Thread: Student ability
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Old 01-30-2005, 10:21 PM   #22
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Dojo: Senshin Center
Location: Dojo Address: 193 Turnpike Rd. Santa Barbara, CA.
Join Date: Feb 2002
Posts: 1,473
Re: Student ability

Ah yes, apologies Rachel for the unnecessary repetition. My oversight.

If I can go on a bitů

I think there are two issues and, up to now, or mostly, we have been trying to deal with the easier one. There is the issue of addressing his capacity to improve and trying to somehow increase that capacity. That is the easy one (even though it is proving to be quite difficult). Then there is the issue of being discouraged and/or dissatisfied with one's own rate of progress. This latter issue is really the big one -- in my opinion. Its solution can only come from a total re-cultivation or transformation of the self. By that I mean to say that such issues can only be reconciled by cultivating a deep, valid, and creative experience of self and/or self-identity. On the positive side, that is supposed to be a big part of training. Some folks, and I have to include myself as one of them, would even say that that is the main part of training. Thus, while I think it is of course important to get him to train more and to train more efficiently, things I think you are doing (and doing quite well considering the circumstances), I also think he would benefit greatly from penetrating and/or having more access to penetrate the art and its nature more deeply. In that way, he can move beyond the superficiality of group-measured progress and institutionally imposed labels. In that way, he can move beyond what is meaningless to that which is real and vital.

How does an instructor lend his/her expertise toward this part of training? I would say, the easiest thing to do is to use the remaining five days of the week to educate him on or to inform him of the depths of Budo. For example, you can have group readings with him and the rest of your students -- read the classics that are readily available in English (e.g. Osensei, Kung-Tzu, Lao Tzu, Takuan, Musashi, Yagyu, Ikkyu, Ryokan, etc.). Zero in on all those parts where the Sacred, the Real, the Deep, the truly valuable, etc., is being discussed and placed above the superficial, the mundane, the this-worldly, etc. Look into some modern thinkers -- ones who have written on the hardships, the frustrations, the benefits, and the vital signposts of any spiritual journey (e.g. Merton, the Dalai Lama, Nouwen, Sawaki, Suzuki, Chodran, Hanh, etc.). Focus in on where the issues of patience, humility, endurance, and faith are touched.

This is something we do at our dojo, and though it works well here, I cannot say how well it will work for you in your environment. Our training environment sounds very different -- and I am sure that context has a lot to do with the power of the message. I am just throwing it out as a suggestion. So, of course, I would think you would have to modify it to fit your situation. For what it is worth, I put a lot of such sensei/deshi encounters (which are vital to an instructor's own growth -- in my opinion) in our "Exchanges" section under the "Writings" link of our web site. There are many other writings on patience, frustration, etc., in the other sections as well. Perhaps you, or your student, might find something useful there too.

I want to wish you the best of luck, but I also want to say how impressed I am by the concern and directed efforts you have made thus far regarding this situation. It is inspiring. Let us hope it is contagious as well. All instructors should act thusly. So thank you.


David M. Valadez
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