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Old 07-15-2003, 04:35 PM   #1
DaveForis
Dojo: UW-L Aikido Club
Location: La Crosse, WI
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How to teach--Got tips?

Teaching is an interesting skill. How do you get something across to someone else, especially a physical skill like a martial art, who does not share your body type, mindset, or temperament? I have known teachers, mostly off the matt, who didn't do so hot, eventually blaming it on their students. My belief is that a teacher should be studying HOW to teach as well as what he or she is teaching. I'm just curious if any one has some good tips for teaching.

Since there was no thread on this topic, I figured it was a good time to start one. I'm very curious myself, and anything anyone has to offer I'll be happy to soak up in case it ever comes in handy. I'm by no means of high enough rank to be an instructor in Aikido, but being able to teach comes in handy anywhere, even off the mat.

So does anyone have any good tips? Or any recommended readings? (Books are good too. )

Behind every flaw in technique is a flaw in the mind or spirit
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Old 07-15-2003, 05:27 PM   #2
shihonage
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"You're doing good, but here's a better way to do it" works better than "Stop, you're doing this wrong. Do it this way instead".

At least, on me.
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Old 07-16-2003, 09:48 AM   #3
opherdonchin
Dojo: Baltimore Aikido
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I remember before I was teaching, it used to bother me no end when the instructor would watch me do it once and come over and correct something. Often, I felt like I was focusing somewhere else entirely and the instructor was distracting me. Now, of course, I do that sort of thing all the time, but I do try (not so succesfully) to remember that each student has their own agenda. If you can figure out what they are trying to do, it often helps you understand what they need to hear.

Aleksey, that's so touchy feely. I'm shocked!

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 07-16-2003, 12:07 PM   #4
Nick P.
 
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Dave,

I have always thought that being good at something does not automatically make you good at teaching it. Some senseis are good at Aikido, some are good teachers, many are good at both, and some, well...

As one of our young club's sempei, Sensei has asked me to teach class from time to time (sometimes several classes in a row) when he is not there. I'd say it's been about 2 years now that I teach on average 3 classes a month, so I will pass on what I can.

1-Leave the ego WAY off the mat. Especially hard to do when teaching. I have started saying things like "Don't do what I just did..." or "I have a bad habit of doing this, so try to avoid it".

2-Repeat what your Sensei has told you and your classmates (chances are that's all that will come to mind once you find yourself up there anyway. Think deer in the headlights!)

3-Choose the moves you think best suite the caliber/comfort level of the people in the room (which can be very different one class to the next)

4-Choose moves that will challenge everyone.

5-Try finding a theme for the practice (all based off of one particular tai-sabaki(sp?), all moves you can think of with shomenuchi).

6-Depending on the class or your mood, try saying very little.

Above all remember you are still a student too!

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Old 07-16-2003, 01:42 PM   #5
Carl Simard
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I will also add a point 7) to Nick's post:

7) Teach what you know well enough to show others. Don't try to teach things you're not sure about...
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Old 07-16-2003, 03:49 PM   #6
opherdonchin
Dojo: Baltimore Aikido
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Boy, I violate rule 7 all the time. Nowadays, though, I'm so confused about styles that I don't even know what I know.

Yours in Aiki
Opher
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Old 07-16-2003, 04:17 PM   #7
bones
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Furuya sensei often writes about what it means to be a good teacher (and student!) at his web site http://www.aikidocenterla.com/articles.htm
Quote:
"You're doing good, but here's a better way to do it" works better than "Stop, you're doing this wrong. Do it this way instead".
Quote:
remember before I was teaching, it used to bother me no end when the instructor would watch me do it once and come over and correct something.
Ego, ego ego! I am not immune to these thoughts. But we should be striving to eliminate them through practice.

The most common mistake I observe in new instructors is talking too much. This too is ego: trying to show off how much we know, which just serves to demonstrate we don't know much. This includes me.

We discover our faults by asking a friend, asking an enemy, or recognizing them in others.

