Help for beginners, kneeling techniques for grading.
Ah the sweet life, teaching a martial art in Central London, no work during the day train a couple hours with some nice people then go for a beer after training. LAUGHABLE!! Time to squash that fable!
Back when I first found Aikido and by coincidence and good fortune I might add, I was looking for something that matched my natural skill set. Gym instructor trained from my early teens, training in a grown up gym with military, police and a couple wannabe bodybuilders, I had the basics of strength training. Balance and coordination from learning dance, dragged to the first class by a friend when his girlfriend’s cousin needed a partner, I ended up loving it. However I never saw either of these hobbies as the task I’d want to do for the rest of my life.
Now the other side of the coin was teaching, I never thought about the natural ability to teach and share something as a skill until I realised that not everyone can do it, not successfully, consistently, growing and developing a group of students. This skill I would like to think came from a number of sources. Having a Shodokan Hombu trained and international medal winner all to yourself as your first instructor was a great start. Great tuition, a small class with direct instructor interaction and time to properly take on the skills being taught. Group training skills, definitely picked up from my senior instructors in London. Then the combining of all these experiences in my time as a Physical Training Coordinator at Central YMCA, with all the great training in the best place to learn exercise tuition.
Ok so you can teach a few techniques, you can move a few people in randori, does that make me a sensei, NOPE! When the tutor is ready the student will appear, when the student is ready the tutor will appear. It takes time, patience, drive, luck and skill. How do I get students, what do I teach them, how do I teach them. Teacher training, thankfully sorted that one out! Now schemes of work and class plans aren’t in your basic martial arts tutor phrasebook. So doing a bit of further education helps you realise, your job is to teach and this is what teaching is…planning, organising, facilitation, mentoring, disciplining, focusing and did I mention planning. Wait a sec loads more plus don’t forget teaching!
Running a dojo/ club/ clubs/ schools. A dojo is a business, the business of providing training and tuition. You have to have some basic business acumen. Accounts, Taxes, Insurance and Marketing. The phrase chief cook and bottle washer comes to mind. This is an endless and thankless task, admin is deplorable! I like training and teaching. Every class has admin, every student has learning objectives, every group has learning problems and learning difficulties. Time to broaden your horizons to differentiation and learning difficulties. Planning for that as well, don’t you just love teacher training courses, they let you know all the recommended standards and requirements, health and safety etc. etc.
Oh yeah I almost forgot. I teach and train 7 days a week and LOVE it!
Teaching martial arts isn’t only about learning techniques to defend oneself. The reasons for learning a martial art are as varied as the number of people walking in through the front door.
What you are taking up is a lifelong discipline with a group of like minded individuals. The discipline goal/ benefit is fairly obvious when a parent brings their child to a dojo. “Learn some discipline, learn respect, focus etc”.
When an adult joins a martial art group for whatever reason. One of the benefits is indeed discipline, focus, learning something unique for whatever reason.
Now an ill-disciplined mind has ups and downs, on the wagon/ off the wagon days. Sometimes change comes easy, sometimes it’s like climbing Mt. Everest.
As a tutor, I can only guide an adult student through their learning. Motivations are individual to each of us, I myself may not have exactly the same experience but I can help.
What I cannot do is help when the student, doesn’t want help. When they are on that down slope of the discipline graph. When no matter how many times you tell a smoker “Stop smoking, it’s killing you”, that person still answers back “I am a SMOKER, this is what I do”.
In the west, people are paying for this service. Kind of like a drug addict paying a detox clinic. However in the east, you are dedicating yourself to learning and joining a community that has a code and a legacy that once you join you commit to without question, and trust in the Sensei to make you into the person you should be.
It’s hard for the western mind to get past, paying to be disciplined, to be moulded into a new person. When that ill-disciplined mind shows itself, and becomes the unruly child in a china shop, back down that slope of discipline. Sometimes, even I cannot help!
Shodohai, competition practice & refereeing practice session.
The idea of competition in Aikido is indeed unique to Tomiki Shihan’s system of learning. Competition practice in Shodokan Aikido and any other sport can be used as a learning check for the coach/ tutor. Assessing what has been learnt and if learners can apply them at a particular stage of learning. The final competition is in fact the culmination of all the methods of practice, can the student actually apply the technique.
A Gasshuku is technically an extended training session.
Gasshuku are hosted by a club or school. the practice is a type of collective learning, studying or practicing a certain predetermined purpose or goal. Gasshuku are specifically designated at certain extracurricular locations for a limited time. It is important to ensure that conduct both in and out of the dojo is responsible, and courteous to your hosts. This practice is rooted in the shared learning Confucian ideal of education. The basic idea is to strengthen the sense of community by learning from one another. The decisive factor is not the individual talent but the “sincere effort”.
Central London Shodokan is a dojo, a one venue, one instructor organization based at a central location, surrounded by a number of satellite clubs. This is totally different to a number of small clubs run by different instructors at various locations.
Our learning structure is such that the instructor leads long term learning for a variety of students of varying capabilities and learning aims. What I have noticed in my 10 years of teaching Aikido in Central London is that a dojo also has a dojo lifestyle attached to it. Training with many different body types and under different approaches has its benefits, guided training under a qualified instructor also has its own benefits.
