People do matter!

11 01 2012

People’s feelings on the other hand.. sometimes are less important than other times!!

I got an interesting comment to a post I thought it would have risen more.. noise from my typical readers.. but I have also posted it the 31st of December, so probably only few have read it.. and it is ok.

The person that commented did not leave his/her email (my guess it is a teacher.. some of my best friends are teachers and I recall similar discussions) maybe to force me to keep on the discussion as public, thing that I would have done it anyway, because a few things were misunderstood there.. and a few things about myself from that post could have been read in the wrong way, especially by people who does not know me and/or does not like me! And that is totally ok with me!!! These are among the reasons I have a blog!!

So I start from point 2 in the comment. And after seeing how big the post became, I will dedicate another post the point 1! So much to say about that point as well… (especially when you have to face the situation of teaching to people that have no idea about Aikido and you are the only person with experience.. think about this until the next post!)

Only one word abput the point 1: maybe someone misunderstood thinking I am a violent and aggressive person. I am not. Quite the opposite, and my Aikido tries to reflect this, but I also strongly believe that Aiki(do) is Budo..

Anyway, when I say that only Aikido matters for me, the sentence was related to a specific contest, that is the dojo contest.

As said, I do not know the person commenting (signed Aikikaki), and probably he/she had tons more experience than me in both Aikido and teaching. I am learning, in both fields, and I think I made quite a lot of improvements, in both fields.

One thing this new friend does not know (even if it is clear when reading my blog!) is that I have trained and loved so many different Aikido styles and pushed all my students to do the same, to travel, practice, try everything possible. I mentioned Tissier sensei just because more of his words in English are easier to remember than Japanese, Chinese, Swedish or German words form the several other teachers I have been practicing with! So, as all my friends (even the people that does not like me) know and can say about me, I know and like there is not only one way.

But Aikikaki missed the point here: I am the instructor in my dojo.. if a person from a different background comes to me, I always welcome all open arms, I often ask them to teach as well to show me what they studied. If they are visitors, I always say: “this is my way, I try to follow my teachers, but I have not understood so many things.. so, take this as my way.. I don’t expect you to do my way or to accept it but I’d love it if during this lesson you would try my way..” and if this person during the lesson keeps on doing his/her way, ok, I do not really care for a visitor..

..but the matter is different if this person wants to join my dojo!

I do not know which kind of experience Aikikaki has or in which ways he/she runs his/her dojo.. but, trust me, you cannot have in your dojo people doing all their own way just because they came form different backgrounds! That would not be a dojo anymore.. there would not be harmony in the way.. so if I show a technique and a student keep on doing in his/her own way because the previous teacher was doing like this, this makes difficult for the partners of this person to learn what I am teaching. So there are two solutions: asking the person if he (tired of he/she.. let’s say it’s a dude!) wants to stay and learn my way or decides better to go and find another dojo. But if he stays and keep on doing his way, then I will show more on the mats why my way, in particular situations, works better or it might be funnier to practice..

Taking up Aikikai words, I do not ask you to forget what you learnt with sacrifices but you have to decide what to do next: if you are joining a new dojo, it is always a difficult question (that I faced as well!). If you do not want to give up your sacrifices, then start your own dojo! It is great actually! Spreading more Aikido!!

And I will come to practice with you I will do your way! Because, as my friends can tell, when I go to seminars, I always do my best to practice in the way the teacher does! I never go to Iwama Ryu to do what Tisser sensei does! This is not me! I go to Iwama to learn Iwama! As for Nishio sensei style, Yoshinkan, and many other Aikido styles I tried! So when Aikikaki says: “..but not a critic or a patronizing attitude if someone came to my place and I do not see this person as someone who has “earned” the right to criticize me”, this cannot refer to me (if he/she knew me)!!

Similarly, I have been invited to teach in a few different dojos (in Norway as in China!) and I say the same as when I get visitors in my dojo:

“This is my way, one of many many different ways, not the best, not the worst, not the only valid, but the way I am trying to learn and teach.. I am very happy if during this session you will also try to do my way, and maybe you will find some elements you like in your own Aikido, some elements you will add in your own way, but from the moment I live, please go back to the way of your instructor, because that is the way of your dojo! Hope you enjoy today practice and something in my Aikido way as well!”

This is another important point: whether the instructor in a dojo is following one/two defined sensei or the instructor is still trying everything in order to decide what likes best, what elements fit best in her Aikido (yes, let’s say the instructor is a girl, for balance!). When I was an instructor in the student club and I had not met Endo sensei and Tissier sensei my Aikido was a huge mess, elements picked up a little bit everywhere, and when teaching or performing I was also jumping around.. my teachers were mainly the same: not a clear sensei for them as well.. therefore the club (old time NTNUI Trondheim, yes! Many can confirm!) was a little based on anarchy!!! Things changed a little when Jorgen came back from Japan with a much more structured teaching.. and then, for me, things also got a little different when many many years later I met the senseis that changed my Aikido life..

