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Kamae? Quit!

August 12, 2013

I just had a private student quit on me.

I don’t usually have private students. Scheduling is a crazy hassle. I have an office job in the morning, my usual teaching in the afternoon, and I need to watch out for my kids in the evenings & weekends. It is hard to fit in private budo students.

About a month ago, a friend actually managed to fit into my schedule, so I took on the challenge. He wanted me to teach him self-defence material, so I focused more on movements that do not require a lot of precision and fitness to work. We didn’t work on the usual sanshin & kihon happo, as they take too long to develop skill, but sooner or later the important lessons from those basics would come out. And they did!

Well, today I wanted to move even further. He already discovered the importance of our basic ichimonji no kamae, as he found himself moving into it naturally to deal with knife slashes to the face/throat level. I wanted to build on that my working on that and proceeding to develop dependable strikes. But as I was trying to get him back into a proper ichimonji no kamae, he got frustrated, said it was too difficult, and quit. He walked out on me less than 10 minutes into the lesson.

This is the first time this ever happened to me, so you can guess I am somewhat taken aback!

From a teacher’s point of view, one can say that I didn’t calibrate the pace of the lesson properly, to lighten up or shift the lesson to another topic before that happened. Fair enough, I guess.

But I also questioned myself again about the way I structure my lessons. Could I have made things better and have a higher student retention rate if i paced things differently? If I didn’t emphasize getting correct kamae so much? If I didn’t nag people into getting their knees in line with their feet and their spine straight?

Of course!

But in my experience, this means that the students will take longer to get results. If they do not have any previous martial arts experience, they might not even develop usable skill at all. Bujinkan Taijutsu requires a strongly developed sense of distance, and it must carry over to our body positioning. Without looking, we need to know that our feet are where we need them to be, our knees can be used to strike or nudge our opponents, again without having to look at them, our spine is properly aligned so that we will be in balance and unleash the full force of our hips and legs into our strikes. 

In my personal observation, the only people who do not need to go through all the training in kamae are those who have already done this type of training already through other martial arts. I used to surf the Internet for information on Bujinkan instructors, and almost everyone I saw took other martial arts first, before they started on this one. And that means that there is no way to short-cut this process

Just in case you are wondering…

My usual class lessons aren’t crazily intense, I am not the drill sergeant type, yelling and screaming at my students over any and every mistake they make. I am usually chill and relaxed in my lessons. In fact, this student quit only after a month of lessons, so obviously my lessons aren’t that bad! : )

But I will NOT hold back on telling you what you need to progress. I won’t yell and scream, none of that kind of nonsense. But I WILL tell you. And if need be, I will keep reminding you about it, in hope that some day you will get it.

After all, if my sensei would still keep reminding me about the same stuff over and over again, even after I got my black belt, shouldn’t I do the same?

See you in class!


俊傑 (Shunketsu)


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