Teacher versus Instructor.
In Aikido, I feel both of these terms tend to be used interchangeably. I beg to differ. An active, serious aikido student — someone with 3+ years of consistent 3-4 X a week practice and seminar attendance (2-3X a year) — can achieve 2nd Kyu and maybe even 1st Kyu. Depending on your dojo size as well as how many teaching Yudansha there are, this is around the time where you may be asked to lead or instruct a class. Similar to starting out as a brand new aikido student, as a new instructor, you are shown and taught how to do the warm-up, how & what to teach and with many reps, you start to develop into an instructor. Basically, an instructor is more experienced aikido student that leads a class or two each week.
A teacher, or in Japanese martial arts, ‘Sensei,’ is different. Most schools have one or two teachers. Typically, the Chief Instructor and/or Dojo Cho. Sometimes one and the same. The teacher is the most senior in the dojo. And his/her role extends beyond just instructing a class. As a teacher, on a daily or weekly basis, I am thinking about things like:
• The Dojo (what can we do to improve it?)
• How to attract more students?
• Are students practicing safely?
• My students (who’s ready to test next?)
• My Sempai (Outside the dojo) who haven’t I talked to in a while
• Our Marketing (Social Media, Videos, etc.) What content do we need?
• Who needs encouragement on or off the mat?
• Who needs praise?
• Who needs some course correction?
• Is the rent paid?
• Is the power bill paid?
• What seminars are coming up?
• Who will receive the next Kenshin Recognition?
• Who will receive the next Budo Distinction?
• Am I practicing enough?
• How is my fitness lately?
• How is my nutrition?
• What can I do to improve as an Aikido student?
• What can I do to become a better teacher?
And so on and so on. You’ve heard the expression, “The buck stops here” Well, in every dojo, both instructors and teachers play a big part and without either, it’s very difficult to grow a dojo.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable. When working with new students, I’m always fascinated with how hard it is to verbalize what we’ve been doing for years. This is especially evident when we are teaching tai sabaki. We’re just telling people how to move their feet, and it’s really hard! It’s virtually impossible for me to remember…
I was recently asked by Weiner Sensei why I said Yes to Aikido. For complete transparency, at time of writing I am only a few short weeks into my journey and simply learning the foundational skills that will build in the years to come. I met Sensei one weekend afternoon in 2022, we didn’t know…
Let’s discuss a Modern Day Otomo. In an Aikido dojo, you may hear different terminology identifying a certain student, instructor, or group of aikidoka. Such as Uchideshi, Sotodeshi, Kenshusei, Sempai, & Otomo. Otomo is a Japanese tradition among martial arts masters. It is very often confused with Uchideshi (private disciple) because it is often one…