Beginner Receiving Constant Varying Feedback from Different Students

jurat13

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Everyone,

I ask for your thoughts on two issues that I am facing as a new student in an Aikido class. NOTE: Please feel free to give me your honest, thorough opinion. Even if you believe I may disagree with it, or someone else may deem it to be a harsh response, etc.

I recently began my Aikido studies about a month ago. Thus far, I enjoy learning Aikido. I especially enjoy the Dan level instructors (Yondan, Nidan, Shodan). They have been positive, corrective, etc. I come from a boxing and muay thai background, and wanted to compliment those skills with joint control, locks, leverage, etc.

However, what has frustrated me about my Aikido instruction is the constant varying feedback that I receive from other students.

Here's the scenario, let's say during a particular class session you have participating: a Dan level instructor, myself, and 9 other students of various ranks (all of which are ranked higher than me because I'm new).

Dan level instructor demonstrates technique "A" which he wants the class to began working on. He then asks us to break into groups to practice technique A.

Student 1 and I began practicing technique A. Student 1 explains to me the correct way to execute technique A and we continue to practice.

Dan level instructor stops our group work, and draws to our attention any flaws that he sees in the groups' practicing of technique A. He then directs us back into our groups and asks us to rotate to other partners.

Now I am working with Student 2. Student 2 tells me that my execution of technique A is incorrect. I tell him that Student 1 taught me. He says that student 1 is wrong.

We rotate again, now I am working with Student 3. Student 3 says that both Students 1 and 2 execution are wrong and that I should learn it the Student 3 way.

Rotate to Student 4, he agrees with the way Student 1 executed technique A.

Student 5 disagrees with Student 4..., Student 6 agrees, Students 7, 8, and 9, and so on so forth.

As a result of these variations of technique A, I am becoming confused. Each student constantly corrects me with "the right way" to execute technique A. Meanwhile, none of these students consider the fact I am receiving conflicting corrections from other students.

Just this past Tuesday, the Yondan was instructing class, and instructed me to execute technique "B" in a particular fashion. As soon as I broke into a group, the student told me that the way I was executing technique B was incorrect. I told him that the Yondan had just instructed me to execute it that way. The student proceeded to say, "I would still do it the way that I am teaching you, if he corrects you, then I guess you can change it."

To me that's unbelievable.

On another unrelated issue. The dojo is hosting a seminar by a highly ranked instructor from out of town. The instructors want students to do a thorough cleaning of the dojo on the weekend before the seminar begins. However, the cleaning shall be completed at the sacrifice of training. I was under the impression that we would still hold a morning practice, and then everyone pitches in and does a thorough cleaning after that. But the actual plan is to cancel class all together.

I understand the concept of community/communal help, etc. But now it is coming at the expense of instruction that I am paying for. I am paying for the seminar, and I also pay a monthly fee for instruction. In other words this is still a business transaction. I am paying for a service, and expect to receive value in return.

What are your thoughts? Again please feel free to give me your honest opinion.

Respectfully submitted,

Confused Newbie
 

CuongNhuka

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If I had a problem with a student (note, student) telling me differently then the instructor (note, instructor), I would say "well, lets be safe, and get Sensei's oppion on this." followed by calling them over and asking them what they think. However, a student is probably not going to have nearly the same understanding of a technique that a Yondan has. It also might be changed by your style of Aikido. In Ki-nokenkyukai (sp) they are very open about differnit ways of doing the same technique.

However, I don't know what to tell you about your second problem.
 

morph4me

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If I had a problem with a student (note, student) telling me differently then the instructor (note, instructor), I would say "well, lets be safe, and get Sensei's oppion on this." followed by calling them over and asking them what they think. However, a student is probably not going to have nearly the same understanding of a technique that a Yondan has. It also might be changed by your style of Aikido. In Ki-nokenkyukai (sp) they are very open about differnit ways of doing the same technique.

However, I don't know what to tell you about your second problem.

I agree, students shouldn't be teaching, that's the instructors job. Your always better off calling an instructor over when you're having a problem, and if another student is correcting you, then one or the other or both of you may have misunderstood the instructions and need clarification.

