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Relationship, Roles & Responsibilities of Sensei and Students

About Traditional AikidoPosted by Billy McAuley Sat, June 10, 2017 12:07:07

I have searched for a published article that best describes what I believe the relationship, roles and responsibilities are between an Aikido sensei and their students and could not find one, so below is my attempt at doing this:

As mentioned in an earlier blog Aikido cannot exist without Uke (attacker/receiver) and Tori (the person who performs the Aiki wasa / Aikido technique):

The sensei’s role is:

To teach Aikido including, but not limited to:

All the basic Aikido techniques (kihon wasa) as described in the Club’s or Association’s grading syllabus, other basics such as proper posture, basic and advanced movements as well as weapons

Provide a safe and suitable place and environment for the practice of the art of Aikido

Provide a clear understanding of the responsibilities and roles of both tori and of uke in Aikido training

Take full responsibility for the care, welfare, growth and development of their students; the Club & the Ryu (group/way/style) in the correct and best way possible

Pass on the overarching Aikido principles of rei / respect, etiquette & more

Pass on the philosophy and a clear understanding of the philosophy that underpins the Japanese art of Aikido and that, as Aikidoka, dictates and governs the way we behave and everything that we do within the art of Aikido

Ensure that the Club / Dojo is set-up and run in a principled, ethical and equitable manner, in line with the Club’s, its Association’s and its Affiliate’s current constitution, rules and regulations and that the Club / Dojo does not bring any form of disrepute to itself, its Association, its Affiliates and/or the art of Aikido

Any other relationship, roles & responsibilities, suggestions are welcomed!!!

Student’s role is:

To learn Aikido including, but not limited to:

Train hard and learn in an honest, thoughtful and respectful manner

Come to training regularly, so that the sensei does not have to continually repeat instruction and class planning and that your fellow student’s progress is not hampered

Read, understand & observe the principles of rei / respect and etiquette of Aikido

Be open minded, eager, energetic and honest in their training

Have pride in the art of Aikido, your fellow club members, your Association, its Affiliates and all other Aikidoka. Avoid self-pride as it is counter-productive to personal development

Do the best that they can in their training, for the Club, the Ryu, their Association, its Affiliates and for their fellow students both senior and junior (sempai & kohai)

Study correct and effective application of Aikido techniques

As uke, present at training clean and prepared, ensure that your finger and toe nails are clean and cut short so to avoid injury to others, avoid blocking which is counter-productive to the learning process for both uke and tori and will not be tolerated in an Aikido training environment

As tori, present at training clean and prepared, ensure that your finger and toe nails are clean and cut short so to avoid injury to others, take care of their uke and use a level of technique and power of technique that promotes their own and their uke’s development and learning but, does not place them at risk of injury

As Aikidoka, ensure that you behave in a principled, ethical and equitable manner, conduct yourself in line with the Club’s, its Association’s and its Affiliate’s current constitution, rules and regulations and that you do not act in a way that brings any form of disrepute on yourself, your fellow club members, your Club / Dojo, its Association, its Affiliates, fellow Aikidoka and/or the art of Aikido

Any other relationship, roles & responsibilities, suggestions are welcomed!!!

Relationship between sensei, their uke and students:

In order to teach Aikido (in fact in order for Aikido to exist) the Sensei needs to demonstrate Aikido techniques to the students in the class and to guide them through the correct and effective execution of those techniques. This execution and guidance will result in a lot of repetition, the Japanese word that describes this concept is: ‘Kufuu’ which means ‘to polish the stone’ or ‘to polish your spirit’.

In any demonstration of an Aikido technique the uke is of equal importance in the demonstration as the Sensei and probably, for the safety of students, even more important. In order to demonstrate a technique, Sensei will select their uke from among their student group, usually their uke is one of the students whom the Sensei believes is the best and most capable student to use when demonstrating the Aikido technique to the class as Sensei knows that the selected uke is capable of safely receiving the technique and at varying levels of speed and power. The sensei also believes that the selected student performs the ukemi in the most correct form and in the safest way possible and that the other students will learn from that uke’s execution of their ukemi.

Being selected as your Sensei’s uke is an honour it means that your Sensei respects what you have achieved so far as a student and that they believe in your abilities at being able to accept their uke safely and that your ukemi is the best example of how they believe the ukemi should be performed and should be emulated by the rest of the student body.

Recently, I was pleased to learn a new Japanese word ‘Shuhari’ - しゅはり –

守破離 - The three stages of learning mastery: the fundamentals; breaking with tradition, parting with traditional wisdom: In Japan the traditional method of learning mastery in a traditional art is to ‘steel the art’ from the master. For example an apprentice Sushi chef has to carefully watch what the experienced Sushi chef is doing and gradually over several years ‘steal that art’ from his master. Of course the master is aware of the process and pays keen attention to the progress of his apprentice, corrects them when they make an error and shows them (lets them see) new skills as and when the master believes their student is ready.

‘Shuhari’ sounds like what was happening for me during my time in Japan. The only time I picked up a Jo in Japan was when my teacher, after class came back on the mat holding a Jo and invited me to grab hold. He would then chuck me about for 10 or 15 minutes and would leave the Jo with me and then leave the Dojo. I in turn would ask a fellow student to do some Jo training with me and try to chuck the other student around and be chucked around by them. Also, at the end of training in Japan we had about 20 to 30 minutes of free time, we used this time by approaching a sempai (senior) we admired and asked to receive their uke, this was part of our learning process. We got battered but, we learned a lot.

Another thing my teacher said was "you cannot see real Aikido you can only feel it".

I was fortunate to feel it from him on several occassions but, only when the time was right and I was ready. It was a mystery when I found an eighty year old man that with barely a touch could spin me in the air and then step back so I could land, be completely winded and have him step forward, look down on me and ask "are you ok" to which I gasped, "I will be in about five minutes". That was a special feeling; that was real Aikido; that was kokyu ryoku, ‘the power of breath’: He got it and I want it, maybe one day!!! When my teacher went to see O Sensei off at the Airport when he was going to Hawaii for the first time, O Sensei took my teacher to one side and said to him, “by all means possible you must get kokyu ryoku”, ‘the power of breath’:

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