So going back to Aikikaki words and my incipit:

Aikikaki: Perhaps, we can change that sentence just a tiny bit to “People are the only thing that matter”. So what is Aikido? It is the result of interaction between people. People first. Aikido second. In practice and in teaching.

True, partly at least, mainly outside of your dojo. And I am sorry, but I think Aikikaki is mixing people and people feelings (ego): you come to my dojo, you want to join my dojo, then you have to put your feelings away from the mats. You decide you like my way and want to learn it, then I am sure you will have a great time practicing with me (because, in truth, I am a fairly good instructor as well! No silly modesty!). But if you come on the mats carrying the thoughts that your way is still better and I am sure to feel it in your technique or your attitude, then.. maybe I would do something to hurt your feelings.. not hurt you of course! Just show you maybe your mistakes.. and that’s all! That’s Aikido (or Aiki if you want – Aiki is Budo!).

If you think your way is still better (funnier, more effective, etc etc), then as I said, you will not join another teacher but start your own dojo.

On the mats there should be no discussion. Too many times I get too many questions during practice (another post is on the way, title: “What if, what if, what if…” so easy to understand the topic for all my friends that are also instructors!). And this is not good! Not for learning, not for teaching. Not in my dojo, not in any dojo that I like. We can discuss in the bar or in the sauna as done many times after practice!! No problem about that! If you join my practice, try (at least) to join my way.

Out of the mats or not during a practice or during a session where another person is the teacher, I would just love to practice that way! And having this person correcting me step by step if not doing that way! No hurt feelings! Just happiness! But it takes time to get there, leave your ego out of the mats, take the comments, as negative as they can be for what they are: comments about your/my technique, not your/my personality!!

So, Aikido for me, on the mats (as I wrote it very clearly also on on the original post), when I am the teacher or not, always comes first!

Saying that since Aikido as interaction between people, then people come first, is a little weird in my mind and makes me smile. Aikido is a defensive martial art, not only a philosophy. So Aikido must work. The people interaction I can think is the uke that makes me sweat my @$$ off on the mats and myself trying to keep a quiet mind and a relaxed body to control uke’s center.. This is the interaction I love the most: in keikogi sweating on the mats! And learning! So it’s true, Aikido builds up from this interaction, that has nothing to do with the topic of being an instructor! And it does not mean that people I like more can have a better interaction, just because of their wonderful personalities! Many friends with great personality have a terrible Aikido and vice versa.. no connection! I anyway like all of them for sharing great moments on the mats.. and still if they are my students, I would correct them ruthlessly!

So I feel Aikikaki confuses practice with teaching!

If in his/her club all the students do their way, why is Aikikaki there teaching? In particular, what? The warming up? 🙂

Beside jokes, I hope I can manage to participate to your classes, Aikikaki. But I promise to try my best to do your way, and learn more to enrich my Aikido…

Of course, this little parenthesis of discussion does not change the fact that I used to be quite an @$$hole sometimes.. and it does not change that I have seen several people that took part to my classes improve a lot in Aikido (I don’t feel like calling them my students, they would not enjoy it!).

So probably not everything I have done was bad.. only a bad manner maybe..

Some things have changed now, not all, and some of my believes are still valid.. and, on the mats, there is still only Aikido that matters! 🙂


1. Teaching and Aikido are two separate arts, or skills if you wish. One might master only one of these two, or both. Each should be given thought and dedication in order to improve. One should think about the purpose and goal for each and to whom it applies, meaning, to self or to another person. After these are defined, one would think on the best way to accomplish them and keep adjusting to improve their abilities (e.g. deliberate practice).

“As Tissier sensei says, “if you are afraid as uke, you will never manage to do a good attack!”. So easy to take confidence, that an instructor must show, as superiority feeling!”

A good attack, is one of the goals of a good Uke, according to Tissier, so it seems. Fair enough. And he seems it can be achieved by not being afraid.

What about teaching? What is the purpose of teaching? As an example, when teaching someone new to Aikido, who no doubt does many things wrong, what would be more effective: talking to them about “energy”, “aiki”, “center” and other vague meanings, or a clear “put front foot back left hand up” and leave the vague terminology to later on. Would the teacher think it’s better to correct all the 28 mistakes and state each and every one, or consider what is the one most important, or perhaps what is actually achievable by the student, and teach that. If I’m teaching, should I only follow my way and my way of thinking, or should I consider the culture, experience and capabilities of my students?



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