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#132250 - 03/26/03 07:31 PM Question the master: capital offense?
raccoon Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 02/09/03
Posts: 848
Loc: Victoria BC Canada
For those of you who train with more traditional Japanese instructors; is there any good time/ reason for a *beginner* to talk back/ question his sensei? Even if you ask in a respectful manner, will you still consider the act disrespectful? (To question your sensei's teaching)

So far... by talking back, I accomplished nothing but finding something to regret later. It might take me a few months, but eventually I will go, "ah ha, that's why he makes us do blah blah blah..., I shouldn't have protested."

I could only think of one case when my instructor told me "you are right, I am wrong. I will go study some more", and that's when I challenged him about his idea of women in budo.

Share your experiences/ view, SVP!

-raccoon

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#132251 - 03/27/03 06:42 AM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
JohnL Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 03/24/03
Posts: 4309
Loc: NY, NY, USA
As a beginner, you will no doubt have a lot of questions. I suggest working through the class and at the end working out what your real questions are. If you question things the second they occur, this might disrupt the flow of the lesson and your question may have been answered in the next technique of the class anyway.

ASK QUESTIONS ALWAYS.

You are there to learn and if there are things you don't understand, the instructor has a responsibility to explain them to you. Whether you agree/disagree with his explanation is another matter.

Further, when you receive an explanation, listen to what your instructor says and make sure you understand it. I can't abide some of the explanations given that are vague and wrapped up in psuedo oriental clap trap. This is generally done by people who don't know the answer to a question and are too lazy or miopic to research and find out.

Good luck

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#132252 - 03/27/03 05:30 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
MrVigerous Offline
Former Administrator

Registered: 04/17/01
Posts: 2498
Loc: UK
Asking questions is fine in my opinion as long as you don't monopolise the class time. I'm always happy to be questioned and to ask for clarification, explanation and reasoning. What really does irritate me however is when someone who clearly doesn't know what they are talking about contradicts me with a flat "no that's wrong, you could do this or that" or "that won't work because of this or I could do this". This usualy illicits one of two responses from me. Either I will ask them to show me and then illustrate why they are wrong. The reasonable student accepts this and then learns (if not they can take a hike). The other response (typicaly directed at persistent offenders) is "yes you might be right" followed by carrying on doing exactly what I was doing anyway. It's fine to ask questions but don't become a contradictory pain in the arse. Quite frankly anyone who is in a position to contradict their instructor at every turn should bog off and run their own class because they clearly don't need instruction.

Regds
Mr V

[This message has been edited by MrVigerous (edited 03-27-2003).]

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#132253 - 03/27/03 07:36 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
Jamoni Offline
Veteran

Registered: 01/17/03
Posts: 1514
Loc: St. Louis, MO, USA
It's all about tact. Don't say "Hey, I think you are wrong!" Say: "Sensei, I don't understand the application of this technique. Could you show me?" If you still disagree, then just don't use that technique. If this happens too often, find an instructor more in line with your ideas.

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#132254 - 03/27/03 11:13 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
raccoon Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 02/09/03
Posts: 848
Loc: Victoria BC Canada
Thank you for the responses. I am afraid I didn't ask my question right though, so let me try again. (Geez, english is hard...)

In my experience, american instructors have no problem with questions from beginners. In fact I get the impression that they encourage it. That is, as long as it's not put forth in a way that is disrespectful, or presented as a challenge to the sensei, or asked at time that will disrupt the class... as you all have pointed out.

However, I also get the impression that it's a grave mistake to question Japanese masters, especially the old school ones. They tend to get annoyed. I get the impression that the older guys just want you to do your homework and figure it out by yourself. They like to play the good old "Zen" game.

I have had many doubts over my current instructor's training method in the past two years; and even though Shihan encourages us to ask questions, for some reasons I am always afraid to. And for most (but not all) of the questions that I meant to ask but never find the courage to, I eventually figured them out all by myself. Generally speaking, I am glad I didn't ask, because I would have made a fool of myself, and I would have showed disrespect and distrust to a very experienced man when I am only an uninitiated and uninformed beginner.

So my question really is: if you are a beginner, is it better to turn a blind eye to all the doubts and questions you have about your training and just do as you are told, even though you don't understand or disagree with it? I understand most of you are western instructors and have a very open mindset and attitude, which I do appreciate. However, I would also like to hear from people who have trained under some "old school" Japanese instructors. Do you find yourself with the same fear/ hesitation to ask? Did you ask anyway? Did you regret it, or are you glad you asked?

Bushin
-raccoon

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#132255 - 03/28/03 04:27 AM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
taebot Offline
Veteran

Registered: 01/14/03
Posts: 1166
Loc: KANSAS
I have heard several instructors whom have transplanted to the United States, no scratch that, to the Americas, talk about the freedom, the exchange of ideas, how martial arts are better than anywhere else in the world.

Our culture is in exact opposition to the norms for the Asian cultures. We worship the individual, hence the ability to question and accept being questioned. Look at the way we hound and question our leaders. You don't see that in Beijing...

