Instructors versus Teachers

The other day I had a conversation with an old friend who has trained in martial arts in the Far East and lived the life. He is in his 70’s and loves the arts.
He talked about the difference between an instructor in martial arts and a teacher. In the beginning martial arts was “a way of life” and not a way to pay for a life. Schools were humble small affairs run by monks who offered only good honest training and the fulfillment of basic needs. If fact, the monks didn’t want or need much more than the basics of life. Martial arts were taught for the sake of the arts and to achieve personal perfection (a way to transform in God’s eyes).
They were teachers who worked hard every day and sought to give their students the principles of that perfection. They knew how to teach each student in an individual way, a way that made the most of what that student had within. Each class and each action was from the heart; it was a reflection of the martial arts spirit of that teacher. It was his training and story from within being painted in each of his students. The best of teachers painted masterpieces in their students and changed their lives forever in a good and honorable way.
Instructors are another matter. Many of them are just in the “business” of martial arts. They fill their gym with lines of students and teach them all the same way. They worry more about counting dollars than developing well-trained martial artists. Their students lack depth because they aren’t taught the principles of martial arts. Instead they learn runs of kata and strings of punches and kicks. Have tests for belts and levels that cost the student money but don’t give them much value.
Where have the principles gone? Why aren’t students taught why an action works? Students aren’t taught the principles of power, how they work or how they are applied. They aren’t shown how to use body dynamics to adjust the principles to the size of their own circles. It is not just the students who lose. Martial arts as a whole loses because we don’t get the good work these instructors could give if they took the time to be teachers.
I had an art teacher once who told me, “It is hard to paint a masterpiece when you are only there to paint a fence.”
So I say to all the instructors out there: Treat your arts like the gift that it is and paint your own masterpieces. The world and your students will honor you for your work.

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About JD01

I have been studying martial arts for over 40 years. I am ex military (Marine) and have lived/traveled in some dangerous places. I have seen my share of what combat can do to people. The good and the bad.
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One Response to Instructors versus Teachers

  1. jack says:

    It is strange to think that our friendship is well into it’s 3rd decade, but it is. Although it is more than just your run of the mill friendship. I will forever remember when I asked you to teach me, and your answer, “No. you are not ready.” It took a while, but you agreed, much to the dismay of several people. At first they ridiculed me by saying I was your shadow. Little did anyone realize, that is a title I wear with pride. I am proud to call you my teacher, my friend, my brother. Jack the Shadow

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