Last edited by bones : 07-16-2003 at 04:20 PM.
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Old 07-16-2003, 06:44 PM   #8
kung fu hamster
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Speaking purely from a student's point of view, I like it when the instructor pays attention to the rhythm and pace of the class and makes sure that each student had a chance to do the technique at least once before they move on to the next technique.
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Old 07-17-2003, 01:29 AM   #9
acot
Dojo: West Michigan Aikido
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I am a teacher of English in Taiwan. I am not sure if this would apply to Aikido, but class preperation is the key to a successful English class. Knowing what you are going to teach, and who you are going to teach. Having an objective. Learning can happen in random caos, but most of the time nothing gets done. I have only studied Aikido for just over one year, and the sensei's (all 4 or 5 of them)come to class prepaired and things go very smoothly.

Ryan

for what its worth.

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Old 07-17-2003, 02:52 AM   #10
deepsoup
Dojo: Sheffield Shodokan Dojo
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Quote:
Eric Preston (bones) wrote:
The most common mistake I observe in new instructors is talking too much. This too is ego: trying to show off how much we know, which just serves to demonstrate we don't know much. This includes me.
Thats a bit harsh - I've seen new instructors talk too much too (and done it myself), but I'd rather put it down to a mixture of nerves and enthusiasm.

Sean

x
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Old 07-17-2003, 07:06 AM   #11
JimAde
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Quote:
Sean Orchard (deepsoup) wrote:
Thats a bit harsh - I've seen new instructors talk too much too (and done it myself), but I'd rather put it down to a mixture of nerves and enthusiasm.
I'm actually in the camp that likes a lot of verbal explanation. It's just the way I learn best. I guess it comes down to responding dynamically to what works best for your particular students and your own teaching style. Hey, that sounds vaguely familiar

Remember: No matter where you go...There you are.
-Buckaroo Banzai
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Old 07-17-2003, 09:36 AM   #12
Nick P.
 
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Class preparation is key, but usually goes out the window once I see who shows up for class. I noticed that most of my ideas for class were designed with students of my ability, never mind tastes and preference, in mind.

Carl and Opher, I couldn't agree with both of you more (am I fence sitting? You know it!). To impress upon fellow students that all teachers should be constantly learning I will try and demonstrate (not TEACH, demonstrate) a move I know I have problems with...ok, one I have the most trouble with .

About being verbal; some like it, some don't. All I can say for myself is the 2 following points.1-If my Sensei answers my question /gives me advice, chances are good I still won't "get it". He's been telling me for 5 years to "move and connect with my center". It's not that I dont understand, I just cant get my body to do it (though he assures me I am improving).

2-(Sounding like a broken record)In Japan last year, most people didn't speak a word of English. But man, did I learn.

IMHO, people who talk too much are usually 1-Excited about sharing EVERYTHING they have been taught all at once. 2-Are just excited in general. Neither is a bad thing...except when seiza turns into a 15-minute painfest for the other students. Rare is the student who talks to show-off, but that is also a chance to practice Aikido, no?

I have often thought it would be a great experience for everyone to have the Sensei "audit" a class you are teaching. The feedback would be priceless.

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Old 07-22-2003, 10:59 AM   #13
Jesse Lee
Dojo: Tenzan Aikido, formerly named Seattle Aikikai
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I feel very blessed in that at my dojo, our Sensei conducts a monthly seminar for the instructors. The seminar focusses on teaching sempai how to teach.

The consensus here is, all instructors get a ton out of good stuff out of that class.

, can't find m s
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Old 09-01-2003, 02:51 PM   #14
Bogeyman
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There are some excellent points made here but one thing I thought was missing was that it sounds like all of this is the sole responsibility of the sensei. My impression for a long time has been that half of the responsibility for learning is the student and therefore the student needs to keep and open mind on what the sensei is sharing. Ego can be a factor from both sides and we must be aware of that. Just because a sensei and a student have different builds, strengths, or whatever doesn't mean that what sensei id showing is not valid and applicable to all. Just a thought.

E
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Old 09-01-2003, 03:39 PM   #15
Aristeia
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Quote:
Eric Novak (Bogeyman) wrote:
There are some excellent points made here but one thing I thought was missing was that it sounds like all of this is the sole responsibility of the sensei. My impression for a long time has been that half of the responsibility for learning is the student and therefore the student needs to keep and open mind on what the sensei is sharing.

