I was reflecting on this subject, and how I came to be a martial arts teacher, and how my children have no choice but to train (including my younger siblings). I realized that a lifelong Martial Arts teacher will make his children “favorite students”.
Besides love, knowledge of family history, and religion, what can we bequeath to our children, but a skill or trade we learned in our lifetime? How many times have you seen the child of a great singer and expected that kid to be a chip off the old block? Or a great athlete’s child? Or a scholar? We actually expect the children of great men and women to learn from their parents–whether by genetics or by osmosis–and to excel as they had been around their parents and their parents’ craft all their lives. This is not an absurd idea: parents who love their children and love their children will want to share their gifts with them.
For the martial arts Master, this is a subject closer to home. We have no control over our students’ lives, but we certainly have control over our children’s lives. If ever we were to develop the perfect martial arts fighter, what better guinea pig to do this with but our own children? I am not talking about Wu Bin-style cruelty that does not fit in the western idea of martial arts training, but is guaranteed to produce only the best martial artists in the world… but then again, I am. In my own upbringing, I was not allowed to date, join school sports, or run the streets and instead only had the martial arts and boxing to occupy my time. By the time I was in high school, I was old enough to cut school and communicate with kids who thought my family was wierd, but I chose to continue on the path I was raised on. There were definitely struggles, but in the end my mother was right on the money, and I am glad she and my grandparents stayed on me to stick with my martial arts.
You will find that the offspring of great men and women who live up to their parents’ greatness and onlookers’ expectations lived this same life.
At the same time, I have seen the children of great martial artists who couldn’t hold their father’s jock straps. I have also seen feuds where the son was nowhere around when Dad was training his students, and now that Dad is dead and gone, the son resurfaces to call himself the “New Grandmaster”, by birthright. WRONG. You see, birthright is bestowed upon birth, but your place must still be earned. You cannot expect others to respect you just because you share facial features and the same last name. You must pay your dues when you are young, and work your way up through the ranks like everyone else did. Even when you are in a system that passes father to son, as a son, you must earn your stripes among your father’s generals when you are young. And when it’s your turn to take the reins, they will be behind you 100%.
As the Master, you must make sure your children AND your students understand this. I would hope that if I died tomorrow, my students will continue the training I am giving my children and make sure they walk in my footsteps. I believe by genetics my kids will excel in the martial arts and remain in this life. But I want them to earn their knowledge as I did. Your generals must be humble enough to handle this and see it through. Your kids must have the name, the respect and the skills to stand alone as you have when you are gone.
Just some thoughts. Thank you for visiting my blog.
Just remembered something. As teachers, we must get our children out into the community so that they will know people and so that people will know them. This includes fighting in tournaments and accompanying you to events. They must be with you in the classroom when you are teaching, and when they are old enough, teach as well. As children, they must train every day, and you must ensure that they become better than you were (as you should for all of your students). This is how you raise children in the martial arts.
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Martial artists kill me. They remind me of the story of the Fox and the Grapes. Have I ever told you that story? I learned it as a boy:
There was once a fox who came across a gravevine full of delicious-looking grapes. “I sure would like to have some of those grapes,” the fox thought to himself.
He jumped to reach the lowest-hanging grapes, and no matter how high he jumped, the grapes escaped his reach.
After jumping, and jumping, and jumping, and failing… the fox was exhausted.
So he walked away, saying to himself, “who wants those grapes anyway? They are probably sour…”
So, when a martial arts teacher (like me) speaks of secrets and “super” techniques, those with low self esteem and questions about his or her own knowledge will rush to debunk the existence of these things as myths.
There are no secrets in the martial arts
The secret to skill in the martial arts is practice
If you have any secrets in your art, they aren’t worth anything
Keep them, I wouldn’t want to learn them
But let some popular martial artist talk of secrets, then people will acknowledge or lend credibility to them, rather than argue. Hopefully Master so-in-so will have these great-sounding techniques available on DVD, right?
I am not going to get into my definitions of martial arts “Secrets” again. I’ve done it thousands of times, and I would like for you to do a little research of my posts and articles and find it. Hopefully you will discover many useful bits of advice and information in my writings. But I’d like to describe what is called the “super technique”.