When I trained under the structure of many club’s and many instructors, this involved a higher cost for training, travel cost, the cost of eating out, opportunity cost; the cost of missing out on other things given up in traveling back an forth to various venues. With a dojo however, training rate increases, cost drops dramatically and the ability to have a lifestyle other than training is gained.
Now this is not slagging off people who can’t afford to pay dojo fees and can’t train 3 or more times a week. Its a fact of running a club vs running a dojo. I know of many club instructors who make the thinking error and voice the opinion that CLSA doesn’t encourage students to train elsewhere. No matter how many times I answer this, it isn’t taken on board. Dojo members don’t travel because they are getting what they want already, it costs less and the learning is structured. Their instructor goes to Japan on a regular basis and they know what they are getting is legitimate, because they can go themselves to Japan due to the fact that they have saved the cost of traveling back and forth from club to club.
Yes it costs less to join a dojo, a local dojo that allows you to train more than once or twice a week. You will find yourself going through the grades quicker and build a healthy lifestyle. You will have the same success under a club structure, however it will take longer. My advice; use other resources to support your learning, read on the train, video’s on YouTube, write a training diary, get a copy of your syllabus and know it!
Really important; Sensei doesn’t drive a BMW or Audi convertible, he isn’t after all of your cash. A dojo actually reduces cost due to centralising of resources. Do your math people, check for yourselves.
October 21st 2003 CLSA started out with one class and 32 people on the mat, today we have 14 classes and a lot more students [sorry I'm not going to tell you how many (^-^)! ]. Join the dojo to find out!
Video courtesy Ian Box. Ian is an English Language teacher currently training at Shodokan Hombu in Osaka. Please note this video is for reference only. Training is essential, you can’t learn the finer details through video.
Most important, check out Ian’s blog: Everything Japan, the window of a foreigner’s in Japan. Marty (Ian’s pen name) has also written a novel ‘Giselle and the Fate of Wahine‘, please buy it and keep Ian happy (^_-)!!
Looking at the historical development of Japanese Martial arts, handed down through families, loyal students, the military and commercial ventures. Each bringing its own dynamics & interpretations of how skills should be taught and by default how to categorize learning.
Some people refer to a wrist look ‘kote hineri’ as a ‘number one’, ‘number two’ or others use descriptive terminology, aigamae junte dori kote hineri: same side regular wrist twist. To each his own I say, you can’t tell someone how to learn, they learn in their own way with the tools at their disposal.
However one really important note…..all Aikido is Aikido. It’s all standing jiujitsu, joint manipulation and throwing techniques. They are the same techniques! The interpretation of how to teach is what’s different. Methodology and structure depend on your school, your sensei, your shihan.
Sensei’s don’t live forever, club members change, groups start, stop, fail, grow and change. Change is constant and every practitioner has his/ her own interpretation. Knowing where you come from is essential in my opinion, what your predecessors encountered how they did things. I’m not going to relive their history, I’m living my own now with my students and soon to be students. Even though I have never met these two men, Professor Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba, I am indebted to all their many years of hard work and development.
Their successors are numerous, Tetsuro Nariyama has shared many years training with both of these exceptional instructors and I have been lucky enough to learn from him the Shodokan system of Aikido.
When visiting some martial dojo’s around the world you will notice a tense air of serious concentration during practice. At times this is necessary, definitely! Safety and concentration are very important. There are however positives in having a smile when you are learning, in my opinion people train more and learn more when they are enjoying themselves. You will train more also if you can add a social element to your ‘Aiki’ lifestyle. This kind of well spirited training is what really attracted me to Shodokan Aikido!
I had a surreal conversation the other day with a math teacher, who saw teaching in a totally different way than I do as an aikido instructor.
He believed that he could get students to ‘master’ topics by getting them to actually read their textbook fully from cover to cover. Not to go too far off topic, he himself has problems with getting teenaged students to read textbooks, so he delivers topics one page or task at a time. Mathematics didn’t require a high volume of reading back in my day, so I’m guessing the books aren’t large.
What threw me (no pun intended), is when he couldn’t understand why I went back to Osaka to train Aikido on a regular basis. If I did the grade and new the syllabus, then why go there? He couldn’t quite get the idea of knowing something and truly mastering it.
We completely saw teaching/ learning differently. I would say our math teacher here saw learning and teaching as a task oriented process, get this done and you know it. Learn, sit the test, pass, done! I still remember my old classmate Paul, who could actually memorise his handwritten class work and reproduce verbatim (word for word), I sat there in shock reading the text myself trying to catch him making a mistake. So I know the human brain can do amazing things.
What about us mere mortals, who have to repeat something a number of times to actually get the idea. Especially a physical action. I see teaching/ learning as a practice process; see it, feel it, try it, fail at it then fix it, fit it and fix it! So that I know it ten thousand different ways. I’m not a fan of the sit and exam, then you know more than everyone else kind of mindset.
Wrist twisting set from class practice. Not a technical how to do, only for CLSA student reference.