E
Absolutely. I can be pretty verbose as a teacher but occasionally I like to teach a class in absolute silence to emphasise the point. Learning aikido is an *active* process you can't just sit there and passively recieve what you're being shown. The teacher is a tool but it's up to the students to do the learning.

"When your only tool is a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail"
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Old 09-01-2003, 08:44 PM   #16
Bronson
 
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Quote:
The teacher is a tool
I'm sure that's what my students say about me

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 09-02-2003, 01:06 AM   #17
Aristeia
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"When your only tool is a hammer every problem starts to look like a nail"
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Old 09-22-2003, 02:35 PM   #18
Lyle Bogin
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I suggest asking educators. Teaching martial arts is no different from teaching many other subjects, particularly physical education. There are many excellent references on the subject. I recommend looking outside of the martial arts, and into areas such as social studies, for new ideas. The pedagogy of martial arts can only be enhanced by studying other means, purposes, and philosphies of education.

"The martial arts progress from the complex to the simple."
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Old 09-22-2003, 03:17 PM   #19
BKimpel
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Tip # 1:

Correctly answers are more valuable than quick answer.

A senior student was teaching the class (as our sensei was away), and one of the students asked, "How would you block a nunchaku". The senior student instantly replied, "the same way you block a yokomenuchi strike", logically concluding that a circular strike is a circular strike.

Well…the student just happen to have made faux-nunchaku out of two paper towel rolls and some string and asked the senior student to demonstrate

Of course when the senior student cut deep into uke's swing the one half of the nunchaku stopped (as in yokomenuchi), but the other half swung even faster and smacked him right in the temple.

Moral of the story:

If you don't know something say "Good question…lets take some time next class and figure it out -- we've got a lot to cover this class" buying you some time to figure it out before you make a fool of yourself. Maybe even get a little chalk board or white board for students to ask questions that you will address next class -- then you have a heads up to think about it and they don't get forgotten.

While some might disagree with me and argue that a sensei can be "honest" with his students and doesn't need to be all knowing to his/her students -- students have a trust in their sensei/teachers. If the teacher demonstrates too many "oops, that didn't work" and "don't do what I just did", students begin to lose confidence in their teacher (and then they begin to lose confidence in their own ability because they are learning from you).

Tip # 2:

Already stated, but needs to be emphasized -- talk less, do more.

We always find ourselves explaining verbally what can better be explained visually (i.e. they see it), or Kinesthetically (i.e. they feel it).

Just basic educational tips -- not specific to Aikido, martial arts.

Bruce

Bruce Kimpel
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Old 09-22-2003, 03:32 PM   #20
Bogeyman
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An excellent point, Bruce. None of us have all of the answers, we are (or should be) students that continue to grow and improve as long as we train. If we had all of the answers we would be O'Senesei.

E
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Old 09-23-2003, 07:47 PM   #21
Kensho Furuya
Dojo: Aikido Center of Los Angeles
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If you are looking for a book - one book I read so many years ago but has always been a guide and inspiration to me is "The Art of Teaching" by Gilbert Highet. I don't have a copy right at my side at this moment - I have read it so many times that I recall most of what I need from memory - but I think many years ago this was a standard text to all education students and aspiring teachers in the university curriculums. It might be dated for today but I have always found its wisdom inspiring and true. It is also a view of how professional teachers look at teaching. It is an easy read, well written and I have found it very usable information for myself. Btw, thank you, Mr. "bones" for the kind reference. I hope you all might enjoy this book. Thank you.

Last edited by Kensho Furuya : 09-23-2003 at 07:52 PM.
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Old 09-24-2003, 05:40 AM   #22
philipsmith
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As regards teaching I continually look at how other "sports" are taught.

This year alone I have stolen ideas from Triathlon coaches, rugby and basketball.

Sometimes I think we overstate our uniqueness; teaching is teaching and learning is learning.
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Old 09-24-2003, 10:32 AM   #23
twilliams423
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As both a long time professional educator (I began full time teaching in '75) and a relatively short time Aikido instructor (began teaching my own students in '95), I think most of what has been said above is correct.

