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Old 11-02-2006, 04:55 PM   #26
Amir Krause
Dojo: Shirokan Dojo / Tel Aviv Israel
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Re: Scared Sempai

Quote:
Tom Kaluzynski wrote:
I would advise compassion. Although it may be frutstrating to you, you never know why someone is so fearful. To this person, taking ukemi, letting go is scary. We all have our weak spots, no matter how senior, or how junior, so try compassion. You just don't know how he feels. For one person, taking ukemi, or aikido is easy. To another, it's the scariest thing in the world.
It can be frustrating, though. That's what is so good about aikido, the encounter is always a challenge, and there are so many levels, not just skill in the challenge.


Most people seem to think of fear as the cause for such problems. Personally, I think of one of the fellow Yudansha in my dojo whom has changed due to very severe health problems. He recuperated to the point he can train, but he is not the same as he was, and he can no longer take Ukemi the same way.

Be very careful in judging a person without having all the facts. He might just be a most courageous person in just appearing on the mat, due to some personal issue you are not aware of.

Amir
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Old 11-02-2006, 05:08 PM   #27
heathererandolph
Dojo: Kokikai Aikido Boston
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Re: Scared Sempai

It sounds to me as though he has some learned habits that perhaps were appropriate where he used to train? I don't know if you have done this yet, but maybe have a discussion with him to find out about his background and how he sees his behaviors as compared to everyone else. Maybe you will find out some things that enlighten you about "why he is the way he is." If he admits having some difficulties, maybe you can offer to help. You might start to notice very small positive changes in what he is doing. Even your interest could help him feel more relaxed.

For some people, Aikido helps them to overcome their fears. He may have more fears than you do. He may not get to the point of doing a "100% ukemi" but maybe he can improve. On your side: they say the easiest person to change when one person must change is yourself. Aikido is mental as well as physical, so I think you need to learn how to get something out of your practice, even when practicing with someone who is "not perfect." There is a physical giving "100%" but there is also the mental giving "100%." I think worrying about his practice is really impacting your practice, I think you need to take yourself a little less seriously. Your fellow students are not here to help you get the best 100% practice around. My sensei always told me that he could get a great practice, even with a beginner. It takes a little more expertise to do that, but it is a possible goal.

I don't know what level you are, but it sounds as though you think all superiors should be, well, superior. Listen, if we all practice we can all get to the same place, meaning most people get moved up in the ranks eventually. Some people were fortunate enough to have excellent instruction, some were not. You were probably one of the fortunate ones. Thank you lucky stars that you had good instruction, and have some compassion for the poor devil who wasn't so lucky.

With any luck you can keep your students someday from enduring the fate of this poor fellow.
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Old 11-02-2006, 07:24 PM   #28
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: Scared Sempai

Quote:
Dario Rosati wrote:
Hi all,

just a tip to handle a strange situation.

It seems that one of the sempai in my dojo is so unwillingly scared during practice (of hurting himself, I presume) that even if he's better than we kohai as nage, he absolutely sucks as uke... and training with him is extremely frustrating, even people two rank lower have better commitment and attitude in uke role.
He often stops in midlle of tecniques "scared by his own shadow" as we say here... or becomes as rigid in movements as a titanium bar because "sorry, I saw something coming behind my back, stop and restart", or goes forward completely alone in the tecniques (falls or taps even before we begin doing something with his wrist/arm/keikogi).
This often leads to me (and others) begging him to change role and forcing him to be nage all the time, hoping that sensei calls uke change asap...
You have been given good advice already, so I will ask some questions:
1. How big is your dojo? I mean, on average how many people during a typical session? How much individual attention is given by the chief instructor?

I ask because in my own dojo I know the individual strengths and weakneses of every single student and have a very good idea of what problems will arise when X is paired with Y. Occasionally, I split the class and have senior students (3rd kyu - 2nd dan) train together.

2. You freely use the terms sempai and kohai as if these were understood by everybody. In my opinion, the only places where these terms are used correctly in the martial arts are the sports clubs in Japanese universities, where the terms have a clear meaning and are understood by everybody. So, are you a kohai? If so, what is your relationship to this person?

