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Old 07-27-2004, 08:36 AM   #1
ruthmc
Dojo: Wokingham Aikido
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One student who doesn't understand

(This is a cross post from a reply I sent to the Anonymous forum.)

I need some suggestions to help a student. His physical interpretation of what he is shown / told / gets done to him is to yank uke around like a rag doll, preferably as painfully (to uke) as possible. He says he doesn't understand what he's supposed to be doing. I don't believe there's any malice in his actions, just pure non-comprehension. Having tried (and failed) to teach him visually, telling him what to do, and by having him feel the technique, I have no idea how to help this student. I think that all I can do is try to prevent him from unintentionally hurting the other students. This student has been training (albeit irregularly) for over a year.

What his barrier to learning is I can only speculate. (And it's not just me, he's the same with all the other instructors he's been taught by). The trouble is, I don't want to spend too much time on this one student to the detriment of the rest of the class.

I'm hoping and praying that he won't turn up when I'm teaching (I'm temporarily filling in for the regular class sensei at this student's dojo [not mine]). If he does, I'd like to have a plan to deal with him!

It has been suggested that I ask him to do everything slowly, so I'll certainly try that.

Any other suggestions gratefully received

Ruth
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Old 07-27-2004, 09:00 AM   #2
Greg Jennings
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Ruth,

Have you ever seen an anatomy text? The ones with clear plastic pages with a given anatomical system on each so that the body is built up one "layer" at a time?

Some people...like me...can't learn holistically. That is, we can't learn it all at once. We have to break it down into parts/layers/etc. then reassemble it one layer at a time.

Have the student perform a simple technique as solo kata. He'll have to do it enough times so that the outer form of the technique has soaked in but not enough to get super bored. Start him out doing it step-by-step with pauses at critical points. The pauses need to be long enough for him to reflect on his form/body/position and that of his imaginary uke. We 2 seconds. Only when he has it down should he go on to do it fluidly.

Then give him an uke. But...and this is important...the uke is *good* at his job and his helping nage with the form of the technique vice giving him any resistence. Repeat the process of doing it step-by-step with pauses first then graduating to slow, fluid movement.

That's a lot to do for a student that is in class. You might consider breaking the class into groups that are doing things in different ways with this student in a group that is doing it the way I mention.

You could take the more senior students off and do randori with them and have the person cycling out of the randori go to the other group to be leader/good uke.

Hope that helps,

Greg Jennings
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Old 07-27-2004, 09:23 AM   #3
Ron Tisdale
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

I REALLY like your suggestion Greg...One of my instructors does this regularly with new students and it seems to really help.

Ron

Ron Tisdale
-----------------------
"The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind."
St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 07-27-2004, 09:32 AM   #4
Greg Jennings
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Thanks, Ron. It's nice to know that someone else is doing it. I've always thought of it as just a logical extension of the Iwama pedagogical method that I came up with to overcome my one-track mind.

Or, as one of my physics profs told me "Jennings, you don't have a one track mind, you have a one *rail* mind."

Best regards,

Last edited by Greg Jennings : 07-27-2004 at 09:34 AM.

Greg Jennings
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Old 07-27-2004, 10:17 AM   #5
BLangille
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Have you tried pairing him with an uke who is bigger and stronger that he is? Someone who can resist being yanked around and will only be affected by the technique if it is performed correctly.
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Old 07-27-2004, 04:08 PM   #6
Janet Rosen
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

I'm not sure a bigger, stronger uke is the key: If he feels resistance to being yanked, his body will learn that resistance is part of aikido. He will model that.

I tend to agree w/ Greg that the safest route is likely for him to learn the body movements in quiet isolation, as well as having some low key, non-technique partner exercises (lead and follow walkabouts for instance) --otherwise, he'll learn the body movements but still likely tense up like crazy when a partner touches him.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 07-28-2004, 05:37 AM   #7
Mark Balogh
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

I think Greg's suggestion is excellent, it will open your student's eyes to the "art" involved.
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Old 07-28-2004, 09:23 AM   #8
Marc Kupper
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Quote:
Ruth McWilliam wrote:
I need some suggestions to help a student. His physical interpretation of what he is shown / told / gets done to him is to yank uke around like a rag doll, preferably as painfully (to uke) as possible. He says he doesn't understand what he's supposed to be doing. I don't believe there's any malice in his actions, just pure non-comprehension. Having tried (and failed) to teach him visually, telling him what to do, and by having him feel the technique, I have no idea how to help this student. I think that all I can do is try to prevent him from unintentionally hurting the other students. This student has been training (albeit irregularly) for over a year.
We use technique as kata to learn the outer form quite a bit in our dojo too.

