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Old 03-27-2003, 08:47 AM   #1
happysod
Dojo: Kiburn, London, UK
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Overtaking your teacher?

Dear All,

Q - Have you ever felt you've surpassed your teacher in aikido - while they were still alive and actively practicing?

As many of the threads across the various forums deal with teaching, finding teachers, being a teacher I was just wondering if anyone has ever actually felt they have become "better" at aikido than the person(s) who taught them.

My own experiences have been, no, not really. No matter how long it's been since I trained with them, my older teachers still have that ability to make me feel a newbie on the mat. Is it just me, a function of the relationships found in the dojo or just good old fashioned "age=respect"?
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Old 03-27-2003, 10:16 AM   #2
twilliams423
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The moment I express the belief that I feel I have "surpassed" my teacher I hope somebody smacks me a good one. That being said, I would like all of my students to surpass me.
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Old 03-27-2003, 10:30 AM   #3
JMCavazos
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I don't think that a student can surpass their teacher in aikido while the teacher is actively training. (of course I am talking about a high ranking Sensei)

I think it is the teacher's job to give the students the foundation to surpass them if the teacher stops teaching or passes on. Then a student could possibly surpass the Sensei: it depends on how long the student lives, whether they continue to train and the ability to learn, teach, and execute aikido.

This is just my opinion on this matter.
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Old 03-27-2003, 11:21 AM   #4
paw
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Of course a student can surpass a living, breathing, actively training teacher. It happens all the time in judo, wrestling, brazilian jiu jitsu, boxing, muay thai ... I bet it happens in Tomiki style aikido as well (Peter, can you help me out here?) and why not?

That doesn't mean that the student cannot learn from the teacher or that the teacher has no role to fill.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 03-27-2003, 04:44 PM   #5
jimvance
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There are several classical examples within budo folklore of students surpassing their teachers. This normally involved the student creating some new synthesis that they had either received from divine providence, spiritual insight, or understanding of higher principles. Three respective examples of this would be Morihei Ueshiba, Tesshu Yamaoka, and Jigoro Kano. I believe my own teacher, Chuck Clark, has done the same thing in his creation of the Jiyushinkai.

We live in a very adaptive world compared to the Japan of these gentlemen, and so we are caught between the two poles of total abandonment (of the budo's parent culture and all its nuance) and total preservation (given to closing the door on more modern thought, allowing the budo to change only slightly from generation to generation). I hope that one day I will surpass my teacher, but I doubt that I shall do so while he is still alive. But who knows, providence, insight, or understanding of principle could happen to me yet.

Jim Vance
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Old 03-27-2003, 05:25 PM   #6
Chuck Clark
 
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Jim,

I am doing what my teachers taught me to do. Fortunately, they taught me how to practice and how to grow.

Another fortunate thing is that I am very stubborn and will not give up.

Thanks for putting me in such fine company but I don't deserve the honor. I'm just doing what I was taught to do and am trying to teach others to do the same.

Chuck Clark
Jiyushinkai Aikibudo
www.jiyushinkai.org
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Old 03-27-2003, 06:41 PM   #7
deepsoup
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Quote:
paul watt (paw) wrote:
Of course a student can surpass a living, breathing, actively training teacher. It happens all the time in judo, wrestling, brazilian jiu jitsu, boxing, muay thai ... I bet it happens in Tomiki style aikido as well (Peter, can you help me out here?) and why not?
A student might beat his teacher in shiai, but that wouldn't be the same thing as suppassing the teacher's aikido because there is so much more to aikido than shiai. Actually, I'd say that applies to judo as much as it does to (Shodokan) aikido. I dont know about the other things there - never tried them.

But I dont see why it shouldn't be possible for a student to surpass a teacher just as you say. Maybe you could have a teacher who teaches better than he does and a talented student training hard.

In sport its common for competitors to develop skills that far exceed those of their coaches. (Because its the coaching skills that really count on the teaching side of the equation.)

In music, I bet there aren't many concert pianists who aren't more skilled players than their first piano teachers. So why not?

