090) Enter The Dojo & Check Your Ego In At The Door: March 2012

I am both proud and impressed with the level of budo being practiced at our dojo.  Senior students are making significant progress in developing Aiki/internal power skills and incorporating it into the execution of waza and kata.  Senior students are really displaying good teaching skills in helping beginning students to focus on these aspects of our practice.  That being said, there are real areas of concern that I have that need to be openly discussed.  The areas of concern related directly to your role and nage and uke.  I want you to read/reread the following blogs:

1) Blog 003.    http://aasbk.com/blog/the-role-of-nage-week-of-september-8-2008/

2) Blog 004.   http://aasbk.com/blog/week-of-september-15-2008-the-role-of-the-uke/

Now that the overall level of training has improved, the risk of injury has risen as well.  It is my job as a teacher to protect the dojo.  In order to fulfill this obligation, I need to address this increased risk of injury directly.  People are developing better integrated bodies.  That means that as uke, you are better able to ground out the actions of the nage.  That means that as nage, you are better able to deliver a greater degree of force to the uke.  These two factors alone, increase the risk of injury.  If you add to this mix any issues related to your sense of self and accomplishment, this risk can increase to what I consider to be unacceptable levels.

The uke is the teacher.  Regardless of the rank of your uke, at that moment, the uke is YOUR teacher.  That means that as an uke, you have a great responsibility to be a good teacher.  That means that you attack sensibly and totally in control.  Your attack needs to be accurately gauged to the level of the nage.  Overwhelming the nage with an attack that is beyond the nage’s ability is a useless act as an educator.  On the other side of the coin, providing an attack that a slight breeze of air could halt is also a useless act as an educator.  The role of the uke does not stop when the attack ends.  The uke has a responsibility to guide the nage to the point where a technique can be performed (hopefully at a high level for that nage) to a successful completion.  If you simply ground the nage’s actions out, what exactly have you accomplished as the teacher?  You are still responsible for your own learning, which can be accomplished by working on your ukemi skills.  That does not mean acting like a circus acrobat.  That means that you can learn how to keep your structure intact while allowing the nage to create kazushi.  That means that you can learn how to change levels, while keeping an intact structure, while maintaining a connection to the nage.  It may look and feel like a seamless, silent roll to the nage, while you are creating the conditions that enable you to remain safe, and if need be, attack in another manner, from another level.  This is too much to ask for a beginning student.  The beginning student is simply learning how to attack effectively and receive the technique in a manner that allows the student receive the technique safely.  That might mean, improving your rolls and it can also mean learning how not to get your joints hurt when a joint lock is being applied.

The nage is the student, regardless of the rank.  The nage’s role is to be in a safe state of readiness.  The nage’s role is to safely address the attack in a manner that allows the student to work on executing a technique in response to the attack.  The nage’s responsibility is to execute a technique in a controlled and safe manner.  If you are having trouble executing a technique, greater speed and force is not an acceptable answer.  You can ask the uke what is being experienced.  You can ask yourself what are you experiencing.  You can relax and slow down to the point to which can you be cognizant of what is going on.  You need to maintain an integrated structure.  You need to be connected to the uke.  You need to keep the uke from connecting to your center.  You need to move in a manner that maintains all of these points mentioned.  You need to be aware of what you are doing to the uke so that the execution of the technique is done as safely as possible.

I am asking a lot of the uke and nage.  In order for you to continue your training as both uke and nage, you need to be fully aware of what “space” you are in when you walk through the dojo door.  If you have had a bad day, you are the one who is responsible for not taking that bad day and introducing that “bad space” into your training with your partner.  Taking out your frustrations and anger of the day onto the mat, simply places people (including yourself) at risk of being injured.  Executing a technique roughly is just as bad as grounding out the nage so that the nage is left frustrated and upset.  None of us are perfect and all of us have a shared responsibility to see to it that our egos are checked in at the door when we enter the dojo.  We need to be  able to effectively communicate with one another about our experiences in this dojo so they do not get acted out in our practice.  It is okay to tell the other person that you are getting frustrated and upset.  It is okay to say that you are having trouble working with a particular person in that class.  This type of communication needs to be conveyed to the teacher as well.  It is our shared responsibility to walk the fine line of increasing the level of our training, while maintaining a safe training atmosphere.  I cannot do this alone and need everybody’s active participation in this endeavor.

I take my responsibilities as head of this dojo very, very seriously.  I expect you to take your training seriously as well.  I expect you to be responsible for your actions in this dojo.  That means that you must be fully cognizant of the mental “space” that you bring with you into the dojo, so that you can learn to manage this “space” to sustain a successful training experience for you and your partner.  This is an important part of your training.  When bad things happen, your training in managing your psychological space can help to determine a successful outcome to  the bad situation.  We can all benefit from this area of training being openly discussed and worked on within our training paradigms.

I am fully engaged in the process of having every student raise their martial arts ability to the highest level possible.  That will mean that you will become better communicators.  That will mean that you will become more humble in practice.  That will mean that you will be open to experience the most positive potential for personal transformation that this nature of practice opens up to you.  I will continue to address issues that arise both personally and as a group, when they threaten the well-being of this dojo.  Martial arts practice is inherently dangerous and injuries and accidents can occur.  The important thing is that we are all involved in creating the highest level of practice in the safest manner possible.

Train Hard, Train Safe!

Marc Abrams Sensei

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