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Old 02-26-2014, 03:15 PM   #1
"Frustrated"
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Anonymous User
Question Selfish people in the dojo

I started aikido 3 years ago and people in my dojo didn't want to pair up with me. As time passed by, I realized the same happened to all beginners. And not only do the more advanced students prefer advanced pairs - most of them actively avoid pairing up with anyone who hasn't practiced at least a year or two. They can be surrounded by low-level students, yet search every direction trying to avoid too much eye contact with them and find a more advanced pair.

The general rule in my dojo seems to be that the better your skills are, the more people want to practice with you. I can understand it: The best students are good ukes and they can also give you good advice that helps you improve. But what I can't understand is why so many people act according to their own wishes and ignore the needs of the others. We all want to improve, so it's not fair to leave beginners on their own. And I think it's very impolite to turn your back on some of your fellow students all the time just because they're not good.

We were all bad at first and we've learned so much from our seniors, so shouldn't we pay it forward and help others in turn? Unfortunately most of my dojo mates don't seem to think like that. Even the students who have started after me -- including those two who have become "accepted members of the club" and get to practice with other advanced students almost all the time -- seem just as eager to get more advanced pairs as everyone else. I had hoped that someone would follow my example, but the selfish atmosphere seems contagious.

I want everyone to feel welcome and appreciated, but I also want to get value for my money. Being the only more advanced student in my dojo who actively tries to pair up with low-level students, I've become very popular among them. When I don't seek them out, they seek me out so I hardly ever get to practice with anyone better than me. The aikido style I practice puts great emphasis on co-operation and the role of uke, so practicing with well-trained ukes is crucial to becoming good. I feel like I haven't improved in ages, probably because I practice so much with pairs who move in a wrong way and can't offer me any advice. (I'm sure practicing with them teaches me many things, but not the aikido style I'm trying to learn.)

I've talked about this situation with the sensei and he doesn't want to interfere with pairing up. I'm too shy to confront other students and tell them what I think. But more and more often I find myself reluctant to go to the dojo. I don't want to help my selfish dojo mates by teaching beginners to become the good ukes they want. If good ukes are so important to them, they should do their part of the work required. And what comes to beginners, I don't know if I should care. It's probably better if they don't like it there and quit.

I like aikido but the atmosphere in my dojo is really getting on my nerves. Is it possible for a dojo like this to change? Has it ever happened? It's been at least 3 years this way, so maybe I should give up and find another hobby?
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Old 02-26-2014, 07:57 PM   #2
Millsy
Dojo: AikiCenter(Aus)/SOMD Aikido(US)
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

Sorry to hear that things are frustrating. I know when I train I like to train with everybody in the dojo that I can, and if I teach I encourage mixing the pairing and will change a pair depending on the circumstances. At the dojo I started aikido we used to often line up in rank order and the higher grades were told to stay seated while the lower ranked half chose a partner. I think its a culture thing in some dojos I've seen where pairings can be very clicky, but the dojos I've been a member of have always been about helping everybody not yourself.

I attended a seminar with Eddy Hagihara Shihan a little while ago and he put things in perspective. wish I could remember his words, they were better than mine, but the gist was:
Aikido is not a competitive art we are not here to beat our partners or win, our job is to help our partners to be better at aikido than we are.

If your sensei wont help, I'm not sure where change will come from, maybe those of you frustrated coming up through the ranks? But know this isn't how it is at every dojo, and before you leave aikido maybe you could try another dojo.
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Old 02-27-2014, 12:29 AM   #3
Janet Rosen
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I've talked about this situation with the sensei and he doesn't want to interfere with pairing up. I'm too shy to confront other students and tell them what I think.
The dojocho sets the tone that creates the culture of a dojo. In many dojo, the dojocho explicitly asks or directs more advanced students to team with newer students and this fosters an atmosphere in which people rise together.
"Not interfering" with pairing up means he sets no expectation. To me this is akin to having no expectation there will be etiquette expectations, hygiene expectations, other behavior expectations...it is a lack of leadership.
Hopefully there is at least one class a week where more advanced students can practice without beginners, so the overall practice in that class is at a higher level?