Sean

x
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Old 03-27-2003, 07:30 PM   #8
paw
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Quote:
A student might beat his teacher in shiai, but that wouldn't be the same thing as suppassing the teacher's aikido because there is so much more to aikido than shiai. Actually, I'd say that applies to judo as much as it does to (Shodokan) aikido. I dont know about the other things there - never tried them.
Who said anything about shiai?

Regards,

Paul

(who admits to using Shodokan as a hook)
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Old 03-27-2003, 07:56 PM   #9
acot
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Very few NFL,NBA,MLB coaches have ever played their respective sports professionally.

Ryan
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Old 03-28-2003, 06:13 AM   #10
Kung Fu Liane
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Confused

i'm an aikido beginner, so no i haven't experienced it. however, one of my teachers says that his senior student (also one of my techers) is coming very close to teacher's level. when he did say was that ash (the senior student) would eventually be better than teacher and probably in teacher's lifetime, but not in all areas, and thats because everyone's way is different. he hasn't told ash this, and i reckon its because it would be pretty difficult to live with the thought that you'd outgrown your teacher. what would you do then, stay with your teacher, find another teacher, or start your own school?

i was thinking about this the other night after tai chi training. i'd been partnered with older brother, who has been training for about three years longer than me, and is my adopted 4th teacher. we were playing sticky hands, and as usual he was trying to catch me out and land a strike. he's been playing this game ever since i started training, and he can always catch me out with something, so sometimes it seems like i'm not progressing, because i can't 'beat' him. its a really weird feeling, and makes it difficult to see if i'm progressing. but because older brother continues to gain experience as i do, i'm not overtaking him. so if a teacher with 20 years more experience still continues to learn more, and so do their students, it must take an amazing student to catch up with a 20 year lead

-Liane
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Old 03-28-2003, 07:57 AM   #11
aikidoc
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This is an interesting thread. One of the things that happens to all of us is the physical deterioration of aging-sorry but we cannot escape it. So, from a physical perspective the younger students may develop better physical skills and their technique may be technically superior if their instructor is older or in physically poor health. I'm sure O'Sensei did not have the same physical skills at the end that he possessed at his peak. That being said, I doubt that a student will surpass the knowledge base of an instructor that continues to train and learn. If the instructor stops his or her personal growth then I could see the student surpassing them.
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Old 03-28-2003, 08:39 AM   #12
ian
 
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Unfortunately teachers don't get to train as much as students! Therefore progression of students can be expected to be more rapid. However many teachers have a vast experience in aikido, and when they teach they only touch a small part of this. What you don't see are the stages that person has gone through to develop the aikido which they are now teaching you. Students may exceed their teachers ability, but to be able to teach as well may require a far broader experience.

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 03-28-2003, 09:22 AM   #13
MikeE
 
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I want my students to become better than me. It's like wishing your children to have a better life than you have had. I think it should be natural for a teacher to wants students to become all they can be.

Mike Ellefson
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Old 03-28-2003, 12:08 PM   #14
Lyle Bogin
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There was an excellent article written on this subject, specifically regarding tae kwon do instructors, in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts.

Czarnecka, M. "The saga of the modern martial arts student-instructor relationship in north American schools"

Vol 10 No. 2, 2001

"The martial arts progress from the complex to the simple."
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Old 03-28-2003, 01:00 PM   #15
JMCavazos
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I think that students surpass their teachers in martial arts & in sports, where youth, speed, etc... is extremely important in those situations.

In aikido, it is different though! Timing is more important than speed, ki development is more important than strength, etc...

Therefore, I stick to my first statement. In AIKIDO, I don't think that a student can overcome a teacher of high rank. I DO think that a student can overcome another person(teacher or not) that is 4-5 ranks ahead. (EG. a yellow belt could surpass a shodan in 8 years if the yellow belt picks up and trains in a more positive manner than the shodan does in those same 8 years).

