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Please Correct Me

I have been to events where senior instructors were visiting from Okinawa. At such occasions, most participants are eager to receive corrections of their techniques. After all, the opportunity to train with senior instructors is very limited.

However, visiting instructors are often very reluctant to offer corrections, even in private. They will hold back. See: Enryo Tsuru. Because of this, I am careful to inform visiting instructors of my sincere desire to receive instruction and corrections.

When my Sensei, Professor Katsuhiko Shinzato, visited my dojo last year, I said (with a bow):

"Sensei, please correct us. We are trying our best to move the way that you do. If we are moving differently, it is only because we have not learned your way yet. We are not attached to the way that we move. We want to move like you do. Please feel free to correct us. Onegaishimasu."

Today I would add, "please don't enryo" (hold back).

Shinzato Sensei will also teach kata in different ways at different times for different reasons to different people. But he will be reluctant to do so if the student is attached to a certain way or version. I thus ask him to please feel free to show us any kata in any way that he likes. If he likes, we will change all the movements of any kata because we are attached to him, not the kata itself. After all, the kata are simply vehicles for teaching techniques, body dynamics, footwork, body shifting, timing, etc.

I should add that Shinzato Sensei would never correct me in front of my students. He would only do so privately. If I was doing something incorrectly in class, and he wanted to correct it, he would probably find a way to do so indirectly so that it would not reflect negatively on me. He would probably preface his correction by saying "you might try this" and would almost certainly correct one of my students rather than me. This is his way of being reserved, courteous, considerate, and humble.

If you want to be corrected -- and for your students to be corrected -- you should politely ask your instructor so that he will feel comfortable doing so. Whatever your level may be, it is important to always have a beginner's heart and attitude.


Charles C. Goodin