View Full Version : Failings of a Teacher

8th July 2003, 19:51
I have been teaching for less than a year now; and in reference to other threads I have read - it has been the learning experience of my life. However, in my learning process I have become vastly aware of my own shortcomings and departures from the canon/kata.

Now, of course this is a good thing, as my capabilities and understanding brushed off their years of cobwebs and I found myself enjoying and looking forward to, the sessions I taught because of what I was teaching myself in the process of teaching my students.

So here is the problem - My personal style is primaraly one of defense. Please understand, I see nothing wrong with that, in my own experience, my ability to attack stems from waiting for the proper moment to strike, or even patiently creating an opening to exploit. This patience allows me to gauge the opponent, and fosters the calm mind every other martial artist seems to be seeking.

But this is of no help to two of my students, both of whom think in term of offense before defense. I see this thought pattern as needing time to grow more patient, but find no idealistic flaw in allowing them to cultivate such techniques. My failure is my inability to teach them anything past the dry techniques of offense - as even my offense is based in the use of defense as a prerequisite.

I suppose I am looking for advice, books, or commentary - I am open to suggestions.

Style/form - Kenjutsu
instructor - frustrated - but quickly learning to think offensively.


8th July 2003, 22:44
Zac, you need to sign your posts with your full name.

You must have a teacher. Only s/he can advise you properly according to the requirements of your ryu.

Which is, BTW, what exactly? Kenjutsu is a non-specific catch-all word.

Kata-based training presents a well-defined template for action. I can't see how you can vary the timing of a kata to emphasise either offense or defence. That only happens in free-sparring (jigeiko). And in kendo at least, having the mindset of waiting to see what your opponent will do first is considered a bad habit.

I'm confused and curious to hear more.

24th July 2003, 18:35
Ichibyoshi sir,
My name is Aaron and I'm one of Zac's students, and Zac is an incredible instructor. I know which two students Zac is talking about. I understand his his frustration because like Zac I am defensive by nature, actually of all of Zac's students and when we spar,I'm the most defensive.

The reason I'm posting this is because you said
"having the mindset of waiting to see what your opponent will do first is considered a bad habit."
I don't understand why waiting to see what your opponent will do first is a bad thing. Because that is my entire strategy, I rely on my opponent to make the first move, and if you ask Zac he'll agree that I'm very good at it. Actually, I find it difficult and awkward to take the offensive.

Aaron Brewster

25th July 2003, 02:25
Hi Aaron,

This is what I was taught: there's nothing wrong with waiting to see what your opponent is going to do. It is good to be observant and analytical to a degree. However it usually also means that your opponent controls the agenda of the match. It is the waiting of the mind (as opposed to the waiting of the body - this is Yagyu-ryu theory?) that is considered a bad habit in kendo. You can couterattack, but it is more powerful and likely to succeed if you opponent moves as a reaction to your seme (pressure). IOW you 'induce' your opponent's attack, rather than just waiting. This is the active way to be reactive.

Unfortunately this can only be acquired through practice. After twenty years I still find it (seme) one of the hardest things to effect. Especially against more experienced opponents.

FWIW if you find something "difficult and awkward" then at least you know that that is an area where you can focus on improving. I'm pleased that your instructor finds much to praise in your technique.

Still curious about what it is that you, Zac and the others practice.


25th July 2003, 17:07
What we practice, can't be defined by any particular style or School. Zac taught us the basics of fighting with a japanese sword, and he shares insight and expertice. We don't focus on mastering certain techniques, we were taught the basic's then we were left to modify those techniques as we the students see fit.

For example: in one of our kata's, the defender is supposed to evade a strike rather than block it. Because I'm a big guy, I have the strenght to block the attack that we are supposed to evade. Zac finds nothing wrong with my doing that so that's how I perform that kata. Other students modify other kata's as they need.

We're not really a dojo or school, we're a college organization (Japanese Fencing Club) but we call ourselves the "Freeform Kenjutsu Assemby" (F.K.A). Our resources are very limited, we use shinai's but the only protective gear we use are shop glasses for eye protection. We've altered the rules of sparring to avoid injury.
For example, strikes to the head and groin are immediate disqualification. We've also added rules such as ma'ai and check. A ma'ai is when we make a succesful strike we just lay the shinai gently on our opponent and we'll still take the point. Checks are, if we make a strike to our opponent doesn't make contact and there is no way the opponent could of blocked or evaded it we'll take point, but we have to verbally say "Check" when we do this. Checks are also allowed to be done to illeagal targets (head, groin). Ma'ais and Checks are done fequently. We have had other fencers with years of experience come and fence with us, and we hold our own quite well, since we've only been doing this for about 7 months. We've been complimented on our control, some fencers think its incredible that we use ma'ais and checks let alone do them frequently. Also, there have been very few injuries and only one serious injury, and that one led to the use of eye protection.

-Aaron Brewster

28th July 2003, 22:15
Great - so much for working outside the dojo!

29th July 2003, 11:12
I guess you didn't see Ben's post in which he suggests signing with your full name. Your student does. You agreed to sign with your full name when you first logged on here. It is one of four basic rules of this forum so please do so.

This means a first name and a last name, or an initial and your last name. You can set your user options to do this for you, but I see you all ready know how to use that function. Please add your name to the signature feature, or remember to sign each post.



30th July 2003, 17:34
Put down the shinai ....

Now do the same attacks ... empty hand.

I know it is difficult to grasp,and although the weapon is an extension of yourself, this might help.

Aikido is an offshoot of sword, jo, and many empty hand practices, but the most difficult thing to do is to lay down that piece of wood and still maintain martial integrity for the practice.

Except for an expert practitioner, most people are inhibited when they use a weapon or piece of wood, because their attention is focused on maneuvering that weapon to do nearly all the work.

Take away the weapon .... and use the same movements as effectively, and it is not so much of an attack as it is being drawn into openings that must be filled to maintain protection of that practitioner. It breaks them mindset of ATTACK so that that the movement is a proper way to act or react.

You know ... when someone flintches and leaves an opening some may see it as an attack, but that is the nature of what exists at that moment, the resolution of harmony to resolve that situation.

Try to think of attack in those terms ... not is terms of defense or offense.

Maybe I am all wrong about this, because if someone smacks me with a shinai, I am gonna take that advantage away, which might mean giving up the game of tag and taking that weapon advantage away .... I don't know ... haven't seen you guys practice?

But to resolve defense and offense, stop thinking in those terms! The brain takes too long to resolve such thoughts and effect movement. Don't think ... let the harmony of the situation be the resolution.

It might mean rerouting emotional attachment into your energy level so the mind can open to accept all data present from the stimuli the body feeds it, don't neet emotional attachment blocking up the works ...

It gets too involved ....

Maybe you should visit a couple of schools nearby? Some Karate, some Aikido, some various arts to see how they resolve this, but it is my belief that the harmony of the situation should be the best route to cure further problems.

It worked for me.

Let me know if this helps or not?

Good luck.

3rd September 2004, 19:42
Zac, I would assume since you are the head instructor of your club that you do know what you're doing. Your student also commends your ability to teach and has respect for you which is good enough for me.

Everyone has their own style of fighting and will adapt accordingly. Some people are naturally good counter-strikers, some are naturally aggressive attackers. Either way though, they need to all know the same material and then adapt it to their own taste. Even if someone is an attacker they still need to know how to defend from the counter-strikes. What happens if you put the two attackers against eachother and they're no good at being defensive? it'll be a wild frenzy of strikes and the quickest will win.

A balance must be struck between offensive and defensive, as bruce said earlier, it should be a natural form of both.