Friday, May 29, 2009

Teaching Methods

Last week I had one observer and one participant in class. Both of them learn in very different ways and I tend to custom tailor my teaching as best as I can to whoever I'm teaching. After class the observer made a few observations (they've never done Aikido before) and remarked that they hoped if I taught them that I'd do it in a different manor. I would teach differently, but my initial thoughts were "If I'm teaching, I'll teach how I want" but it got me thinking. The methods we use to teach represent to others what the art is. If we use a lot of mysticism, then that's what the martial art is perceived to be and if we over simplify or over complicate a move, then the art is super easy or too hard. My question is, should a teacher of a martial art modify his teaching based on the student's feedback/criticism? I had students at first only want to see the advanced stuff so that obviously doesn't work. When I began at the Y, I had a student ONLY want to do a wrist release until it was perfect (in her mind) before moving on to the next thing, but Aikido is organic and needs to blend and chain together so that didn't work. However, if I become rigid in my teaching methods it might drive pupils away. What are some experiences any of you have had with any of this? I'm sure there have been teaching challenges for you Pat :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Situations We Aren't Prepared For

It was pointed out to me that I didn't make a post this week other than links to my previous ones. Well when making my Posts to Ponder section I reread a lot of old stories. This one stood out more than the others. I still think about that guy today and what happened to him. Take a second to read the link and the responses. I only had two students show up this Tuesday and they were starting to play around, so I took a moment to relate that story and how situations like that can happen. I wanted to relay that story so that they're aware that there are situations that can come up that your training just doesn't cover, since we train in SELF defense. After relaying the story one of them asked "so..what do we do if that happens?" and all I could say is "I teach Aikido so you can protect yourself. I can't tell you how to use your training for anything else." I talked about how some responses were along the lines of "I'd jump in" and others were "what good would it do me to jump in and get hurt too" and that they were all correct. I think it really gave them something to think about and the rest of the class was a lot more productive. I'd really like anyone reading this post to comment on here how they would react to that situation today. Anyone who's already replied before, do you still feel the same way? Would you do anything differently now?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Posts to Ponder Section

At Pat's behest, I made a few labels so my readers can look over some of my older posts that deal less with the technical aspects of Aikido or Judo, but are just entertaining or thought provoking for me. I'm going back over the older ones and putting updated comments as I look back over my old musings. Also, my Einstein quote I found but did not see my John Adams quote. Therefore, here it is:
“I must study politics and war, that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy, natural history and naval architecture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, tapestry, and porcelain.”

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Question about blogspot

I've looked around and could not find a way to make a separate archive for certain posts. A way to organize them into "Posts about this" and "Posts about that". Does anyone know how to do that?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

On a Related Note...

I've been thinking about my last post and it reminded me of something. Continuing on that train of though concerning perception, there's a point where you need to question what you're looking for when you train. There's a common time, usually after yellow or green belt where the student knows enough to be confident in their abilities, but not enough experience to keep from getting over-confident. They start getting over confident and are sure they have a firm grasp of understanding what's happening as they continue to train. This can be a serious problem should their abilities get tested and the outcome not turn out as they expected. I'm no exception to this. When I was in the Marine Corps a lifetime ago, there used to be a class on grappling in one of the schools I attended. Everyone learns basic movements in boot camp from the Marine Corps Martial Arts program (MCMAP). Well I was sure I had an edge thanks to my Judo training (I think I was a green belt at the time). So I'm watching people and thinking to myself "Oh, that guy's weak on his back, that guy obviously doesn't know what he's doing" etc. When it comes my turn to grapple I can win the matches against people who'd never done any of this before, but the guys who were high school wrestlers, or significantly larger than me were wiping the floor with me. I had it in my head that my training must've failed me, or that it just didn't work outside of the rules structure of Judo matches themselves. There was a week long break in our training and I took that opportunity to return home for a few days, then the grappling class would resume for the next 2 weeks after I came back. So I show up at Pat's dojo, and start yelling at Pat, saying things like "this training doesn't work against wrestlers, I haven't learned anything" and so on. Pat patiently listens to me then says "well, let's do some randori and see if we can't figure it out" and promptly beats me mercilessly for an hour. After I was exhausted he simply said "You've forgotten your basics. You're not shrimping and you keep trying to make moves work." I went back and beat everyone in class including the instructor. I've told this story before, but there's another part of it I didn't emphasize the past time or two. When I went back, it wasn't my perception of techniques that changed. It was my immediate goals I altered. I didn't want to be the "best" anymore, I just wanted to be better than what I was. The only thoughts going through my head when actually grappling were "ok, here I am, now what?" I wasn't trying to get an armbar or a choke, I just concentrated on what WAS, and things just happened. I started trying not to lose instead of trying to win. My opponents would get so caught up in trying to beat me that they in turn would put themselves in a position where they might as well have taken my hands and just placed them around their neck. The point is, should you reach a point in your training where your training comes into question and you feel like you fail, think about what you were trying to achieve in the first place.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Last night one of my students made a comment about using Aikido against an attacker with a knife and how you'd be safe as long as you used Aikido. When I commented "well, you'd be safe-ER" I got some questioning looks. In Aikido we train to prevail and increase our odds of safely getting out of a confrontation. We're never 100% sure we'll be fine, and that's especially true when someone has something lethal, like a knife. Even untrained, someone with a knife has a VERY good chance of cutting and/or stabbing you. We try to lessen their chances and increase our own by training in avoidance, having a good understanding of mai, and maintaining balance. I could see the disillusionment setting in. In martial arts we get this idea of being invincible due to getting a sort of tunnel vision thanks to training. We think "well this works in class and I can do this" but somehow this translates into our brains as "this works and as long as I do this I can never be hurt". I'm not saying confidence isn't good to have, I'm just saying that we need to think about our goals. If our goal is to "take this knife away from this guy and walk away without a scratch" that's a hard goal to meet. Now if it's something closer to "I want to survive this" or "I want to get away" that's something much more attainable and realistic. This is also why I keep telling students not to try to make a specific move work. When you do that, you have a habit to foget about everything else you can do also. This post came out sounding more pessimistic than I'd hoped but hopefully I've explained myself well enough to get my ideas across to you guys.