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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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#132260 - 03/28/03 04:51 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
Anonymous
Unregistered


Racoon, I am glad I train with English instructors who encourage questions, I think a good instructor would. I am also glad that I train with men who think like you do.
However I would never argue with my instructor regardless of nationality. If I disagreed that strongly I would ask him about it as you did. If I disagreed with his answer, I would wait till after the lesson and speak to him outside the dojo. If he and I had such opposing views, I would have to find a different instructor. I don't mean this personally, but I feel it is very disrespectful to argue with an instructor in the dojo, particularly whilst a lesson is in progress.
I would not continue to train a student that argued with me in the dojo.
Sharon

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#132261 - 03/28/03 05:11 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
Khayman Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 03/05/03
Posts: 724
Loc: Wiltshire, UK
I agree: questions are always welcome during and class and after. But arguements are best saved for the bar after training. I agree with wadowoman, I would not train a student that started an arguement with me in the dojo, its disrespectful to me and to the class. If someone strongly disagrees with something, I am very happy to debate after the class and if i'm wrong about something I will acknowledge it.

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#132262 - 03/28/03 06:53 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
Chen Zen Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 02/09/03
Posts: 7043
Loc: Ms
It is easy to say I would acknowledge I am wrong but much harder to do so. It sounds like your Shihan comes from a discipline that had no women in his training and is a little misguided about how to treat these women. Especially if they are there and he doesnt want them to be. Personally I would have to find a new instructor. While his skills may be great, being a teacher to someone isn't about technique alone and when teaching you should also be open to learning.

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#132263 - 03/31/03 12:39 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
judderman Offline
Veteran

Registered: 08/06/01
Posts: 1400
Loc: UK
There is a definate mixture of Japanese instructors.

I have been warned that some will not even talk to you if you are not of a particular rank, other welcome it.

You have to remember the culture that these people come from. Rank and status are still very important in many areas of Japanese culture.

This notion is not just confined to Japan of course.

Ask questions, but you should not question the answer. This would either make you look stupid or worse, rude. As has been said wait till afterwards, or ask someone else later.

Remember not all teaching styles are the same. I heard of an instructor who's English was terrible, so in order to point out you were doing something wrong he would stand in front of you, point and laugh!!

I even remember my first grading under a Japanese instructor. There I am in the best Zenkutsu I can muster, he comes round and pokes my arse

"Baby Bottom. Tense it!!" he says

How do you argue that??


Unfortunetly I also remember the first time I lost a great deal of respect for my Sensei. I asked if he knew of any knife defences, as a friend was trying to evaluate the threat of knives at work.

He mearly replied "perhaps they should be more concerned about how they get them in there".

I never got my answer and I never asked a similar question again. A few years later I stopped training under him.

Budo.

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#132264 - 03/31/03 12:43 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
Chen Zen Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 02/09/03
Posts: 7043
Loc: Ms
Judderman, while I could see the disappointment in your sensei's answer he also raised a great point. The answer he gave you wouldnt teach you technique but would eleviate the need for the technique which I think in most cases is more effective than the technique itself.

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#132265 - 03/31/03 05:35 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
raccoon Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 02/09/03
Posts: 848
Loc: Victoria BC Canada
Thanx for the replies, I think I am going to give it a little bit more time.

Except for the issue with woman trainees, all other questions I hold about Shihan's teachings resolved themselves in time.

Besides, my dojo is in intense training mode again, preparing for Canadian Kyokushin championship. I really don't have the gut to piss with Shihan right now. I am surprised and grateful that he let me survive his "gentle introduction to tournament special trainings"; surely I am not going start telling him how he is going too easy on some of us. If things don't get better after the tournament, I might possibly "confront" him again about this, and I will do so in writing, so that hopefully I don't say anything hasty and regretable.

Thanx again!

-raccoon

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#132266 - 04/01/03 07:21 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
ishinnick Offline
Member

Registered: 12/25/02
Posts: 182
Loc: Ontario, Canada
Arguing with a Kyokushin Shihan !! Your'e a brave man my friend !! That is a style that I would not really think was suited to very many ladies and no I'm not trying to start a sexist war here but that is such a hard style with knock down fighting etc. I have got to be honest in saying at my ripe old age I would not want to try training at a Kyokushin Dojo so it is not just tough for the ladies. And you would not want to see the style watered down either so if you are going to fight that style you should be prepared for the worst !!

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#132267 - 06/05/03 01:39 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
malanr Offline
Member

Registered: 05/30/03
Posts: 66
Loc: IN USA
Raccoon-

JohnL was right, question, question everything, But before you question think about it first.

As for the sexest view, find a better instructor.

Chen zen, good answer on the knife issue.
but, i also think that if the master wants to give that kind of an answer, he may only be worried about himself. It would only take Raccoon a couple weeks to practice and affect a few knife attack defenses, but it would take years and cooperation and lots of money to install Metal detectors, or pay friskers at the door to solve the bigger problem. Solutions for big problems are often found in small form!

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#132268 - 06/08/03 08:07 AM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
Ender Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/29/03
Posts: 2253
Loc: Burlington, Ontario, Canada
hold hold hold on!

Raccoon:

Your instructor sounds extremely brutal, and does he often tell you to drink? I cant imagine what kind of Sensei actually puts pressure on a school kid (like myself) to drink? Im sure you get good trainig with the intensity level your at, but it sounds like your cruising for some serious injury later on, if your Sensei is as careless as youve made him out to seem to be.

As for training women, I believe in completely equal training levels. If they cant handle the intensity level, well, try HARDER.

Those who can't, arent trying hard enough.

And don't give me any of that "I can't fly" Bullsh*t. Shutup and keep trying!

[This message has been edited by Ender (edited 06-08-2003).]

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#132269 - 07/18/03 09:25 PM Re: Question the master: capital offense?
smittenkittenTKD Offline
Member

Registered: 06/29/03
Posts: 232
Loc: MI usa
i agree with ender...making you drink when you have school? your introduction?

you should definatly be able to seek answers to your questions,thats what makes you a better martial artist. as long as you dont contradict on the floor during a class, but ask respectfully later,i dont see why anyone would have a problem with that. your instructor doesnt know everything, he (or she) is still growing in their knowledge too.

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