Hello! This is Kaz. Thanks for visiting this website.
Last update: July 7th, 2014.
I may add more questions and answers later on.
The Table of Content
- Question: I notice that you don’t play in tournaments anymore, either in Japan or abroad. Why is that?
- Question: You seem to emphasize basic joseki in your lessons. Does that mean that I will never get to learn the josekis that top pros use?
- Question: I’ve never heard of any Go teacher teaching common amateur mistakes and how to fix them. Why is that?
- Question: What if I say I need only your commentary and not the problems. Would you lower your teaching rate?
- Question: Many Go schools host tournaments, and review some of the games, and/or do simuls. Why don’t you do the same?
- Question: I have seen you teach Romeo-and-Juliet shape, Indiana Jones tesuji on KGS plus. What are those?
- Question: Are you critical of your students? When you teach, do you encourage or discourage your students?
That’s correct; I don’t play tournaments any more. In fact, I even stopped studying solely to improve my own playing many years ago.
Here’s why: At one point I realized that in order to teach my adult players (both dan- and kyu-level) to the best of my ability, I would have to put in a lot of time studying and analyzing hundreds of games.
Unfortunately, though, even that undertaking would not be satisfactory. You see, in order to teach players of varying levels most effectively, I would have to spend time studying many games at each of the different levels. Dan-level players need to be taught differently than 5-kyu players, who need to be taught differently than 20-kyu players, and so on.
Obviously, that represents a huge commitment. So I realized that I would have to make a choice between analyzing those amateur games or studying for myself. Studying for a major event- the World Amateur Championship, for example- requires 3-4 hours per day of study, with 8 hours on the weekends, for perhaps many years. I could not both prepare myself for tournaments and give my students the quality instruction they expect and deserve.
I prepare for my students’ lessons in the same way top pros study. For example, in Japan, once Cho U 9-dan had won most of his titles, Sakai Hideyuki 8-dan challenged his Gosei title. Sakai spent more than a week intensively studying and analyzing Cho U’s games, after which, he won the Gosei title match. (By the way, Sakai 8dan studies at least 8 hours every day. That’s what many top pros study. Perhaps Korean and Chinese top pros even more. I don’t know anything about them.)
I, on the other hand, examine and teach amateur games at least 8 hours a day, often 12 hours or more, at least 5 days a week, possibly 7 days a week. I’ve been doing that for more than 15 years. Naturally I have accumulated hundreds of common adult mistakes as well as the knowledge of how to fix them and how to teach adults.
When I prepare lessons for my students, I sometimes spend the whole day considering their games: their weaknesses, tendencies and habits, as well as the most effective way to present the material. Only then do I start creating the problems for the lesson.
Incidentally, I should say that I do look at top pros’ games enough to familiarize myself with the latest joseki, opening, etc., but I don’t spend anymore time than that.
But I usually don’t teach top pros’ games. I teach my students based on their level. ( I explained the reason on my blog: http://kazsensei.seesaa.net/article/396285189.html . The following is also related to this: http://kazsensei.com/faq/#tournament. Also please read the Answer below.)
- You seem to emphasize basic joseki in your lessons. Does that mean that I will never get to learn josekis that top pros use?
I do indeed teach pro-level joseki- but mostly those pro joseki that are simple, short, basic, and easily understood, so even adult amateurs can learn them easily. More importantly, the joseki that I teach are relevant to a broad range of situations that come up in real games, so my students will have plenty of chances to use them. And because my students use them frequently, the joseki and the ideas behind them are integrated into the student’s personal repertoire of moves sooner- at which point the student can effectively use them without thinking.
I have had occasion in the past to prepare examples of pros using joseki in their games, but pros often play “trick” moves that are particular to the game at hand, and are not good basic moves that can be used in many situations. Or they choose joseki that are 30-40 moves long and contain dozens of variations. Children are capable of memorizing these, but not adults. I know this from my own teaching experience- adults cannot memorize long, complicated joseki. Adults need to focus instead on the meaning behind the moves.