I hope that I am making sense. I know that there is no way I could ever have been at Bill Sosa Sensei's level. Even after his passing, I doubt that I will be at his level if I live to be 80! There would have been no way to be at his level had he been alive when I was 80. (Does this make any sense to anyone)
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Old 03-29-2003, 01:55 AM   #16
Kelly Allen
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what about the rare prodogies? The odd person who seems to pick up the technics the phylosiphy like a duck takes to water. Wouldn't those people tend to surpass their teachers?
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Old 03-29-2003, 02:40 AM   #17
erikmenzel
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I know my teacher would be greatly disappointed if we didnt try to surpass him.

It is like parents towards their child. (most) Parents want their children to surpass them in life, want their children to go further and be better/ more succesful/happier then they were themselves.

Your teacher (or O Sensei for that matter) is not your god in aikido, he is just your aikido parent (or for O Sensei ancestor).

Erik Jurrien Menzel
kokoro o makuru taisanmen ni hirake
Personal:www.kuipers-menzel.com
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Old 03-29-2003, 03:10 AM   #18
deepsoup
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Quote:
paul watt (paw) wrote:
Who said anything about shiai?
I thought you did, when you said:
Quote:
It happens all the time in judo, wrestling, brazilian jiu jitsu, boxing, muay thai ... I bet it happens in Tomiki style aikido as well (Peter, can you help me out here?) and why not?
If not shiai, what does Shodokan aikido have in common with judo, wrestling etc.. that other styles of aikido dont?

Sean

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Old 03-29-2003, 03:21 PM   #19
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Long post...

This is something I've thought about a lot recently, actually. Our head instructor, at a university club, took over/was put in charge of the university dojo a number of years ago before he was a shodan.

After he began teaching, there was not, in my opinion, enough input from his instuctors at our home dojo on a regular basis. That is to say, I think that it was incumbent on them to send a yudansha to our dojo at least once a month (or more often) to ensure that things were going well, and that techniques were being taught properly.

This was before my time, so I don't know how things came about as they did, but Sensei didn't get that type of support from our home dojo, and there is still a little bit of emotional grinding between him and them over that type of thing; that is, they may want a change in something, but Sensie doesn't feel kept in the loop. (our style is relatively small in the U.S., with only a few schools here).

As a result, Sensei, over the years, developed a number of habits in his technique that we are now told we shouldn't do... everything from posture, to the correct form of a variety of techniques, even some basic exercises, like funikoge (sp?). Admittedly, Sensei's technique is sometimes not well-centered, and much less effortless (?) than I would expect from someone at that level

Let me stress that I have tremendous respect for Sensei as a person and martial artist (he has trained over 20 years in various arts), and have known him for a number of years, even before beginning my Aikido training.

When I began preparing for my shodan test a few years back, I travelled the 3 hours to our home dojo at least once a month, per Sensei's request, and was able to take my technique to a new level. I still make that drive regularly to train now, and always receive some specific instructions to make sure that our students are doing this or that in the particular way that our school teaches.

Sensei's mindset is not one of "the technician", and his techniques, while very powerful , are not what our shihan is looking for, especially for testing. And there are a lot of times that I feel like he doesn't really have me when we train, and I often feel that I'm teaching people to do "not what he does", if that makes sense.

To some extent, he knows that he's not quite in line with the other school, and as tests get closer, he tries to focus more on the "right" way to do it for testing. But I always feel, when watching testing, that there are students from the main dojo, who, say at 4th kyu, look tremendously better than our 3rd, 2nd, and even our 1st kyu students.

Again, I have great respect for Sensei, and would never say something like, "You don't teach this correctly...", nor would I ever not respond well as uke in class, making him look bad. Occasionally, off the mat, I will mention some particular point made to me at the other dojo that I've been asked to pass on, but on the mat is certainly not the place for that.

I do, however, feel that I've learned a great deal of my aikido, except the most rudimentary basics, from other instructors at our main dojo.

It makes training hard for me sometimes, and not as enjoyable. I know that when our students test soon, the higher yudansha, and Sensei's intstructor, too, will have lots and lots of corrections to everyone's techniques.

Things are made a little more difficult by our close connection to our Japanese dojo, headed by our Shihan there, and the close control he likes to have over how things are done.

