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Old 11-02-2004, 12:41 PM   #1
suren
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Would you correct your sempai?

I'm sure this was discussed somewhere, but I can't find that, so if instead of answering you could redirect me to the appropriate thread, that would be greatly appreciated.
Now to ask my question I have to explain the situation. Today I had a class with two sempais (since the number of students was not even), both of them are yudanshas and more experienced than all others present except sensei. I noticed one of them was periodically doing a mistake which was specificly addressed by sensei during the class. Would you correct him at that point or not?
I chose not to do so because of the difference in the ranks and the situation was very inappropriate. Person who trains for a long time may not feel well to such correction from a beginner especially in a presence of another highly experienced person.
Usually I adjust my behaviour to the person which I'm dealing with and in most cases I do correct them in a manner not to hurt his feelings. But this case was special. I have never corrected that person before I never saw any flaw in his technique and even if he is ok with being corrected by a kohai, the situation could hurt his reputation and ego. So what do you think about this? Was I wrong and person doing Aikido for many years can control his ego? Was I right by not telling him about the mistake? Should I tell him in a more appropriate environment?
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Old 11-02-2004, 12:55 PM   #2
happysod
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Wait until he partners someone else, watch for his mistake then snitch loudly to sensei (add nasal whine for full effect)...

Seriously, your have three options
1. traditional route: ignore and stick to your own training, if the instructor's good, they'll pick up on it
2. sneaky route: ask the sempai directly if you're doing it how your instructor's wanting it, hopefully they'll be good enough to see their error in your technique
3. my preferred route: if they do it again while your practicing with them, ask them if they're sure as this wasn't your interpretation

Seriously, why should it affect their ego so much (egos in aikido, the very idea)? Everyone makes mistakes, it's often the quickest way to learn. Also, if they're doing it wrong and they're a respected sempai, they'll end up teaching it wrong - bad idea.

Go with what your comfortable with, it's your training, I just suggest you make very certain you're right if they're any sort of prima donna.
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Old 11-02-2004, 01:15 PM   #3
suren
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Oh, I have to add that I noticed that when I was watching him working with our third partner (there were 3 of us working together).
Sensei has not seen the mistake because you should be at the right place and at the right time to see it and there are others to look for. The technique was done very fast, which also adds compexity in discovering a mistake.
And another thing... This is a type of person who will never show if his feelings are hurt, but believe me, you don't want to make him angry and then take ukemi from him Man I still have some self preservation instincts!

Last edited by suren : 11-02-2004 at 01:22 PM.
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Old 11-02-2004, 01:31 PM   #4
aikidoc
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Although you may perceive he was doing something wrong it is generally not your place to correct him. There should only be on instructor on the mat unless so designed by the the teaching instructor. My experience is that those correcting others on the mat are themselves often doing the technique incorrectly. A more subtle approach would be to use your ukemi to guide them in the proper execution of the technique. I know it is tempting to show the person what is wrong but I think your are asking for more problems and being disrespectful. A good sensei will either catch it out of the corner of his/her eye or by direct observation. Also, your goal is to focus on your training. Perhaps if you do it correctly and the other of the three does it correctly the person doing it incorrectly will catch on and correct himself without your intervention.
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Old 11-02-2004, 02:00 PM   #5
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Yeah, I like to preserve my physical integrity too! I usually just try to model the technique the way I was shown, and let someone else worry about what they do, as long as it doesn't risk injury to me. Some people I will make exception for and tell if I already have that kind of relationship with them. I try to establish that kind of relationship before hand by asking questions...why do we do it this way, why is that way better, how do you do X, why does Sensei do Y...things like that.

There was one time when I was receiving instruction in buki waza from a senior that is really good in buki waza...but I knew it was incorrect. So I politely asked if I could ask another senior, because if I was doing it wrong, I'd been doing it wrong for years at that point and really needed to know. It may have p*ssed him off a bit...but in that case it was really worth it to me to know. At this point, I can take a few hard throws. I guess it just depends on how important it is to you. And I would start by building the relationship up.
Ron

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Old 11-02-2004, 02:28 PM   #6
MaryKaye
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

A kind of oblique way to make the point: "Can you help me out? I thought sensei said to do X, but you seem to be doing Y, and I'm confused."

This makes it sound as though sempai is teaching you, rather than vice versa, and can reduce the bad feelings. Some might find it too oblique, though.