As far as your second issue, I'll say this, if you think you have a business arrangement, you have to put a value on what you're being taught, if you're honest with yourself, you may find that you aren't paying even close to what you should be for the value you're getting, and if you are paying enough, you may need to find a better instructor.
 

terryl965

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If I had a problem with a student (note, student) telling me differently then the instructor (note, instructor), I would say "well, lets be safe, and get Sensei's oppion on this." followed by calling them over and asking them what they think. However, a student is probably not going to have nearly the same understanding of a technique that a Yondan has. It also might be changed by your style of Aikido. In Ki-nokenkyukai (sp) they are very open about differnit ways of doing the same technique.

However, I don't know what to tell you about your second problem.

I agree anytime you feel something is wrong ask the instructor to show you and the other student it again. Better safe than sorry.
 

theletch1

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Spot on, Tom. One thing to really look at is whether or not the different students are disagreeing with one another or are pointing out one of the hundred different finer points that are hidden within each technique. As you mature in the art you'll begin to add your own "flavor" to each of the techniques. However at this early a stage in your training you need a solid base from which to work. As Tom said, students shouldn't be instructing you. That's the instructors job. Now, that doesn't mean that your classmates can't offer feedback but if what they are telling you differs from what the instructor is telling you then call the instructor over for clarification. You can do it in a way that doesn't insult your partner. "I just can't get this technique to work for me. Maybe sensei can see what's going on if he watches me do the technique to you." It puts your classmate in a position to think they've tried to help but you need something more instead of putting them on the defensive.

As for your second question: A MA school is a little different critter as far as the business arrangement goes. You SHOULD be getting what you paid for BUT when you sign on to study there you agree (at least in theory) to be part of an extended family of sorts. If you are paying by the class then address it with the head instructor. If you're paying by the month then you can probably make the class up later. Helping out the dojo is part of being a student. Many dojo have the students clean the training area at the end of each class.

Keep us posted on how your training is going. You've piques my interest. BTW, what style of aikido are you studying?
 

terryl965

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Jurat13 remember about the losing of a class because your instructor would like help to make the dojo clean, this is nothing compared to what you might learn from your vistor. I would just look at it as community service and a lesson learn though the thought of helping your school. Value comes in alot of different ways.
 
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jurat13

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Thanks for the comments thus far.

Jeff, I don't know if there is a way I can answer what style it is without disclosing any affiliations, etc. Let me try and answer it this way... I would say it is one of the more larger organizations out there.
 

zDom

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Part of the problem may be you THINK you are doing it as previously shown, but are actually just doing so to the best of your ability.

Heck, if it were possible to do things as shown immediately after, then we wouldn't have to spend years and years and years training ;)

But the above advice is good when in doubt, do as the senior student asks for the moment, then go ask the head instructor to show it to you again.
 

Nomad

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It sounds like the other students are showing off their knowledge a bit, and are likely giving what they believe is helpful advice based on what they have each found in the technique that works for them.

It is possible for 2 (or more) martial artists to give completely conflicting advice on how to perform a technique and for them both to be correct (as illogical as it sounds). Some techniques may require different mechanics based on varying body types; other times the other students may just be focusing on different aspects of a technique (eg. hand position vs. stance vs. breath... etc.).

It is for this reason that we try to get such "helpful" students to back off a bit, especially on new students; it can be overwhelming to get 15 different criticisms on your basic reverse punch when you're only able to process one or two (at this time).

In our school, we politely acknowledge any correction or critism with a simple "Thank you, sir". It is understood, however that only the head instructor has the facts (such as they are); everyone else trying to help simply has opinions.

If you are finding the varying opinions on techniques very confusing, mention it to your instructor and see what his reaction is.
 

charyuop

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It seems now it is working. I had prepeared a looooong reply, but this thread didn't work for me. Now I have to go to work, tomorrow will be another day :)
 

Kacey

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I agree with those who say that different people will have different perspectives. Something I have noticed as an instructor is that I always see my own mistakes in others before I see anything else, and my students, when they help teach, do as well - so everyone has their own perspective and will see, and emphasize, different aspects of any particular technique.

If the other students are doing that - emphasizing different aspects of a technique - then you will more quickly attain a broader understanding of each technique, despite an initial (and quite understandable) confusion at first. If, however, each one has a different method of performing a technique that goes beyond personal understanding/style, then certainly, as above, suggest that you as a pair/group ask the instructor to demonstrate the technique again.