A bit of a ramble here, and I'm not sure if I've actually made a point here or not, but it's given me a place to put down a number of thoughts I've had in the last 6 or 8 months, and I've posted it anonymously instead of logging in, which I've never done here before, out of respect.

I would appreciate any feedback or thoughts from all of you here who have been on the Aikido journey longer than I have been.

Hopefully, no one will slam me too hard, and I can find a good way through the minefield... .

I don't think that I feel that I've surpassed my teacher, but we are definitely coming from different places.

Thanks for listening.
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Old 03-29-2003, 07:31 PM   #20
paw
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Sean,
Quote:
If not shiai, what does Shodokan aikido have in common with judo, wrestling etc.. that other styles of aikido dont?
I put Shodokan in the list instead of "aikido" as a hook -- figuring that someone would say, "better in shiai don't mean better over all" (which is a statement that I would agree with)

But it does raise the question of what "better" means? Is higher rank a clear indication of "better"? Is training lineage a clear indication of "better"? Teaching ability? Technical ability? Reputation? Character? All of the above?

Personally, I find many things that some of my fellow students use as guidemarks that indicate "better" to be extremely subjective. I also have concern that the attitude "I'll never be better than ...." to be self-limiting, self-depricating and not healthy in the long run.

Although I couldn't find the exact quote, I recall a bjj black belt, who after winning the Mundials (World Championship), made a statement to the effect of his students, at the very least, must reach his ability for the art not to stagnate. For the art to continue to grow and evolve, his students must exceed his ability.

But I digress....

Regards,

Paul
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Old 03-29-2003, 10:17 PM   #21
cindy perkins
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A teacher in an isolated area could have difficulty finding practice time with one as skilled or more skilled than s/he is. Therefore, a student could overtake her or him. I think perhaps the painful difficulty (for the student particularly) might be accepting that it has happened.
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Old 03-29-2003, 10:25 PM   #22
cindy perkins
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To the anonymous poster of #19:

What would it mean if you HAVE "surpassed" your instructor? Because it seems to me that you may have.

Another question: Are you really showing respect by taking ukemi even if he doesn't really have you, and not telling him even privately that he may have something incorrect? I think if I were Sensei I would really want to know that sort of thing.

Maybe if you respect each other, you could work privately once or twice to sharpen some of these things. If you think he could hear any suggestions without getting angry/defensive. It just seems somewhat pitiable to me for him to be mis-teaching students, having senior students cover for him by not resisting poor technique, etc. Not something I'd ever want to happen to my sensei!
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Old 03-30-2003, 11:37 AM   #23
tedehara
 
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Quote:
Michael Ellefson (MikeE) wrote:
I want my students to become better than me. It's like wishing your children to have a better life than you have had. I think it should be natural for a teacher to wants students to become all they can be.
MikeE really gives an accurate viewpoint from a teacher's perspective.

While we may have "feelings" of respect and modesty, I've always been taught:
Quote:
The only way to truly repay your teacher is to become better than he is.
To my way of thinking, that is the ultimate sign of respect.
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Old 03-30-2003, 03:13 PM   #24
deepsoup
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Quote:
paul watt (paw) wrote:
I put Shodokan in the list instead of "aikido" as a hook -- figuring that someone would say, "better in shiai don't mean better over all" (which is a statement that I would agree with)
Looks like I fell for it then.
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Old 03-31-2003, 02:12 AM   #25
happysod
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Anonymous, quick question, are you saying your dojo's students are actually performing under par as regards others in the same association or is it just a matter of style (sorry, couldn't decide which you meant). The reason I ask is that it's very easy to be given the impression of incompetence in aikido when actually it's just a different way of doing it - if the link between your dojo and the rest is as tenuous as you say, a different style is bound to develop. A common one I've found is between the "hard" and "soft" styles (done both, prefer the "soft" for the lack of strapping needed) where their different approaches to blending can cause problems.

As for the rest of us, we should be ashamed of ourselves! All of us wanting our students to excel beyond our own megre efforts and not one of our students shouting out a resounding "yes" on the board... (this is a joke by the way - I'm trying to be more obvious with them these days).

Thanks to all those who answered, more please.
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