Little House In Ise

Showing off for Sensei
September 16, 2008, 18:16
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , , , , ,

“You know… you show off for Doshu.”

That’s what a kohai told me recently. Of course, I immediately denied it but then had to back off and ponder a bit. So, with the troubling idea that I might be doing something dangerous when Sensei is watching, I dove back into my little well of Aikido musings and realized that she was right on the money. I DO show off.

“Showing off” has negative connotations for good reason. In the dojo, showing off at its extreme can mean recklessly endangering others. To me, that is the real definition of asshole. When training, uke entrusts their body to nage so that both can learn. When nage shows off by throwing too high, too hard or otherwise going beyond the ability of uke to take it, then what nage is really showing off is their inner asshole.

That said, “showing off” can also be seen as trying to be as polished and as smooth as possible in order to look good. If that is the case, then perhaps the additional focus and attention put into performing cleanly when trying to look good is a positive thing. Ideally, that is the kind of focus that should always be a part of training but it is true that sometimes we all slip into routines. So, if the presence of Sensei or the mere belief that Sensei is watching is enough to make someone focus and perform better, then maybe it isn’t so bad. Or maybe I’m trying to put a positive spin on something that is otherwise embarrassing.

So, I decided to do some active introspection. This morning I went to the dojo with the idea of training with the feeling that Sensei was watching constantly. My plan failed miserably. Sensei really was watching most of the time. I drew the short stick again — another tough old dude who liked to play rough. Warm-up was very hard kokyu-nage, followed by hard falls from irimi nage. I was the only one on the mat who was doing high falls. Our neighbors cleared out a little more space and I got thrown hard every damn time I stood up. Doshu noticed and moved in to chaperon. Unlike the Destroyer, this guy kept right on pounding even with Sensei watching.

It was a killer work out and I do not believe that the “quality” of either my waza or ukemi were particularly related to the fact that Doshu was watching closely. At least in this case, I was just trying to keep my ass firmly attached. I did not _try_ to throw the beast hard but the resistance he put up made all techniques either hard-core or ineffective. At least this time around, I was NOT being the jerk nor trying to be flashy in order to look cool. Today’s class was all about self defense. What a way to start off the week!

Anyway, I need to talk to that particular Kohai again but in the mean-time I will make certain that I am not acting like an Aiki-Jackass.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Reading your post, I don’t think you
need to worry about this issue anymore.
Yes, we do try to perform better when
sensei is paying attention. But as you say,
this can be a good thing. In your case, yo
put your partner’s well-being ahead of
making a good impression. So, do some
cool aikido! Be a star!

Comment by Laurel

Some people shrivel, becoming petrified, when they perceive a sensei is watching. Do you think this shows lack of confidence? Is it dangerous? So, maybe “showing off” is too negative a descriptor; rather, “confident” may be more accurate.

Comment by Ita

I tend to bump into strange things when Doshu is watching (physically AND otherwise) and the recently acquired hakama is just another thing to bump into. physically and otherwise. eh.

so you’re not alone.
and, i actually like when someone tries to show off. helps me prevent my own bumps.

regards on the bumpy road,

Comment by Kadi

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