White Belt’s Expectations

I took a class last Friday and for a change, I asked each and everyone of the students what would they wanted to learn that evening.

Some say they wanted to learn extension;

Some wanted to learn Kotegaishi;

Another one wanted to learn how to slam, or take a break fall;

One of the white belt want to learn something ‘practical’.

So I took class, and hopefully, everyone was happy that they got what they wanted.

At the end of the class and while I was about to pack up and leave, I casually asked that white belt, who wanted to learn something ‘practical’ if he’d got what he wanted.

Apparently he didn’t

So this is my message to the white belt, which is basically how the conversation went down.

Dear White Belt,

You told me you didn’t quite got what you wanted in terms of something practical, that’s too bad.

You went on to tell me “When Han Tiong used to teach, he would teach how to deal with a straight punch…” And you lamented that the class is not as ‘tough’ as it should be.

You also implied that the class is not challenging enough and you don’t seem to learn anything new.

The class is not ready

Well, I told you that as an instructor, regardless if I am a stand-in or otherwise, there is a responsibility to teach according to the capabilities of the class, the general skill, level and fitness.

That student who wanted to learn how to slam? She couldn’t even take a ushiro ukemi properly, she is too heavy at the wrist. Had I attempted to throw her so as to teach her how to do a break fall, I might have broken her. Injury is the last thing I want, The burden does not only goes to me, but it goes more to Harry sensei, if anyone was injured under my charge.

The class is not skilled enough to be pushed. Of course I can make the session a little more strenuous, but at the end of the day, the range of fitness in the class varies, and I need to make sure everyone gets a fair share of exposure.

Some fitter ones will find the class slow, the less fitter ones will find the class a good challenge. For an instructor, it is not easy to get that balance.

I barely broke a sweat

This is not bragging, I told you I barely broke a sweat. It is not a tough class for me, and most Aikido classes isn’t tough for me. You also, lamented that the class is not fast enough. I told you I’m probably only going at half-speed, maybe a quarter speed. You, White Belt, hadn’t seen me gone fast, when my partner is a senior Aikidoka, who is fast, skillful and dynamic.

You train to the pace of your partner, and when the class is going slow due to the fact that the majority, including you, are beginners, who are still so rough around the edges.

Sure, I can go brutally fast, what is going to happen?

Speed certainly thrills, and speed can kill too.

We need to come to class to make sure everyone practices safely, and everyone go home with no less for wear. It is not about your speed, White Belt, but the speed relative to your partner. If your partner has a slipped disc, you need to take care of that. Speed is not everything. Everyone who whats to be a decent martial artist, focuses on technique, and method, speed comes naturally. Before you can be faster, you need to be methodically correct. Being fast doesn’t mean that you are good, being slow doesn’t mean you’re lousy either.

You said that because the class isn’t challenging enough, that’s why most of the seniors left.

That is their problem, not yours.

Besides, White Belt, you’re staring at a senior who is still turning up to train. This Black Belt who turns up, while others have dropped out, does it because I want to train with my sensei, Yes, simply put it, loyalty. I’ll continue to train there, fast, slow boring or not, simply because Harry sensei is teaching there.

And people leave for various of reason, they might have to start a career, a family, or Aikido simply is taking too much time. Or they could have simply lost interest, regardless of how  interesting the class might be. People will still leave.

The classes don’t teaches enough ‘practical’ technique.

White Belt, you told me the classes don’t really teaches straight punch to the face. Well, Aikido is a martial arts, it is not a self defense system. Go and learn MMA if you want to know how to protect yourself from such and such an attack. Aikido is a Japanese martial arts, and it has its own design and curriculum. It is not a be all and end all martial arts. You love it for what it is, warts and all. If you don’t the Aikido is full of weaknesses and holes that it is simply not effective. White Belt, take it from me, I had a little MMA training, and what I learned is a heck a lot more effective, than Aikido. Go and learn BJJ while you’re at it.

So if you asked me, why am I still in Aikido?

I’ve said enough of that.


One thought on “White Belt’s Expectations

  1. Firstly, about the class not prepared for a more challenging class or new techniques, you might want to understand the reasons why this is the case. Is it because the classes are regularly taught at a slow pace and too little new techniques are taught? Yes, safety is very important but it should not be an excuse to keep training at an extremely slow pace or just focus on basic techniques. Secondly, yes people will still leave even if the class is interesting but this should not give you the excuse to keep classes boring or slow paced. You mentioned about loyalty to your sensei and that’s why you stayed on. I have to remind that an aikido class is not some loyalty contest; there’s no need to prove your loyalty.Thirdly, aikido is a martial art and therefore have practical application in self defence. In fact every martial art has practical application in self defence. It isn’t helpful to suggest to students they should pick up other martial arts if they say they want to learn the practical side of aikido. Since you ask the students what they want in the class, you should try your best to give it to them and not make excuses like that. Lastly, just because you love aikido does not mean you can’t criticize aikido. In fact questioning aikido might give you ideas on how to improve your aikido techiniques.


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