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"Ask sensei ..." ... or does sensei not know? Rate Topic: ***** 1 Votes

#1 User is offline   billc 

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 07:06 PM

This is a topic that has been discussed before, but maybe not in an neutral fashion, more often as a rant.

This Forum is fantastic, has really helped my judo. But then, I am lucky enough to be around more knowledgeable people to test on the mat what I see here. Often on this forum people ask some really, really basic questions. But I can't help but wonder, where are these folks learning their judo that they have to ask? Some possibilities come to mind, please add or subtract form this list.

  • The person asking the question has received an answer, but doesn't like the answer ... for example sensei probably told him (I will use him because it's usually a him) not to worry about that yet and he comes here because he still is seeking the answer he agrees with.
  • The person is largely self taught, is working in an environment with few judo teaching resources. Good for them! I can guess this is occurring when a brown belt is considered a high rank, for example.
  • The scary one is that sensei simply doesn't know ... but won't admit it ... or worse that sensei does not allow questions (which would be anti-judo in fact). It's one thing to see something, evaluate, and then reject it. It's another not to see it at all.

This last one has a lot to do I think with isolation of judo clubs, either by geography or intent. I speculate judo teaching is sometimes the victim of:

  • Dissipation, it's only possible for a person to retain a certain amount of what they learn and this problem compounds in every generation. We all have seen people post here with positive intentions with no other way to find an answer ... all questions to some degree have to do with missing or lost information;
  • Physical error, either what was learned in the first place was incorrect, or the teacher's subsequent attempts as clarification did not lead to correct conclusions;
  • Mental error ... on this list are things like ego, laziness, envy, hate and so on. I know clubs that wall themselves off from the world. They don't want anyone interfering with "their method" ... and sometimes react with hostility to even the suggestion that someone else might be successful doing something another way. (I note that the walled-off programs often do not produce judoka who are successful in shiai.)


I am glad to see basic questions because questioning my own judo is part of making it better every day. It might not otherwise occur to me to take a second (actually 4,733rd) look at ukemi. Anyone care to contribute thoughts?

This post has been edited by billc: 12 June 2011 - 07:07 PM

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#2 User is offline   Reinberger 

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 07:43 PM

I'm under the impression that often, and especially in Budō and therefore in Jūdō, you'll find sufficiently advanced practioners to be able to do and/or teach likewise advanced, often difficult, and sometimes even spectular things. However, it seems that the real great teachers, if not even masters, are to be recognized by the quality of the(ir) (seemingly) easiest, most basic techniques, sometimes ignored or treated as orphans by the "lower level" experts.

I'm always fascinated by teachers, that still are able to impress me with their kihon, regardless of which art. I'm able to learn most from those. At my age and living conditions I may never ever be able to develop some of the skills that are needed in competition at the level of a world champion. But I still can do and teach skills better than one of them, that they have yet no time to bother with, and which sometimes simply need decades to mature, through careful consideration, improvement, repetition, careful consideration, improvement, repetition, careful consideration, improvement, repetition and careful consideration and improvement and repetition. That's an important part of Budō, IMHO.

Regards, Robert
Best regards,
Robert
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#3 User is offline   Still learning 

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 07:58 PM

View Postbillc, on 12 June 2011 - 08:06 PM, said:


[*]The scary one is that sensei simply doesn't know ... but won't admit it ...


The quality of teaching in the UK is variable in line with the knowledge of sensei. Too many people start teaching when they themselves have only recently acquired their grade, no longer attending classes or courses themselves. This has been somewhat addressed with coaching accreditation and revalidation courses on an annual basis, the attendance of which I have always found somewhat humbling, in showing how much I still do not know.

I believe very strongly that we continue to learn throughout our judo lives and sensei who do not continue to develop themselves are potentially doing a disservice to their students.
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#4 User is offline   stacey 

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 08:21 PM

I'm not sure, but I might think of adding a few options

1. the explanation given to the student didn't make sense to the student, and as s/he digests it between hearing it and the next class (which could be a week out), s/he's trying to understand it, gain clarity, and get things to make sense. Getting the same answer in multiple different forms from other noobs through to the most seasoned sensei allows the student to digest, and maybe see the information in a different way that will make sense.

