Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Re: 078) The Teacher: February 2011
Although this thread is about "the teacher", it is really about what motivates a student. What is the motivating factor for ones training? Because that is the foundation upon which ones motivation for teaching eventually rests.
Now, I am not saying that ones motivations don't change over time... I don't think I no any senior Aikido teacher who is still in the art is here for precisely the same reasons he or she started. This is Budo, a Path with Heart, one might say, and as with any path, one should not be in the same place after twenty years as one was when one first started.
As I have said elsewhere, many, if not most, folks start martial arts training out of fear. This is not necessarily fear of attack or physical confrontation either. There are innumerable things which make us fearful. Training in martial arts is, first and foremost, about transforming that fear into something more positive. When fearful individuals train, they do so with the mistaken belief that, if they can just get strong enough, just fast enough, just powerful enough to defeat anyone they meet, they will cease to be afraid any more.
This, of course, is entirely false. First of all, there is always someone else... perhaps not at this instant, but down the line there will be. Confidence based on the ability to defeat others is a false confidence in the first place. Martial arts may give one a degree of confidence, but what they really should do is develop courage. Courage is the ability to acknowledge ones own mortality.
The instant we were born,we entered a battle for our lives which we are destined to lose. It's not about the winning, it's about 'fighting the good fight" so to speak. It's about living a life that , at the moment of ones death, one can have few regrets, and can honestly tell oneself that the world was a better place because one passed through it.
Ultimately training is about ones relationship with the world. Does one live in fear, acquiring more tools every day to defeat any perceived threats we imagine we might encounter? Many martial artists do that. Look at all the amazing, technically advanced fighters we see who socially cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.
So, Marc and Toby have talked about long term relationships. Toby, in particular, has a huge and constantly expanding network of relationships, and this is precisely because for him, relationships are two way affairs. Toby receives respect because he accords respect, He is special, not because of the great skill he has and the unique nature of what he knows. He is truly special, and stands apart, because he has accomplished what he has while being an extraordinary human being. Ikeda Sensei is much the same. Meeting these folks and counting them as friends truly makes ones life seem fuller. It is a privilege to know these folks.
Regardless of technical proficiency, and even more so, the ability to fight, the bottom line for the student or teacher is relationships. With ones teachers, with ones students and with ones peers. The narcissist, and there are a disproportionate number in martial arts, can't maintain a relationship with a teacher over the long run because he cannot really admit that anyone is above him. Typically they have few, if any, friends who are peers because, in their own minds, they have no peers. They can have students, as long as those students constantly act in such a way as to bolster the illusion of the teacher's superiority. There is no two way street with the narcissist. It's all about their skill, their ideas. They are the center of everything.
So, who is most impressive, the one who acquires a high degree of skill in a very narrowly defined set of parameters based on the ability to meet and defeat other people and inspires awe and even fear with those skills... or the one whose training has contributed to his ability to make friends, form strong relationships, and make people enhanced through his interactions? I certainly know which Path I'd take... one has "heart" and the other doesn't. One takes courage and the other is usually based on unresolved fear and false self confidence.
I like the concept of Karma. What you put out, will come back to you, one way or another. It's not about some short term validation, it's about ones reputation. It's not about instilling fear in an opponent, it's about being courageous enough that one can meet ones fellows with a an open heart and make them less fearful. Good training produces this trait and training for the wrong reasons fails to. Over time, any teacher will show what kind of training he has been doing. We don't have to do anything... it will simply become apparent to anyone looking.
So, I don't spend a lot of time worrying about those teachers who, regardless of technical attainment, can't relate to his or her fellow human beings very well. Their own dysfunctions will marginalize them in the long run. I often see this as tragic, actually, because these are often people who could actually teach one quite a bit. But it gets t the point at which their dysfunction outweighs any potential benefit one feels from training with them. I think if we all work our damnedest to be the best students and teachers we can be, the rest will take care of itself. "No reason to get excited" as Bob Dylan said.