As far as cleaning the dojo goes, it depends on the quality of the incoming guest. It is certainly within the norm for Asian culture (and thus Asian-derived martial arts schools) to expect that students will forgo their their training to a certain extent to maintain the dojo - how much training you are willing to forgo depends on your overall commitment to the dojo. If this is a once or twice a year event, then I would say that it is a demonstration of the value of the seminar instructor, and you need to decide for yourself if you appear that morning or not - but if this guest is that important to your instructor, then your absence will certainly be noted and may be considered detrimental; if it happens monthly or more often, then you may need to consider finding another school.
 

jks9199

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Spot on, Tom. One thing to really look at is whether or not the different students are disagreeing with one another or are pointing out one of the hundred different finer points that are hidden within each technique. As you mature in the art you'll begin to add your own "flavor" to each of the techniques. However at this early a stage in your training you need a solid base from which to work. As Tom said, students shouldn't be instructing you. That's the instructors job. Now, that doesn't mean that your classmates can't offer feedback but if what they are telling you differs from what the instructor is telling you then call the instructor over for clarification. You can do it in a way that doesn't insult your partner. "I just can't get this technique to work for me. Maybe sensei can see what's going on if he watches me do the technique to you." It puts your classmate in a position to think they've tried to help but you need something more instead of putting them on the defensive.

As for your second question: A MA school is a little different critter as far as the business arrangement goes. You SHOULD be getting what you paid for BUT when you sign on to study there you agree (at least in theory) to be part of an extended family of sorts. If you are paying by the class then address it with the head instructor. If you're paying by the month then you can probably make the class up later. Helping out the dojo is part of being a student. Many dojo have the students clean the training area at the end of each class.

Keep us posted on how your training is going. You've piques my interest. BTW, what style of aikido are you studying?
By now, a couple of people have pointed out that what may be happening is that each student has learned a valid, but slightly different way of doing the technique. This is normal; my body is shaped one way (rather more round than I might like... especially in the waist) while yours might longer and lankier. I'm more than respectably strong; you might not be strong at all. We'll each do many techniques slightly differently because of that.

On top of that, there are different levels of understanding. In my class, we don't separate students by skill level or rank, except on rare occasions. Instead, each student is expected to learn the night's lesson at their own level. I'll expect a student nearing black belt to notice and recognize many pieces, maybe even see the general principle that underlies the technique. But someone who's on their second or third night may only learn the most basic direction of the technique. When they work with each other as partners, that advanced student may point out principles or elements of the technique that weren't apparent to the beginner.

But, in the end, it's the INSTRUCTOR who knows the technique, and determines how it's done for that class. One of the most frustrating things to me is when I attend a clinic or seminar, and other students get so busy "teaching" the material that they don't realize that what they're doing isn't what the instructor did. It's a great challenge as you advance in your training to be able to simply learn when attending a clinic, instead of trying to teach. As a newer student (or junior) what I suggest is that you use phrasing like "But Sensei did it differently" and "can we ask sensei; I guess maybe I didn't understand what he said right because it didn't sound like that..." Note that these are face-saving approaches; you're not saying their wrong, just that you don't see that what they're doing isn't what the instructor did.

With regard to cleaning the dojo... It all depends on the culture of the school. I expect my students to assist in preparing for special events, but we're a club, not simply a collection of classes. Students pay dues to assist in paying rent and paying for special events, not per-class fees.
 

