View Full Version : caught in crossfire

5th July 2003, 10:05
I'm not sure if this is the best place for this post, but here goes...

Here in Japan, I am currently training in a naginata class which luckily includes only the sensei, a few high ranking students and myself. (This is outside the usual lesson taught in the evening, which I can't attend.) The atmosphere is casual, but perhaps a little too much so. Recently, I find that I am having problems with the methodology of teaching. I am often paired with the senior-most student (the teacher's daughter) who gives me much needed correction, yet before I can try the corrections, she will immediately turn to the sensei, repeat what was said to me, as if to confirm what was said. (I'm not even going to go into mother-daughter psychological dynamics here.) I find myself listening to the same points twice, going on five minutes or so, rather than being able to retry the waza. I feel that I end up listening more than training. To make matters worse, occasionally they will be talking about two contradictory points. This latter situation happened to me years ago when I was first starting in iaido. Again in a semi-private lesson setting, my official teacher and a senior student would comment on completely different things simultaneously, and often contradict each other. I wound up eventually going to another dojo, taught by a retired schoolteacher, who had both martial and education skills.

Back to naginata, I will be told to correct a hand mistake, and when I try again, I am scolded about my feet. Like any beginner, when I focus on one part of the body , I tend to forget the rest. Here, to be fair, I could be just a bad student, wanting to focus on a single thing at a time, rather than listen to instruction. However, I am an English teacher myself. When I am working on verbs, I may let a prepositional mistake go by until the student "gets" what I am trying to teach about verbs. Then I will go back to the other area. In anything, I'd like to focus on a single thing at a time.

In other budo I've studied, I haven't had any problems like this. I listen carefully to what the teacher tells me. And if two students' advice compliments each other, no problem. But this situation, with a well meaning person (senior student) who has the skill, yet doesn't seem to know how to verbalize that skill, is incredibly frustrating.

With nine years in Japan, I am familiar with Japanese teaching methods, and in the various forms they may take. Nor is Japanese communication is an issue at this point.

Has anyone had similar experiences? Am I just being unreceptive?

I'd also like to ask the teachers out there if there is a reason to correct two points simultaneously. Do you find yourself butting heads with senior students, however well-meaning they are?

Thank you.

A. M. Jauregui
5th July 2003, 23:25
I am not a teacher of any martial art but I have shown a variety of waza to people that I meet up with while doing open mat work. If they had problems with the technique (forgetting to do one thing or another) I would simply say something like, “close but not exactly, have another go.”

I too get scolded now and then (not that often for they do not really care and they now that it is totally ineffective to do so).

What I would suggest is pairing up with others. As to get away from the mother daughter combo and also to get a feel for varying skill levels, body sizes, and other whatnots. Requesting to train with others for the latter reasons should be acceptable.

6th July 2003, 08:20
Training with others at your basic skill level (give or take, they can be more or less experienced, a mix of training levels is the point) should also be in the plan, IMO.

I've actually been verbally assaulted in a disagreement over the manner in which I turn the ends of my obi. "Are you arguing with me?" the younger, but a bit more highly graded BB said as he came at me after I turned my obi back to the way I'd been taught. My answer was "No, but the way you are turning my belt makes a larger, more pointed knot. I turn mine under to make it flatter and less painful if I fall on it." The point in tying a knot is just for that reason while there is really no "official" manner of doing such. In fact, in Kodokan Judo, it states to tie a knot "as flat as possible" and gives two suggestions. The instructor was about to burst out laughing when I said that to the senior (the instructor was also an experienced judoka), and he (the senior student) left the dojo not to return to that class. I also had a few more years of training (the instructor knew) than the senior student but I did notice students were graded quite quickly there, but that's what happens when assumptions are made about a student who is wearing a white belt (it was a modern jujutsu dojo vs. the eight years of Kodokan Judo I had, with not a single technique taught there not from the Kodokan, but the teacher wanted me to wear a white belt. That wasn't a problem for me, but at my height, I tended to be matched with juniors. I'm not saying it is the same situation, but things can get confusing when you have been doing things correctly for a while, and then change schools where a senior has been doing things a bit differently, and with an attitude to boot.

I've also been scolded in the manner I corrected a student at one time and never forgot that lesson.

So yes, I understand your frustration. As my teachers taught me, I am quick to tell a student whom I correct "That's much better. If you turn your foot [this way] it may be even easier for you. Give it a try." I've felt the same way you do. One thing at a time is the goal. Once something becomes habit or a reflex (most things don't take that long, some do) and you can move on to another area which may be a problem.

In my experience, respecting the training level of a senior or the instructor is one thing, but fearing it on a level of outright frustration, is another. Perhaps a polite chat concerning the problem may help. It may not, either. But you probably should work out something, or accept the situation. I gather the latter is not conducive to pleasant training period for you.

Just to give it some perspective, though it may not show in my writing, I'm a former TESOL.;)