One of the most important things about teaching is to have a background in training.
Teaching is a form of training, but there are things one must be very clear about. One thing you always watch is whether someone in the class teaches or trains. If you are working with someone newer, do you teach or train? One thing one can do is to summon the instructor over, and let the instructor convey the information. Training is not just working up a sweat and getting a workout. It is a process of relating to the person and yourself, ie connecting, through the art. It is a real art to be able to teach someone new through movement and the body. A lot of instruction can be way too verbal. This is especially difficult when the person you are working with is new and feels that he/she must understand something in order to move. Movement, feeling, awareness are parts of learning that must be introduced from the very onset of your working with someone new(er). If you stop and over verbalize, you may create a pattern in them that they will always stop and analyze and never move or feel. Tojima sensei was probably the most verbal of the teachers in Shingu, but he always related what he said to a process of feeling. The other teachers tended to move so fast that you couldn't think, which is good, but maybe the concept being practiced might not be clear. The challenge is to get the concept, which maybe a form as well as possibly flow, center, or energy, through the body.
The sad fact is that most people would rather do a form, whether that form is rigid, seemingly flowing, or moving, or static, than to feel and be aware. Real training is to feel what is going on, not to cover it up with flash or knowledge or glitz. And real training has nothing to do with something that is dangerous or effective. Real training is to touch the core of your own being and through that make a real connection to your partner. Training that is too extreme, and that can mean anything from being too mental, verbal, locked into a particular approach or style, too rigid, too soft and flowing, tends to be shallow. A purely mental approach will fail. But so will a purely physical approach. If someone has it, and I mean a level of the balance between mind/body, you can feel it. I remember my early days in Shingu it was obvious to me that Anno, Tojima, and Yanase senseis had something the rest of the people training didn't. And it was more than technique. In fact Anno sensei's shihonage was very different from Tojima sensei's, with Yanase sensei's being even different from the other two. It was something you could feel on the mat, but also something you could feel outside the dojo. These were people you trusted and respected, not just because they had a high number after their name or were addressed as sensei.
So training has a lot to do with forging and actualizing a deeper sense of who we are.We cannot teach that which we are separate from at the level of being. Constantly reflecting, absorbing, transforming are what aikido is about. We constantly run into the ego(the shallow mind-based "I")and must constantly re-direct it into the larger design of things. It is a process instead of a destination.
One of the major things I look at when evaluating someone's potential as a teacher is does that person teach or train when he/she is in the class? When Hikitsuchi sensei was leading the class, Anno sensei would train. If Yanase sensei had started the class, Tojima sensei would train. The other thing I look at, is does this person make the other person better? Often times one can dominate the other person either with an innundation of knowledge or in some cases superior physical skill, but do both people grow as a result of the training? Sometimes truly teaching something goes way past the other person having fun or the other person feeling good. Does the potential teacher have the ability to "wake up" the potential in the newer person? That can sometimes mean challenging outmoded patterns of behavior or destructive belief systems. But to challenge someone else, one must in effect constantly be challenging oneself. Hikitsuchi sensei insisted that aikido is "shugyo", literally a path of constant personal growth.
During a time when due to my surgery I am off the mat for a little while, these are things that have been running through me. I hope they stimulate some important thought.