charyuop

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That's a bad mistake that most mid-levels do and nothing can change it. EGO! That is not done intentionally of course, but the "I did it right once so I mastered it" syndrome is common.
In my opinion there a couple of things you need to keep in mind.
YOUR BEHAVIOUR. And here I am speaking physically. You might have Sensei himself that tells you once one thing and maybe after a month on the same technique will tell you something that in your ear sounds different. Is he nuts? I doubt it hee hee. That fact is that you don't see yourself. The first time you might have been doing an error that in your Sensei's opinion you could have fixed by moving in a certain way. After a month you might be moving differently and do another error which to be fixed might need Sensei to have you move the opposite way, maybe just the way he told you not to do the month before. Compensation (and happens to me alot). I do something wrong and I fix it, but that new movement doesn't feel that natural to my body. So what my body does? Compensate and to feel confortable again corrupts my posture in another way.
TECHNIQUE. As someone stated before techniques are different, even tho they carry the same name. Think yourself with an opponent in front of you. Can you think of a scenario? Only one??? Well, you might have your back against the wall, you might be in a narrow alley which prevent wide movements, you might have to turn after the technique coz someone else is behind you or else you might be protecting your little daughter behind you and have to stand your ground at any cost. Yes, you can use the same technique for all these cases, but of course, as someone said before me, the technique will have dirrent flavours. I remember the first time this thing was pointed out to me. We were doing Ikkyo and I thought well, done before I can do it again. So I go ahead and do my nice Ikkyo Omote and walk and bring him down and pin and...Sensei says no,no,no. You didn't pay attention. I have never left my spot. What you did was different. I want you to bring down Uke quickly without you leaving your spot. Well, from there I started paying more attention to what Sensei was explaining, no Ikkyo, Nikkyo, Sankyo, Kotegaeshi...but rather what kind of relationship with the energy today Sensei wants to work with. Some of those guys in the dojo might not have caught that point yet. So they might have given you all good explaination, but they might have not been what your Sensei wanted from you in that moment.


Best solution? Tough to say. Maybe asking for advice from your Sensei on what to do when this is gonna happen again.
 
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jurat13

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Everyone thank you for the responses thus far. Please keep them coming.

ZDon, you make a good point when you say that perhaps I may not be doing the technique how I thought the instructor showed me.

You stated in part, "Part of the problem may be you THINK you are doing it as previously shown, but are actually just doing so to the best of your ability. Heck, if it were possible to do things as shown immediately after, then we wouldn't have to spend years and years and years training..."

Your analysis makes perfect sense to me.

However, I am talking about scenarios where there is really no room for error even if you just walked off the street and were learning the technique with no prior martial arts experience.

For example, We were doing a Bo exercise where Uke starts in the standard Aikido stance (I am new so I don't remember the name of the stance), and then Uke performs a skeet(?) with the Bo, and Nage tries to take it from Uke, redirects uke, and throws Uke using his own momentum.

Now I realize that a newbie such as myself will not be proficient in performing the Uke or Nage role of that Bo skeet exercise for some time. So if a fellow student corrects me during that drill I understand. But here is the part where I believe that my fellow student should not correct me because it is easy for me or perhaps even and inexperienced martial artist off the street to remember.

Here's my point... Group work has begun on doing this Bo skeet exercise. There are an odd number of students so I don't have a partner. Yondan decides to work with me.

Yondan instructed me to begin the Bo skeet exercise by placing the Bo on the floor, and on my centerline when I am in the standard Aikido stance. That is something that I feel is easy for me to remember, or even perhaps and inexperienced martial artist as well. Keep the Bo on the floor, and on my centerline.

Well when we switched partners, my fellow student felt the need to tell me to keep the Bo on the floor in front of my big toe. Therefore, rest the Bo off of my centerline. I explained to this fellow student that Yondan just instructed me to keep the Bo on my centerline. That's when my fellow student said, "Well I would still do it the way that I am showing you, if Yondan corrects you then I would do what he says."

Can you guys explain this?

Thanks,

Confused Newbie
 

Tez3

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Everyone thank you for the responses thus far. Please keep them coming.

ZDon, you make a good point when you say that perhaps I may not be doing the technique how I thought the instructor showed me.

You stated in part, "Part of the problem may be you THINK you are doing it as previously shown, but are actually just doing so to the best of your ability. Heck, if it were possible to do things as shown immediately after, then we wouldn't have to spend years and years and years training..."

Your analysis makes perfect sense to me.

However, I am talking about scenarios where there is really no room for error even if you just walked off the street and were learning the technique with no prior martial arts experience.

For example, We were doing a Bo exercise where Uke starts in the standard Aikido stance (I am new so I don't remember the name of the stance), and then Uke performs a skeet(?) with the Bo, and Nage tries to take it from Uke, redirects uke, and throws Uke using his own momentum.

Now I realize that a newbie such as myself will not be proficient in performing the Uke or Nage role of that Bo skeet exercise for some time. So if a fellow student corrects me during that drill I understand. But here is the part where I believe that my fellow student should not correct me because it is easy for me or perhaps even and inexperienced martial artist off the street to remember.

