Nage is not your Enemy. Your Ego is.

I wanted to share some insight on how to maximize your practice during a given class. Remember, Nage is not Your Enemy. Your Ego is. I was talking to another student from another dojo that was frustrated because as they are trying to practice, their partner (uke) kept stopping them, correcting them and ultimately preventing the practice from continuing. As I heard this, it got me thinking about seminars, classes over the years and what we strive for at our dojo in terms of culture.

Here are the things I focus on during my practice in a class when taking that class as a student:

1. Little to No talking at all. (the only time I speak is if my teacher asks me to work with someone new or someone on something specific)
2. Practice Safely (Move at the speed and force my partner can handle)
3. Minimize idle wastes of time. Meaning, I do the technique 4 times and go right into the attack. I want to get as many quality reps or turns as possible on both sides. I rest when the instructor demonstrates the next technique. I try and focus on ‘no distractions’ looking at others, fixing my belt, etc. I just try and focus on my partner and the movement.
4. I try and focus on zanshin and maintain martial presence. (Yes, we have fun, there is smiling and laughing at times during practice) but most of the time there is a serious intensity.

I’ve seen students of all ranks try and correct their partner and here’s why you don’t want to do that.

First and foremost, that’s poor etiquette. There is only one teacher teaching at a time in an Aikido class. Even if that teacher is junior rank to someone in the class. So when you stop your partners practice to correct them even if you’re trying to help you are indirectly not following proper etiquette. Just like if you stepped on the mat without bowing to O’Sensei, same thing, bad etiquette.

Now even if your partner is showing you the correct way by correcting you, it shouldn’t be done. Let the teacher correct your partner or help them, etc. You want to be a good uke and follow your partners movement to the best of your ability and theirs and practice. Plain and simple. The only time you should open your mouth is if there is a safety issue. E.g. your partner has the wrong grip, or speed and you ultimately feel you are going to get hurt or your partner is going to get hurt, that’s the time to speak up briefly.

As Westerners, we are very verbal. We want to help each other. In our daily life, maybe we’re teachers, or leaders, or managers and that personality comes out on the mat. Remember that the best way to learn is to train, not talk. Your partner that you are correcting certainly isn’t going to learn as you explain verbally what they are doing wrong. Keep this in mind too, it’s expected that you do the technique with mistakes in the beginning. The instructor wants you to get the gross movements down before they get into a hundred details. So again, when you are correcting someone you are training with you are not following the instructors plan for that class too.

Finally, there are times when Blackbelts (A lot of Shodans, Nidan’s and some Sandans) will correct their partner at a seminar because they are a teacher at their dojo. Same rules apply above. This is poor etiquette. I find this extremely insulting to the instructor who is teaching, usually a Shihan. Your job is to train and help your partner by being a good uke, cooperating in the movement, moving yourself in position to help them ‘discover the technique’ it’s definitely not your job to resist, challenge, or test your partner.

So my advice is if you are guilty of ‘teaching’ when you’re not supposed to, stop and reflect on that. You can help your partner without opening your mouth once. 90% of communication is non-verbal. And if you are that person that is being corrected by a partner and they are preventing you from training, real simple. Make a Ritsurei (Standing Bow) to your partner, thank them and then go find a new training partner.

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