For example, most of my current mentors and instructors are multi-style practitioners who hold annual seminars where you can train with different instructors and ask THEM questions too! An instructor from the Americas is usually confident enough in her/himself to allow this questioning. Not always. There are plenty of guys on pedestals here too. [IMG]http://www.fightingarts.com/forums/ubb/wink.gif[/IMG]

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#132256 - 03/28/03 08:22 AM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
MrVigerous Offline
Former Administrator

Registered: 04/17/01
Posts: 2498
Loc: UK
I agree with Taebot. I can't speak for the USA but here in the UK, sensible questioning is encouraged. After all, students come to learn from you and it would appear pointless to the Western perception of the student / teacher dynamic if questioning was off limits. Im certainly of the view that if somebody asks me a question and they will benefit more from the answer than from finding out for themsleves then they should be enlightened. There certainly are still instructors knocking about who believe in the "I show you once, you figure it out" method, but I personaly think this is unhelpful if applied to beginners. If your instructor tears a strip off of you because you can't perform a technique correctly and you dared to ask for clarification then frankly i'd find another instructor. A person like that is clearly on some sort of ego trip and needs to go out of business. I'm not saying that yours is like that necessarily but don't be blinded by a person's reputation into accepting second rate instruction.

Regsd
Mr V

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#132257 - 03/28/03 09:00 AM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
Chen Zen Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 02/09/03
Posts: 7043
Loc: Ms
Question everything. Once you see all sides of a technique then its applications become clear. A good teacher wants his students to learn all they can and is eager to answer the questions of his pupil.

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#132258 - 03/28/03 12:56 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
JohnL Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 03/24/03
Posts: 4309
Loc: NY, NY, USA
The same applies regardless of nationality.

The sooner we stop letting the Japanese instructors get away with the, "how dare you ask a question" the better.

I believe that generally the lack of explanation given by Oriental instructors is due to a lack of language skills. If they choose to teach a group who speaks english, they should teach in english.

Sometimes this inability to communicate can be misinterpreted as arrogance.

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#132259 - 03/28/03 02:15 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
raccoon Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 02/09/03
Posts: 848
Loc: Victoria BC Canada
[QUOTE]Originally posted by MrVigerous:
If your instructor tears a strip off of you because you can't perform a technique correctly and you dared to ask for clarification then frankly i'd find another instructor. A person like that is clearly on some sort of ego trip and needs to go out of business. [/QUOTE]

Mr. V, you can be so harsh [IMG]http://www.fightingarts.com/forums/ubb/biggrin.gif[/IMG]

My current instructor never discourage me from asking, but my experiences with Japanese sensei in the past 5 years tell me not to question unless absolutely necessary. Before I head off to my first aikido seminar a year ago, my Canadian sensei also gave us some major, explicit warnings about asking Kawahara shihan to clearify things, because when he gets annoyed, our instructors get the exquisit experience of seiza'ing for hours.

[QUOTE]Originally posted by JohnL:
The sooner we stop letting the Japanese instructors get away with the, "how dare you ask a question" the better.[/QUOTE]

I have to admit I feel nervous about correcting someone with 30+ more years of experience in karate, especially when his title is "shihan" - "teacher of teacher"... are rookies like me qualified to correct him, really?

I actually posted because I recently have been on a few ... "defiance trip" (?) with my instructor. I have been having problem with his attitude with women trainees for a while. Shihan openly admits he doesn't know how to train women. Another member here recently posted about women being patronized in martial arts; in other threads, women and children also seem to be blamed for watering down of martial arts. I personally feel it's the instructor's responsibility if he decides to bring the intensity/ discipline of the entire dojo down just to accomodate a few women. A few years ago, there were no women in my dojo. They were all rejected. Then Shihan has to start admitting them because of the law, for a while we had one woman, which is fine. One woman in a dojo full of macho guys means she has to adjust. If she gets knocked down and didn't like it, tough, take a hike and find a slower dojo. But now, we are up to 6 women, most if not all of them get away with murder. A few days ago I got a world class scolding for hitting one of them "too hard".

I don't remember the seniors getting yelled at when I was starting, I was literally brutalized. My shin, quad, chest, knees, arms were black and blue; I got the wind knocked out of me, as soon as I get back up I got knocked down again, and again, and again. When I started crying, I was made to continue sparring while choking in my own tears, and did 3 raps of muscle conditioning in tears, plus thousands of raps of kihon for the next 3 hours. In my first ground fight, I was paired up with Shihan. He did some particular painful ankle locks and I was screaming, tapping frantically, he just laugh and continue to pin harder. The seniors stand at the side and jokingly called me a wimp. I don't feel bitter about it, that's how I learnt mental toughness and tolerance.

This girl that I hit in the stomach was not crying. She didn't fold over either. She showed me a few bruises later, which I don't feel particular sympathetic or guilty about, and I don't think she was whinning about it either. I am getting a little tired of point sparring in a supposedly full contact dojo, so I started putting some force behind my strikes. She says it hurts, but calmly, and with a smile. But then shihan literally jumped up and yelled at me. I started "talking back", but the argument went no where. My Japanese isn't that brilliant; my instructor speaks next to no English. It basically went round and around these two points:
"but I am not hurting her, how will she ever get strong if you won't let her take any contact?"
"but you will break her if you take up the intensity all of a sudden, she is a woman"
"but I am not breaking her"
"but she is a woman, you have to go slow or it will be all screwed up inside"
"but it's okay to KO a beginner boy? But it's not okay to use MILD contact on a woman who has been here for 2 months?"
"she is a girl, she will break"
.
.
.
I had never talk back to a Japanese sensei, knowing I am an ignorant beginner, I try to question little and just do whatever is requested. If a beginner is screaming and shihan tells me to hit harder, I hit harder, even though my conscience says no. If shihan tells me to drink, I drink, even though I am really weak with alcohol and I have school at 8:30 next morning. But now, not only am I talking back, I am arguing...

I saw that the argument is going no where and so I gave up and go back to point sparring with the ladies, and "save up my energies for the boys". Honestly, I feel I am being horribly disrespectful to the ladies, they are here to train, not babied.

Any suggestion how I can break this into my beloved shihan? Or am I still wrong to "question the master"?

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