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 02-27-2014, 03:18 AM   #4
Eva Antonia
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Location: Brussels
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

Hello,

in our dojo there are some unspoken rules everyone complies with. When there is an absolute beginner, this person will have the whole lesson some hakama partner, generally a yudansha.
Sometimes the teacher says, if we are doing some advanced techniques that require a bit more dynamic movement, that hakama people should train together. That wouldn't be more than maybe 5 % of the total time. In general we are encouraged to mix. Once train with a hakama, next time with a white belt, then with a hakama etc., and if there are not too many people, everyone tries to have trained at least once with every single person.

I'd say normally people should see the interest in training with everyone themselves, but if they don't, it would be the dojocho's or teacher' role to remind them.

Best regards,

Eva
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Old 02-27-2014, 03:33 AM   #5
PeterR
 
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

The one thing I really like about the Shodokan training method especially after I had experience elsewhere where the well defined and frequent partner changes. There is no choice everyone ends up practicing with everyone. There is no running to your favorite partner or avoiding the beginners. Just avoids a whole lot of potential problems.

That said I have visited dojo where the partner dance works well and others where it is totally dysfunctional - in each case I think it is a question of leadership as much as individuals. The tone needs to be set.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 02-27-2014, 06:42 AM   #6
Dazzler
Dojo: Templegate Dojo, bristol & Bristol North Aikido Dojo
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

Well....pretty much agree with most of you guys above.

Teachers responsibility in a learning situation ....should be to create an environment conducive to learning.

The nature of this environment may vary from class to class, dojo to dojo , even from style to style but whatever the objective of the lesson is then the environment needs to be appropriate for all learners.

Ownership of this is with the instuctor.

Sometimes beginners do best with other beginners, sometimes not.......no hard and fast rules I feel.

In my experience mostly the dojo culture ensures that things go along nicely, certainly in mine anyway....but sometimes they don't and then this is when the instructor needs to have the balls to take appropriate steps.

Its easy to do...stop and say change partners, put students together, or occasionally remind the whole class ...but look at the seniors.....to let them know not to ignore beginners.

If your teacher can't manage this......I might be looking for a stronger teacher.

Of course this also depends on the quality of the teachers practice too. I might be prepared to put up with poorly planned lessons, rubbish organisation etc etc.....If I really believed that this was a teacher that could give me something no one else could, then I'd probably sacrifice a few niceties.

Regards

D
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Old 02-27-2014, 09:30 AM   #7
Keith Larman
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

My teachers always encourage frequent partner changes. And would frequently say something like "pair up-- experienced people pair up with the new students please..." That was sometimes a hint to the experienced folk to help out but also you'll find that sometimes new students will pair up with each other because they feel more comfortable exploring something new with another new student (usually not the best idea).

When I teach I'll make an effort to keep track of how folk are pairing up. If I see too much of what the OP is talking about I'll clap and tell them to change partners and continue practicing. I'll watch the new pair ups and sometimes I'll clap again relatively quickly and say "Okay, experienced pair up with newbs" or "Okay, pair up with someone you haven't trained with yet tonight". So with more regular students of mine I've noticed I rarely have to do that anymore -- I've got them trained and they know that unless otherwise instructed I want them to mix it up.

But all that said... Don't worry about it. When it's time to pair up jet yourself up to someone more experienced and bow. I've seen newcomers stand around once I say pair up waiting for someone to bow to them. Kind of like the shy kid at their first dance. Don't be that kid.

And don't forget this feeling. If you stick around long term remind yourself occasionally to get out there and pair up with the newbs. I do it myself. I'll sometimes hit general practices, bow in to the class and join in. I'll pair up with anyone out there on the floor. I'm not there to teach, but I'm happy to guide a bit and take good ukemi for anyone willing to learn.

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Old 02-27-2014, 10:34 AM   #8
lbb
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

It's up to newbies to chase down the experienced people and pair up with them, and it's up to experienced people to work with newbies. It's up to everyone to work with everyone. It's NOT up to you to try to cover for your fellow experienced students' failings.