In my home dojo I usually just correct them, but humbly because I'm junior: "Would it help if you did X?" or "It feels a little rough; maybe X would help?" I get the same thing from my juniors, and I like it because frequently they're right and I learn something. But this is something that varies tremendously among dojo and I know it would be out of line in a lot of places, perhaps a majority.

Senior person is then free to demonstrate why I'm wrong. They're nice people and I trust them not to break my bones, but occasionally it does turn out that the answer is "I was being a bit ineffectual so as not to force you into the hard ukemi...." or "Doing this well would involve an atemi into that huge opening you're leaving...."

Mary Kaye
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Old 11-02-2004, 02:41 PM   #7
Jordan Steele
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Never, totally inappropriate regardless of circumstances. I have declined to train with a sempai and even ignored their corrections but it is not acceptable to correct a senior student.
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Old 11-02-2004, 03:00 PM   #8
Amassus
 
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Quote:
Never, totally inappropriate regardless of circumstances. I have declined to train with a sempai and even ignored their corrections but it is not acceptable to correct a senior student.
I have to disagree with this.
If the senior partner is at all open-minded it should not be a problem. If they have changed the technique for a specific reason, I'm sure they would mention it when questioned. However if they have made an honest mistake with the technique (as they are human after all) then they should be able to simply accept that and move on.
Of course, how you mention this is important, don't come across arrogant when you mention it. Be subtle and gentle in the approach.

"flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo." Chaung-tse
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Old 11-02-2004, 03:13 PM   #9
suren
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Thanks for your responces. Interesting... So I have several contradicting opinions. As I understand:
IH,DS - yes, JR-no, RT, MK-depends and JS-never!
Anybody wants to conclude this?

Last edited by suren : 11-02-2004 at 03:16 PM.
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Old 11-02-2004, 03:26 PM   #10
Charles Hill
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Sempai/kohai is a cultural thing and I doubt it can be understood well by someone who is not knowledgable of Japanese psychology. Also, I believe that the system has been twisted and abused so much in Japan, that it is, for all practical purposes, dead here. I would never correct a sempai, but I might correct a senior member though. (I think Ron has the right idea about using "senior") It would depend on the situation.

Charles Hill
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Old 11-02-2004, 03:30 PM   #11
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

It depends on the dojo culture, but if you're unsure, err on the side of caution and keep it to yourself.

A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.
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Old 11-02-2004, 03:50 PM   #12
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Why don't you just ask him why he does it that way.

That way your not degrdating him in any way. He will reveal his mistake to you if you ask him to slow it down so you can understand it a little better.

What was the big mistake anyway?

Sometimes if your teaching something very specific, you might not necessarilly care about other parts of the technique and go past them just to get to the part you want to talk about. I'm not sure if he did this, but to correct him in front of other people isn't cool.

You can always play dumb and say "For some reason I thought we did this", that way you don't directly confront him.

Anyway, he should be open to these type of questions.
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Old 11-02-2004, 04:06 PM   #13
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Another alternative is to wait until your sensei is walking past & then do it the way your sempai does it. If he doesn't pick you up on it, put on the confused look & ask him "if this is right". He'll correct you & maybe your sempai will get it.
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Old 11-02-2004, 04:14 PM   #14
kironin
 
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

I would say pay attention to your own training. It's not your job to be picking out mistakes of other students. Your job is to be picking out your own. If you respect your teacher then don't insult him by figuring you seen something he is not aware of mistakes/habits that one of his senior students does or does not do. There is one teacher on the mat at a time.

Correcting yourself and keeping your own ego in check is a big enough job already.

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Old 11-02-2004, 04:14 PM   #15
Janet Rosen
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Quote:
Daniel Pierson wrote:
It depends on the dojo culture, but if you're unsure, err on the side of caution and keep it to yourself.
That's how I feel--the wide variance in replies so far really are a reflection of various dojo norms.
But let's see, this deviation from what was demonstrated is being done by somebody not currently partnered with me, is not putting anybody in danger, and the person doing it is actually doing something as opposed to standing and looking confused? Not my problem.
Not only am I not the instructor, but sometimes people might chose to do things differently, sometimes people are experimenting for a moment, etc. and it's just not my business.

Janet Rosen
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Old 11-02-2004, 04:46 PM   #16
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

I think Craig Hocker is right on the mark with his post.

When you are training your prime responsibility is to have a fruitful learning encounter with the instructor. The fruitful learning relationship you have with your partner(s) are relevant only to the extent that they further this primary aim.

Actually, I am surprised that you have the sempai / kohai system in the first place, since I believe that this does not export well from Japan. There is too much other cultural baggage. In fact, we do not have sempai/kohai in my own dojo here in Japan.

