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Ueshiba Aikido e-Reflections
ISSN 1712-2341
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March 26, 2013

"Help each other learn..."


I think once in a while, we must remind ourselves that the Dojo is a safe environment where slow or weak students have the opportunity to develop, improve and gain confidence in themselves without fear of criticism or injury. It is literally a space where "the way" is practiced, and to just practice.

Aikido is one of a few martial arts that has paired practice in all its classes. Aikido is not a sport, so we are not training to compete or to determine who is better. Aikido is budo, with techniques that lead to locks or throws that may result in a break or dislocation. To avoid injury, students learn to flow with the techniques, roll, breakfall, and practice through cooperation so paired-practice is safe and enjoyable. In the Dojo, we meet to literally practice and help each other improve (in every sense of those words); especially those who need our help to learn and understand how to defend themselves should the need arise.

If your partner is uncertain of a movement or technique, don't be too quick to correct your partner. Students are not in a position to teach or guide anyone. Instead, help your partner learn by repeatedly performing the grab or attack as instructed by the sensei without adding more force or any other gesture or movement that may confuse or prevent your partner from responding to that attack with the technique being practised.

Resisting and showing your partner who is better is not the aim or purpose of practice. It puts your partner in a difficult position of deciding whether to apply the technique with full force to respond to your resistance - which may result in unnecessary injury. This may also end up frustrating, confusing, or discouraging your partner; and they may leave the class thinking they are no good.

The joy should be in seeing and experiencing improvement in your partner, not who is better. Think about this: the better they get, the better the practice you will receive as you both advance through the levels and complexities of Aikido. Gently allow your partner to discover and realise the techniques.

The Sensei facilitates learning through a curriculum of exercises, observances, practices and techniques that help students achieve proficiency and understanding in Aikido. There is only one voice and teacher in the Dojo: the Sensei. Even as a Sensei, if I am present in a class taught by my Sensei or another Sensei, I will follow along in that class without contradicting that sensei.

The only other people allowed to guide in classes are the Deshi or senior students (Senpai) selected by the Sensei to help and assist. Although they are not in a position to teach, they play an important role in assisting students through each class.

Aikido is the way of harmony. This includes learning to harmonise with your partner, understanding them and providing the means for them to learn and improve by performing the grab or attack as instructed, and rolling or falling when you have to. In turn, you will improve, and develop a sensitivity within yourself that you may not have discovered or realised before. Wouldn't that be marvelous?

Have a most glorious and meaningful Passover and Easter season!

See you in the Dojo.

In peace and harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei.

(© Copyright March 2013: Rafael Oei)

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