Training Update: Uncooperative partners

Bloody-assholesEvery Aikido person (or martial artist) will come to relate to this situation that I’m going to share with you.

This is not any situation in particular, but rather something that I’ve only noticed recently: Partners that don’t play the game of Aikido when it is appropriate. Now this train of thought came after experiences with a particular individual, which I will now share.

An old fellow whom we are going to call Bob is a white belt that has been coming to my dojo for the past three or four months. Apparently, he and his ex-wife are doing something to perhaps rekindle their relationship. From what I have observed and talk to with my sensei, it seems that aikido is that thing.

Unfortunately, “Bob” exhibits the classic mistakes white belts usually make: extreme tensing of muscles and stiffness in the movements. What is more unfortunate is that Bob also has a very strong ego/I. I do not know this earlier but apparently he and his ex-wife had trained at the Aikikai headquarters in Tokyo in the 70s and were ranked shodans. Apparently they haven’t been training for the past 30 years.

Now I have no problem with people trying to relearn him a martial art (that was my own martial arts journey). What I did have a problem with was their attitudes. Whenever my sensei would release the class to practice a technique, it wouldn’t take much for either of them to begin to lecture their respective partners about “how the technique should be”. This was my experience with Bob doing the class with Kinoshita Sensei. I won’t get into details, but there was a point where I just want to the punch boxing the face for simply stating that he was a former shodan and that the technique “was this, and not that”.

Basically I had a couple of my buttons pushed being around this man. So for that particular exchange, I consciously, honestly, and purposefully became a very good uke. This meant that his “technique” didn’t catch my center, which meant that in my smart ass world – and Aikido world – he wasn’t doing the technique properly.

Which was contradictory to what he said earlier stating that his technique (or his interpretation) was correct.

What ended up happening was simply me expressing my smart ass attitude – and martial skill – to him that his technique wasn’t working. Whether or not he realized it (I’m sure he did after a while) I don’t know.

A week after the incident, the only conclusion that I arrived to was perhaps that I should have been more direct to him in a civil manner rather than a smartass manner. Also upon reflection I believe getting sensei’s attention would have been a wiser move. I was also looking forward to him attending one of the classes of my other Sensei – the one that frequently doesn’t mind using techniques on his students to prove a point.

Much to my surprise, he did not hit Bob at all. I caught glances at their exchange a few partners away and somehow NSS (the Sensei) was able to connect with Bob on a seemingly emotional level. I don’t know what NSS did, but whatever he did it worked and I’ve not had any problem with Bob as of late.


I had a similar incident to his ex-wife a few weeks before this where I had to say some very choice words to her in the middle of class. I reported this to WS (my main Sensei) with a sense of embarrassment since he knows I can be a bit of a smart ass. Surprisingly he told me about their situation with some advice and information on how to deal with them.

But all in all, I come to get along with most people. I seem to have the unrivaled skill of either making people comfortable with me or pressing people’s buttons. What I’ve discovered is that the people I get along with tend to fall in a graph similar to that of a bell curve; I get along with the majority while on the extremes lie that people who are either get along very well with, or the people want absolutely cannot work with me.

Three other examples come to mind whenever I think of that partners; one is now a fourth degree black belt whom I avoid training with whenever given the choice  (the feeling is mutual). Another is a third-degree black belt whom I’m actually comfortable with now – BUT it took a long time, almost 3 years until we were comfortable training with each other. And last but not least there is a 3rd kyu where he and I almost had a physical altercation on one of the first trading days that we had met. That was 4 1/2 years ago; now I am happy to say that we have both found a very happy medium where we respect each other and train will love each other

…For the most part

I guess I’m a galvanizing student to say the least. Till next time.


5 thoughts on “Training Update: Uncooperative partners

  1. Never had an experienced BB make a return. Experienced the following:
    – Had some level of experience in martial art X and could not transition to Y
    – Had some level of experience in certain style of tae kwon do or kung fu and did not like how my current (now past) teachers were teaching tkd or kf.

    I’ve had a few teachers increase the pain to make these folks leave. Either bury them in warm-up drills or, as my last KF instructor did, make the class do 30 min. of arm desensitization drills. (basically beating each other’s arms with KF blocks)

    My fav. was some dillrod who came to my kung fu school saying he had studied several styles Ninjitsu and wanted a refresher before he went to China to train with the Shaolin Monks. Old KF teacher put him on one side of the room and told him he could practice his Ninjitsu there alone. When he wanted to trying Preying Mantis he could join us. The kid never came back.