3. How much ukemi training do you receive? In my dojo, we spend about 20-30 minutes each class on practising ukemi and we do it in much the same way as the students to in Japanese universities: trips up and down the mat and jumping over people. Those who are frightened, or have other problems, are taken aside and given special attention--even those yudansha whose ukemi skills are not as good as they should be. With such training, people who are frightened have largely overcome their fears, but I know what to expect from each student, in terms of ukemi skills.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 11-03-2006, 05:26 AM   #29
Bridge
Dojo: Slough Aikikai
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Re: Scared Sempai

I am all for the compassionate approach.

I'm near the end of a rubbish-ukemi phase and it's probably lasted for well over a year. When I noticed my ukemis were off I started getting tense about it and that made them worse, and it started a vicous cycle. I'm sure people I train with will testify to my totally sidewards mae ukemis when leading with my left foot.

A couple of people at my dojo noticed and helped me out. And it's slowly getting better.

If anyone used irony or humour or criticism, I doubt I would have appreciated it and it may have made it harder for me to work my way out of it. That sort of thing could make people quit altogether.
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Old 11-03-2006, 10:36 AM   #30
KerstineElnegaard
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Re: Scared Sempai

There are a lot of different things in this thread that I would like to comment on:

First of all, to the people who have told of being "ridiculed" and left out due to learning problems regarding ukemi (that being fear or whatever) - Ouch - that's harsh. I certainly don't like the dojo environment portrayed in those stories. But I am very impressed that you guys kept working on your ukemi under those circumstances.

I come from one of the "ukemi-crazy" dojos, where there was a lot of focus on ukemi, I had a sempai who always preached that ukemi is the main thing to work on until you reach - at least - shodan (ukemi here meaning not just falling, but receiving a technique as well). The point being that you won't be able to "feel" the technique as uke (and arguably - nage) unless you are sure of your ability to receive the technique and not get hurt.

What I have come to appreciate during the few years I have trained, is "that" connection you can get with some people when training. People who give you resistance, but not by tensing up and separating themselves from you. Its hard to explain how it feels like, but I'll try: As nage the technique will feel REALLY heavy if you don't have all the small details right, but it won't feel like your partner is locking you down.
You will feel that your partner is really attacking you, even if you are doing the technique slowly (for me, my brain normally reacts with something resembling " " the second I realize he IS going for me ).
As uke the feeling of connection will come when you're really going for nage (sometimes seeing their facial expression change to , but that's just the fun part) and then feeling that they have you totally under control through the whole technique.

My experience is, that people who are scared of ukemi, or not seeking that connection with their partner will either:
1) Give a sloppy attack, half hearted and lazy
2) Attack (fast and) 100 % and then tense up and be totally separated from you

If you are on a level where awase really work, I guess it is quite easy to work with scenario no 2, you just blend with the guy before he regains his footing and "locks up". But if you are training kihon and/or is on a lower level (like me) these partners can cause a lot of trouble.

Now back to Dario Rosati: The guy you are describing sounds a lot like a guy I used to train with. He would attack (fx katate dori) and then you could just feel how his whole body would go in "lock down" mode - tensing. This made it quite difficult to get techniques to work, especially since when it came to the part where I was supposed to throw him, he would "disconnect", do a lot of tiny extra steps, and then jump. Me trying to throw him had no effect.
I guess if my technique was better I would be able to take his balance and throw him, so this kind of scenario depends on both uke and nage's skills.

He was scared of falling, and his body responded, my seniors in the dojo told me he had always been like that, ever since he started 10 years ago. Now I respect that people have different approaches to training (and indeed falling technique) I have the utmost respect for people who work on overcoming their fears, people who try to improve.
However I don't have a lot of respect for people who can't be bothered to improve. The guy whom I trained with had never had injuries, didn't have any physical problems, was in terrific physical shape, big and strong. I NEVER saw him working on his ukemi.
I think he was just doing what he had been doing the last 10 years. He didn't come to training to learn, he just came. He had a size that enabled him to chose when and how to fall, unless he was training with really high level aikidoka, and he used it.
Of the mat, I really like this guy, and I would also seek him out on the mat, because his size in itself posed a challenge for my technique.

I don't think the solution to an uke like that is to do the technique fast and hard - not unless you are in total control of what you are doing at least. But doing it slow can be very difficult in light of the "titanium bar" effect.
I still think that the solution is to learn to create a connection with your training partners. I have met a few people whom I'm almost certain could get a connection with a log of wood, seriously!