Something I thought about when I read "yank uke around like a rag doll, preferably as painfully (to uke) as possible" is that your student may be thinking that you do technique to uke and does not realize it's with uke and that it's uke's job during practice to "stay with the program" and to move in such a way that a nage moving with him will end up performing the desired technique.

Besides solo kata a thought is to do partnered techniques either no touch or finger light touch. For example, a class could do a round of shomen uchi ikkyo as uke's roll (solo), then as nage's role (solo), and then paired (no touch or feather light).

You did not say how irregular this student's practice is but that's also a consideration. The guys that pop in irregularly where I practice do also tend to be far behind, development wise, compared to how long they have been dojo members.
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Old 07-28-2004, 02:09 PM   #9
Bronson
 
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Have you tried video taping him? I've seen people who are way out in left field honestly believe they are doing what is being taught. They can't feel the difference between what they are seeing and what they are doing. Video allows them to see it.

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 07-28-2004, 02:28 PM   #10
kironin
 
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Quote:
Greg Jennings wrote:
Thanks, Ron. It's nice to know that someone else is doing it. I've always thought of it as just a logical extension of the Iwama pedagogical method that I came up with to overcome my one-track mind.
,
Hey, I even do that sometimes in Ki Society classes.

We call it working out with Morihei or really now just "Mori".

That's even become a signal to me from some of my senior students,
"Ok, hmmm, can I try that with Mori first ?"


Craig-- yes, leading the way down the path to Aiki-Hell....

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Old 07-29-2004, 10:18 AM   #11
aikidocapecod
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

One method I use when a new very strong "eager" student comes to class is as follows.
First, the technique is shown. Then I will be uke. Lets take katate-dori Ikkyo....
I will then grap nage's wrist and tell hi/her to just hold on and relax.
Then I move my body as it would move if nage did the technique. I go through this a few times.
It gives the new student some idea of how his/her body should move.
After a few attempts with this method, I then tell nage to "slowly" try to repeat the movement.
It has worked quite well with most students who are to intent on getting uke to the mat.

Which leads to the next method I try now and then. I ask that the technique be attempted, but NOT to throw uke to the mat. Rather, get to the point where nage can feel uke's balance/hara is almost to the point where gravity is about to take over.....that has also yeilded some good results....

Hope it helps..

Larry
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Old 07-29-2004, 10:38 AM   #12
aikidoc
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

There are some students simply not suited to learn aikido. Maybe he should be redirected into a punch kick art for everyone's safety.
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Old 07-29-2004, 10:55 AM   #13
Lyle Laizure
 
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

I have a student very similar to what you describe. He always asks how he should practice, at 25% or 50% and so on. I always tell him to go slowly and he almost always goes too fast. I find though that I just have to keep telling him to go slow and give him an additional demonstration of the technique, using his practice partner as uke. Once I do this I stress that I do not want him to go any faster than what I just did. It has been close to 6 months now and he is getting better.

Lyle Laizure
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Deru kugi wa uta reru
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Old 07-29-2004, 11:49 AM   #14
kironin
 
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
There are some students simply not suited to learn aikido. Maybe he should be redirected into a punch kick art for everyone's safety.
This I simply do not agree with. There are people whose interests and goals might make them unsuitable students. This guy does not sound like he falls into this category. In fact he just sounds like an extreme case of what you find in a lot of dojos especially if the teaching practice is rather one dimensional (teacher do, student do, repeat).

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Old 07-30-2004, 07:45 AM   #15
ruthmc
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Thanks Greg, Marc, Larry et al for your suggestions.

The student I asked for help with didn't come to class this week, so I haven't yet had a chance to put any of these into practise, but I've made notes and am now prepared for the situation when it occurs.

It's a bit awkward as he's not really *my* student - I'm covering class for his regular sensei - so I'll have to speak with her when she returns to make sure we're both teaching this student in the way he needs to help him to learn.

Once again I'm very grateful to the Aikiweb forum for giving me the opportunity to tap into the wealth of Aiki-knowledge that's out there - thanks guys & gals!

Ruth
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Old 07-30-2004, 08:33 AM   #16
eva
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Quote:
Larry Murray wrote:
Which leads to the next method I try now and then. I ask that the technique be attempted, but NOT to throw uke to the mat. Rather, get to the point where nage can feel uke's balance/hara is almost to the point where gravity is about to take over.....that has also yeilded some good results....
I quite like this method.

