Re: 078) The Teacher: February 2011
A good essay everyone should read and take to heart.
Teaching budo is a complex subject and you touched on something I think is very important and frequently missed in this world of "instant gratification". A proper teacher/student relationship is extremely important but unfortunately all to uncommon today. Proper learning thru Shu Ha Ri cannot take place unless a healthy relationship is maintained between student and teacher. As a teacher of a koryu it is up to me to decide how and when anyone is given access to specific levels of knowledge. I have taken heat from some self-appointed budo "experts" because as a teacher of koryu, I'm unwilling to teach the deeper aspects of our art publicly. It makes me laugh. Who do these people think they are? What qualifies them to have access to knowledge seen as a sacred trust by generations of teachers before them? Have they taken an oath to be responsible with such knowledge.? Have they dedicated perhaps decades of study to maintaining the cultural fabric of a martial tradition? The obvious answer is, no. These "experts" have made a concerted effort to cherry pick bits and pieces from the overall compendium that makes up a martial tradition and then ignore what they've decided in their infinite wisdom is unimportant or frivolous.
It is illuminating that these same self appointed experts do not seem to be able to maintain a proper relationship with their teachers, and consequently do not grasp the fact that a person like me has a duty is to his teacher and the art passed to him, not to some narcissitic, self appointed prognosticator. It is my experience that this type of individual is only interested in "collecting" knowledge for their personal gratification. They care nothing for the legacy or history of martial traditions. They only care about what THEY can do with the knowledge they've collected. Sure, these individuals frequently wax eloquent about being open and giving, but if you look closely you'll realize this openness is always conditional. It is only offered when the individual offering up the knowledge is idolized and the the center of attention. He must be seen as the "arbiter" of the knowledge provided and will construct a carefully orchestrated marketing effort to promote himself and his expertise. It is inevitable that this type of individual will manifest a passive/aggressive intellectual dance of destruction that brings to mind the old maxim "Standing on the shoulders of giants". When individuals obtain knowledge without the benevolent guidance found in a proper teacher/student relationship the possibility that this knowledge will be used in an unhealthy manner is increased exponentially.
I admonish readers to be very wary of a teacher who cannot maintain a longterm and mutually respectful relationship with his own teacher. When you come across such an individual it is almost guaranteed that you will also find a very unhealthy ego residing there. Humility is one of the most important aspects of the teacher/student relationship, and without humility you will very quickly find yourself in a noxious and unsatisfying one sided relationship. It is reasons like this that koryu schools require very strong connections to tradition and legacy. It is why we take oaths to the ryu, not to other individuals. It is why I visit the founders grave and family in Japan. It is why I must see myself as a temporary custodian of something larger than myself and why I always credit what I've learned to the ryu, Takamura sensei and his perseverance in teaching me. You see, it's not about me, it's about the ryu, my relationship to the ryu thru my teacher, and the well being of my students as the future of the ryu. In a koryu no one is bigger than the ryu, consequently the relationship between student and teacher IS the ryu.
Tobin E Threadgill / TSYR