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Thu, Nov. 30th, 2006, 08:12 pm
elfich47: Question

My sensei has been teaching from his dojo for many years. Over time he has also taken up teaching one of the local colleges. I have been helping out Sensei at RPI (I graduated from there, what can I say). At his encouragement, approval (and strict oversight) leading one of the weekly classes there. I have been showing what sensei wants taught: basics basics basics. Most of the students are untested, 5th Kyus and a couple of 4th Kyus (USAF Testing requirements). The RPI students are not normally ready to take difficult throws-between only two classes a week and having the summers off, training at RPI doesn't allow for alot of frills before they graduate and move on. I will state first up: I have not tested for my black belt, I am a 2nd Kyu and working on my 1st Kyu (Probably late next year).

This year an overseas student started at RPI and joined the class. He had previously tested overseas for his black belt. He has a different way of doing things (technique, ettiquette etc), as befitting that he learned from a different instructor.

A couple of issues have cropped up: This student (I'll call him K) has a different way of doing things and is having some issues adapting to how Sensei wants to see things done. Sensei wants the basics first and foremost. K has been known to go off and do his own thing during class, or showing things or methods that Sensei had not shown, which Sensei has addressed to him on more then one occasion.

Okay.... enough back story. Sensei has allowed me to teach one of the classes without his supervision. He gives me instruction as to what he wants to see done at some other point in the week when I see him at the main dojo. The Thursday before Thanksgiving K informed me before class that he wanted to lead class that night, he was the senior student and thus wanted to lead class. Needless to say an awkward position for all around. I politely declined stating that Sensei had left me instructions as to what he wanted covered in class that evening.

I have spoken to Sensei since then and he has that he wants me teaching that class and not to give it up to K. Sensei has a way he wants things taught and since K has not been around much (despite frequent invitations to come up to the main dojo to practice with the main school) Sensei would prefer that I teach that class.

I am looking for a graceful/face saving method of informing k that Sensei has instructed me to keep teaching that class. I don't want to insult him, I don't want this to spill out all over the place and disenfranchise the junior students, but I have to be able to provide correction to the other students based upon what I feel Sensei wants instructed.


Thu, Nov. 30th, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC)

I'm not an instructor (I joined this comm for something and forgot to leave) but from a student's point of view, this should not be your responsiblity. You are in a really awkward position that is forcing you to be disrespectful. That is not fair to you. Your Sensei should address the issue with K. It should not be left up to you so that you are faced with this honor descrepancy.

Thu, Nov. 30th, 2006 08:19 pm (UTC)

Pardon any spelling mistakes; it didn't check for them for some reason.

Thu, Nov. 30th, 2006 10:20 pm (UTC)

I teach in the two local universities, and regulary get people join who have done a different variation of the style I teach. When showing how I would like something practiced, they will invariably say 'but I was taught to do it like this', or 'isn't is supposed to go like this'. They are not asking to teach the class, but the first time it happened I had a momentary panic that I was wrong.

What I have realised is to be confident in what I know, and if I don't know, I say so, and then go and find teh answer. I am confident that what I teach is correct, because my instructor checks me regularly and tells me that I am doing it right.

What I say to the person in class, is that as I didn't teach them the other way, I don't know the context that it was taught in, and so can't comment on it. However, this is the way I am doing it, because my art is different to everyone else's. My students want to learn what I do, and as they progress they will adapt it to make it work better for them. But at the present time, I would like it done this was becuse it is a specific answer to a specific question (you are grabbed like this, you get pushed here so move like so, and then punch here).

What you say to K is, that the students want to learn what Sensei does, and so want to learn what you do. As he does things slightly differently, leading some of the classes would give the students two different ways to learn, which is not fair, and isn't what Sensei does. What would be more beneficial, would be for him to go to the main class where all the students at his level and higher train, and compare techniques and variations with people who will not get messed up from trying things out a different way.

Hope his makes sense.

Fri, Dec. 1st, 2006 12:05 am (UTC)

I'd imagine the simplest way (short of your Sensei discussing it with K directly) would be to keep pointing out that "Sensei has asked me to take this class and given me specific instructions on how he wants it done", perhaps suggesting K go discuss it with Sensei if he has any problems. A broken record of "thanks for that, but Sensei wants it done this way" might be necessary too. If there's a bit of pride or ego involved, you could maybe ease that by asking K's opinion on this or that technical point in ways that will let him share his knowledge but not take it as an invitation to take over (something to the effect of: "Excuse me K, how do they do this at your old school?" might be one subtle way to seek his advice and at the same time be a reminder that you do things differently here).

As far as rank/seniority goes, it may be worth clarifying just how the formality works in your style as far as delegation of teaching responsibility. In my club we actually went into this in some detail, as we're somewhat 'top-heavy' with black belts and it can get confusing as to who's supposed to be running this or that. In Taekwondo, the way it works is that if the Head Instructor ("Sabeomnim" doesn't roll off the tongue quite as nicely as "Sensei") has delegated someone to be in charge, then that person is standing in for the Instructor and carries his/her authority. Even if someone is more senior in rank than the delegate, they still have to respect that s/he has been asked to run the show in the Instructor's stead - they can politely offer technical advice but can't "pull rank" and take over (the exception being if it's someone even more senior than the Head Instructor).

Don't know if the same sort of principle applies in your style (Taekwondo's a bit militaristic in that respect) but it may be worth checking into if rank formalities are an issue. Otherwise, it may come down to a simple case of your Sensei's wishes being respected, which should be a reasonable enough idea for anyone. And at the end of the day, discussing it with your Sensei is usually a good first step in any event.

Anyway, good luck. Hope something in this is helpful in figuring it out.