I would add that while there are definite skills a teacher develops that overlap regardless of subject matter, the martial arts instructor has some responsibilities unique to his or her position due to the nature and tradition of the arts.

In general though, I view the basic jobs of a teacher as : 1) facilitation and 2) illumination.

I didn't personally find teacher training to be very useful in teaching me to teach, unfortunately. But of the entire experience, one book that was recommended to me by my Social Foundations of Ed. professor had a tremendous impact on my understanding and future approach to education. It is "Freedom to Learn" by Carl Rogers. I highly recommend it to all interested in learning, not just teaching.

One of the things that he said about learning is that, "We cannot teach another person directly; we can only facilitate his learning." Also, "The structure and organization of the self appears to become more rigid under threat; to relax its boundaries when completely free from threat..."

Some qualities of an effective teacher: 1) Realness, genuineness: entering into the relationship without presenting a front or facade 2) Prizing, acceptance, trust: caring non-possessively for the learner, valuing their feelings, opinions and person, having confidence in their potential 3) Empathetic understanding: seeing student reactions from the inside, awareness of how the process of learning seems to the students, not evaluating or judging but simply understanding their point of view, not just the teacher's.

I think one of the most important aspect of a teacher's training is experience. Even the best school teachers usually take at least a few to several years to develop their skills and organize their program effectively. Having mentors and role models in other skilled and effective teachers is invaluable.

In the martial arts it has been said that there are basically 2 kinds of teachers.

One is the type who is on his own path, developing his own skills and understanding and takes only a few chosen students to futher his own progress. Students can learn quite well this way, but usually have "to steal" their teacher's technique.

The other is the one who has more or less given up on his own active training to turn outside himself to assisting others. Technically, this one may stop progressing, but is always trying to produce students who surpass him.

And of course there has to be those of us who are somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Still actively training with our own Sensei, while dividing a portion of time to teaching others.

Teaching is an awesome job. It is worth doing well. It is a skill that many can develop over time through hard work, like anything else. It's not necessarily a profession that is rewarded by society on the same levels as some others, but I get great enjoyment most days.
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Old 09-24-2003, 11:42 AM   #24
kironin
 
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Disgust

Quote:
Tom Williams (twilliams423) wrote:
In the martial arts it has been said that there are basically 2 kinds of teachers.

One is the type who is on his own path, developing his own skills and understanding and takes only a few chosen students to futher his own progress. Students can learn quite well this way, but usually have "to steal" their teacher's technique.

The other is the one who has more or less given up on his own active training to turn outside himself to assisting others. Technically, this one may stop progressing, but is always trying to produce students who surpass him.
You post was an excellent one except for this part. This idea of a dichotomy in my view is completely false. Pure B.S. as bad for MA as the over-repeated cliche "those who can't do, teach"

Someone who has given up on their own active training (and learning) will soon have students that do not have much of a challenge to surpass him. No matter how well intentioned this is a lousy teacher.

A teacher that understands how to facilitate and illuminate must also understand how to research and to discover. Those who do will not technically stop progressing and it will be real souce of pride in teaching if their students catch up to them and even possibly surpass them.

Ideally then, what you have as a teacher is a student is more advanced in understanding than you in the midst of their own training decides to play the role of facilitator and illuminator to some degree. That degree might be zero and you have to steal everything, very very few have a chance to catch up in that case. That degree might be everything including what they are working on themselves at the moment giving you a chance to see how to discover and learn on your own. In the latter part of the continuum it is much more likely that you will find talented individuals surpassing you. And if your open to it, if you are sincerely a student, they will return the favor.

that's ideal. unfortunately all too often teachers give in to becoming lazy students. and of course egos screw things up to.

Craig
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Old 09-24-2003, 12:15 PM   #25
twilliams423
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Craig,

I absolutely agree with you. But, whether it's laziness or more likely some complex combination of reasons, many teachers, like those in any profession, stop progressing technically or at least dramatically drop of in rate. I have seen it personally in Aikido. The argument is often made that it's a different kind of learning taking place too. I have one teacher (not Aikido) whom I highly respect as a master instructor who recommends those who choose to teach do so only for a limited period of time, like several years, and then return to full time cultivation.I think there is a lot of wisdom behind this.
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