THE SUPER TECHNIQUE
When people talk of martial arts secrets, what comes to mind is some technique that will enable the fighter to whip all comers once he learns this technique. Not true. While it may be true that a super technique is often held close to the heart, the two are not the same. The Super technique is a technique that is well-thought through and designed to be a counterless fighting technique, often a counter to an attack. It is not just a hit or kick, but a combination that is designed to counter any possible counters to it. This is not easy to create, but they’re out there. And those teachers who know them did not just pick them up in passing. Often they are the last of a system learned, a teacher’s most valuable techniques or favored techniques. These are essentially trade secrets, and treated as so. But learning them is not enough. A teacher who teaches it will demand thousands and thousands of repetitions of practice. I have encountered some Masters who held such techniques and befriended them, ultimately learning a few. I can tell you, after experiencing such a technique, you develop a sense of awe and respect for them and trust me… you will treat them with the same amount of secrecy yourself.
One of the characteristics of such a technique–although not in all of them–is the amount of damage that can be inflicted upon an opponent with it. There are some techniques that really “too deadly/damaging” to use in sparring or demonstration. Yes, it is a joke in the martial arts, but there are many techniques that cannot be simulated. These are the techniques that you will practice in the air and on targets, and use only when the time calls for it. With this kind of technique, most who know them will not even demonstrate them to prove they exist and you will absorb ridicule for doing so. If you are a teacher of the art, a very small number of your students will ever get to learn them. This is the knowledge that is earned by a student’s dedication and loyalty.
If this post seemed pretty vague, then good. That’s what it was meant to be. Thank you for visiting my blog!
Now, before you get all up in arms about how Mustafa Gatdula is advocating favoritism, give me a chance and hear me out.
I am pretty much opposed to a traditional, age-old idea: holding back knowledge from most of your student base and pouring all you have into one or a few favorite “chosen” group. This is common mostly in Kung Fu, but a natural tendency for martial arts teachers of all backgrounds and cultures… we are the Masters who “show up” when the student is ready. The truth is that most of your martial arts students will not be as committed or as serious or even as gifted as you’d like. It is commonplace for the student with seemingly “natural ability” or a knack for skill or just a fanatical student to get most of the attention… especially when they come into the school 7 days a week and practice like no tomorrow. Favoritism is a negative way of describing the practice of discipleship–called the “bai si” in the Chinese Martial Arts or “nang alagad” in the Filipino martial arts. This is a student who has pledged his allegiance to a teacher and is allowed into an “inner circle” of study with the hopes of being a future Master in the style.
The practice is rooted in the lack of suitable inheritors of a Master’s art, as many teachers took his art and its secrets to the grave. Often, the most precious bits of knowledge a Master had acquired is held for the student who will best represent his teacher. And sadly enough, this student never appears. I have known Masters to have gone to the grave without having that “perfect student”. I have also seen Masters turn over systems to inferior students simply because his best students moved on, or he just never had one.
Then there are those teachers who only want to pass on the best parts of his system to a worthy student who has paid his dues with dedication, practice and service. These students are even more difficult to find today, as we often must compete with our students’ career goals…. we are looking for the next future Master of our arts, but the ones we thought would accept the baton want to be rich lawyers instead.
So what is a proud teacher to do? Let his art die with him? Force a son to study the art full-time, rather than pursue his true life’s passion?
This question is not easily answered. The ideal situation is to have a ton of students who want to become teachers one day, who are naturally gifted with ability, have a good work ethic, and enough money saved to train with us every day. Not likely. So, do we turn these techniques over to a student who may forget them in a few years? Or a student who will sell them on DVD? Or give it away for free on Youtube to show off how he knows some rare style or technique? You will have to think this out. Many teachers do not possess techniques worthy of such consideration. Most of us know the same junk you can buy on video or catch in some random clips somewhere. But then there are those of us who actually have something unique, that very few have seen, that–if executed properly–will enable any fighter to gain a huge advantage over his opponents. We just don’t pass stuff like that down in a random Thursday night sparring class to a group of students who have not proven their worth to have this knowledge.
So, many teachers will assume a favorite student. One who has promised to train with his teacher full-time, possibly forego a college education or career to do what his teacher wishes. A student who appears to want the same for himself that his teacher acquired in a lifetime of learning. This student will know his teacher more intimately than even his own children, be privy to secrets about his teacher or his teacher’s upbringing, and learn things about this art that the teacher wouldn’t sell for a million dollars. Few of us can assign a price to what we know, and it is even that difficult to find a student we believe is valuable enough to do what we hope they’d do with it.
