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Old 12-04-2005, 12:30 AM   #1
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Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

AikiWeb Poll for the week of December 4, 2005:

How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?
  • I don't do aikido
  • Critically helpful
  • Very helpful
  • Somewhat helpful
  • Not very helpful
  • Not at all helpful
Here are the current results.
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Old 12-04-2005, 07:52 AM   #2
billybob
 
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Learning Aikido - verbal instruction is of great value.

Learning what OSensei expressed with his movement and spirit, not so much. That's in my gut, my heart, and the quiet part of my mind.

Dave
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Old 12-04-2005, 07:30 PM   #3
MaryKaye
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

It seems fashionable to downplay the role of words in learning a kinesthetic skill, but I'm very much a verbal learner. Words and practice together lead to learning for me. Practice without a certain amout of words leads to some memorized patterns, but not much knowledge.

I was carefully taught, and practiced extensively for testing, a style of shihonage in which nage turns around on deeply bent knees rather than taking additional steps. It was an exasperating technique but I got middling competent at it. One day a junior instructor said offhandedly, "You're corkscrewing yourself into the ground to lower your center." I thought about that, I practiced some more to see if he was right, and then one night saw how to apply it to a totally different technique. That, for me, is the transition between sort-of knowing and really knowing; and it came from words combined with practice, not from practice alone. Would I have figured it out without words? Maybe, eventually. But there is so much to learn that it's hard to wait for "eventually."

Mary Kaye
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Old 12-04-2005, 07:52 PM   #4
Mark Uttech
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

People actually get the feeling and the understanding when they just "do aikido", because verbal instructions only work for a time and get old.
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Old 12-05-2005, 06:56 AM   #5
happysod
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Quote:
People actually get the feeling and the understanding when they just "do aikido",
I think I understand you here, but I'm not in full agreement, especially about the "gets old" - what I've noticed is that often people feel they understand a technique when they are comfortable executing it and and happy in their stance and movement. This is not always the same thing as being correct and balanced and a verbal clue can help us much more than constant repitition.

Mary's example was a nice case in point. For me a nice wide balanced stance all the way throughout happo-undo just doesn't fit my top ten comfortable stances, but what is comfortable and feels right just isn't and all it took was a single phrase (neck down - I'm a short-arse so over-compensate) to correct this during the revision.
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Old 12-05-2005, 07:39 AM   #6
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

I grew up as an auditory learning (even tried to spell phonetic phonetically), so verbal instructions help me a great deal when given in moderation.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 12-05-2005, 01:30 PM   #7
Karen Wolek
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Any instruction I get from Sensei is helpful. ANY.

I have no idea what "learning type" I am, so I just take whatever I can get. Sometimes a verbal cure will give me an "aha! moment", otherwise it will give me a "huh? moment".

But then a few weeks or months later, that same verbal cue just might give me the aha moment I need! They are a lot more helpful now than they were in the beginning, when pretty much anything made me still stand there like a deer in headlights.

Karen
"Try not. Do...or do not. There is no try." - Master Yoda
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Old 12-05-2005, 02:00 PM   #8
MaryKaye
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Yeah, I know what you mean about needing to hear the same thing again later on.

I suprised the heck out of an ikkyu student (myself, too) by doing an escape-from-a-grab move that had been defeating both of us--suddenly it was effortless and smooth. He asked me what I'd done, and I had to say shamefacedly, "You know how sensei keeps saying, 'Let partner have your hand'? For the last two years I was *pretending* to let you have my hand, but you know, if you actually do it, it actually works...."

If verbal instructions "only work for a time" then the end of that time has not yet come for me, nor for several of my sempai up to shodan. Silent practice is important too, but for me verbal instruction primes the pump.

I have trained in a school which strongly emphasizes watch-and-copy, and I learned very slowly and, in my judgement, very superficially there. Her regular students clearly thrived on the style, so this is going to vary from student to student, but it was extremely difficult for me to "get" what she was teaching. Now when I visit there, I have a large repetoire of previous explanations to fall back on, and I do better--though probably I grasp even less of the specifics of her style, since I am interpreting them through a misfit verbal "lens".

