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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Aikido for the Classroom, Part II

No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength.
- Helmuth von Moltke the Elder

I had to restrain a really, truly violent student for the first time two weeks ago.

For the sake of those involved, I won't go into details. It's enough for now to say that when I arrived to respond to a frantic distress call, the situation was already well beyond any solution but physical intervention. A very large, very angry adolescent needed to be stopped now, and I was going to have to be the one to do it.

Procedures were forgotten. Training was forgotten.

I should have known better, of course; besides my regular training in aikido, I had been through training specifically for situations like this through the school system. But I charged in mindlessly, shoving a desk out of my way, with no plan except to be bigger and stronger than the student.

The trouble is, I almost wasn't.

I like to think that regular martial arts training and exercise makes me a little stronger than the average musician/teaching aide, but hell hath no fury like the pent-up rage of a large tweenager. It took everything I had to stop his charge without hurting him, and a little more I didn't know I had until then to avoid hurting myself. Had he been any bigger, or had I been any smaller, I likely would have failed to stop further violence.

What did I do wrong? Well, nothing. And everything.

The hold I tried on him was indeed one prescribed by my training, but it only barely worked. Not because I was doing it incorrectly, but because I wasn't really big enough or strong enough to pull off this particular hold on such a large student. Had I kept my presence of mind, I might have realized that it was too risky to try and pull this off with brute strength, started my half of a more appropriate two-person hold, and yelled for help from one of the other adults in the room.

But I didn't. I gave my mind over to instinct, and started a contest of strength. Thankfully, I won this one, and prevented any further violence or injury. But I must admit, I got lucky.

What have I been learning in a year-plus at the dojo if not to stay centered and avoid dependence on strength? Apparently, I haven't learned it enough.

One thing I learned in this instance, though: I've got a lot more training to do.

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