2. the explanation given to the student is the first time that the student's heard it and the 2,486th time the sensei has given it. Sometimes, with people who say the same things time and time again, we fail to understand that for the person hearing it for the first time, it might be overwhelming, or just not make sense. Or, worse, we think we've given ukemi lesson 2(b) to the student, but in fact didn't. Whoops, poor student.

3. the student wants to work ahead, and be ready for the next lesson without realizing how dangerous that is.

4. the student wants to try something that's beyond his ken as a noob. There are a ton of YouTube videos out there that show flying armbars and what not, but a new judo student shouldn't be trying them, especially without talking first with his/her sensei. So, sometimes trying to ground the noob, and get them to give up on fancy techniques before they have the basics down is important. I love enthusiasm, but sometimes, you just have to shake your head and make sure your insurance coverage is up to date.

5. misperceptions of culture. Listen, I'm American. I grew up here, and have never had problems asking questions when I want to know something (good thing I'm a lawyer, eh?), but I find this in law and judo and other contexts. People don't want to ask questions - they think it's rude, or that they're wasting your time, or that you'll give them an answer they won't understand anyway. THey don't like saying, "I don't understand." Worse, if they come in with some sort of mystical understanding of "sensei", they think they'll either get punished for saying "I don't understand" or get some fortune cookie riddle that will make them feel like morons. This goes back to number 2 above - Sensei thinks s/he's a nice, approachable person ready to answer questions, but hasn't conveyed that to noob. Noob doesn't see other students asking questions, so noob thinks it's not ok to ask questions. Sensei thinks there are no questions.

What are we to do? Communicate. Remember, while I've taken tens of thousands of throws, I know nothing compared to the person who's taken hundreds of thousands of throws. Similarly, I know a lot compared to a person who's just learning basic ukemi. I try frequently to remember what it was like my first few classes - how odd everything felt, how much vocabulary there was, how steep the learning curve was, and just how much I floundered. I try to anticipate questions, but stay open to questions I'd never consider, because the one thing I can guarantee, for every time I've heard, "but is this any good for self defense?", I've also heard something novel, like, "is there a way I can use this to subdue a mental patient without hurting him?" or something equally out of left field for me, but of paramount importance to the new student. For a lot of students, it takes a lot of guts to ask basic questions, let alone more sensitive questions.

Yes, there are clubs out there that are cut off, and try to keep their members cut off. I'm glad that there are boards like this out there so that students don't see that there is only one way, one path to judo.
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#5 User is offline   Dave ® 

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 08:36 PM

Hi Bill,

In my opinion people learn from either a Judo instructor or a sensei. Also in my opinion someone who is a Judo instructor isn't necessarily a sensei. For example, if I was asked by a BJJ club to teach basic Judo and I helped them out once a week I would fall under "Judo instructor" instead of "sensei". I would refuse to be called sensei. I think there are a lot of people out there who are learning under a Judo instructor. In my opinion a sensei should be able to demonstrate and teach all 67 throws of Kodokan Judo (both right and left) and teach more than just nage no kata. Of course this is apart from those who physically cannot do it anymore. I have not come across too many people in my time in Judo that can actually do this and some of the people I've come across with high ranks cannot do this.
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#6 User is offline   Reinberger 

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Posted 12 June 2011 - 09:21 PM

Hi Bill 'n' all,

please let me illustrate, what I wrote earlier, with an example. There is this picture of Kanō shihan with Handa sensei as uke during a display of Jū no kata. IIRC, it was some post/article on the internet that brought it to my attention. It impresses me deeply.


Posted Image



I don't need to see this man doing a split, 2000 push-ups in a row, or attacking his uke with an Ōsotogari, just to throw him with a perfect Uranage. He just stands there. Rather perfectly. This is, what I'm interested in, what I strive for. Compare it with the posture of his (highranking, unquestionable highly qualified) uke.

When I wrote earlier about "careful consideration, improvement and repetition", I considered discussing such things at a forum like this as part of the "careful consideration". It can't be too basic, it can't be repeated to often, that there could not be a chance to learn something new, on the way to the unattainable (for us mortals) perfection. Of course, this example only covers a small part, the physical one, of what there is here to be learnt.