Also, maybe I'm in a philosophical mood today, but seems to me that a situation like this is an opportunity for growth if the dojo embraces it. It's a chance to grow together, to start seeing your practice as the collective endeavor that it is, and to notice all kinds of things that reveal themselves in that new light. If people open themselves up to that, their aikido will grow, and it'll be noticeable -- much more so than if they selfishly concentrate on "getting better" by only practicing with those they deem worthy.
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Old 02-27-2014, 10:37 AM   #9
lbb
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
And don't forget this feeling. If you stick around long term remind yourself occasionally to get out there and pair up with the newbs. I do it myself. I'll sometimes hit general practices, bow in to the class and join in. I'll pair up with anyone out there on the floor. I'm not there to teach, but I'm happy to guide a bit and take good ukemi for anyone willing to learn.
Heh. Remembering a few times where I hung at the back edges of the mat at a big seminar, all intimidated...only to find a shihan bowing to me to practice together. Those are some special people.
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Old 02-27-2014, 01:24 PM   #10
SteveTrinkle
Dojo: Aikido Kenkyukai International
Location: Ambler, Pennsylvania
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I started aikido 3 years ago and people in my dojo didn't want to pair up with me. As time passed by, I realized the same happened to all beginners. And not only do the more advanced students prefer advanced pairs - most of them actively avoid pairing up with anyone who hasn't practiced at least a year or two. They can be surrounded by low-level students, yet search every direction trying to avoid too much eye contact with them and find a more advanced pair.

The general rule in my dojo seems to be that the better your skills are, the more people want to practice with you. I can understand it: The best students are good ukes and they can also give you good advice that helps you improve. But what I can't understand is why so many people act according to their own wishes and ignore the needs of the others. We all want to improve, so it's not fair to leave beginners on their own. And I think it's very impolite to turn your back on some of your fellow students all the time just because they're not good.

We were all bad at first and we've learned so much from our seniors, so shouldn't we pay it forward and help others in turn? Unfortunately most of my dojo mates don't seem to think like that. Even the students who have started after me -- including those two who have become "accepted members of the club" and get to practice with other advanced students almost all the time -- seem just as eager to get more advanced pairs as everyone else. I had hoped that someone would follow my example, but the selfish atmosphere seems contagious.

I want everyone to feel welcome and appreciated, but I also want to get value for my money. Being the only more advanced student in my dojo who actively tries to pair up with low-level students, I've become very popular among them. When I don't seek them out, they seek me out so I hardly ever get to practice with anyone better than me. The aikido style I practice puts great emphasis on co-operation and the role of uke, so practicing with well-trained ukes is crucial to becoming good. I feel like I haven't improved in ages, probably because I practice so much with pairs who move in a wrong way and can't offer me any advice. (I'm sure practicing with them teaches me many things, but not the aikido style I'm trying to learn.)

I've talked about this situation with the sensei and he doesn't want to interfere with pairing up. I'm too shy to confront other students and tell them what I think. But more and more often I find myself reluctant to go to the dojo. I don't want to help my selfish dojo mates by teaching beginners to become the good ukes they want. If good ukes are so important to them, they should do their part of the work required. And what comes to beginners, I don't know if I should care. It's probably better if they don't like it there and quit.

I like aikido but the atmosphere in my dojo is really getting on my nerves. Is it possible for a dojo like this to change? Has it ever happened? It's been at least 3 years this way, so maybe I should give up and find another hobby?
sounds like this habit is ibecome ngrained in your dojo's tradition ,but somehow one can only hope the change will begin with you best of luck!

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Old 02-27-2014, 08:07 PM   #11
Lorien Lowe
Dojo: Northcoast Aikido
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

If you can't safely and correctly throw a newbie, then you don't understand the technique quite as well as you think that you do. Training with beginners can be one of the best ways to test and challenge yourself.

That said, sometimes it's just fun to pick someone who will come at you full speed, and toss you across the dojo when you do the same.
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Old 02-27-2014, 08:10 PM   #12
Krystal Locke
Location: Phoenix, Oregon
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
Heh. Remembering a few times where I hung at the back edges of the mat at a big seminar, all intimidated...only to find a shihan bowing to me to practice together. Those are some special people.
That happened to me a lot at a Popkin seminar. Everybody was intimidated to bow to Yoshi Shibata and I was a mostly unknown stranger so I got a lot of his kind time and attention. Kinda like two seminars for the price of one.
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Old 02-28-2014, 10:58 AM   #13
jonreading
 
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

1. In the hybridized environment of Western education meet Eastern culture, I believe the role of senior students is still vital to transmission of instruction through a secondary education transmission ("what sensei means is...")
2. A dojo environment is different than a seminar environment.
3. Social interaction is sometimes a challenge for individuals, sometimes reflected is a wallflower mentality.