Maybe I will grow out of this, but I'm not holding my breath.

Mary Kaye
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Old 12-05-2005, 11:34 PM   #9
Rupert Atkinson
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

I am a show me the technique / let me feel the technique kind of learner. I need zero verbal input. In fact, I rather dislike verbal input. I don't learn marital arts that way. However, I do try to explain what I can to my students because I know it can help. The problem often is, though, having learned it mostly by feel, such can be quite difficult to explain. Accordingly, I train with all my students, hands on, so they too can learn the same way that I understand.

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Old 12-06-2005, 02:10 AM   #10
Amir Krause
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Depends on the students. Some people (self included) need good verbal instruction, and benefit a lot from a logical technical explanation. Other students would benefit most from verbal imagination ( It has helped me sometimes). Others will find verbal instruction is less important for them, and they learn mostly from visual input or from feeling the technique done on them.

Each person learns best in his own personal way. Anyone trying to force a specific way of teaching as right, is going to benefit some people and derail others.

Amir
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Old 12-06-2005, 05:08 AM   #11
Karen Wolek
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Quote:
Rupert Atkinson wrote:
However, I do try to explain what I can to my students because I know it can help. The problem often is, though, having learned it mostly by feel, such can be quite difficult to explain..
My sensei is not very chatty, so I suppose I have learned mostly through watching, feeling, and lotsa practice. nstead of talking, Sensei will just move you....and seniors are supposed to take the proper ukemi, really moving a beginner into the right place by her ukemi. We are also a very ukemi oriented dojo, so we don't try to sabotage nage all the time. I think this combination works well for most of us!

But when I'm working with a newbie and I need to be able to talk them through something, sometimes that is very difficult for me. Sometimes I have to have him attack me again, so I can watch MYSELF, so I can tell him how to do it. Last night was crosshand katatetori kotegaeshi, one of my favorite techniques and one I don't have to think about anymore. Well, last night I sure did! Miraculously, I was able to teach it to him, and he was doing really well! Woo hoo!

Karen
"Try not. Do...or do not. There is no try." - Master Yoda
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Old 12-06-2005, 10:08 AM   #12
Charles Bergman
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Ultimately, an instructor can not teach a student a technique, the student learns the techinque by practice, over time. Eventually, the "light bulb" comes on and the student gets it. However, explaining and showing the techinque are the beginning of instruction.

In his essays on Zen and swordsmanship, Takuan Soho describes the process of learning techinques as starting with "Mushin" (no mind), where the student doesn't know any techniques. The student, overtime, "learns" the techinques, both through oral transmission and physical practice. Eventually, the student transcends thinking about physical technique and returns to the state of Mushin.

But the student cannot start the journey without being "taught" which includes describing not only the physical techinque, but also history, phillosphy, ettiquete, etc. That is, the larger picture, beyond only physical technique (i.e. the mental aspects of training). This is conveyed both through words and example.

Finally, I think in watching old films of O'Sensei and other famous instructors, they are constantly explaining how to perform the techinque, and describing the mechanics. I think the main reason why many Aikido schools outside of Japan try to operate without verbalizing what is happening, is because many of the Japanese instructors when sent to other countries to teach, werent comfortable with the language. As a result, they taught primarily by showing rather than speaking, out of necessity, and not because there was something wrong with talking during class, which is how many foreign students perceived it. As a result, they simply modeled those instructors and don't talk in class, but this doesn't apear to be how they themselves were taught.

Chuck
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Old 12-06-2005, 10:57 AM   #13
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

My first sensei was an elderly woman with crippling arthritis. She taught beautifully by speaking, and watching - safest classes I have ever attended - since she cried 'Stop!' if something was risky.

She allowed no talking at all, during judo 'randori', which is one on one free play in that art - and is where you are to 'practice your techniques', according to Sensei. For me this was time to 'feel the magic', and pick myself up a lot.

Dave
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Old 12-06-2005, 11:24 AM   #14
Ron Tisdale
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Quote:
Finally, I think in watching old films of O'Sensei and other famous instructors, they are constantly explaining how to perform the techinque, and describing the mechanics.
Actually, from what I've seen in most of the articles at Aikido Journal, it seem Ueshiba Sensei didn't talk much about technique. He would show a technique, and then let people practice it. The talking was usually about esoteric shinto and other things, and people mostly just wanted the old man to shut up so they could train. Go figure...