Another idea might be to focus on exercises like tai no henka where this student gets to work with other people but doesn't get too much of a chance
to really hurt them. So he gets to feel how uke reacts.
One exercise I really like for that purpose is what we call "centering exercise":
start like tai no henka but then instead of just the one tenkan you add another tenkan and then cut down/drop you center. This can later be extended to a kokyo nage.

If he is stubborn and doesn't _want_ to get the techniques right it might be helpful to let him feel what it is like to be thrown arround like a rag doll (something I would not try while helping out at a dojo which isn't mine, but I have seen this method work well with one guy)....

Eva
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Old 07-30-2004, 11:35 AM   #17
aikidoc
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Craig: I wasn't trying to be negative but some students either physically or by demeanor or temperment just do not adapt well to aikido (otherwise all martial artists would be aikidoka). Generally, they come to that conclusion on their own and seek out the art for which they are more suited. One dimensional training can be a problem. However, I have seen some of these students later in their training who cause serious injury to others and probably always will either as seminar bullies or dojo terroists. He may also have a learning disability that makes learning mind body connections and the more intricate movement patterns of aikido next to impossible. More linear activities like throwing a punch or a kick are generally easier to develop. Apparently, the person from what is said in the initial post seems to be able to do the technique yet does it with considerable force and disregard for the uke. That may be more a problem of attitude not comprehension or a total lack of awareness as to what his body is doing. Perhaps letting him experience what he is doing might open his eyes a bit. I generally find that people trying to trash me will change their attitude given the opportunity to experience what their technique felt like . When they complain I simply let them know that their technique felt that way and I don't appreciate it any more than they do.

Perhaps this person would benefit from some awareness exercises in the class where he gets considerable feedback about the amount of force used each and every time.

I'd love everyone doing aikido. I think it would be a better world if they did. However, I have no qualms about taking someone aside and letting them know where I think they are at and suggest alternatives. I have this thing about students getting injured. I have had the unpleasant experience of a significant one (actually via an instructor) and I still pay for it today.
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Old 08-18-2004, 02:55 AM   #18
ruthmc
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Re: One student who doesn't understand - update

Just to let you very helpful folks know - my "challenging" student came to class last night (for the first time in several weeks), and I was able to put your suggestions into practice when teaching him.

There were 3 students, so I was able to let the other 2 get on with the technique while I took this one aside to run through the basic moves solo, before plugging him back into the group. During group training everyone was told to go slowly, so nobody got to throw anybody else too hard.

Finally, awkward student decided to make life difficult as uke during ai-hanmi nikyo, turning away from nage. I showed the other students how to counter this (stepping around uke) using Mr Awkward as uke, and surprise surprise he stopped turning away and started to follow the technique We also worked on drawing uke in using a downward spiral, so turning away simply wasn't an option for uke. They all picked up on it very well.

So I'm very happy to report that the class went extremely well, everyone improved, and Mr Awkward simply didn't get the opportunity to make life difficult for himself or anybody else

Thanks again for your help guys - it really made a difference in class last night!

Ruth
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Old 08-18-2004, 05:06 AM   #19
JJF
 
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Thank's for the update Ruth. It's nice to get the feedback that goes with the advise - makes it a lot easier to select what to listen to and what to forget

- Jørgen Jakob Friis

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Old 08-18-2004, 02:37 PM   #20
Mark Uttech
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
There are some students simply not suited to learn aikido. Maybe he should be redirected into a punch kick art for everyone's safety.
This is simply the most incredulous statement I have ever encountered. Lord have mercy upon this dojo. In gassho, tamonmark
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Old 08-18-2004, 05:28 PM   #21
aikidoc
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Re: One student who doesn't understand

Mark: Why is that so incredulous? If everyone was suited to learn aikido, we'd have such large student populations that we could all be full time instructors. My point was that not every student is of the mind set or even interest of learning aikido. I'm sorry but if I have a student that can only injure others while performing techniques and does not seem to get it with considerable effort to train then I'm going to have a heart to heart to see why this is happening. Depending on the outcome I may politely suggest that he or she select an art where brutalizing others is the norm. Generally, such students figure that out for themselves. However, I'm not willing to have other students injured unnecessarily. That's just me.

That is not to say, however, that I don't try and help the student learn and would only do the above as a last resort for the safety of others. It sounds like Ruth has stumbled upon an approach that may work and I applaud her resourcefulness.

As a 30 year Buddhist, I was a little surprise by your comments. Reality can sometimes be a difficult pill to swallow. Although this person appears salvageable based on her latest post, if he was not then the reality of the situation needed to be dealt with in a positive and supportive manner and the student helped to find the appropriate path.
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