Sunday, 27 September 2015

'Ukemi' Can Break More than Just Our Fall!

It's not What we do in the dojo that counts, but How we do it.
Why do some people excel while others do not when training under the same guidance, in the same dojo and using the same menu of exercises and drills? this is a question that we must all consider as both students and teachers of Karate-do. Of course there is no excuse to flat out training wrong. I am not talking about this. I am talking about those who are training to better themselves and who's approach to training is based on a strong foundation, but end up progressing at different rates. As a teacher this is troublesome and if you are the student progressing more slowly it can be very discouraging.
As a student I always tried to do the best I could, as I am sure every student of Karate-do does. Some of the things I did to get better were, watching the movements of my Sensei and Senpai and copied them. I listened to their advice and thought about what this advice meant to me. Since coming to Japan I have had to deal with language barriers and personal physical limitations, but my approach to learning karate-do has not changed. I continue to play an active role in my learning. Over the years I have enjoyed many successes as a result of simply being present and engaged. But, over the years teaching children of many ages I have noticed a shift from students being actively engaged in the process of learning to being passive and disengaged. Therefore, my approach to teaching has changed.

There is a word that I would like to talk about in this post. It carries a lot of weight, you might have heard before, 受け身Ukemi. When you hear this word you probably think of the various kinds of break falls in Judo and Karate. And if you did you were not wrong. But, there is another way to use this word that I feel in its definition has huge impact on the way we learn and teach. In many of the well-known martial arts this is indeed a term used to describe "the art of falling safely." However, as a linguistics terminology this same kanji means "the passive, passive voice." Moreover this is commonly used in Japan to describe such things as being on the defensive, having a passive attitude, and passiveness in general. As a school teacher I have seen this passivity in the classroom and it is very disheartening to see young people with so much potential so uninterested in their self-betterment. I stongly feel that karate-do training can help inspire students to become more inspired about learning, but it is up to the Sensei to recognize this debilitating quality in their students and guide them away from forming the habits that will keep them passive.