Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Roles & Responsibilities

With the new day job, homeschool aikido club went into hiatus. Knowing that that day was coming, we let the class mature, the class size dwindle due to natural attrition, and we did not actively recruit to fill the ranks. Today there are no students; so, am I an aikido teacher?

The question seems silly, doesn't it? But how would you answer it?

Have you ever been laid off? Unemployed? How would you answer the dreaded "Who are you? What do you do?" at the barbecue? You can answer, "I'm John Q. Public, and I'm an engineer"---but are you? Aren't engineers folks who are paid to do engineering work? You have a degree in mathematics; why are you not a mathematician?

Don't aikido teachers have students?

Sometimes there is an obvious conflict that confounds the definition of the job title itself, an obvious affront to one's identity. Are you aware how often, though, you are bound or guided by identities and titles you hold? Are there things you do because you are an engineer? Are there things you do not do because you are an aikido teacher?

How about because you are a friend, a sibling, a spouse, a parent, a child, and employee, a boss, ... How often is it the titles themselves that keep us acting a particular way---or, rephrased, how often is it the title itself controlling you?

As an aikido teacher, I define the roles of uke and nage for the students, and I use these roles to shape the class. The students alternately adopt the roles and perform their responsibilities. In one moment, you are powerfully tossing an adversary across the mats; the next, you are helplessly pinned to the ground. Can these two really be the same person? Or was it a nage that threw, and was it an uke that was pinned? How might these exchanges have looked without the roles? Without the teacher creating these roles for you? Without your entering the dojo doors as a student, creating the role of the teacher in front of you?

Or was it the fellow in the crazy outfit in front of you who created a student? But how could that be?

This is not to protest roles or responsibilities---aikido class certainly wouldn't be as productive or as fun without them... nor perhaps would the commute to the dojo be routinely uneventful without your complying with the "rules of the road." But consider this lesson now: physical self-defense is not all that you are learning, and there's more to "harmonizing with the universe's ki" than meets the eye. If a teacher truly understands this and conveys this, the student is very fortunate and should practice diligently.

So, are you a student without a teacher?

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