Humor & Humiliation

I have long suspected that that is an Instructors’ Course at Aikido Summer Camps or Association Meetings where teachers learn techniques for making us laugh at ourselves (and cringe a little), to improve our technique and awareness, or jar us out of habitual patterns of thinking.

Every Aikido teacher I’ve encountered – Sensei, the yudansha at our dojo, and visiting teachers alike – to the best of my recollection, has used pointed humor and sometimes pretty stern shaming in their teaching. Mostly it’s really funny, and often includes some very good physical comedy. And it drives the point home like a nail gun.

“This is what some of you look like. I’m exaggerating, but only a little." 

I have to laugh, and at the same time *facepalm* I see that once again I have let my arm trail behind my center in a tenkan, or completely forgotten to hold Uke’s shoulder down when setting up the pin for sankyo. D’oh!

One whap upside the head I received in a recent one-on-one session on suwariwaza was "They call it ‘knee walking’ not ‘duck walking’.” The teacher, whose natural, flowing, centered shikko is an inspiration, then proceeded to show me exactly what my “duck walking” looked liked. Oh no… It was both mortifying and very funny.

A teacher could very “politely and respectfully” explain the rationale, physics, and anatomy behind their instructions, and demonstrate again the “preferred” way we should be working toward, blah, blah, blah… But that’s explaining, not training.

By poking fun the message gets through loud and clear. Even though the “duck walking” correction was softened with gentle humor I was still very motivated to never get caught moving that way again. Ever. Yikes.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that Instructors’ Course some day. I’ll bet it’s hilarious.

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