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Old 04-01-2004, 09:17 AM   #1
justinm
Location: Maidenhead
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Teaching, & its impact on me

I have noticed that since I started teaching, I spend much more time thinking about aikido while off the mat than I did when only training. I think this is because I have to really study what I am doing much more deeply than I did before, in order to be able to explain it to others.

Perhaps this is why teaching can be so beneficial to one's own aikido.

A downside (?) is that my aikido is becoming much more personal to me and this is colouring what I teach. I think that, as a junior instructor in my organisation, this is leading me to teach my own view of aikido rather than 'the basics'. I study Yoshinkan Aikido, where 'the basics' are very clearly defined and not very open to interpretation. However I spent the first half of my aikido life in ki aikido and aikikai. I am now finding that I am no longer teaching the standard Yoshinkan syllabus, but spending more and more time looking at other aspects that seem to be relevent to me. That is to say I am not changing the basics but spend a lot more time studying the principles behind the techniques, rather than the techniques themselves.

For instance, this week I introduced the 31 jo kata. Jo is not even in the Yoshinkan syllabus. Another example - there are no ai-hanmi techniques in our grading syllabus, but I think there should be, they are a great tool for learning to blend, and are just good fun. So I do a lot of these.

As a result, some of my beginners are getting a broad experience, but do not know all the techniques needed for their first grading.

I admit, sometimes I do go off on one, and on Tuesday I was talking about how the first movement in Shomenuchi ikkajo feels to me. I glanced at the line of students and saw one of them look at another with a puzzled frown on her face. Kind of a "where has this guy gone?" look.

As my experience of teaching grows, I have gone through many stages. The first few months my biggest problem was how to structure a two hour class. Then it was how to interest and encourage the class. Now my biggest challenge seems to be focusing on their aikido, not mine.

Calling all teachers. How do you differentiate between what aikido in its 'pure sense' is, and what it means to you. Can you even try?

It would be so much easier if I'd only ever studied Yoshinkan Aikido. Breadth of experience seems good to me, but it doesn't half make life more difficult when it comes to teaching!

Justin

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Old 04-01-2004, 09:47 AM   #2
justinm
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As an additional thought to the above, I have trained under many different Yoshinkan instructors, ranging from a new shodan to Terada Sensei (9th Dan), and while their ability varies enormously as you would expect, the actual techniques taught are pretty much identical, following the prescribed steps. Teaching in Yoshinkan Aikido in my experience rarely goes beyond kihon waza, with little room for variation.

In this sense it seems closer to a koryu than the other styles of aikido I have experienced, where variation is much more widely embraced, leading to much more varied teaching and learning styles.

Justin

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Old 04-01-2004, 10:09 AM   #3
aikidoc
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As you teach, you will find there is more personalization of your aikido and its interpretation. I guess the biggest issue you face is will this cause you problems in your current organization. If they are very rigid in what they want taught, it could be a problem. Your students need to learn what they need to pass examinations but I've always been in favor of a broad exposure. Although I tend to stay with aikikai instructors (have also been in Ki Society), I do look at different aikikai shihans for how their viewpoints can enhance my aikido and my students knowledge and understanding of the principles.

Some organizations, however, do not look kindly on studying the materials of others. It's their interpretation or the highway so to speak.
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Old 04-01-2004, 10:21 AM   #4
Yann Golanski
 
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I rarely teach but I am finding more and more that unless one has a very good understanding and execution of the basics, then no techniques will work as well as it should.

Shodokan has a lot of basic exercises that we teach at the start of the lesson and sensei always try to pay more attention to the ones that are relevant to what he will teach in the second part of the class. It works well for us.

Of course, I enjoy a lot doing other things. Hence why I cross train in Aikikai as well! *shrugs* It's the difference between learning and practicing I guess. I much rather the first one but can't be good without the first one!

The people who understand, understand prefectly.
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Old 04-01-2004, 10:54 AM   #5
Bronson
 
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Re: Teaching, & its impact on me

Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
I have noticed that since I started teaching, I spend much more time thinking about aikido while off the mat than I did when only training. I think this is because I have to really study what I am doing much more deeply than I did before, in order to be able to explain it to others. Perhaps this is why teaching can be so beneficial to one's own aikido.
I would agree
Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
A downside (?) is that my aikido is becoming much more personal to me and this is colouring what I teach.
I and, I believe, my sensei would say this is a definite upside.

Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
I think that, as a junior instructor in my organisation, this is leading me to teach my own view of aikido rather than 'the basics'. I study Yoshinkan Aikido, where 'the basics' are very clearly defined and not very open to interpretation.
I do come from a different tradition however where we are encouraged at an early stage to begin developing our aikido for us.

Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
That is to say I am not changing the basics but spend a lot more time studying the principles behind the techniques, rather than the techniques themselves.
I would argue that the principles are indeed the real basics, but again I come from a different tradition.
Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
For instance, this week I introduced the 31 jo kata. Jo is not even in the Yoshinkan syllabus. Another example - there are no ai-hanmi techniques in our grading syllabus, but I think there should be, they are a great tool for learning to blend, and are just good fun. So I do a lot of these.
I often teach things I learned in tai chi, fencing, or even medieval armored fighting if they are relevant to what we're doing that day. I don't see drawing from your past experiences as bad as long as you can relate it effectively to the aikido you are doing.
Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
As a result, some of my beginners are getting a broad experience, but do not know all the techniques needed for their first grading.
Good for them. Be up front with them. I tell my students that I don't train or teach for testing. I train because it enriches me and my life. When my sensei feels I've learned enough to grade he'll tell me. I teach the same way. When the students have learned what they need to know they can test. In our org. it is possible to learn what you need for the first two gradings in the four month span between gradings, my first teacher taught like this when I started aikido. I found this to be a dry and lifeless way to learn. He eventually gave it up for a more long term approach and that's when class became really fun.

Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
I admit, sometimes I do go off on one, and on Tuesday I was talking about how the first movement in Shomenuchi ikkajo feels to me. I glanced at the line of students and saw one of them look at another with a puzzled frown on her face. Kind of a "where has this guy gone?" look.
Ok, so after you tell them...show them. Relate the experience then structure the next few activities or the whole class to help the students understand what you're talking about.
Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
Then it was how to interest and encourage the class.
Be interesting and encouraging Seriously though I'd say it's more important to be honest. If you are teaching in a way that just isn't "you" the students will know it. Open up and give of yourself, to me that is much more important than what technique is being taught.
Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
Now my biggest challenge seems to be focusing on their aikido, not mine.
Why can't you do both at the same time? If your aikido grows then by extension so does theirs.

If you are worried you're not imparting the basic techs. enough you could do what I've done in my class. I've got a "Basics" night and an "Intermediate" night. Basics night is usually straight technique broken down into small easily digestible pieces. Intermediate night gives me and students a chance to play around with stuff at a different level.
Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
How do you differentiate between what aikido in its 'pure sense' is, and what it means to you. Can you even try?
Our dojo's highest ranking sempai (yondan) is a wonderful teacher. She often explains that you can only teach your understanding. So even if I can see that what she is doing is far beyond what I'm capable of I can't teach it because I don't yet understand it. I have to teach from the place where I am...as my understaning changes so does my teaching. Therefore, for me anyway, what aikido means to me is what aikido is in it's pure sense...I don't think that made any sense
Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
Breadth of experience seems good to me, but it doesn't half make life more difficult...
Or interesting

I think that often things like this function like a zen koan. It's important to think about this stuff but it's not so important to come up with a concrete answer. Besides any answer you come up with will change as the question changes over the years

Good luck,

Bronson

Last edited by Bronson : 04-01-2004 at 11:01 AM.

"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 04-01-2004, 01:54 PM   #6
mantis
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More often than not, beginning instructors seem to over teach. You can see this in college when a graduate student takes over the class for a day.

He/She tries to get out all their knowledge to fast, and sometimes goes off in a direction that the student isn't capable of realizing at their level.

This is typical, but you as a teacher are more advanced than your students so you have to learn to teach them on their own level not yours.

Eventually there will be students that will benefit from your knowledge and experience, but as far as newer students (below shodan), don't give to much to soon.
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Old 04-05-2004, 08:28 AM   #7
justinm
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Thanks for the thoughts and input.