Kind regards, Robert

This post has been edited by Reinberger: 12 June 2011 - 09:44 PM

Best regards,
Robert
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#7 User is offline   Steve Leadbeater 

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 12:19 AM

After around 46 years in Judo I think I can almost perform a halfassed rear standing Ukemi without someone telling me that it needs to improve..........I know it needs improvement !!
BUT, when a noob comes to me or is sent to me by Sensei to learn the basics of Ukemi I encourage questions and actively promote the seeking of knowledge.

I always tell a noob that............
"You may not get this right today or tomorrow or even next year, but one day everything will just click into place"

There are no stupid questions, there are of course stupid instructors who give the "deep and mystical" Kung An type of answer that leaves the student even more confused than at the start.

We are all seekers of knowledge, otherwise we wouldn't be students of Judo, so, instead of being scared to ask a question, go right ahead and ask.
If I cannot give you an answer of the spot I will tell you I don't know, and I will go and research an answer for you and reply by the next class..........this is where YOU help ME to learn as part of the mutual Welfare Mutual Benefit.
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#8 User is offline   Daniel.H 

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 09:05 AM

I'm not sure if this fits into the second category mentioned above... But I'll put it out there anyway.

I started learning judo in a language other my own. My level of fluency when I began was beginner at best... Man, I had trouble with making and using simple expressions let alone discussing something as complicated as judo, so when I was being taught something demonstrations spoke volumes, while a lecture would leave me with a ton of questions both judo and language orientated( now they usually just leave me with a ton of questions judo orientated). During this challenging period of time The judo forum was a great place for me to come and in some cases confirm what I'd learned in class or in some cases I'd learn even more. And a lot of the time someone else had already been thoughtful enough to ask the exact same questions I wanted to. So having been in this situation I am quite appreciative to the judo forum, the beginners who sought out answers and the people who were kind enough to offer up their experience to virtual strangers.

Thankfully my ability in the new language gradually improved. Which made my classes and communication in general much easier. But the numerous times I'd leave practice with questions I didn't have the ability to ask made some of the simple questions mentioned above invaluable to me.
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#9 User is offline   Mitesco 

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 09:57 AM

I recently started aikido. So I'm a complete newbee in aikido. The first time when I watched a practice, I asked my friend who invited me all I wanted to know, even the things he didn't know. The second time I watched and there was an assistent teacher on the bench and I asked him the ears off his head. I'm the type 'sponge' so I want to learn so much, more than I can swallow. Now that I started, my need for questions was even more intense. But I have no opportunity to reflect on all the new experiences and questions at the same time. The teachers and sensei are busy with the whole group and so I cannot bother them with all the (basic) questions I have. And so I also take books and read what I do, trying to understand basic things. I can also go on aikiweb (where I joined of course) and ask my questions there - which I didn't until now btw, I am to shy for it, lol.

I think we have the same type of judoka here. Overload of feelings, experiences, and so little opportunity for reflection in the own club. Nothing wrong with the sensei, nothing wrong with the dojo, but just the sponge-effect. The water inside needs to go somewhere when it's squeezed. Glad that this forum can be at the service of those who want to learn, wherever they come from.

Btw basic questions are better than no questions. Kodokan judo is also kogi and mondo, which is not meant to be just for the advanced judoka... in fact the problem seems to be more imho that we have not enough time and opportunity in the ordinary dojo practice to reflect sufficiently on questions of judoka.


@ Robert: impressive picture of Kano Shihan!



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#10 User is offline   Dave ® 

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 11:43 AM

View PostDaniel.H, on 13 June 2011 - 05:05 AM, said:

I'm not sure if this fits into the second category mentioned above... But I'll put it out there anyway.

I started learning judo in a language other my own. My level of fluency when I began was beginner at best... Man, I had trouble with making and using simple expressions let alone discussing something as complicated as judo, so when I was being taught something demonstrations spoke volumes, while a lecture would leave me with a ton of questions both judo and language orientated( now they usually just leave me with a ton of questions judo orientated). During this challenging period of time The judo forum was a great place for me to come and in some cases confirm what I'd learned in class or in some cases I'd learn even more. And a lot of the time someone else had already been thoughtful enough to ask the exact same questions I wanted to. So having been in this situation I am quite appreciative to the judo forum, the beginners who sought out answers and the people who were kind enough to offer up their experience to virtual strangers.