Despite what I just said above, this method of learning is, in fact, also appropriate for children. When I was a child, I was told to memorize various joseki as well as professional games- which I did without understanding the reasons behind the moves. It wasn’t until I reached 6-dan that I began to understand the meaning of the moves, and I was then able to distinguish between moves that are broadly useful, and those that are not. Looking back I wish I could have been taught the meanings of the moves in the first place; I would have learned faster and been a sharper player.
At one point, I attended Ryokusei Go Gakuen, a Go school where Yamashita Keigo 9 dan pro studied. One day my Go teacher began using Go problems in his lessons with me and the other students. We found the tesuji problems much easier to understand than joseki, because the reasons behind tesuji moves are more immediately apparent; it’s also easier to see how a tesuji can be used in different situations. So you see, pure memorization is not necessarily efficient and effective for children, either.
In my lessons, I use dozens of problems to show how you can use the ideas behind them in your games, and I also teach when you shouldn’t use them. Since I can present dozens of problems to prove this, you will be able to learn them efficiently and effectively.
One of my students wrote the following:
Kaz stresses teaching basic shape. He then applies these shapes to many situations so that these shapes become like second nature. He will give problems that focus on a certain shape from different angles that will make you think but will also drill through repetition. I find that this repetition really helps me remember which I can then apply to a game situation.
My goal is to have you play basics until they become second nature for you.
Consequently, when it comes to joseki, I teach simple, basic, easy-to-understand joseki variations which contain good, basic shape and tesuji- things that can be applied to other situations often. And you will still find them useful even if you get to top amateurs.
I teach good shape in the same way.
However, when it comes to tesuji, life-and-death, middle-game fighting, you can’t be expected to do what top pros do- they can read ahead more than a hundred moves in a flash. Further, they know thousands of complicated tesuji and tsumego. Imagine: if an adult amateur wants to copy a pro-level middle game move, she will have to be able to read at least 30- 40 moves ahead (with variations!), and confirm whether they’ve made the right move before playing- but that’s obviously impossible. Many adults have a hard time reading 10 moves, let alone 30-40!
I remember having taught the “two-stone edge squeeze” to a student. But this tesuji requires reading ahead many moves. At that time I was an inexperienced Go teacher and didn’t know how difficult it was for my student to read that far ahead. Then he tried that tesuji in his game without confirming the reading; he lost his whole group!
When it comes to tesuji, life-and-death, and middle-game- things that require a lot of accurate, complicated reading- adult amateurs have to learn at their own level, and build a foundation one block at a time. I teach the situations that come up in amateur games most frequently, so my students can have useful tools they will use often and with confidence.
I once began teaching at a certain Go school. After about 6 months, I became very popular, and soon found myself playing 15-17 simuls every week, while most of the other Go teachers had 4 simuls or fewer. Now, I will also say that even before this Go school, I had taught at several other places, and I was usually popular there as well. Often I was serving as a substitute for other Go teachers, and I always received praise such as “your teaching is easier to understand than that of my sensei.”
However, despite my popularity at the time, I have to say that my teaching is even better now, because at that time, I didn’t know very much about common amateur mistakes- since then I have analyzed and catalogued hundreds of common amateur mistakes, and how to fix them.
I remember being impressed by an article in a business magazine about how important it is to listen to a customer’s voice in order to provide better service. I then modified my teaching style to better address the needs and demands of my students. This sometimes requires reading between the lines, as often a student may be a bit shy about making demands of hijs/her sensei. In other cases, they may not even know what they don’t know. Then I have to listen really carefully and probe their understanding with problems to find out what they need.
To me, listening is crucial when it comes to teaching.
As a result, their feedback and suggestions improved my teaching significantly. This is one of the biggest reasons that my private teaching today is completely different from that of other Go teachers. My teaching has developed and evolved as a result of listening to the needs and requests of my students.
My teaching continues to improve all the time. I still read business magazines every week, and whenever I learn something from a successful company, I try to incorporate it into my teaching. For example, the other day I learned about how Disneyland Tokyo has been a great success for more than 30 years. And so, I’ve applied their very successful method to my teaching.