On a side note (even though this post is WAAY to long already ) I find it interesting that so many people talk about always attacking 100 %
I would claim that it is very seldom that people attack 100 % with certain attacks such as shomen and yokomen uchi. I personally only do that if I'm training with people at my level or my seniors, and still only if I have a certain level of trust in my partner.
I do however always try to make committed attacks which meets the level of my partner.
Now attacks such as kata dori and katate dori I will always hold "100 %" at the beginning, and then loosen up if my partner seems incapable of doing the technique.

Anyways sorry about the lenght of this post, I'll shut up now

Last edited by KerstineElnegaard : 11-03-2006 at 10:39 AM.
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Old 11-03-2006, 11:01 AM   #31
Ron Tisdale
Dojo: Doshinkan dojo in Roxborough, Pa
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Re: Scared Sempai

I actually thought that last long post was a very good post...I may try to pull some specifics out to talk about, either here or in a new thread. But gotta run do a little work now...

B,
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 11-03-2006, 11:14 AM   #32
Basia Halliop
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Re: Scared Sempai

Something I've noticed with other skills (eg learning something new in school, life, making decisions, etc) that I've started to think seems to apply (to me at least) in Aikido too:

It seems like in a lot of things there's sort of an optimum level of short-term challenge... too easy, and you might sort of stagnate and not really get better. Just kind of get in a rut.

It seems like sometimes you progress best when there is something just a bit ahead of your skills, and you can see it, just out of reach, and you can kind of stretch for it. Being pushed at this level seems like it really helps.

BUT, if the immediate challenge is too far ahead or in a new direction (BTW I'm talking on a 'reaction to stimulus' time scale, not a weeks or months or years timescale), there may be nothing in sight for you to reach for, and your muscles (or brain) don't even know what to try to do, and your brain ends up reacting with your most strongly ingrained reflex, which may be totally inappropriate. And, unhelpful though it is, sometimes the body's response (or the mind's even; this works outside of Aikido...) to failure of a strongly ingrained reflex is to try _the same thing harder_ next time. This can be very reflexive and hard to retrain out of yourself.

Obviously I don't know this guy so there could be a million different explanations, but it seems like one possibility is this guy might be in a situation where his ukemi skills aren't up to what people are pushing him and he isn't able to react quickly enough with safe body positions, so his body falls back on the basic human self-preservation responses of flinching, etc, or some other semi-instinctive response that worked at some point in the past, even if it doesn't work anymore.

If what you're currently doing just seems to make it worse, maybe there are other things you can concentrate on with this guy like working on precision instead of speed, or whatever. Maybe there's something you don't practice as often with other people... maybe someone you need to practice differently with than with most people could be a positive thing if you use it imaginitively.

Or maybe not, who knows . But it's only for a few minutes, anyway...

Last edited by Basia Halliop : 11-03-2006 at 11:22 AM.
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Old 11-03-2006, 05:11 PM   #33
Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
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Re: Scared Sempai

Quote:
Basia Halliop wrote:
If what you're currently doing just seems to make it worse, maybe there are other things you can concentrate on with this guy like working on precision instead of speed, or whatever. Maybe there's something you don't practice as often with other people... maybe someone you need to practice differently with than with most people could be a positive thing if you use it imaginitively.

Or maybe not, who knows . But it's only for a few minutes, anyway...
This is good advice.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
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Old 11-03-2006, 05:43 PM   #34
Lyle Bogin
Dojo: Shin Budo Kai
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Re: Scared Sempai

A terrified uke is an invaluable tool I think. If you can throw him/her from the beginning to the end of the technique and both feel good about it, you've got something.
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Old 11-04-2006, 03:01 AM   #35
raul rodrigo
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Re: Scared Sempai

I think Lyle is right. Guiding a scared partner through a difficult ukemi (whether he is a sempai or kohai) is a good test of your sensitivity and ability to make a technique flow. Its not satisfying if you get a kick out of making uke fly, but its very valuable for one's training nonetheless.
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Old 11-05-2006, 05:04 AM   #36
ian
 
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Re: Scared Sempai

When I started teaching I asked my chief instructor 'when I'm demonstrating a technique the ukes often resist or change their direction so the same technique cannot be applied' - he just told me to adjust myself to whatever they are doing.