The breadth of this art is so great that every day the challenge just gets bigger; teaching included.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount there is to grasp, and feel very inadequate.

And today? Today I feel like a complete beginner, and something of a fraud, standing at the front of the class. I'm only a couple of pages ahead of them. Sometimes just the next paragraph.

And often we are just reading it together.

Justin

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Old 04-05-2004, 08:44 AM   #8
Mark Balogh
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Re: Teaching, & its impact on me

Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
.. thinking about aikido while off the mat than I did when only training
Tell me about it mate! It's taking over my life since I've had my own club!!! Only work and going out at the weekends keeps me on the straight and narrow!!!
Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
However I spent the first half of my aikido life in ki aikido and aikikai. I am now finding that I am no longer teaching the standard Yoshinkan syllabus, but spending more and more time looking at other aspects that seem to be relevent to me.
Brilliant I love it. You sound like a well rounded and open minded Aikidoka. Yay!!!
Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
For instance, this week I introduced the 31 jo kata. Jo is not even in the Yoshinkan syllabus. Justin
I did the same!!!

This thread is excellent, restores my faith in Aikido in the UK. Well done Justin!!!
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Old 04-05-2004, 09:13 AM   #9
Peter Goldsbury
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Hello Justin,

I see from your profile that you are a student of Jack Poole. I knew Mr Poole when he was a member of the BAF and the connection has been maintained in the Netherlands via Simon Deering in Haarlem.

Simon is a very valued member of the organization of which I am the chief instructor, but maintains a close relationship with Jack Poole, who is a ranking member of Yoshinkan, but also comes to teach on a regular basis a dojo in the Netherlands affiliated to the Aikikai.

So, what part of Mr Poole's aikido is "pure"? To my mind it is 'his' aikido, not Yoshinkan or Aikikai. From all the tapes I have seen of him teaching in the Netherlands, there is not much difference from what I have seen from his earlier Aikikai days.

But Mr Poole has had the experience to create his own aikido. There is a controversy as to the length of this experience (I have seen the correspondence on Mr Ellis's website), but I have no doubt that it is entirely adequate.

Basically, the problem I have with your post is that you are a junior instructor in Mr Poole's organization, but are seeking advice on the Internet about how to teach. I think you should seek this advice form Mr Poole himself. In my opinion, Jack should be teaching you how to teach, just as my own teachers have taught me. Is this not the case?

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 04-05-2004, 10:43 AM   #10
Hanna B
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Re: Teaching, & its impact on me

Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
It would be so much easier if I'd only ever studied Yoshinkan Aikido. Breadth of experience seems good to me, but it doesn't half make life more difficult when it comes to teaching!
As a mixture of some Aikikai varieties, I must say Amen to that. I hope you will find your mixed background as a treasure later on but when beginning teaching, being a hybrid sure makes life difficult.
Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury (Peter Goldsbury) wrote:
In my opinion, Jack should be teaching you how to teach, just as my own teachers have taught me. Is this not the case?
Knowing nothing about Justin's situation: if that was the case everywhere... many of us have been thrown right into it without any kind of orders other than "you can do exacly as you please", trying to form the structure for it ourselves. I wished someone had taken the time with me to define what was "basics" in my then dojo. I am not sure anyone really knew, though.

I'd suggest Justin to ask what your teachers expect of you, then try to balance between expressing yourself and doing your dojo's standard basics. Standard basics only will not show the beginners what is fascinating about the art, but will be needed for surviving when the newbies join the big group.
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Old 04-05-2004, 11:16 AM   #11
justinm
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Sensei, you are absolutely correct that I am studying under Sensei Jack Poole, and I am learning how to teach under his direction and guidance.

However over the last few years he has encouraged me to expand my aikido experience through training with different teachers and I see this forum offering a similar benefit - an opportunity to expand my understanding and knowledge. Both as an aikido student and a fledgling instructor. So I do this with his support.

I am certainly not able to judge whether anyones aikido is 'pure'. If my post was read that way then I apologize - it was not my intent. My only use of the term was in the questions:

"How do you differentiate between what aikido in its 'pure sense' is, and what it means to you. Can you even try?"