As long as I can keep learning from my students and successful companies, I’m confident that I will always be able to provide the best Go teaching service possible.
When I teach Japanese players, I always give problems along with a game record and a commentary. Even when I did 17 simuls every week, I managed to keep doing that. If you take a lesson in Japan, you will find that no Go teachers offer a game record or a commentary. Nor do they give you any problems after the lesson.
I was probably the first Go teacher to start that in Japan, and I still do that. I do that because unless adult students review their lessons, they will not learn from them. Children can remember all the commentaries and variations after a game with a Go teacher or a pro and retain them for many years without recording them. However, my teaching experience tell me that adults cannot remember them. This is why I record all the games, write commentaries, and give problems.
(When I was doing a 17 simuls every week, I taught more than 50 adult players in total, mostly retirees, every week at a Go school, and recorded more than 30 games. During that time, I began to see various common amateur mistakes. Then I started thinking how to correct the mistakes. I did that for 5 years.
Moreover, I always reviewed my teaching after I left the Go school. I could remember games, a lesson, a lecture at least at least for a week, sometimes years. And since I could review them in my head, I reviewed on a train, during dinner, or in bed. I could also think of making problems while walking down the street.
After that, I stopped teaching at the Go school and began teaching privately. About 95% of my students were students I already knew from the Go school. So they continued taking my lessons after I started private teaching.
During the time I taught in the Go school and privately, I invented various new teaching styles.
Today when I teach privately face-to-face, I use some of the most effective teaching techniques. (I hesitate to state all of them here because other Go teachers may imitate my teaching.)
Teaching online is much harder than face-to-face- partly because I can neither see my students faces nor communicate with them easily.
But I have developed a way to compensate for those difficulties. So I’m confident that my online and offline teaching is as good as my face-to-face teaching now. A lot of my teaching techniques are incorporated into my problems. Consequently, the more you solve my problems, the more you will understand how different my problems are from any other problems published in books or on websites.
In Japan there is a famous Go teacher who has been on TV for many years. He was very famous even before I started teaching. In March, 2014, he showed a new way of teaching on TV, but I had already been teaching like that for more than 10 years. Since then, I’ve evolved that teaching style and tried many other different ways of teaching. I don’t use everything because some methods were not effective.
Today I’m still learning common amateur mistakes. When I see an amateur game, I can spot dozens of common amateur mistakes without thinking, and I can make many problems to correct them, according to each student’s level.
I feel that listening to my students and reviewing my lessons are two of the most important ways to improve my teaching.
I should also mention that I taught at the U.S. Go Congress in Portland, Oregon, years ago. I did 8 or 10 simuls, recorded all the games, and gave them to the players with my commentary. (In the second round of simuls, I didn’t have time to record games because I was leaving the U.S. next day.)
( I used to teach on KGS plus, but the format of KGS plus made it difficult to apply my unique teaching style. KGS plus has a fixed teaching style, very different from my own teaching.)
- Question: I’ve never heard of any Go teacher teaching common amateur mistakes and how to fix them. Why is that?
First I’d like to say that I teach not only common amateur mistakes and how to fix them, but I also teach basics that is the most important thing in order to be a strong player.
Over the years I’ve learned that one of the best ways for adult amateurs to get strong is to get basics because many of them lack a lot of basics. Worse, many of they keep learning new things before they learn basics. Further, many of them keep making common amateur mistakes that deviate from basics.
In order for them to learn basics as quickly as possible, they have to learn basics as well as to learn how to correct their common amateur mistakes. After they correct their mistake, they are playing basic moves.
These are the biggest reasons that I teach them common amateur mistakes and how to fix them.
Most Go teachers seem to be interested in becoming a stronger player themselves. Some have a great desire and ambition to win the World Amateur Championship. Naturally they study top pros’ games, the latest opening, the latest joseki, etc.
Naturally they teach the latest opening and the latest joseki. They teach those things not because they are the most basics, but because that’s what they are most interested in.
