Helper Student

Guess which position I was in...

Guess which position I was in…

The woman in front of the class points to me and tells me to come up in front of the class. She tells me in Czech to stand a few feet from her and then explains to the class the technique she is about to demonstrate. On me.

She tells me to attack.

Aikido practice is two hours long. Twenty minutes of warm up, when we shake the day away and focus on readying the body and mind. Then a series of falling, rolling, or positioning techniques. And then an hour or so of practicing a particular fighting move or technique.

When that happens, the instructor demonstrates each step of the move on a helper student, one who has been around for a while and knows how to attack, move, and fall. The other students watch, take note, and then we break into pairs to practice as the instructor moves around the room helping out.

It’s extremely effective.

Those helper students are men or women that PJ and I recognize as veteran students. They know what they doing. But recently, the instructors have begun asking PJ and I to help in their demonstrations.

I am chuffed for a lot of reasons. The fact that the instructors use us in demonstrations suggests that they know they can rely on us, and that our attendance and hard work has proved us worthy of being considered serious students.

So we are chuffed, but we are terrified.

There are some things you can’t fully prepare yourself for. And being told in a language you’re not fluent in to attack a martial arts expert in front of a group of onlookers is one of them.

In a few seconds, I am in the crook of an elbow in a horizontal position about two feet from the floor. I am staring at a couple of the students as the instructor gives me minor instructions and explains details to the class. As she’s choking me out, I have a little time to think.

In the first place, I should have known that karma was waiting to bite me on the ass. Not only did I breathe a sigh of relief when PJ was asked to help a few minutes ago instead of me, but I also laughed along with the others when there were humorous linguistic miscommunications. And now here I am, right in the crook of poetic justice.

Secondly, it’s good for a teacher to occasionally be in the position of a student. I know that I lose sight of the opposite perspective. The nerves, stresses, and fears of being a student. When I was in Czech lessons, I got a brush up on what it’s like to be on the student’s side, to be asked for something in front of others when unsure. It stressed me out, to be sure. But it gave me perspective and I was ultimately happy for the iota of growth, the tiny bump in confidence, or adrenaline.

For a few minutes I am choked, dropped and flung in front of a class of Aikido students. I am sweating. It’s a little nerve-wracking to be called on in front of others, especially when I am unsure in many ways. But, as I hit the ground, sweat, listen to the little giggles at my expense, I know it’s ultimately positive.

And as things go dark, I wonder if choking out my students might not be a bad idea.

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