That said,
I think the sempai/kohai relationship is an important responsibility in the dojo. The insturctor cannot possibly communicate every aspect of instruction; sempai inherit the burden to clarify instruction, translate complex concepts and provide simple corrections in training. Instructors cannot be everywhere all the time. You may be working with individuals who are shirking their senior responsibilities. But, you may be working with an instructor who has not properly delegated and empowered the seniors to adequately provide this critical role.
Second, part of the dojo's responsibilities is to collectively meet the needs of the students. This usually means, "basic" instruction responsibilities. Whether its a beginner's class or seniors working with juniors, there should be instruction focused on a curriculum easier for beginners to consume. Seminars tend to be more individual-oriented, especially if you inherit the cost to attend the seminar. In this environment, your responsibility is to consume as much of the material as possible with less regard for the instruction of others. Not to debate the merits of this, but if I drop $150 + expenses to see someone, you can dang-well believe I am gonna try to get my hands on her the entire seminar; if I can't find her I am gonna find one of the people who knows what she is doing.
Third, I think we sometimes underestimate the difficulty individuals with social difficulties experience when "walking up to someone." For those individuals, your training today ain't about waza. Your training is fighting and overcoming an anxiety to approach someone. If it's real, don't overlook that success.
Much of your aikido training should be uncomfortable and intimidating. It should be done in a supportive environment because of this reason. Taking the term away from it's modern pejorative connotation, you are darn right your aikido training is selfish. You are contributing money, time and resources to your endeavor. Some of those resources are debts you pay because someone helped you once.
I can only imagine how that conversation goes... "Hey honey, did you have a good class?" "Yeah. I paid dues this month. Thanks for not buying that coat you liked at the store so I could pay the dojo. Oh, and thanks for putting the kids to bed tonight - I hate missing out, but you know when class is..." "Well, I know how much you want to do aikido..." "Yeah, that was a problem tonight. I didn't get too much training in because I was helping out a couple of beginners."
To have this conversation, I think two things have to be present: 1. As a beginner, you appreciate what is going on. 2. As a senior, you find an outlet to transform that responsibility into a learning opportunity.

As a final comment, I think sabotaging the issue (i.e. not telling your dojo mates how you feel from the perspective that they'll get theirs is not going to resolve the issue) is simply going to hide the issue until it damages the dojo.

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Old 02-28-2014, 12:06 PM   #14
Conrad Gus
 
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I like aikido but the atmosphere in my dojo is really getting on my nerves. Is it possible for a dojo like this to change? Has it ever happened? It's been at least 3 years this way, so maybe I should give up and find another hobby?
I'm going to go in a different direction on this one. If you just hang in there and keep doing what you're doing, those people who are newbies now will be awesome training partners and they will all remember how much you helped them. It's a bond they won't have with the ones that ignored them back in the day.

Keep being the awesome dude that helps out generously. You're setting a great example. When class is over, grab a black belt and go hard for 15 minutes to get your "fix". You're not wasting your training time, you just have to take a longer view.

Conrad
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Old 02-28-2014, 04:37 PM   #15
Krystal Locke
Location: Phoenix, Oregon
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

Quote:
Anonymous User wrote: View Post
I started aikido 3 years ago and people in my dojo didn't want to pair up with me. As time passed by, I realized the same happened to all beginners. And not only do the more advanced students prefer advanced pairs - most of them actively avoid pairing up with anyone who hasn't practiced at least a year or two. They can be surrounded by low-level students, yet search every direction trying to avoid too much eye contact with them and find a more advanced pair.

The general rule in my dojo seems to be that the better your skills are, the more people want to practice with you. I can understand it: The best students are good ukes and they can also give you good advice that helps you improve. But what I can't understand is why so many people act according to their own wishes and ignore the needs of the others. We all want to improve, so it's not fair to leave beginners on their own. And I think it's very impolite to turn your back on some of your fellow students all the time just because they're not good.

We were all bad at first and we've learned so much from our seniors, so shouldn't we pay it forward and help others in turn? Unfortunately most of my dojo mates don't seem to think like that. Even the students who have started after me -- including those two who have become "accepted members of the club" and get to practice with other advanced students almost all the time -- seem just as eager to get more advanced pairs as everyone else. I had hoped that someone would follow my example, but the selfish atmosphere seems contagious.

