Friday, October 2, 2009

Last Class

Ok, I've been putting off writing about my last class because it was pretty straightforward. We went over Tegatana with a notepad and pen to make SURE the steps were understood, then went over Honasu again and again until class was over. The last class was fairly short.
Something happened after class that warrants at least a mention. I was talking with a friend of mine about how his Aikido training was going and he commented lately he has no one to do it with. My natural response is "Oh, well train someone then you have a partner." My friend then told me he doesn't think he has what it takes to actually TEACH Aikido.
I think there are a lot of common misconceptions about teaching. I know I had quite a few in Orlando when I started teaching Rob. First off, you can't expect to teach everything. You can only teach what you do know. Tell your prospective student that, straight off the bat. I don't know know everything, but what I'm sure of, I'll tell you. When you're not sure of something, tell them that too. This is my interpretation of what happens, but only what I think. I've noticed over the past year that my interpretation of something when I explain it to Pat isn't always the same as his, but they both could be "correct" based on what we feel is happening.
After getting over that barrier, remember that teaching someone else something teaches you too, maybe even more than they learn from you. In Aikido (and again, this is just what I think), you learn the moves from your teacher so you can copy them when they may or may not feel natural at first. Then, they feel natural and you just start doing them, likely forgetting HOW you're doing them in the process. It doesn't end there. When you teach someone, you re-learn HOW you're doing what you're doing so you can show it to someone else, and by re-analyzing your own technique you discover things. I noticed that when I do Gyakugamae ate (the link is the closest pic I could find), I used to spread my arms farther and farther apart. I initially thought that at a certain point it became an arm thing. I noticed when I started teaching Rob, I don't do that anymore. When my arm comes across Uke's face, I turn my hips and rise and fall with my whole body. Sort of a Gedan ate feel. I never would have known I started doing that unless I taught someone else.
In learning new things about your Aikido you also start applying those ideas to different techniques. I prefer doing Mae Otoshi like Gedan Ate only with my foot in front of Uke and using my body push to continue Uke's rise. Sort of like the guy in the Mae Otoshi link, only closer.
Another advantage is by teaching Aikido to someone who doesn't know it, you get to really practice honasu (the wrist releases) with someone who has not idea what it is supposed to look like, so their resistance is genuine. They won't move for you, so you REALLY get a look at where the holes are in your technique. In making them softer, you have to get softer first.
All I'm trying to say in all this, and I WISH I could find the article in that book on my list at the bottom of my page called "Black Belt Korean Karate", is that teaching is not just a part of learning. I've learned SO much from it I think it should be mandatory to teach at least a few classes upon getting an Ikkyu or Shodan rank. It improves your techniques, makes you think in detail about what you're ACTUALLY doing, and if forces patience on you. Also, there's no reward in the world like when a student just "gets it" one day and starts doing Aikido on their own and you pointed the way.