So, if we put aside the sempai/kohai stuff, the question then becomes: should you correct a senior student, because in your judgement the technique is not the same as the chief instructor's. I do not see how this furthers the primary aim of enhancing your own learning relationship with your instructor.

Yours sincerely,

P A Goldsbury
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Old 11-02-2004, 05:11 PM   #17
Don_Modesto
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

I agree with Craig and Peter.

Something which hasn't been broached is concentration: Talking shatters it. There's more to training than making sure your feet follow the foot cut-outs on the dance floor. When someone talks at me during class, it destroys a lot of what I come to training for. Cultivate your own garden.

Don J. Modesto
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Old 11-02-2004, 10:32 PM   #18
SeiserL
 
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

IMHO, it all depends on the Dojo and the Sempai. I personally welcome corrrections/feedback from anyone I work out with regardless of rank.

Lynn Seiser PhD
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Old 11-02-2004, 11:06 PM   #19
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Hmm, I have, personally, used the approach of saying how I am slightly confused because his/her (the black belt teaching me) technique is different from sensei's and if they could explain to me if there is a difference in effectiveness if I were to do it his/her or sensei's way. It worked out just fine without any negative repercussions. I really think it is just the attitude that you use when you address the person (I was genuinely curious). However, there are those that get defensive rather easily. Perhaps you should feel out the person more before thinking of correcting them or not.
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Old 11-02-2004, 11:33 PM   #20
Charles Hill
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
In fact, we do not have sempai/kohai in my own dojo here in Japan,
Professor Goldsbury,

I am very interested in hearing how you were able to do this. In my experience in Japanese dojo, it is almost automatic to enter into a (supposed) sempai/kohai relationship. For you to have successfully defused it is incredible. I`d like to hear how to do the same.

As for sempai/kohai outside of Japan, I noticed that "sempai" really refers to yudansha and "kohai" means non-yudansha. A linguistic mistake.

Charles Hill
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Old 11-03-2004, 07:19 AM   #21
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote:
Professor Goldsbury,

I am very interested in hearing how you were able to do this. In my experience in Japanese dojo, it is almost automatic to enter into a (supposed) sempai/kohai relationship. For you to have successfully defused it is incredible. I`d like to hear how to do the same.

As for sempai/kohai outside of Japan, I noticed that "sempai" really refers to yudansha and "kohai" means non-yudansha. A linguistic mistake.

Charles Hill
Hello Charles,

Well, first off I think that the fact that all the instructors are non-Japanese sets quite a different tone from the 'normal' dojo here. Another fact is that we do not yet have a hard core of yudansha whom we ourselves have trained. The most junior instructor is 4th dan and the most senior regular student is 3rd kyu. All the other yudansha who regularly practise here have included our dojo in their training schedules in addition to their 'home' dojos, because we teach things that these dojos do not. But there is no basis for their being sempai other than rank\which is not really a basis for the sempai/kohai relationship in the average Japanese university dojo, since rank is dependent on the date of entry.

Then there is the fact that all the instructors train when they are not teaching. So there is a much more hands-on relationship with all the members than with a shihan/dojo-cho, who sits at the top of a pyramid of yudansha and appears rather remote to beginners.

Of course, if you were to ask me in ten years time, when I hope to have trained up a good number of yudansha, I might give a different answer, since these yudansha might have established their own sempai/kohai relationships with successive generatons of beginners. At present dojo numbers are so small that there is no need for sempai/kohai relationships.

Best regards,

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 11-03-2004 at 07:22 AM.

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Old 11-03-2004, 09:01 AM   #22
MaryKaye
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

It seems as though the instructor/student relationship matters here as well as the student/student one.

I don't hear my instructors saying "You're here to learn from me, so focus on that." It just doesn't fit our dynamics. In fact, the highest-ranked of our sensei rather frequently says to us "Watch what this student here is doing. Can you see the problem? Can you explain it?" Generally she already knows, but wants to develop our ability to spot problems. There is a very strong emphasis, stronger than anywhere else I have trained, on learning how to teach.

This is why it would be fully appropriate for me, here, to correct (cautiously) a senior student of any rank. It's part of my education, an exercise in teaching. I may be criticized heavily if I do it wrong, but that's part of the learning experience.

It is important, though, if sensei is specifically focusing on X, not to correct Y. We'll get called on that if we do it, and she has remarkably sharp ears.