Perhaps the use of the word 'pure' was wrong. It certainly is a word that holds a huge amount of meaning when discussing aikido.

With regards,

Justin

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Old 04-05-2004, 02:50 PM   #12
justinm
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On the way home today I realised how my comments could be taken to mean I believed the aikido I was studying was 'pure'. This was a miscommunication my end.

What I was trying to convey is that my aikido is definitely not pure Yoshinkan aikido, and it is this that leads me to my current challenge, where my rank is awarded from Yoshinkan Honbu, and my students are following the Yoshinkan syllabus, yet my training and experience is not only Yoshinkan.

I hope this is clearer and I have not muddied the water further!

with best regards,

Justin

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Old 04-06-2004, 04:22 AM   #13
Mark Balogh
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Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
On the way home today I realised how my comments could be taken to mean I believed the aikido I was studying was 'pure'. This was a miscommunication my end.
Justin, you don't have to apologise for that!!! As far as I can see, you are seeking true Aikido, not confined to style. How more pure can you get? Fantastic stuff.
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Old 04-06-2004, 06:01 AM   #14
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Hi Mark,

Thanks for your encouragement!

When did you start your dojo? I started about 18 months ago and it is both a huge amount of work and very very fulfilling. But I know what you mean about staying sane

Justin

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Old 04-06-2004, 06:45 AM   #15
Mark Balogh
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Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
Hi Mark,

Thanks for your encouragement!

When did you start your dojo? I started about 18 months ago and it is both a huge amount of work and very very fulfilling. But I know what you mean about staying sane

Justin
Must of been around September last year, I was teaching at another club for 5+ years before that. I love it though, everyone is shaping up, just need more girls in the dojo.
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Old 04-06-2004, 08:52 AM   #16
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Teaching, & its impact on me

Quote:
Justin McCarthy (justinm) wrote:
Calling all teachers. How do you differentiate between what aikido in its 'pure sense' is, and what it means to you. Can you even try?

Justin
Hello again, Justin,

I am sure there is nothing you need to apologize for in your posts.

There is a tendency for us all to use stereotypes and think of aikido as a set of forms, rather like the forms in Plato's world of ideas. But really, what we mean by aikido is aikido as expressed by all the individuals who practise it.

The Founder Morihei Ueshiba said there were no kata in aikido: by this I think he meant that there was much more freedom of form than in a traditional koryu. On the other hand, if you look at three books, you will see that there is a certain continuity of form. The books are "Budo", written in 1938 under Morihei Ueshiba's name, "Aikido", by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, which appeared in 1975, and "Best Aikido"/"Aikido the Master Course" by Moriteru Ueshiba, published last year. I cite them simply as collections of core techniques, which manifest certain priciples and also as evidence that three generations of the Ueshiba family have sought to redefine this essential core. The same techniques are shown and these techniques are thought to illustrate certain essential principles, but if you go through the successive volumes carefully, you will see that there are major differences.

So there is an essential and creative tension between (1) the basic framework and any one individual's interpretation of this and also (2) between the essential framework and more peripheral techniques. Thus, your students need to know (1) the principles embodied in a technique like kaiten-nage (which does not appear in "Budo", but which appears as a 'basic' technique in the 1975 "Aikido" volume), and probably the best way of teaching this is from a katate-dori hold. But they should also be aware (2) of the possibilities, of doing the same technique from, e.g., a punch (plus the katame variation), or a kata-dori hold. All the principles are there, but the difference of attack makes it harder to see them.

So you need to make sure that your students have the basic framework, which is going to involve much repetition of the core techniques. In addition, as a teacher you also need to give your students glimpses of the possibilities that can be achieved and enjoyed, after and to the extent that the basic framework has been mastered.

As I stated earlier, O Sensei said there are no kata, so much of this is going to be transmitting your own personal take on the essential framework and also the more interesting possibilities.

Best regards,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 04-07-2004, 08:04 AM   #17
justinm
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Thank you for a fascinating post, Sensei.

I recall reading recently your thoughts about the seminar in Holland where you made reference, I believe, to one of these books. I have a copy of "Budo" as translated by John Stevens, but not the other books and I am now inspired to look into this collection more deeply.

Many thanks

Justin

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