Thankfully my ability in the new language gradually improved. Which made my classes and communication in general much easier. But the numerous times I'd leave practice with questions I didn't have the ability to ask made some of the simple questions mentioned above invaluable to me.


This is a fascinating story Daniel. What is your native language and which language did you first learn Judo?
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#11 User is offline   Neil G 

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 02:24 PM

I think many times people are simply intimidated by sensei or shy in public. Much easier to ask your question anonymously on a forum like this.
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#12 User is offline   Dew 

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 04:02 PM

View Postbillc, on 12 June 2011 - 08:06 PM, said:

I know clubs that wall themselves off from the world. They don't want anyone interfering with "their method" ... and sometimes react with hostility to even the suggestion that someone else might be successful doing something another way. (I note that the walled-off programs often do not produce judoka who are successful in shiai.)
[/list]



I agree with all except this part.
Lets say theres a club that still focuses a lot on newaza even though newaza is less important in shiai now than 50 years ago - they still preserve important skills even though they may have less success in shiai.
Another example would be a club that focuses more on throwing techniques, sweeps etc and discourages a lot of grip fighting in randori. Their Judoka will be anhilated in shiai going against other clubs that spend most of their Randoris doing kumi kata but they will have some impressive ashi waza etc
I know of one club that banned leg grabs over 5 years ago and did badly in shia until the rules changed and leg grabs were banned by the IJF - now they do better in shiai. So sometimes this walling off thing can be a boon I think.
Its not always a good idea judge the effectiveness of a clubs techniques by their success in shiai because such success is very much subject to the whims of the IJF.

This post has been edited by Dew: 13 June 2011 - 04:24 PM

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#13 User is offline   Reinberger 

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 04:12 PM

Mitesco,

very good to hear that you found something to even explore physically! :manoyes:

Robert
Best regards,
Robert
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#14 User is offline   billc 

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 05:02 PM

View PostDew, on 13 June 2011 - 09:02 AM, said:

I agree with all except this part.
Lets say theres a club that still focuses a lot on newaza even though newaza is less important in shiai now than 50 years ago - they still preserve important skills even though they may have less success in shiai.
Another example would be a club that focuses more on throwing techniques, sweeps etc and discourages a lot of grip fighting in randori. Their Judoka will be anhilated in shiai going against other clubs that spend most of their Randoris doing kumi kata but they will have some impressive ashi waza etc
I know of one club that banned leg grabs over 5 years ago and did badly in shia until the rules changed and leg grabs were banned by the IJF - now they do better in shiai. So sometimes this walling off thing can be a boon I think.
Its not always a good idea judge the effectiveness of a clubs techniques by their success in shiai because such success is very much subject to the whims of the IJF.


Absolutely, where would we be without clubs that specialize? Uniformity is not only boring, it leads to the dissipation I referred to.

What I am talking about, and maybe some folks have been fortunate never to have encountered a club like this, are sensei that have rules like "no guests allowed here," or similarly "none of our students are allowed to visit other dojo." If there is a famous judoka in town giving a clinic, they don't go because sensei invariably rejects anything outside of his club.

Yeah sure, vive la différence, but beware of making a club L'Homme au Masque de Fer.
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#15 User is offline   billc 

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Posted 13 June 2011 - 05:11 PM

View PostMitesco, on 13 June 2011 - 02:57 AM, said:


Btw basic questions are better than no questions. Kodokan judo is also kogi and mondo, which is not meant to be just for the advanced judoka... in fact the problem seems to be more imho that we have not enough time and opportunity in the ordinary dojo practice to reflect sufficiently on questions of judoka.



Thanks, that had not occurred to me in making the first list. We have one class with a regular attendance of over 50 kids and adults, I can see how it might feel strange to ask sensei to stay after for one person's question. And even our smaller randori workouts, when time is done usually everyone is about ready to puke anyway, so again it might be difficult to "bring up" a question rather than dinner.

Our club does set aside two days a week for training for adults, but no everyone can make it to those classes. I am going to talk to the other instructors and make sure we are covering Q&A adequately.

BTW - in judo there are kogi, mondo, and monku. The last on that list usually takes place across from the dojo while enjoying a post-workout beverage. :lol:
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