the beginners.

This then becomes a win-win situation -- the student doesn't fall into a rut (and hopefully they stay humble), and I get more people the can help me teach quality aikido.

Last edited by mike lee : 09-28-2002 at 03:12 AM.
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Old 09-28-2002, 11:00 AM   #25
Bruce Baker
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I wish I knew more about the meaning of words verses the social and historical changes of civilizations, but my interest lies in the general developement of nations historical past in relation to other nations and world events.

I could be wrong about this, but it would resemble the royalty of European history, or even the tribal societies of North America with Chiefs, Sub Chiefs, War Chiefs, compared to social structure of the Japanese government, social structure, and supporting royalty also.

Indeed we do become enamored in the identification of teacher, teachers teacher, and master of all teachers. I guess it could either a good or bad thing, depending on how human you view these teachers, and how much guidance you need to open your mind.

Let your instincts guide you, and most times they will be correct ... or corrected in practice.

As for the generality of being instructed in every detail of movement ... that is generally left to the student to explore and question over a period of training time?
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