I used to be like that, too. But after I started examining amateur games , I realized that amateurs needed to learn basics, not the latest opening or the latest joseki. The more I examine amateur games, the more convinced I am that I have to teach them basics.
Over the years, I’ve had a great passion to help Go players, especially adults and especially kyu players strong. In order to achieve that, I had to observe, examine, and analyze hundreds of their games and their mistakes. It took me at least 3 or 4 years to make myself familiarize their mistakes. It took me more years to learn how to make problems to fix their bad habits.
In fact I’m still learning their mistakes and how to make better problems to fix their bad habits every day. It seems endless. But someone has to do it. So I’m still working hard to make more problems every day.
By the way, there is a great difference between children and adults.
Children can learn basics quickly. Their teachers also teach top pros’ games. So children naturally became interested in top pros’ games.
But when I listen to many adult players in Japan and in America, adults are interested in getting strong themselves. They know very few pros’ names, and many of them don’t really pay attention to pros’ games. They are too busy with work, family, etc., and simply don’t have the time to learn about pros’ world. They don’t even have time to study Go for themselves.
They are interested in becoming strong, and they pay money for a Go lesson to get strong, not to learn top pros’ games or the latest opening or the latest josekis.
I don’t teach top pros’ games or the latest opening or the latest josekis because that will not make them strong. I’ve stated my reason on my blog:
Incidentally, I think of my teaching as “doctor’s diagnosis Go teaching”.
When you have a headache, you go see a doctor, and he or she will listen to you attentively to find out what causes a headache. The doctor will also examine you by computed tomographic scan.
I examine my students by listening to how they have studied so far, how they play a game, what problems they have had. I will also examine their latest 10 games and see what problems they have. I try to understand their Go through various angles. Then I will comment on a game and choose or make problems most suitable for them based on my diagnosis.
I send problems in order to help my students learn most efficiently and most effectively, and they will be learning my lessons systematically. Without sending my problems, my students would not learn most efficiently and most effectively. Let me elaborate on this further.
I used to teach without giving any problems. But this teaching was not effective. Let me tell you the reason.
Go is so complex and broad that every time you play a game, you will almost always face a new situation, a new fight, a new shape, and a new tesuji in each game. Every time I taught my adult students, in every game, many new things came up. Sometimes the same shape or tesuji came up, but that would happen only once in every 5 or 6 games.
This means that my adult students always tried to learn new things. Traditionally this is the proper teaching in Japan. Pros and Go teachers play simuls and explain things after a game. That’s all. Even today, that’s still the proper teaching. I did that, too, for some years because that was how I was taught as a child, and when I was hired to teach Go, I was told to do so. No questions asked.
But the more I taught, the more I became questionable because adults didn’t improve, nor did they remember anything.
For example, a Go teacher teaches an adult a joseki which comes up only once every half year or once a year. Would you be able to remember that for a long time?
After some years, I was convinced that this way of teaching would be neither systematic, nor easy for adults to learn things, not to mention retain them.
This teaching works for talented children because once they learn, many of them will never forget. Even if they don’t understand why, they will never forget. And many talented children can improve from 10 kyu to 1 dan, and then 1 dan to 6 dan in a year or two years. By the time they get to a 6dan, everything they have learned makes sense.
But this will never happen to adults.
I began to explore a new way of teaching and tried various out-of-the box teaching methods. After many years, I’ve learned that adults need a systematic way of learning Go rather than learning everything unsystematically and randomly.
For example, when I teach adults a tesuji, I try to choose a tesuji that comes up most frequently. And I try to show a tesuji in different situations. That way, adults understand it from different angles in various situations. But I cannot show various problems in a minute. That’s where my problems come in. I send various problems after each lesson.
The more tesuji problems they solve, the more deeply they understand that particular tesuji of how it works and of when it comes up, and when that tesuji doesn’t work. Only then, will they be able to use that in their games. Only then, will they retain the tesuji for a long period of time. This is what I mean by teaching systematically.
This is the biggest reason that I send problems. This is how adults can learn my lessons most effectively and most efficiently.