Best,
Ron (search for the kobukan dojo days articles)

Ron Tisdale
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St. Bonaventure (ca. 1221-1274)
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Old 12-06-2005, 12:02 PM   #15
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Quote:
Mary Kuhner wrote:
...I have trained in a school which strongly emphasizes watch-and-copy, and I learned very slowly and, in my judgement, very superficially there. Her regular students clearly thrived on the style, so this is going to vary from student to student, but it was extremely difficult for me to "get" what she was teaching. Now when I visit there, I have a large repetoire of previous explanations to fall back on, and I do better--though probably I grasp even less of the specifics of her style, since I am interpreting them through a misfit verbal "lens"...
Mary Kaye
Given time you will be able to mesh your intellectual understanding with your practice. Once that happens you will be able to analyze various techniques. Given a short period of time, you will be able to pick-up new techniques quicker and understand techniques deeper than the student who only uses repetition to learn.

A person who uses repetition only is like a snake who has to swallow their meal whole. A person who learns through practice and instruction is equivalent to someone eating a meal in bite-sized chunks. By breaking down technique into smaller movements, you're able to analyze the various components. You can then see where those components are used in other techniques.

Once you reach that level, you're able to use the very powerful tools of analysis and synthesis in understanding aikido. You develop an aikido schema. Schema is information that you already possess when learning something new. None of these procedures are available to someone who practices solely by repetition.

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
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Old 12-06-2005, 12:31 PM   #16
billybob
 
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Ted Ehara said "A person who uses repetition only is like a snake who has to swallow their meal whole. A person who learns through practice and instruction is equivalent to someone eating a meal in bite-sized chunks. By breaking down technique into smaller movements, you're able to analyze the various components. You can then see where those components are used in other techniques."

To continue your analogy I suppose that OSensei ate pureed food owing to his advanced age?

Sir, what do you mean by intellectual understanding, analysis and synthesis? I am poking a bit, but in the interest of discussion not just to annoy you.

Dave
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Old 12-06-2005, 02:37 PM   #17
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

A person who practices by repetition only, can become very, very good in a technique. However they will need years and years of practice. They also have to have a high degree of self-awareness, to catch their mistakes and seek self-improvement.

This is similar to the failure of Chinese science vs. Western science. The compass, gunpowder etc. were all discovered in China. However the Taoist scholars did not analyze their findings, since they did not believe the small results of an experiment would give the same results as observing nature.

For someone to learn a technique holistically, they need to learn the physical form, then practice it intensely for a long period of time. At the end, they may know how to "do it", but they will be poor instructors, since their learning process didn't involve the give and take of teaching and questioning. However, they will be excellent demonstrators of the art.

Many people move their arms/legs and tell you they're doing Tai Chi. However when someone like Cheng Man Ch'ing "gets it" you can see the whole art flower in his practice. The same thing applies to Aikido.

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
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Old 12-06-2005, 03:12 PM   #18
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Quote:
David Knowlton wrote:
...To continue your analogy I suppose that OSensei ate pureed food owing to his advanced age?
No. He had false teeth according to Homma Sensei.
Quote:
David Knowlton wrote:
Sir, what do you mean by intellectual understanding, analysis and synthesis? I am poking a bit, but in the interest of discussion not just to annoy you.
Dave
I am using these terms in common usage. I am not using any specialized vocabulary or terminology.

It is not practice that makes perfect, it is correct practice that makes perfect.
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Old 12-06-2005, 03:22 PM   #19
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Ted,

Thanks for answering. I almost agree completely.

I spent hours thinking about problems in judo during the long winters outside Chicago when I was studying it in high school. I thought visually, and I 'felt' my body doing technique and failing in technique - my 'analysis' was really intuitive meditation, not if-then logical reasoning.

I don't think Chinese inquiries into nature are a failure. Their paradigm allows them to solve problems that western science can not. I practice Chi Kung to heal a very serious injury, that my local physician 'can't see'. I am a trained scientist, but feel that not all inquiries are best done with the analytical mind.

