the glorious interconnectedness of all things 4

For a little while now, I’ve been gathering together threads from past contemplations, some explored through these posts, to see what cloth I can weave. This is the fourth in a series; I include here links to the first, the second and the third, for any who might be interested, pulling together observations from one area of my experience and exploring how it advances my understanding of another.

This particular thread involves a connection between aikido and administration. As the English lockdown eases, we have restarted in-person aikido classes; we are still distanced from one another, but we are able to meet in the same room. One big difference that we’ve noticed is that now, as opposed to a class via Zoom, is that we can each other from head to toe.

This sparked a thought. One of the aspects of aikido that I have always enjoyed is that feedback is immediate. Our ability to successfully perform a technique is evidenced by how our uke, the person receiving the technique, moves. Likewise, our inability to unsuccessfully perform a technique is evidence by how our uke doesn’t move. There is the third pillar of the overly compliant uke, where the uke moves because they know they’re supposed to move, but not because they’re compelled to move by tori, the person performing the technique.

There are other aspects of this feedback process as well. If for instance I allow myself, through my movement as tori, to become unbalanced, then I provide my uke with an opportunity to take control of the movement. Thus, I move from being tori to being uke, and I find myself laughing up from the tatami.

The thought that caught me is, to what extent is this same dynamic in play in other parts of my experience. As a teacher, this can happen if I do not prepare myself sufficiently well, for a lecture or a problem class, and I find myself facing a student who has. They ask a question, I fumble the answer, and they continue to press.

In aikido, we have an exercise. Uke will press their hand against tori’s shoulder. Tori needs to move with that pressure, not losing their own balance and in the process, taking over uke’s balance. It’s been more than a year, and I am very much looking forward to being able to do this again.

But this also has a distinct administrative parallel. Sometimes, when circumstances change quickly, decisions need to be made quickly. Events exert their pressure upon us, and we need to react calmly, without losing our balance, in order to have some productive impact on the situation.

An applicable lesson from aikido is that practice helps. Another applicable lesson from aikido is that the test needs to be genuine. In aikido, this is the uke giving tori some of their weight, so that tori has something to work with.

But in an administrative context, it can be difficult to provide genuine practice. Case studies can help, but they often come with incomplete information and they come to us out of context. Here, we come to a lacuna. I’ve never interrogated the training or management literature, to explore how deep this particular pool actually is. And so, another project is born.

And interestingly, we seem to be drifting into the realm of challenge based learning and how the framework around challenge based learning can be adapted to some of these aspects of training. But this is a topic for another day.

~ by Jim Anderson on 31 May 2021.

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