My First Foray Into Teaching
Nihon Goshin Aikido
I didn’t get nervous until the day of the class when I asked Sensei for a teaching outline, and he replied, “You’re a sho-dan. I have full confidence in your abilities.”
That’s when I got nervous. Then to add to that, the most senior sho-dan in the dojo (who was a sho-dan when I began my NGA training), David Wilkerson, was there to “help” me out “if I got into any trouble.” I encouraged Sensei to just let David teach the class ~ because it didn’t seem right that I would be teaching when he was there. My reasoning received no sympathy, and no traction either. It was my class.
My outline quickly came. If there was a title to the lesson it would have been:
“Being a Good Uke is More Than
Just Being Able to Take a Fall"
After warm ups I briefly talked about the importance of giving a sincere attack (using the 2 hand push as the attack). I got David Wilkerson to attack me as hard as he could, and purposely failed to move out of the way ~ so I could get knocked down in a very realistic fashion. I think it was convincing from my vantage point.
Once we did that, it was easier to attack one another with that same energy with the intent of holding the Line until you could not hold it any longer, and then blending and creating a new line.
The class partnered up and practiced blending at the last second against this sincerely violent attack. At some point along the way, I remembered a tip I’d gotten from Sensei Durand (when he was teaching at the Nutley Dojo). In that session, he told me, “Try to wait so long to blend that uke’s hand gets stuck in your gi jacket.” It was a milestone night for me in terms of blending ~ as everything seemed to really “click” together at that moment. As to the students, some of them succeeded in this effort of getting brushed, or getting uke’s hand caught in their gi top from time to time.
Once everyone had the energy of the attack and the last minute blend (which ensures nage’s absolute commitment) relatively mastered, David and I demonstrated how powerful a simple technique such as the Leg Sweep could be with maximum energy and commitment from uke's two hand push. On the first attack of the Leg Sweep (with me serving as uke, and David Wilkerson as nage) I literally went head over heels, and skidded about 2 feet on the mat after landing ~ probably the best break fall I've ever done, (and painless I might add). I wish I had gotten a video of it. That said, we dialed it back some at that point because there were belts of all colors in the class, and instead taking the break fall, we focused on Uke staying connected with Nage through the entire technique. At the sweep of the leg, we encouraged Uke to try to perform a “Chin-Up” on nage’s Gi jacket during the fall (essentially trying to pull nage down with him as the Leg Sweep was performed). The result was fantastic. It immediately identified nages with poor finishing positions (as they would immediately get pulled down on top of uke). The other benefit was that it assisted uke in reducing the impact of their fall when they did eventually hit the mat. By the way,having nage bear uke’s weight during the application of a technique seems to be a core principle of the soft ukemi protocols also.
At this point in the lesson, I noticed that some of the newer students (as well as the older students) were holding their breath on the fall as uke. It’s a nasty habit that a kiai would fix ~ but who wants to do a kiai? (We hardly ever do them in our dojo). Of course, the reason to kiai is to force an exhale ~ so if you can exhale without screaming at the top of your lungs (kiai), why not try it because in the end, I think the sound that goes with it is optional (or at least customizable)?
Personally, and as an aside, I like Sensei Gary Boaz’s kiai sound effects ~ (see youtube video to the left). He even uses them as nage. If I had a kiai moniker, I’d choose his.
Uke’s chin up exercise during the Leg Sweep, was a nice transition to our next slice: namely that in the street, uke must be committed to hurting nage, and will not give up; countering whenever possible ~ so the attempt to try and pull nage down may be a realistic scenario.
To hammer the idea of uke’s constant attempt at reversal down further, we switched to the First Wrist Technique classical technique. The first reversal was uke’s atemi to nage’s nose if nage didn't enter and move off the center line (like he's supposed to).
The second reversal we taught was to use the First Wrist Technique as a way for uke to reverse nage’s First Wrist Technique ~ also an option when nage does not move off the line.
The last reversal we discussed was that once uke and nage were trying to perform the First Wrist Technique on each other, an Arm Bar performed by either participant would end the fight ~ (calling it, "He Who Gets Arm Bar Wins"). To make it work the best, it was important to vertically raise the elbow of uke, and then cut down into the arm bar. It worked well.
At this point, there was about 10 minutes left in the class. And since we were working with the Arm Bar, the last thing we did was discuss a knife takeaway from the Classical Arm Bar Finish ~ (it is essentially a 2 Hand Lift Up application ~ and makes it impossible for Uke to continue to hold the knife. Since I finish most of my attacks in the classical arm bar position it is a very important weapons take away skill for me.
To summarize my first aikido teaching experience, would best be detailed by describing an article which quoted Shihan Bowe generally as saying (and this is a loose paraphrase), “Once you get to a certain point in your training, the best way to learn is to teach.” I believe that is an absolutely true statement. I had a great time teaching, learned a lot about the intricacies of the art, and how to transfer it to others. I hope to do it again soon!
Let’s meet on the mat soon!
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Sensei Gary Boaz has cool kiai sound effects....
Listen @ 1:58.
I’m a big fan of his instructional videos.
Warm Up Exercises in Sensei John Carter’s Lexington SC Dojo
(where I train).
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