06 Developing Teaching Skills

posted 26 Jun 2010, 03:59 by Unknown user

Teaching skills are something that develops over time. Right from the second day you stepped into a dojo, you were someone’s senior and thus had something to teach him or her. In ‘Budo’, the senior student (‘sempai’) is expected to look out for their junior (‘kohai’) student. This is the only model that exists. The opportunity and responsibility to teach is another example of this. Thus, an instructor (and his or her skills) is developed over a long period of apprenticeship in the dojo. Formal appointment as an instructor tends to just happen on its own one day, as there is need maybe through opening a dojo or helping out at your own dojo. 

Apprenticeship model

Teaching skills are developed, usually through the example of instructors and seniors. Opportunity to use these skills and develop as one becomes more senior in the dojo. In every class one works with juniors and has an opportunity to pass on some knowledge. One day you may be asked to work with a new student with the introductory class, then to take the beginners course or help with the kids class, these are the beginnings of formalizing the teaching process. Senior students may be asked to supervise groups of students doing set techniques and then asked to take a group of students and teach a technique. Taking a portion of the class and then relief teaching (whilst the regular instructor is away) are part of becoming an instructor in a natural progressive way.

Its not about you

In general teaching is actually not about you, how much you know, what insights you have into aikido or how good you are in Tanninzugake. Instructing is essentially about passing on our lineage of aikido, where you demonstrate technique and then allow students to practice this amongst themselves. Whilst it easiest to teach from an autobiographical point of view (where you are currently at in your personal aikido journey) its much more important to work on where the students are at in their development. Fortunately in the Aikido Yuishinkai school and in many others there is usually a grading syllabus, which is designed for just this purpose. The techniques and level (Kotai, Juntai, Ryotai for Yuishinkai) are appropriate for students of that level though it’s important to remember that the syllabus is much larger than just that used for gradings (the entire syllabus is available on Aikido Yuishinkai website)

Leading minds

As instructors we have the responsibility to lead the minds of our students. This begins mostly with what we do rather than what we say.

Our enthusiasm is our outward manifestations of our love and dedication to the art. This is one of the most important things we can pass on to students. It’s reflected in our punctuality, happiness to be at training and in the classes we prepare.

The rhythm and ritual of class play an important part in running a smooth class. Many of the activities in class are expected by students like the order of the warm-ups – this serves to calm peoples minds and prepare them for the class ahead.


  Class lesson plans

IN our own school Maruyama sensei and Williams sensei are experts at leading out minds from a simple exercise that develops over and entire class to expression in technique. Each teacher usually develops their own style over time, blending a mix of formality, informality, and sometimes humour. Some instructors spend all class on just one technique; others whirl through many. Its important to recognise that you cannot be an exact copy of another teacher, just be authentic to yourself and allow your style to develop naturally over time.

Simple ideas are to teach a single technique and explore facets of it through a whole class, choose a concept or teach techniques from a single attack.

The format for a class is often laid out and the time available is shorter than you might think e.g. warmups, taiso, basic skills, core teaching, tanninzugake, kokyu dosa or breathing.