Give Caesar his due, in my opinion. Please share your thoughts. This is an area I've been applying myself to for a few years, and I'm probably wrong, or treading well worn paths.

Dave
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Old 12-06-2005, 04:14 PM   #20
Tim Olds
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Hi all, first time poster here.

I find verbal instructions very helpful, especially when learning an unfamiliar technique.

As a beginner, my first instructor would always tell me how to move my wrist by saying things like: "Look at your palm, or "Look at your wrist watch" (for the other direction), and, of course, "Pretend you are scooping ice cream."

Peace,

Tim Olds
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Old 12-06-2005, 05:55 PM   #21
Rolf Granlund
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

I agree with Mr. Bergman. The learning process starts with verbalization. But I also know for myself that there comes a time when speech gets in the way. This is mostly just for myself. I have a very real tendency to over analyze a technique and talking about it is just another means of trying to understand a technique first before I perform it.

For me, verbalization is a starting of the process but the real learning is done when executing the technique on the mat.

With Respect,
Rolf Granlund
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Old 12-06-2005, 10:19 PM   #22
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Quote:
David Knowlton wrote:
Ted,

Thanks for answering. I almost agree completely.

I spent hours thinking about problems in judo during the long winters outside Chicago when I was studying it in high school. I thought visually, and I 'felt' my body doing technique and failing in technique - my 'analysis' was really intuitive meditation, not if-then logical reasoning.

I don't think Chinese inquiries into nature are a failure. Their paradigm allows them to solve problems that western science can not. I practice Chi Kung to heal a very serious injury, that my local physician 'can't see'. I am a trained scientist, but feel that not all inquiries are best done with the analytical mind.

Give Caesar his due, in my opinion. Please share your thoughts. This is an area I've been applying myself to for a few years, and I'm probably wrong, or treading well worn paths.

Dave
From Connections Vol III Distant Voices by James Burke

"...And yet explosive change, that kind we in the west went through when we got hold of what China had invented, didn't happen here (China). And to explain why I'm going to have to hit you with a bit more inscrutable Chinese Philosophy. You see, the Chinese believed that the universe was filled with Shen. A spirit that was in everything and all you could do was contemplate it.

Trees, mountains, birds, rivers were all one. And so you couldn't reproduce a model of the bit of the universe and examine it because you couldn't fill it with Shen.

Now in the Christian West, we recognized that the universe was filled with rational bits and pieces by a rational God. And if you were a rational human being, you could make a model of a bit of the universe. And then take it apart to see how it worked. And use what you learned..."

Other reasons Burke cited for lack of Chinese research was social bureaucracy and class stratification to stifle individual incentive.

I do feel the Chinese model failed them. Because of it, the country stayed at the same technological level, while other nations advanced. Finally they lost political control over their country because of military advances. Only recently have they begun to catch up with the rest of the world.

There are different ways to approach a problem, whether it's healing an injury or learning aikido. Sometimes the process of solving the problem gives a different effect. You cannot assume that if there is a problem, there must be only one solution.

Last edited by tedehara : 12-06-2005 at 10:22 PM.

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Old 12-07-2005, 10:09 AM   #23
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Re: Poll: How helpful are verbal instructions in learning aikido for you?

Ted Ehara said; "You cannot assume that if there is a problem, there must be only one solution."

Now I can agree completely, and add that if there is learning to be done there might not be only one approach. The western way has brought us technological might, but our families are failing. I've never been to China, but In Rome I saw people playing with kids and dogs, and not a Gameboy in sight.

When my toilet backs up I think about the dwv stack, the new plumbing run the contractors installed, siphonage, gravity and lubrication with soap. Ah, roots in the main run -- need lye, problem solved.

When I consider aikido I use the intuitional part of my brain -- the part that can't speak, doesn't know what day it is, but knows how to defeat my wife's tomcat in a fight (sometimes, he's pretty tough). I had the honor of teaching a friend koshi nage for his nikyu test. This past Friday night he threw ‘big joe' and said "I couldn't feel any weight!" I told him he was learning it the right way. No analysis required.

Dave
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