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The meaning of your communication is the response you get


It doesn’t do anyone any good for an instructor to assume that their students are knuckleheads who can’t follow instructions. A better way is to assume good faith on their part – that is, assume that the students are really trying to do what they think you are telling them. So, if you don’t get the response you want from your students, you can assume that you are not communicating what you think you are communicating. Change how you are saying it to them.

Be careful how you say what you say because different people have different connotations for any given word. Colin Wee gave a good example in a comment a few days ago. If you tell the student, “step over here,” then they might understand step any old way. They might step as in normal walking (ayumiashi) when what you intended was slide over here (tsugiashi) or even bring your feet together under you then slide over here (tsuriashi). A better way is to explain the difference between these 2-3 types of walking and give them their technical terms. Then you can say, tsugiashi over here, or you can let them know that when you say slide over here you mean tsugiashi.

Another example of careless instructor-speak is something that I have had to try to overcome. I used to see a student doing something wrong and say, “you want to…,” when I actually had two different meanings to this. Sometimes I would mean, “It looks like you want in your mind to do such and such, when actually you should be thinking about it this way…” Alternately, “you want to do so and so,” could mean, “Instructions follow on how to execute this move.” Sometimes I’d get so twisted up as to say something like, “you want to do (are thinking about it wrong) this, when really you want to do (should execute it this way) that.”

Beth Shibata makes the point in her article, that how we name things affects how we think about them, and therefore, how we execute them. She suggests that aikido is overly rife with the term throw, when there is no way in the world you can use a common throwing action as we normally understand the word (like throwing a ball) to propel a person-sized thing. What we are doing is not really a throwing action, but something else. She suggests the term release. So, perhaps, shihonage (“all-directions throw”) would be easier to get across if we called it shihohanasu (“releasing in any direction”). Perhaps iriminage (enter and throw) could profitably be called (“enter and release” or "enter and separate"). Maybe the rotary throw (kaitennage) is more accurately a rotary release (kaiten hanasu).

Or maybe two other alternatives would be to either use poetic language, as in Chinese martial arts or to just rename things in your native language and ditch the exotic-sounding jargon…

3 comments:

  1. It doesn’t do anyone any good for an instructor to assume that their students are knuckleheads who can’t follow instructions. A better way is to assume good faith on their part...

    Hmmm--come to think of it, when I asked a question of my Sunday School class this morning and was greeted with dead silence, I told them that when a teacher encounters dead silence, it usually means that he's asked the question the wrong way.

    So I asked it a different way. And you know, it worked!

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  2. "I told them that when a teacher encounters dead silence, it usually means that he's asked the question the wrong way."

    Try that one on college students and you'll probably get more dead silence!

    :-)

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  3. Excellent points!

    Or maybe two other alternatives would be to either use poetic language, as in Chinese martial arts or to just rename things in your native language and ditch the exotic-sounding jargon…

    The latter is how it works in BJJ. We use terms such as omoplata, but also refer to throws, chokes and various submission holds in plain old English.

    An argument against this practice that seems somewhat pragmatic to me is that it limits my ability to travel to Brazil, Japan, or anywhere else and train without a language barrier. In Judo, as it was explained to me, one can train in Japan and speak no Japanese, but still understand enough to avoid too much difficulty. Makes sense to me.

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