Mary Kaye
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Old 11-03-2004, 11:28 AM   #23
Magma
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

I think that focus on the instructor removes from the person the obligation they have as a student to learn. Saying that there is one instructor on the mat is a bit short sighted in this, for as I would readily agree that there is one person in charge of the class - in charge of demonstration, explanation, lecture, and/or facilitation - there is not one source of learning.

We learn from everything in the class. We watch the conduct of students more senior to us to better understand the relationship and responsibilities that are required of us, for example. More germaine to the topic, we learn a *great* deal from our partners. As such, it is not too much to ask to make sure that both my partner and I saw the same technique from the instructor. After all, if I did not see it properly and the other person did, I want to know that before I practice it wrong a dozen times.

Now I agree that a lower rank should never correct an upper rank, but that doesn't mean that this situation should go unresolved. It is just a matter of attitude and phrasing. Some examples have already been given... some I agree with and some I do not. Those that I do not agree with are easy to spot, as they are the ones that presuppose that it was the lower rank who saw the technique correctly and needs to set about correcting the upper rank. The impetus should be simply to resolve the discrepancy so that learning is better facilitated.

This could be as simple as saying, "I thought I saw (this) happen. Did I miss something? Could you show me?" This is normally enough for the upper rank to realize the discrepancy and, if it is their mistake, to ask for clarification from the instructor. If they saw it correctly and are trying something else, this is enough to remind them that lower ranks are training with them and are being confused by the change.

On a related note, I once saw a group of people refusing to do techniques the way the instructor was demonstrating. It was shortly after the death of our organization's leader, and the organization was forging a stronger bond with another japan-based organization. We had a visiting shihan from that organization for a camp, and he was asking us to perform kotegaeshi in a particular way different to how we had all been taught in our organization. The shihan stopped the class several times to emphasize the difference, even specifically mentioning that we might have learned it in this manner before but he wanted us to do it another way for that day.

No big deal. Even if you disagree with the instructor's point, they are the instructor and while you are in their class you do it their way. Consider just another tool in the toolbox.

But that was not the case for at least one group of students (we were doing group practice). Though they were high enough ranks that they should have caught on (if only after the second or third stoppage and explanation), they *continued* to throw the technique the way the deceased shihan had asked for it rather than how the living, current instructor was asking for it in that class. The class was very crowded and I do not think that the instructor saw what was going on... or maybe he did and he was just seeing if they would respond to general instruction rather than direct correction; ie, did they respect him enough to do as he asked? Maybe that was why he stopped class several times.

In any event, that was sad to see.

Tim
It's a sad irony: In U's satori, he forgot every technique he ever knew; since then, generations of doka have spent their whole careers trying to remember.
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Old 11-03-2004, 11:32 AM   #24
suren
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Thanks for your responces.
Well even though my particular dojo is pretty liberal and it's not unusual for student to correct another student (even with slightly higher rank), I now think I was right by not expressing it. When I said sempai, I ment a student with higher rank than mine (actually very much higher rank).
It was not a big mistake and he did not have any problem with doing technique, but that particular issue was emphasized by sensei while he was describing the technique (so it's kind of a minor, but major thing).
Anyway, I'll keep an eye on my own technique and if I find that person to be ok with corrections, I'll correct him then, otherwise not.
And when I say correct, of course I'm not talking about "Hey, what are you doin' man?! Are you crazy? Haven't you heard what sensei said?!"

Last edited by suren : 11-03-2004 at 11:37 AM.
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Old 11-03-2004, 11:32 AM   #25
ruthmc
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Re: Would you correct your sempai?

Quote:
Suren Baghdasaryan wrote:
Today I had a class with two sempais <snip> I noticed one of them was periodically doing a mistake which was specificly addressed by sensei during the class. Would you correct him at that point or not?
It happens. Sometimes you just have to ignore it, if you don't know the other student very well!

My Aikido friends and I correct each other all the time - it's part of our commitment to helping each other along the path. I don't care who is senior and who is junior - all of them are valuable training partners. I have also developed an open approach to my training partners which allows for me to be corrected by other students, and for them to be corrected by me, even if we do not know each other.

The secret is to leave your ego off the tatami and to treat each practice partner as a learning opportunity. This openness shines through and allows real learning opportunities and a far greater degree of connection and co-operation than would otherwise be achieved. We are all on the tatami to help each other, not just ourselves.

There's nothing sadder than two Aikidoka training in silent individual frustration when they could be helping each other - communication is the key, and it doesn't have to be verbal.

Ruth
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