This is one of the secrets of the art: Rarely will a Master impart all of his knowledge to anyone but a select few. Trust me, any Master who disputes the existence of this type of information is most likely not a “Master”, or does not possess anything so valuable he would screen who gets to learn it.
So, I advocate doing this if you have valuable art. If you do not have valuable art, then share what you know with whomever you please. But just know that a teacher who releases all he knows for a price either has no sense of value for what he has, or what he has is worthless.
Thank you for visiting my blog.
I’ve been wanting to write on this topic for a long time, so finally I am getting this one out. I hope you find it informative.
There are many things in the martial arts that can only be learned by teaching–or, I should say best learned by teaching. I have had some discussion with freelance martial artists about my opinion that martial arts development requires full-time indulgence. There are many part time martial artists who feel that one can pursue the art a few hours a week and attain the same results as one who does the martial arts all day long. This is an absurd, arrogant notion, and not worth my blog time disputing. Bottom line, you can’t. And I’ll prove it to you.
But that isn’t to say that you can’t learn and excel at the art while pursuing it part time. Of course, what you do when you train makes a significant difference, and if you couple serious training with active testing/sparring/competing, reflection and teaching you can certainly benefit while training part time in the arts. Today I am going to discuss how teaching the art can enhance your experience.
#1: Seeing things you hadn’t seen before
The first reason I recommend you teach at some point in your career is to experience the arts from the outside in. By saying “outside-in”, I am referring to the switched role of student/fighter to teacher. As a student of the arts you think you understand the techniques, but you are really following directions and often your opinions are mere regurgitations of what your teacher has said, or whatever you have read in a magazine, book or internet. But as a teacher, you must take a novice from scratch and teach him the finer points, until the student is performing the way you want him to. In doing this, you will make adjustments to how the technique is executed, answer “what-if” questions, and be in a position of defense if the student is not easily convinced. This is quite difficult to do because you cannot treat the student as an adversary, so you must find the most logical way to explain the technique as well as demonstrate it. Once you have done this many different ways (as students all learn at different levels), you have looked at this technique from many angles that you most likely have not done before.
This is much like how football players look at football in a smaller way than the coach, who is on the sidelines watching everything.
#2: The Student Who Doesn’t “Get It”
In our career, we will meet many students who has the coordination of a bowl of Jello or the rigidity of a statue, and you must firm up the Jello guy or loosen the statue. You will say to yourself, “If I can teach this guy, I can teach ANYONE!” And that’s true! Not everyone walking through your door will be a child progidy. Many people are terribly out of shape, uncoordinated, difficult to explain concepts to, or so excited they try to talk and learn at the same time–without listening. As the teacher, you must take them all. Our martial arts is far more than just repeating what our teachers have taught us. We must grasp what we know, mix that knowledge with what we have heard, seen and felt, add a little of our own prejudices and opinions, and then mold it into the learning and physical level of the students who are attending our classes. Good luck!
This is a skill that is mostly learned by trial and error. If you are one of the fortunate few who had a teacher who also taught you how to teach, then it will be easier. Yet, most teachers learned on their own, as the art and teaching the art are like day and night, or vinegar and water. Rarely will you be able to enjoin both skills. I would say that the majority of your time, you will have to reinvent the wheel because you will find a better way to pass on the art that suits your needs.
#3: Leading your men into battle
This is one of the most important parts of being a teacheer, as it relates to your role as martial artist. It is unlike most other teachers, who teach a skill and send students to the next level (like the work force). The martial arts teacher is expected to accompany his students into the battlefield, and often maintains the teacher-student relationship well after graduation. This means in addition to being a fighting arts teacher, we will be their coach when they fight, and their debriefing officer when they return from the battle.
You are responsible for helping the fighter connect his learning, to his training, to his fight plan against each successive opponent–if you lead your students into battle. Fail to do this, and you have done nothing more than a DVD from Panther Video: teach movement alone. It is important to take your students to a place where they can fight with other fighters and refine what they have learned afterwards. This is an important stage in a martial arts student’s learning career. Prior to matches, he has learned nothing more than movement. After he has had an abundance of matches under his belt, he has learned a skill. Your job is to help him navigate through this process.
I understand that many teachers did not have this experience: learn, fight, refine. But you can still help your students with their learning. No–you must help your students with this experience. Once they have had it, they will have better command of their knowledge and what they can do will catch up with what they know, and they will do it better. And you, as the teacher, will understand your art much better and can do a better job teaching the next generation of students.
