07 Common traps for Aikido Teachers

posted 26 Jun 2010, 04:01 by Unknown user

People come to learn not to listen.

Although you may have many Dan grades, have worked with many high-ranking instructors and know much more than the average student this is not always interesting to students. Students are much more likely to respond to activities that improve their confidence and are presented in an enjoyable way. The focus should be on them doing rather than just listening about it.


You don’t need to be an expert

Many instructors are under the misapprehension that they need to be an expert to teach, or that they must be able to present some new revelation to the aikido community. Nothing could be further from the truth, as an accredited instructor of Aikido Yuishinkai our responsibility is to present the syllabus to students so that they can practice it. Our task as an instructor/ senior student is just to lead the practice.



Students come to aikido for many reasons and often undergo remarkable changes during their training (mental, physical and spiritual) this is part of the process of doing aikido. It’s important to recognize that we as instructors can be important facilitators for this, but it is the art and not ourselves that brings this about. Often students will want to credit instructors with the profound changes in their lives - it is important to not fall into the trap of believing this (though we should acknowledge our part in helping it) as it is the art of aikido and the students hard work and dedication that have brought about the changes in their lives.


Aikido wasn’t built in a day

Aikido is an art developed over a long period of time and it takes a long time to understand it. Be aware when you have the opportunity to teach that you can’t teach all you know in one class. Don’t try to teach too much, if a student learns only a single technique or principle in a class then that is a very good outcome. Keeping students hungry for more is also important for their development, save something for your next class.


Remain a student

Becoming an instructor has been the end of personal development for many a fine aikido student. Learning, practicing (and receiving) technique through endless repetition is the secret to personal aikido development. As teaching replaces regular training, an instructor can lose fitness and his/her throw count decreases rapidly. Repetition is a well-known tool for learning and internalizing the art. It’s important to find a way to continue to learn. Here are some tips to continue to actively learn.

-       Aikido seminars,

-       Taking another’s class regularly

-       Interacting with other seniors,

-       Undertake some training in other aikido styles and arts (though this should be done with caution)

-       Read widely, and watch DVD’s too


It’s important also to find a way to systematically cover the entire syllabus. Otherwise, without being consciously aware of it, your classes will tend to retreat to favorite techniques and continue to shrink in scope and diversity. It’s important that your students drink from a flowing stream of knowledge rather than a stagnant pool. Please attend seminars and do other peoples classes where possible.


Fantasy Aikido

To a certain extent, we all enjoy the “fantasy of aikido” by donning samurai period clothing and speaking phrases of Japanese and these remain important parts of out practice. However, for many students, they come to aikido for many reasons and have a certain fantasy about martial skills, harmony with the universe, what their sensei should be. Eventually with continued practice a fuller understanding is realized however it is easy to become caught up either you’re own or a students fantasy. Try to be authentic to what you believe and let this show on the mat.  Allow others to make up their own mind about what aikido is.


Development of students

After you have been doing aikido for a while you’ll notice people tend to go through stages of development, such as the

-       ‘This doesn’t work’ of the new student.

-       ‘I’ve got it working’ yellow belt

-       ‘I’ll make it work’ of the green belt

-       ‘I’ve seen this technique before’ of the brown belt

-       The self doubt of the black belt

-       The “what now?” Of the san Dan


Being a bit further down the road, we might have seen this before; mostly each person just needs to work his or her way through this, with a little help. For us as instructors its important to remember that this isn’t just another stage of development * yawn * they are going through, but the most important thing in their training.



As an instructor you may be called upon to give advice from time to time. Often, because of your role of authority you will be presumed to have expertise in all areas of your life and of help to others. Its important to resist the temptation to give advice in areas you do not have recognised expertise. Although you may have strong opinions on a subject e.g. use of recreational drugs, whether student B would like to be asked out etc.. when  the advice comes from you it also comes with the authority imparted to you implicitly by the dojo and can inadvertently mislead those who are often vulnerable people. This is a hard temptation to resist.


Giving of advice is very much a two edged sword, give bad advice and you will be blamed, give good advice and a dependency is created between the student and you.

Instead I recommend an active listening approach, where you might ask simple non invasive questions, proffer view points from a number of points of view,  validate a students concerns just by being a non-judgmental listener and often facilitating the student to make up their own mind.