Teaching, part 2

In my last post I commented on a question from one of my students regarding teaching women, or more to the point, is there a different method for teaching men and women? I say this, most do not understand the true nature of teaching.

ALL TEACHING is done by reception and is done in a personal, one-on-one basis. There may be multiple students in the dojo, but all teaching is conducted one-on-one. That was why Cecelia Sensei admonished my black belt students to stop the chatter. You are shadow-teaching and not allowing your partner to experience his or her mistakes having Sensei make the corrections.

That said, my student, singular, is my most important student! My most important is the student I am speaking to; correcting at the moment; practicing with during the execution of technique, or merely looking at during the execution of his/her technique.

In other words, all are taught differently. All require direct teaching.

An observation! Most do not heed my suggestion……. usually because most do not truly hear what I say.’

Teaching

While discussing attendance and how to increase the class size, a different approach was being looked at. Male students were coming in but no new females.

A question came up on how to increase the female membership and/or class participation. Encourage more female practice time on the mat-what an assignment! No insult intended, but have you tried telling a female “what she needs to do,” lately?

All jokes aside, that conversation, as I see it, started off incorrectly. To get into these “participation needs” requires one to take first things first. A more logical approach was to ask several questions first.

What are you looking for when entering a dojo? Why come in, in the first place?

What is lacking in your makeup that you need to study a martial art?

Having gained the skills, how do you intend to use them?

How badly do you want it and what are you willing to pay for it including Blood, Sweat, Tears and Money?

Are you aware that you must sacrifice (spend) quite a bit of time in this endeavor? It’s only in the movies that you gain skills quickly.

How long do you intend to stay in it?

The most important question was the first one and the second most important question: How much research did you put into looking at/for this particular martial art, this dojo, this teacher?

You get out of it what you put into it

while sitting here listening to my 1980’s and 90’s smooth jazz I reflected on how good I felt back then. I felt simply great then, and of course I feel simply great now…however there is a difference. Now I have to fight off the anguish coming from some communities around here and around the country. Make that around the world. People are praying for a solution to end the violence. Actually I call it madness.

Of course the outside influences sets a poor example.

How do adults solve their problems? How do countries solve their problems? Unnecessarily by force too much of the time. And the masses continue to really say nothing. They keep electing people who seem to actively select war as a solution for anything that doesn’t go their way. They lie and steal with impunity. They sell violence all over the mass media and video. Where else can the children learn about shooting and killing?

In the 80’s and 90’s people still primarily maintained control of their children. As for now my thoughts are simply this:

If today’s parents do not practice maintaining control of their children from 2 to 16 years old they cannot hope to gain control of them in their late teens, twenties or thirties and that is the age group which seems to run amok. If they do not, the madness will continue… does it seem to increase now and then? Or is that my imagination?

The biblical story, “you live by the sword, you die by the sword,” translates to this at the very least: you will get out of it what you put into it.
Keep in mind, nature is bountiful!

And it is always your choice what you grow.

Life Lessons

Life lessons and stuff like that.

A. Improve your position: Change how you think!

#1. Talking about a path is not the same as walking that path. Walk the talk!

#2. You must start to eat primarily to improve your health; enjoyment of your food is a byproduct.

#3. Pay constant attention to how you feel.

#4. Be aware of your surroundings.

B. Have clarity of thought: Most thoughts come to you from outside of your body. Spend some serious time on mental exercises to keep the mind sharp.

#1. All assaults take a toll on the body, however most people do not realize that they are being assaulted dozens of times during the day. We have become a nation of hypochondriacs preyed on by the pharmaceutical and television industries. We are bombarded by mis-information and inuendo all day long by the news media to the point where there is almost no independent critical thought.

#2. Many worry and pay much attention to what (may) happen to the exclusion of what IS happening NOW. Now don’t get me wrong, it is still possible to prepare for the future. Just don’t live there, live in the present. Live NOW!

#3. Relax. Enjoy your surroundings. Practice calmness. Slow your breathing.

#4. Seek a harmonious ear. But first develop a harmonious mind.

#5. Self-evaluate. When you practice Aikido technique focus not so much on
uke, focus on your own body as well. Exam whether or not you are working your body as efficiently as possible as you take uke’s balance.

All these suggestions will help you to improve your position in life as well as on the mat.

Life off the mat

When I’m “Off the mat,” commentary can (should) be used the same way as technique as far as I’m concerned. Here is a small example:

An interesting situation came about as I was in the locker room at the local YMCA. My senior student and I had just finished working out and we were holding an animated conversation on the problems of some students in the dojo. The discussion went like this: “While few students’ listening skills are lacking, some require the development of proper decorum in dealing with people’s feelings or the lack of natural abilities. Students of lower rank ocassionally demonstrate greater motor control and in the process intimidate some higher ranked students. (I’m talking about under black belt students who have trained longer than the ones with higher motor skills) This may happen in a dojo more often than most people think.” The discussion centered on how to reach negative thinking minds. Teaching attitudinal resolutions or how to get one person pass another’s ego problem was what we were talking about.

A gentleman at a locker close to us stated that it sounded as though we were discussing “corporate America.” In one sense we were. Life’s solutions always cross boundries. In other words, life cannot be segmented. The principles are universal and apply everywhere. While some situations need or call for specific answers, basically, how you operate in one venue is the way you operate in all avenues of your existence. We caught this man’s attention because universal principle states that “everything affects everything else” and we were just applying mental Aikido principles.

This is how I practice Aikido in everyday life; “off the mat.”

