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Old 07-27-2015, 08:01 AM   #5
jonreading's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido South (formerly Emory Aikikai)
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 1,153
Re: Martial Arts Instructors Should Learn To Teach

1. I think the first argument you need to consider is whether martial artists are obligated to teach anyone. I am not sure this is true. Western martial arts have become something of a commodity; I pay you to teach me kata and kata gets me belts and belts mean that I know something. I am not sure that relationship is a direct reflection of "learning" martial arts, nor a direct indication of the skill being transmitted from teacher to student. I do not believe the pay-for-performance model is an accurate transmission model for teaching martial arts. But, it does expose more people to martial arts to which they would otherwise be prohibited from seeing.
2. I think you need to decide on a metric of success by which to critique instruction, if you are going to argue for its institution. Dojo size? Gross income? Number of students? Number of black belts? Trophies? Number of students gone evil and through mortal combat defeated? I know some number of nice people who can talk my ear off about what I should be doing, but who have little ability to do what they say - they are truly invested in me learning the poor martial arts they practice. If they give me a syllabus, does that make the poor martial arts they teach better?

I think we, as students, have a responsibility for our education and expertise in training. Our instructors are farther down a path of learning and therefore should be able to provide guidance to those junior in training. Sensei are sempai to some of us and cohai to others. We are not magical creatures with divine knowledge. To this extent, I do not believe sensei is obligated to teach anyone anything - this is something we do because someone did it for us and because we want to transmit what we know to someone else to carry our tradition. The better instructors rise within the community because students who are looking for better education train with them over poorer instructors.

I don't think you can cast a net over a community that spans the spectrum of talent and say something like, "instructors need to learn to teach." To the same point, I think you can't say, "students need to learn how to learn." I think those conversations should be specific to individuals and that is a tough conversation, "Sensei, I really like you and the fancy dojo you own. But, your teaching is terrible and I am going to leave to find something better." Or, "Student, you have been training with me for 10 years and you are doing the same thing you were 8 years ago."

I think sometimes we put sensei on a pedestal and if she wasn't on one we may have different expectations.

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