Here's my point... Group work has begun on doing this Bo skeet exercise. There are an odd number of students so I don't have a partner. Yondan decides to work with me.

Yondan instructed me to begin the Bo skeet exercise by placing the Bo on the floor, and on my centerline when I am in the standard Aikido stance. That is something that I feel is easy for me to remember, or even perhaps and inexperienced martial artist as well. Keep the Bo on the floor, and on my centerline.

Well when we switched partners, my fellow student felt the need to tell me to keep the Bo on the floor in front of my big toe. Therefore, rest the Bo off of my centerline. I explained to this fellow student that Yondan just instructed me to keep the Bo on my centerline. That's when my fellow student said, "Well I would still do it the way that I am showing you, if Yondan corrects you then I would do what he says."

Can you guys explain this?

Thanks,

Confused Newbie

I have to say I've come across this as well. In fact I saw this last night in training. I suspect too it's ego.
We had some new guys in the MMA class, my instructor was teaching basics, the first was a straight arm bar from mount. It's a simple technique, my instructor showed them how to grab both hands ( a preference of his to hide which arm he's going for) then slide off to the side of the chosen arm, one leg across throat, the other across chest, arm in lock across hip etc. (not a complete description but enough I hope to give you an idea) the guys started to practice but one of our more 'experienced' guys started helping them, oh you want to do this, and move this here, and don't do that, basically changing everything the instructor told them.
Now when you are more experienced and you're grappling freely with techniques you are comfortable with you do change things to suit yourself, in that particular move I was shown a way to make it easier for me being small but when you are starting out you learn the basic techniques surely? To me, changing what an instructor has told beginners is disrespectful and showing off. The way this student was showing them last night struck me as being boastful, as if he knew more than our instructor. By all means show them other variations once they have mastered the basic technique as I think they'd understand it better then but let them learn basics first.
Perhaps it's just me? Jurat13s post did strike a chord with me though. Perhaps I'm being uncharitable in thinking it's ego that makes people tell you to do things their way rather than the instructors.
 

morph4me

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Another issue that arises is that the other students may be giving you corrections they were given, and they may not apply to you. I give individual students different corrections on the same techniques to correct problems they're having, but the correction for student A may be different than the correction for student B for the same problem, because the source of the problem is different.

Using your issue as an example, the guy who told you to keep the bo inf front of your toe may have been given this correction because his toe is already lined up with the center of his body when he's in the stance, your stance may be slightly different and the correction won't apply
 
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jurat13

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morph4me, excellent point regarding different corrections for different folks. I hadn't considered that at all.

taz3, you and charyuop mentioned ego as a possible factor. After reading both of your posts, I may agree. Last Saturday, I volunteered to mop the dojo mat. While mopping the dojo mat I was promptly corrected by a senior student who frequently corrects me on everything that I should mop the mat his way. Perhaps there is some ego involved there.

Everyone, let me add another twist... does size of the practitioner in a soft style art (Aikido, Tai Chi), as opposed to a hard style art (Boxing, Karate, Muay Thai) influence the amount of corrections that a practitioner may receive?

For example, I am 6'1" fluctuate between 217 lbs - 225 lbs. I feel that my build is athletic, muscular. In my dojo I am considered a "big guy." I personally do not feel that I am a big guy. Every night when I go to the gym I see guys that are 2-3 times my size. Consistent with the saying that there will always be someone bigger, or stronger, or faster than you.

In my dojo there are three other "big guys." No offense to them, but I observe their build to not be muscular.

I sometimes feel that since I am deemed a "bigger guy" and studied Muay Thai, and Boxing one senior student in particular, automatically assumes that I want to bash people in.

Let me illustrate how my perceived size may also influence the corrections that I may receive. The same senior student who corrects me about mopping the dojo floor, saw me start the beginning of a technique to throw someone (This throw is executed by stepping into the Uke, having one hand higher, and the other lower, and Nage throws Uke). This senior student is also deemed a "bigger guy."