In addition, I often make problems to explain tesuji, opening, shape, or difficult concepts such as Romeo-and-Juliet shape. On a game commentary, my comments and diagrams I can make are very limited. So I make many problems to explain hard concepts. The more I make problems, the easily my students will grasp. Generally when I present 20 or 25 problems, my students have a pretty good understanding of any topic or concept.
Please also take a look at how I developed my teaching style: http://kazsensei.com/faq/#teaching%20style
- Many Go schools host tournaments, and review some of the games and / or do simuls. Why don’t you do the same?
I believe that there are hundreds of different ways to teach, and that’s their particular style.
I personally don’t like to teach that way, for the following reasons:
We’ve all heard that to become a strong Go player, one should play as many games as possible. But I think that’s a common misconception. In my experience, that’s the biggest reason that many adults never improve- they spend too much time playing as many games as possible, and too little time learning fundamentals.
The fact is that adults tend to take far longer to learn basics than children, and they have less time available throughout the day for study. So they don’t make the effort to study the basics, and then compound their error by playing as many games as possible, which solidifies their bad habits. I’ve had a lot of experience in correcting such errors, and it can take many years in some cases!
So, my experience tells me that if I host a tournament to let students play a lot of games, I would give them the impression that “playing many games is the way to become strong.” Since I don’t agree with that philosophy, I don’t teach that way.
Also, I’ve learned that one of the most effective and efficient ways to learn is to learn from one’s own mistakes. If I put on a tournament, and I don’t examine every single game, the students will not learn from their mistakes. Again, this goes against my teaching philosophy.
Further, I really believe that in order to become a strong player, you have to learn the basics at your own level (and by “basics” I mean that there are basics at every level- 1-dan, 5-kyu, 10-kyu, etc.- that players should know. On my blog I explain the importance of studying at your own level: http://kazsensei.seesaa.net/article/396285189.html ).
In order to learn basics, you should also solve tesuji problems, life-and-death problems, and many other types of problems repeatedly to solidify your knowledge. But studying these problems randomly is not very effective for adults.
In order for adults to learn basics most effectively and most efficiently, they should study problems that relate to situations they encounter in their own games. Over the years, I have learned that this is the best approach for adults, and that’s how I teach today: I review my student’s games and design custom problems for them based on their mistakes.
Once they receive my problems, they can study and solve those problems as often as they like, over many years, if they desire.
In fact, this holds true not only for Go, but also for any other kind of learning. And I did have experiences in other fields- take a look at my blog:
Besides these, I could present many other examples in other fields. Maybe when I have time, I’ll write about that as well.
Some people think my teaching style is perhaps a horribly inefficient and time-consuming way to teach; I’ve already spent many years to make hundreds of problems, and making more customized problems for each student takes me 6 or 8 hours often. And I check 10 games each lesson. But since it’s one of the most efficient and the most effective ways for my students to learn, I will continue to do so.
(IMPORTANT: At one point, I had stopped teaching Go to English-speakers. It was an unfortunate necessity: making problems in a non-native language after each lesson took me too much time. My policy has been to present the best teaching I can, and without having time to prepare problems, I couldn’t live up to my own standards. But, while I stopped actively teaching English-speakers, I did continue to make lots problems in English. (I had had already had hundreds of problems in Japanese.) Now I have many examples with English explanations, and I’m ready to teach actively in English again.)
(IMPORTANT: Many Go teachers study top pros’ games and teach the latest joseki and the latest opening to amateurs, dan and kyu players alike. I try to avoid teaching the latest joseki and opening to amateurs. Here is the reason: http://kazsensei.seesaa.net/article/252401123.html)
It varies. Some of my students are retired, so they have enough time to study and review my lessons, and so they take one lesson a week. Others may not be retired, but they are really addicted to my teaching, and also manage to take a lesson every week. And then there are students who may be very busy and take a lesson only once a month, and that’s fine as well.
- Question: You often use expressions like, “$30 mistake” and “$40 mistake”. What does that mean?