I think the same advice could apply to you. Don't force on techniques that aren't working or even strike him physically. Ideally the 1st moment of the technique is unbalancing, once he is unbalanced, keep him unbalanced and complete the technique quickly and efficiently. (indeed I believe all techniques are unbalancing and then effectively controlling uke's fall - thus resistance is not really possible.

If unbalancing is not possible, it may be that he is not attacking with commitment. If that is the case, don't force a technique on. Just move out of the way (if you have to move at all! Many attacks are so weak and out of sync. you just stand there). Alternatively, just move to the side and do a dummy atemi or push him away. Another alternative is just to slip behind him and choke him out (being gentle). Basically - don't force anything on him. You do a technique because of what he's giving you, not be forcing it on him. If he's not giving you anything, ignore him like his attacks are of no importance.

P.S. often moving behind for a choke (if they are acting like stuffed dummies) produces movement in them as they will try to face to turn you. You can then use this. Don't forget though - the outcome is decided at the moment of contact i.e. if you can - unbalance them first!

Often the fear of being thrown is worse than actually being thrown - after a while they'll just get used to it.

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 11-06-2006, 12:18 PM   #37
Dario Rosati
Dojo: Zanshin - Milan
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Re: Scared Sempai

Woah, two years have passed from the start of the thread, and many months since my last visit here, I cannot believe this thread is still actual... good, it was probably a good argument and quite a common problem

First of all, thanks to everyone: good advices all around.
Second, many water has passed under the bridge since then, so it can be interesting to answer now, after many many hours of pratice...

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
2. You freely use the terms sempai and kohai as if these were understood by everybody.
...
So, are you a kohai? If so, what is your relationship to this person?
To be honest, I used the terms at the time because I thought it was the correct way to point the relation between a less experienced (kohai?) and more exprienced (sempai?) practitioner.
I suppose from your answer that I was wrong using these terms, no more cut&paste from online faqs, I promise
At the time the relation was: me - less than a year of practice, him - 2+ years of practice.
Today, me - 3 years, he 3+ - I'm about to "close" the gap since he stopped for 1 year and is lately less constant than me; now we're both 4th kyu.

Quote:
3. How much ukemi training do you receive?
Usually, one third of the entire lesson.

Quote:
Those who are frightened, or have other problems, are taken aside and given special attention--even those yudansha whose ukemi skills are not as good as they should be. With such training, people who are frightened have largely overcome their fears, but I know what to expect from each student, in terms of ukemi skills.
Today the problem remain substantially unchanged - he's scared from the environment and some type of ukemi and often interrupts or disrupts tecniques even only for a big "thump" behind his back -, but the real point is, *I* am considering the thing from a new perspective, thanks to the growth in experience and recognizing things (that some of you pointed out in this thread) that I hadn't recognized at that time.

As you and others pointed out,

1) Sometimes there IS a reason why X is paired with Y (a.k.a. "There is a reason HE's the sensei and not YOU!")
2) With guys like him, I can focus on different aspects of the practice more easily (such as posture, direction, equilibrium).

My conclusion after 2 years: I had no clue of many things at that time, I was only an excited new practitioner... now the picture is getting clearer (as many of you pointed out in your advices) and my attitude toward the art and the others completely changed... everything and everyone is worth practicing with, if you "see the cup half filled and not half empty" as we say here

Bye everyone!

Last edited by Dario Rosati : 11-06-2006 at 12:27 PM.

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Old 11-06-2006, 03:17 PM   #38
ian
 
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Talking Re: Scared Sempai

Quote:
Dario Rosati wrote:
Woah, two years have passed from the start of the thread....
That is so funny! The threads that never die.

---understanding aikido is understanding the training method---
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Old 11-07-2006, 03:49 AM   #39
Bridge
Dojo: Slough Aikikai
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Re: Scared Sempai

I feel silly for not checking the date on this thread first.

On any other site, we'd have all been flamed for being clueless idiots not checking the date and shame on the person who resurrected it! I mean, it's like 2 birthdays ago!

(Beats self with metaphorical big stick.)
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