Conversations

Yesterday, February 17, 2012, I attended the home-going service for the father of my best friend. I mean my best male friend. Anyway, while reflecting on important experiences, this is what came to mind:

I am blessed! Many years ago I had a conversation, excuse me, I had an encounter with the father of my best friend. And for the next several weeks I am going to expound on that encounter. By the way, I got the impression that he coined these phrases.

Mr. Nichols talked to me on the subject of education, and (I’m paraphasing here) the need to seek as much of it as you can possibly obtain. As an educator, he knew the importance of learning.

After we talked (really I just listened) for several hours.I had to ask him to repeat the lessons to me slowly, so I could write down the titles of each section of the conversation;

First on this list was: “Education is a shortcut to experience.”

Consider my dilemma as I fought with myself. I had always felt that there are no shortcuts. It was necessary for me to re-evaluate some things as this man knew what he was talking about. He had a twenty-year headstart on me. Still, I wondered about his choice of words.

After much thought, my conclusion is, education IS the ‘experience’ to which he referred.

Your thoughts?

Driving under the influence of life

I had a conversation with a student recently who was experiencing some difficulties, and I told him this:

Driving is a lot like experiencing life.

If you’ve driven long enough, or you are old enough, you’ve experienced a long stretch of road where you could see for quite a long way. And if you were lucky, maybe even a mile or more. You can drive with speed then. However, most of our road experience consists of going over a hill or around a curve. In going around that curve you truly face the unknown. And such is life!

You never know what’s around that curve and if you hit it too fast and have to brake as you execute it, things can get a little uncomfortable. Especially if the curve becomes sharper or tighter than you expected. Braking is supposed to take place before entering a curve. Driving 101 it’s called. And again, such is life.

If you operate within the speed limit you usually come out alright, even if something comes up on you out of the blue.

If you’ve paid attention to the condition of your tires, you should have no problem there. If you refueled as required, again no problem. In life, you do the same, you pay attention to the details; bills, taxes and such; improve you position by making improvements on your house.

A big portion of important details revolves around relationships. Its what one does when planting crops. They must be cultivated! What does that have to do with driving you might ask?

Simply this: In order to become a good or even excellent driver requires learning to see as far down the road as possible in order to anticipate problems. If it’s raining you slow down; if snow is on the ground you slow even further. Or, you do not get behind the wheel at all.

You speed up only when you reach a straight-away and can see the road clearly.

Attention to:

A. Improve your position: Change how you think!

#1. Talking about a path is not the same as walking that path. Walk the talk!

#2. You must start to eat primarily to improve your health; enjoyment of your food is a byproduct.

#3. Pay constant attention to how you feel.

#4. Be aware of your surroundings.

B. Have clarity of thought: Most thoughts come to you from outside of your body.

#1. We have need of mental exercises to keep the mind sharp.

#2. All assaults take a toll on the body, however most people do not realize that they are being assaulted dozens of times during the day. We have become a nation of hypochondriacs preyed on by the pharmaceutical and television industries. We are bombarded by mis-information and inuendo all day long by the news media to the point where there is almost no independantly critical thought.

#3. Many worry and pay much attention to what (may) happen to the exclusion of what is happening NOW. Now don’t get me wrong, it is still possible to prepare for the future, just don’t live there.

#4. Relax. Enjoy your surroundings. Practice calmness. Slow your breathing.

#5. Seek a harmonious ear. But first develop a harmonious mouth and tongue.

$6. Self-evaluate. When you practice Aikido technique focus not so much on
uke, focus on your own body. Exam whether or not you are working your body as efficiently as possible as you take uke’s balance.

All these suggestions will help you to improve your position in life as well as on the mat.

Armor! or not

Armor is heavy. Armor slows the warrior down. Soldiers wear armor and so do police officers now. That was not always the case and many deaths resulted at least in combat. Policemen did not die from gunshot wounds all that often in the past. The question is why now? What changed?

What changed is simpy this: most everyone is wearing armor now. At least most think they need it now. And if one were to follow all the newspaper articles, that would be a correct assumption.

Where can I get a set of good quality, effective and lightweight ARMOR? And how much will it cost?

Answer: The cost is quite high. In more ways than you realize, you will be paying for a lifetime and the price will be much more than money. One price is freedom. And another is fear and loathing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I not talking about something physical here. I’m talking about an attitude. The lack of understanding of how the universe works can be detrimental to the health of all, not just the usual participants. To give an example of what I mean consider this:

It takes the presence of a man to teach a boy how to be a man! This society’s young males don’t have enough real men available for examples because so many of them are stationed around the world solving the world’s problems while open communication and living conditions in and around many homes are at an all time low. Examples abound with athletes demonstrating poor choices while acting like little children celebrating actions they get paid enormous salaries to perform. I’m talking about the antics performed after scoring a touchdown or making a tackle. I mean these are grown men, are they not?

Another example: whenever something goes wrong between nations or there is a severe or ideological disagreement, war or talk of war, is the usual answer to the problem. Why do you think that for many young men, the first thought is “to fight?” They learn this from adults. Why is the right to buy and sell arms more important than lowering the death toll on our city streets?

All of these situations lead many people to seek arms for their protection. Or armor.

The answer to the situation of armor is to change our focus from constant conflict to more harmonious concepts and we will need bricks for building instead of armor.

Martial arts in this country would primarily serve for self-improvement as is the case of “wushu” in China. Most of their art is no longer practiced for conflict. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Sensei Rick Berry’s thoughts on the martial arts in general, aikido in particular, and life at large.