This is what mastery of the art is all about.
So, I return to old arguments that have been rehashed in the martial arts community for ages: Can one become a Master without teaching? Probably not. Can one become a Master without fighting? Absolutely not. See, somebody has to do it. The teacher may not have fought, but his student better have, or that art will become diluted with every generation. Teaching your students, and then taking them to matches and teaching them some more is a very healthy, important stage in each of the levels of the martial arts: the teacher’s development, the student’s learning, and the art’s propogation.
And one last argument: Is there a such thing as inferior/superior arts? The answer: YES.
You see, the quality of an art is only as good as the ability of the students and the knowledge of the teacher. If the teacher has not proven his knowledge, and he has not proven the students’ ability, he will end up passing down unproven, untested art. “Testing” does not take place in the classroom amongst friends and family. “Testing” is an event that must be proven to adversaries who intend to prove that his way is superior to your way. You cannot get this by taking pictures and holding hands in a seminar or gathering. If a style has skipped this process, it’s teachings are not worth the paper it’s “certifications” art printed on.
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There is an idea called the Flywheel Concept which is an important part of the Good to Great concept.
To answer the question about which notch in a gear is responsible for turning the machine–the answer is all of them. In business, there is rarely no one thing that leads to success, but is a combination of many things. The great thing about it is that most activities push the business forward a little at a time, with a lot of energy invested, but eventually the gears and the momentum from their movement will propel the machine by the law of inertia. This article was inspired by something I read over on MartialTalk in response to my post about how to succeed in an FMA school. Two posters wrote about how they thought flyers were a waste of time because they had schools and flyers yielded no results. I thought this was worth an article, as I understand the low ratio of flyers passed out to new student. However, I have built my business off of flyers and I believe strongly in them. The difference is that I focus on the positives of my efforts than the failures; the truth of flyers is that you will have to pass out possibly thousands of them to gain a few students. But they are new students I didn’t have before I pass out flyers, and your efforts–if you stay at it long enough–will ultimately pay off. That is, unless you quit.
Sort of the Michael Jordan “missed shots” phenomena: some men define themselves by the number of successful attempts, while others define themselves by the number of unsuccessful ones. In his career, NBA great Michael Jordan missed over 9,000 shots. But we don’t address those, do we?
So, you may waste 998 flyers while attracting the attention of 2 potential students. Do you focus on the $80 you lost on flyers? Or the $300 you made off of the two students?
Okay, someone out there just thought to himself, “but I can’t feed my family off of 2 students”… But how long did it take you to distribute 1,000 flyers? 4 days? A week? Is that the only form of recruitment you use? Each mode of recruitment will bring you a little success–a student here, two students there–and in the end, they add up. So the flyer brought two students this month. If you charge $150 a month, it’s $300. An ad you placed brought you 2 students, another $300. Your website brought you one student, $150. A poster you put up in the local library brought you two students, another $300… and so on. So far, I’d say you made at least $1,050 more than you made last month. What’s the problem?
The Flywheel Concept of business says that every little function in marketing helps to push you along, and one by one, little by little, success by success. No one thing is responsible for your success or failure–everything helps if you do it, hurts if you don’t. We cannot afford to turn anything down, as long as it adds something to our bottom line.
The Flywheel Concept also applies to the martial arts. In training, no one exercise or drill is responsible for good skill alone. We must use everything that adds to our skill’s “bottom line”: stretching, endurance training, power mechanics, sparring, techniques practice, hands, feet, evading, etc. Many martial artists try to discount one aspect or another because they dislike it or lack skill in it; then another martial artist will overemphasize another. The truth is that everything we do develops some part of our skill–even forms training and one-step techniques practice–and whether we like it or not, something will be lacking if we choose to ignore it.
So when someone emails me, asking what can they add to their training to develop power, or improve sparring ability, or increase their ability to evade and chase on foot, there is no one answer. At the same time, there is no shortcut! Many of us look for the few things that will help us get rid of the middleman on the road to skill, and there is no middleman. You must first begin with a strong, well-planned training regimen, and then fulfill all its requirements. This takes patience, diligence, commitment, discipline and TIME.
For those who are still confused about how the Flywheel Concept applies to you, I recommend reading Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great. In the meantime, this definition should explain it better than I can.
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