Now let's assume that any particular drill is practiced for about 20 repetitions for Uke and Nage a piece. I was Nage and as Uke approached me I proceeded to do my 1st out of 20 throws. The senior student immediately lectured me on using strength. My thinking is I get 20 tries, and I am new. I am sure that I may get the 1st try wrong. Perhaps I may even get tries 2-13 wrong. I may then get try #14 right. Then go right back and get tries 15-20 wrong again. But shouldnt I be allowed to practice the drill? As a result, he did not allow me to complete the drill, and began to lecture me about Aikido being a soft style, does not use brute strength, etc.


Later Yondan used him for a demonstration and proceeded to tell the class that this senior student needs to relax, and not be so bulky and use his size. So maybe the senior student felt the need to exercise power over me. I don't know.

At the end of class, Yondan wanted us to break into groups with 3 Ukes and one Nage. The Nage was to perform the throwing drill that he asked us to practice earlier. Well because the senior student had lectured me during my time to practice the drill. I did not know what to do when we did this randori type drill at the end of class.

Nevertheless, do bigger students in softer styles become perceived to only want to use strength and not use technique and thus receive more corrections?
 

Nomad

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Nevertheless, do bigger students in softer styles become perceived to only want to use strength and not use technique and thus receive more corrections?

As a fellow big guy, let me state that this may be less a perception on the part of everyone else in the dojo and more a simple observation of the way you're doing the technique. Larger guys tend to "muscle our way through" without even thinking about it, especially when new to an art (and this is probably even more evident in a soft art like Aikido). Part of this, again, goes back to body types. In my experience, it takes years to get rid of this tendency, and even now it crops up every once in awhile.

In contrast, we had a lady at our dojo who stood maybe 5'1" tall and weighed ~90 lbs soaking wet, and she could toss us big guys around like rag dolls. This clearly demonstrates the benefits of having near-perfect technique (as she had).

It will take some time for you to learn how to relax, breathe, and use the principles underlying the technique to do the work for you.

OTOH, it also sounds like some of your fellow students may be overly attentive at this point... it's okay sometimes to back off and let newer students just do the technique. If all goes well, you have years to come to "fix" it; piling on too much at once (as appears to be the case here) leads only to frustration, and may cause people to drop the class.
 

zDom

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... and then there are times a senior student is simply doing it wrong :)

I'd say, no use arguing with him: the sensei will straighten him out eventually.

Just smile, try to do what he asks for that moment then forget about it and go back to doing what the sensei told you (keep it centered!) when you move on to the next partner. (shrug)


Better the sensei humbles/embarresses him than you ;)
 

jks9199

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I have to say I've come across this as well. In fact I saw this last night in training. I suspect too it's ego.
We had some new guys in the MMA class, my instructor was teaching basics, the first was a straight arm bar from mount. It's a simple technique, my instructor showed them how to grab both hands ( a preference of his to hide which arm he's going for) then slide off to the side of the chosen arm, one leg across throat, the other across chest, arm in lock across hip etc. (not a complete description but enough I hope to give you an idea) the guys started to practice but one of our more 'experienced' guys started helping them, oh you want to do this, and move this here, and don't do that, basically changing everything the instructor told them.
Now when you are more experienced and you're grappling freely with techniques you are comfortable with you do change things to suit yourself, in that particular move I was shown a way to make it easier for me being small but when you are starting out you learn the basic techniques surely? To me, changing what an instructor has told beginners is disrespectful and showing off. The way this student was showing them last night struck me as being boastful, as if he knew more than our instructor. By all means show them other variations once they have mastered the basic technique as I think they'd understand it better then but let them learn basics first.
Perhaps it's just me? Jurat13s post did strike a chord with me though. Perhaps I'm being uncharitable in thinking it's ego that makes people tell you to do things their way rather than the instructors.
Often, until they've learned how to teach, a student doesn't realize that the way they're doing a technique today isn't the way they learned it initially. They forget that to reach the way they do it now, they had to start in a clunkier or less effective way. As an analogy, consider reading. Most people don't learn to read by recognizing words in gestalt; they learn to read by recognizing the sound of each letter, and putting them together. In time, you see the word whole, and know what it means, but at first, you "sound it out." So, while almost anyone reading this post would immediately recognize "CAT" as the pesky critters that have staff and deign to allow us to feed and occasionally pet them, a person just learning to read has to recognize the "k" or hard C, the soft "ah", and the "tuh" of the T, then put it together as "kuh ah tuh", then "cat."
 
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