I want everyone to feel welcome and appreciated, but I also want to get value for my money. Being the only more advanced student in my dojo who actively tries to pair up with low-level students, I've become very popular among them. When I don't seek them out, they seek me out so I hardly ever get to practice with anyone better than me. The aikido style I practice puts great emphasis on co-operation and the role of uke, so practicing with well-trained ukes is crucial to becoming good. I feel like I haven't improved in ages, probably because I practice so much with pairs who move in a wrong way and can't offer me any advice. (I'm sure practicing with them teaches me many things, but not the aikido style I'm trying to learn.)

I've talked about this situation with the sensei and he doesn't want to interfere with pairing up. I'm too shy to confront other students and tell them what I think. But more and more often I find myself reluctant to go to the dojo. I don't want to help my selfish dojo mates by teaching beginners to become the good ukes they want. If good ukes are so important to them, they should do their part of the work required. And what comes to beginners, I don't know if I should care. It's probably better if they don't like it there and quit.

I like aikido but the atmosphere in my dojo is really getting on my nerves. Is it possible for a dojo like this to change? Has it ever happened? It's been at least 3 years this way, so maybe I should give up and find another hobby?
You're finding it frustrating to train with beginners because you feel that the other sempai arent training with beginners? Kinda reflexive, isn't it? A tenkan for the situation is perhaps to train the new folk up on their ukemi so they are more attractive partners for the other sempai.

You have been at your dojo 3 years, but you dont feel comfortable talking to your dojomates and asking them to take on some of the "burden"? A quick word in the dressing room or over a beer to a likely candidate might get you some relief. Maybe hide it in something like "Hey, fellow sempai, I've been training with New-buck Greenguy and he's really starting to show some skills. Check him out tonight...."

Or, mention it in the after class circle if you have one. Or, start putting an edge on avoiding training with the other experienced students. "No thanks, miss Ikkyu. I get to help guide this new chick, hopefully get her really into aikido, and maybe get a good friend out of the deal." You'd be removing a good uke for the advanced folks so one of them would have to find a partner among the frosh and you'd be possibly changing the mind of other sempai about training with newbs.

Lots of the places I've trained, the dojocho or instructor for the class has two simple aims. First, teach aikido. Second, keep everyone safe. Lots of instructors expect their advanced students to perform the basic mat management tasks, like checking for proper ettiquette, attire, etc., enforcing the expected dojo culture, taking care of new folk, cleaning the space. If your sempai aren't doing that and you are, just keep doing it. Sensei is noticing who does what. You have more of an opportunity than you have a problem.

Me, I avoid my sempai and run to train with beginners because my sempai are wise to my bullshit....
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Old 03-01-2014, 04:49 PM   #16
Aikibu
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
It's up to newbies to chase down the experienced people and pair up with them, and it's up to experienced people to work with newbies. It's up to everyone to work with everyone. It's NOT up to you to try to cover for your fellow experienced students' failings.

Also, maybe I'm in a philosophical mood today, but seems to me that a situation like this is an opportunity for growth if the dojo embraces it. It's a chance to grow together, to start seeing your practice as the collective endeavor that it is, and to notice all kinds of things that reveal themselves in that new light. If people open themselves up to that, their aikido will grow, and it'll be noticeable -- much more so than if they selfishly concentrate on "getting better" by only practicing with those they deem worthy.
Right on Mary. This is my experience. I spent allot of time chasing down Yudansha all over the mat. It can only make the entire Dojo better.

William Hazen
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Old 03-02-2014, 11:11 AM   #17
JP3
 
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Re: Selfish people in the dojo

In my dojo, and in those I learned my aiki, the highest-ranking student is placed witht he lowest-ranked beginner, then the next highest witht he next lowest, and so on until everyone's paired up. We stay that way for about 20-30 minutes, depending on whoever is teaching/leading the class's mood, or mode, and then it is switched up and staggered about.

But, the highest with lowest is nearly always how we start out. Otherwise, if you are always practicing with people "who know what they are supposed to do," you run the risk of entering a self-referencing loop which is never challenged/questioned with outside stimuli.

I find it interesting that the kanji character for kuzushi illustrates a mountain falling on a house.
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