The Role of the Teacher

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by dcaldwell, Nov 9, 2007.

  1. dcaldwell

    dcaldwell New Member

    In my martial training, I've been fortunate to have some skilled and extraordinary teachers. In training, the teacher represents the physical incarnation of a school of fighting principles. He or she is the confident guide who leads students along a trail of development. In one respect, the teacher is a model of our future selves.

    I wouldn't want to study with someone who doesn't practice what he preaches. This is what separates the teacher from someone who simply offers you advice. Though your teacher offers advice, he or she should be a living example of what it is that you are trying to learn. (The Japanese word sensei has its root in this. Sensei, which we take to mean "teacher or instructor," has a literal meaning of "person that I wish to be like.")

    How a teacher elects to teach is grounds for a lot of discussion. The determining factor is the lessons passed on and the teacher's preferred method of communication. Some lean toward kind words and subtle encouragements, others stick to the boot in the ass, "no-pain, no gain" method of incentive. There isn't a right way. There is only the correct match of student and master; an important pairing in some martial arts schools.The grandmaster of one discipline I studied said that the teacher-student relationship is more important than any other a person is likely to get involved in. While I know the man was very respectful of filial piety, I suspect that his statement relates to the image again of the teacher as our future self.

    Still, we tend to learn from our teachers even after we've left them. The role of a teacher is archetypal for us. They are imposing figures who constantly hover just on the edge of our consciousness. Notable masters have praised those who guided them along. Some paint stories that impart a lesson that may rival any myth. I recently read a Greek myth concerning Hercules and a giant called Antaeus. Antaeus, the son of Gaia and Poseidon, used to coax people into wrestling with him. Once the match would begin he would promptly kill them with his immense strength. He had a little secret: he couldn't lose as long as he was in direct contact with his mother the Earth. Hercules knew this and when it came down to a match between them, he lifted Antaeus into the air and crushed him.

    With that in mind, consider this story of T. Takamatsu, predecessor of the current grandmaster of the Bujinkan dojo. Once there was a giant bandit, somewhere in China, who demanded a "toll" from everyone who would get by him to journey along a roadway. Takamatsu heard about this and found himself in front of this man. Of course being such as he was, he refused to pay the brute anything. The bandit roared and swept Takamatsu up into his arms. Later, according to Takamatsu's retelling of the story, "Suddenly, the giant screamed in agony and let me go and to my surprise I saw one of his eyes clutched in my fingers." From that day on, travelers were unimpeded in their journeys.

    The foremost point of this article is this: a teacher has the ability to help us spur our self development as human beings. They chide us to be strong, fierce, brave, but they also demand that we shun brutality and keep our aim on truth and self knowledge. If a teacher really cares about you, you will experience a wide range of lessons from him or her. Teachers can be ruthless predators in a sense and your shortcomings are their favorite dish. In biological terms, predators strengthen their prey. They pick off the sick and keep the healthy on their toes. Occasionally, you will look at your teacher and swear you see horns sprouting from his or her head. This person will punch you in the stomach, expect you to do the impossible, and put you through hell and back. With someone like this on your butt, you learn to get moving.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, I've had these same teachers deal with me in quite caring and hospitable ways: they've fed me, given me a place to sleep, and looked at me with genuine tears of pride in their eyes. The best of them have shown me how to pick myself up out of the mud and have shown me how to develop martial integrity. And that's quite a debt to pay back. The best way to do this is to practice what you know.

    Learn. Learn. Learn.

    Darryl Caldwell
    chatter box likes this.
  2. vietdao

    vietdao New Member

    Nice Post. Truer words were never spoken. :Angel:

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    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 27, 2007
  3. Ng Jit

    Ng Jit New Member

    Very interesting nicely put.... :cool:
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2020

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