At least three times last night I caught myself telling the aikido beginners “and if he does this you could….” I apologized a couple of times for that but I can’t seem to remember that a class needs clear physical direction, not stuff to think about. Having four different techniques going on at the same time makes for very poor practice, especially if the four techniques are trying to be applied at the same time by the same student.
I really need to keep my own delight at discovery to myself and keep it disciplined in class. Same goes for the practice time for each technique, they barely get four tries apiece before I’m jumping in to share my next bit of amazing information with them. In other words, I’m using this as my own practice not theirs, and that’s not very nice. In fact it’s the way to create students as scattered and half-arsed as I am.
When you’re leading a practice (I don’t call it teaching any more, the University is all about charging you money if you’re teaching… well it’s all about charging you money in any case, but more if you’re teaching) you ought to be dealing with the class, not noodling around in your own head.
I won’t go so far as to suggest a lesson plan, that is just no fun at all, but at least have a theme, introduce it, develop it throughout the practice and come back to it at the end. For me that’s pretty easy since all I care about in aikido these days is the entry and there are only three of them, well maybe four. Last night we started with irimi, just a slip to the side, noodled around with a few variations and came back to it in the final exercise with a modified “cheating” kokyu dosa. That was a whole class on one theme, getting off the attack line at the right time and to the right distance, then a small bit of “oh heck, I don’t feel like moving any more, you get off the line” at the end.
A theme could be other things though, for instance a practice theme which was “here’s all the stuff you need to learn for your next exam” could be useful. Twenty or thirty different techniques in an hour or so certainly, but you might unify them with constant reminders to “look good for the judges”, in other words, to slow down and be more precise rather than just slam each other around.
You know, sword is so much easier than aikido, one stance, one grip, one goal. We’re warming up with swords, getting those shoulders loose, working with the hips, and using the lines on the mat to figure out where that attack line is and where we ought to be. I caught some video by accident where folks were discussing in great detail (yet again) how aiki sword isn’t real sword. Those same folks also tend to claim kendo isn’t real sword either so I’m assuming whatever they do is real. I’m OK with that, I’ll call it aiki-big stick coming down from above at your head if that’s what keeps me out of that argument, I just find a stick really useful to teach timing, distance and angles. I’m not sure what “real sword” teaches but perhaps I don’t need to worry about that. Having had a shinai wrapped double over my head a few times has made me figure that I’d rather not be there when a kendo guy swings, having been whipped into the floor a few times by my aikido teacher as I tried to hit him with my big stick coming down from above at his head, I know I’d rather learn how to keep my distance and poke him with it.
So I work on that very first movement where you time it and move to the right distance. That fascinates me and it leads to trying to stuff everything I know down the throats of my fellow practicers all at once.
I’ve got to stop trying to do that.