    Two former shodans with egos — that could be hard. At some point if they don’t stop I would hope that your sensei would have a chat with them. That, or just put them on the receiving end of good technique until they shut up!

    I guess we both need more polishing. 😉

  2. There was a similar incident (or prolonged series of incidents) at my dojo that a particular person refused to take any sort teaching, week after week he was making the same mistakes, was constantly tense, would never relax etc etc. Was my intention to make a post looking for advice on how to “deal” with this problem. I have heard that during my enforced hiatus he has since left so I guess thats a good thing but I do hope there was no bad feelings that caused him to leave.

  3. In my years I met many Bobs and many smartass partners that wanted to show me why my technique was not working in the way they intended (this is something maybe for you to think about: are you sure you were correcting him according to what sensei was showing or just according to your own whimps?)..

    But you told me before you do not travel much.. my suggestion is: get used to it! I was easy at the beginning to get irritated when partners were becomnig teachers during the seminar.. Now I just try to give my best performing the technique as close as possible to what the sensei has been showing and when these people get very annoying I let them do, espoecially at seminars. I am not the one that should tell them they are not doing the technique properly.. otherwise I become a Bob as well..

    Having these people in the dojo is a completely different thing though: you are now a black belt right? Also instructor sometimes? (sorry.. long time I could not really follow your blog..) Then the situation is the opposite: as instructor I usually show on the mats why I like the technique done in some ways, emphasizing that there is not only one way possible.. but that is the way I do.. and I want the students trying that way!
    Off the mats ,after practice, I would continue saying that there are differnet dojos that maybe do Bob’s way so if he is not interested to learn or try at least my way he can look for hiw own path.. 道.. at the end is part of the lerning..

    I have never been and I do not want to be a professional teacher also for tihs reasons: better lose a student (and a member) if there is no intention form his side to learn. I have seen clubs where people do all what they want and the teacher keep them for not losing their memberships.. useless!

    For a teacher though the challegne is to understnd if Bob is tensed and difficult for physical reasons or mental ones and how interested he can be in learning something different..

    Hombu dojo in Tokyo in the 70s was tough!! Big time tough! I’ll be there in 3 weeks now and every time I end up with one of the old guys as partner I cry (you usually do not change partner during the 1 hour session) 😉

    Aikido has developed and changed extremely in the past 30-40 years!

    But I am writing too much, sorry…

    In conclusion: get used to Bobs! Every seminar I have been (and used to travel every weekend.. soon maybe again) you always meet 2-3 at least.

    The best was in the huge Tanabe 2008 IAF seminar my Norwegian teacher forgot black belt and hakama in Tokyo (he is an extremely good 3.dan) and during practice he hs been corrected by all the kinds of white belts beginners!!! It was a good laugh.. for us! Many black belts on the other hand asked him his level 😉

    And last words (about this), keep your being smartass under control.. maybe your partner is not intentionally being difficult or doing different (if I do my technique a billion time and then I want to try your teacher version, maybe it takes time to get it more or less right) 🙂

    Hope to meet you soon on the mats and not piss you off!!

  4. Bob – Polishing indeed! Both of my Sensei did have a “talk” – more like spent some time with them, and both have cooled down – as far as I could see. It’s sad though; when Sensei releases us to practice our technique(s) sometimes I would stay behind either out of laziness or just to let people come to me to train. I notice that these two were avoided by everyone in the dojo – even by the black belts!

    itsbecauseican – Glad to have you back! As for your story, it takes newbies a while to relax, especially if they’re particularly tense people. I know I did!

    Andy – To be honest, I wasn’t PURPOSEFULLY derailing his technique. But his attitude by that point was borderline belligerent! I’ll admit that I should not have been a smartass and I was backpedalling, but it was a very uncomfortable partnership to say the least! As for being a smartass, I find that it is a very good guard against those who are egoistic and can’t see to get it in their head that they have a partner! Often times Sensei is too far away to help (it would be slightly embarrassing to tattletale) so I would have to fend for myself. It’s not Aikido’s way I know, but it’s best I can do for now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s