Most of us have heard or taken part in discussions about whether it is
better to talk about budo as we teach and learn. Some "experts" say
it is not good to describe technique and fill students' heads with
"conceptual knowledge" instead of experiential knowledge. Then there
are other "experts" who say the opposite. Who is right? Is anyone
There are traditionalists who do not want to do anything different
than O-Sensei or whoever else is ion the aikido pedestal at any given
time. There are those who do their best to do the opposite just
because they are rebels and want to be "original." This type of
polarized thinking is always limiting. As in most things, I think the
answer lies in a little of this and a little of that... so that the
eventual blend is appropriate to produce the desired result.
Here is my take on the subject. I welcome input from others on this
subject as we are all searching for efficient ways to educate
ourselves and each other.
The goal is to help students acquire a basic "picture" of how aikido
works and give them an educational curriculum which contains the
fundamental tools necessary to learn and practice budo. If their
inner picture is of some "powerful expert" (no matter where the power
comes from or how it is described) who can throw people through the
air and cause excruciating pain at will, then they will try to
practice that way. If students are shown that proper posture,
movement, timing, and understanding of principle lead to gentle, but
powerful technique, then they will practice that way. Many teachers
only teach their own favorite variations which work well for them.
This does not produce well-rounded students who eventually develop
their own aikido. The curriculum must also contain continuing levels
of experience which raise us to the place we all can see in our grate
master teachers' practice.
The methodology I try to use to teach the basic tools is based on the
educational theory that we learn best when we use a combination of all
our sensory pathways: 1. Visual, 2. Auditory, and 3. Kinesthetic.
Some of us are dominant in one area and learn best when that is
favored. I think a good teacher can "feel" how each individual
student learns, and will make sure that learning happens.
Essentially, we must demonstrate the whole, then break it down into
parts, and practice, then put it back together again into the whole,
and practice more (the Whole -- Part -- Whole method). This
teaching/learning is an ongoing process. We will develop the basic
tools which will enable us to experience and deepen our practice using
all of our senses.
Instructors and teachers must also understand that a student who
learns better from "feeling the technique,' for example, can be
educated and expanded by using methods which cause the student to
work hard, endure, and pass through frustration, forging them into
much more than we thought possible. Getting students to "perform"
what appears to be good physical budo technique is not the entire
goal. There is much more to our practice and I will leave with all of
us wondering (and wandering) how to eventually end up where we want to
go. We must look to our teachers and keep the memory of their
teachers alive in our practice. We cannot just become as good as our
teachers; we must become better than our teachers.
Reprinted with permission from Jiyushinkai's "Budo News" Newsletter, June 1997 (Issue 13).