That is why I came up with my system of classifying mistakes according to their severity: $10 mistake, $20 common mistake, $30 common mistake, etc. This is one of my unique teaching methods; as far as I know, I am the only one to have developed such a system. It has taken me many years of analyzing the mistakes of hundreds, if not thousands of adult kyu and dan players to be able to develop such a system:
- Question: I have seen you teach Romeo-and-Juliet shape, Indiana Jones tesuji on KGS plus. What are those?
I’m going to show an example of Romeo-and-Juliet shape and an Indiana Jones tesuji on my website soon.
‘Romeo-and-Juliet shape’ refers to a ripped-through shape. I’ve named that ‘Romeo-and-Juliet shape’ because I wanted to make a memorable name to describe how horrible this shape is. Many adults, including 3dan and 4 dan players who haven’t built the strong basic foundations, play this shape freely in their games. I tried to elaborate on how horrible the shape was, but many of them didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the mistakes. This is why I decided to make a memorable name.
‘Romeo-and-Juliet shape’ is one of the most important concepts in order to become a real real strong player, but it’s one of the hardest to grasp it, especially for adults. One of the biggest reasons, I think, is that there are no Go books about Romeo-and-Juliet shape in Japan. Children can learn it fairly easily. Pros learned it when there were little, so they have been avoiding the shape without thinking since they were little. But it’s really hard for adults, especially those adults who started learning Go in their mid 30s or older.
In order to help those adults understand the shape and the concept, I have made more than two hundred original problems. You don’t have to study them all. But the more you solve the problems, the better your understanding will be.
‘Indiana Jones tesuji’ is a connecting tesuji. I wanted to make a memorable name, because ‘Indy tesuji’ is one of the most basic and versatile tesujis. In many cases, this tesuji is often rather easy for amateurs to learn. (Yet, so many people, including dans, do not see this because they’ve never trained in it.) Moreover, you can apply the ‘Indy tesuji’ to the corner, side, and even the center. Most tesuji cannot apply to all these three places.
I always highly recommend the Indiana Jones tesuji, because it comes up at least once in every amateur game. I have hundreds of Indiana Jones tesuji problems.
If you solve about 30 problems, you will have a good understanding and can apply it in your games. Of course, the more you solve the problems, the better you can get.
I’ve also made ‘Rear Window’ intrusion problems and ‘Godzilla-defeating tesuji’ problems.
I have come up with those names because they are all from American movies. And there is a reason for that.
I once read a business book, which states that if you know American movies, soccer, and wine, then you should be able to make friends with anyone in any countries in the world because these three things are probably the most common and popular things all over the world. Since I love American movies, I tend to use the titles of the movies.
I also would like to make people enjoy learning Go. Then I first thought Romeo-and-Juliet shape would be a nice name for that.
I’ve also named other things such as ‘onion tesuji’. ‘Onino tesuji’ makes the enemy’s’ eyes ‘water’ just like chopping onion.
I believe that when it comes to teaching, encouragement and constructive advice are far better than discouragement and criticizing students. I strongly believe that because of my past experiences.
When I was an insei (Go apprentice), my Go teacher was extremely critical of my moves. He became more and more critical every week and started treating all my moves horrible and terrible and became angry.
At that time I tried to study more than 10 hours, often 15 hours. Despite my efforts, my teacher’s criticism escalated.
The more he criticized my moves, the more I lost my confidence. Worse, he also started criticizing my personality, things I said, and things I acted, and even my parents. His verbal abuses continued for a year and a half.
At the end, I lost all my confidence in my Go and as a person, lost the insei tournament, and quit. (Even after I quit an insei, he continued his verbal abuses of me more than 10 years. )
Japanese people tend to be harsh and very discouraging, especially my Go teacher.
Americans, on the other hand, tend to be encouraging. When I went to school in America, I met many American Go players, and they were all very nice and kind to me. I was also very surprised that teachers in school were very encouraging, and I learned a lot in terms of education and how to encourage people.
From my experiences, encouragement is far better than discouragement. I believe that discouragement would not do any good for anyone.
If you want to understand my teaching, please take a look at my blog: http://kazsensei.seesaa.net/
Thank you very much for reading this.