Take a Favorite Student, part II

Why take a favorite student?

Well, besides the reasons I present in Part I, a good reason would be if you wanted to preserve your art as you wish to have it preserved. Every student you touch will add his own flavor and spin on what you passed to him. Some of you will think that’s okay, some of you won’t. If you have had a lot of students become teachers in your style, having many versions of your art might be easier to swallow than if you only had 5. One of the points I repeat in many articles on this blog is that Masters value their art as a family heirloom, and just as you may have earned your art and your knowledge… you value this as such and wish to have only the best earn the right to learn it.

But I have seen Masters reach their 60s and have never had a student they thought to represent the best he could produce. I can’t imagine teaching an art for 30 – 40 years and have no perfect student. Yet, I have seen it happen many times. Teachers today have a unique challenge as very few will find it practical to pursue full-time study of the art in order to become a “perfect student”. Inside my own walls, I have all of my knowledge divided among about 10 of my students, because we have no students who train every day as I did in my youth. About 2 years ago, I understood this and endeavored to teach all I knew to a small group. During that time, three dropped out (Army, personal reasons, and one got married) of my Kung Fu group; and three have dropped from my Kuntaw/Eskrima group (one got deported and two got married and started families). All keep in touch with me, but the bottom line is that they are no longer training.

So much for that idea.

And rather than pass all my knowledge to one student, I am working with two groups totaling 10 students. Ideally, I have a baby brother (who is 25 and married with a baby also) and three children (ages 3, 8 and 10), plus 5 step children (only two who have interest… 5 and 13) whose lives I can hijack and train full-time, but what if I die next month? My Jow Ga Master died suddenly, one of my Kuntaw Master’s school was destroyed by Mt. Pinatubo, and my grandfather competed against all the other martial arts styles I was studying. It’s never easy.

So, as teachers this must be a major factor to consider. While most teachers are teaching nothing unique, I believe that all teachers have something worth preserving and bequeathing. How will you accomplish this? Are you satisfied with having your hard-earned-lessons-turned-philosophy changed with every generation and with each student who holds a piece of your art?

You could just write a book so at least it’s in writing. But can you truly convey everything in a book? I don’t think so, I can’t. This book I just got done with is kicking my behind, and it is only covering a small piece of my art.

How do you condense 20+ years of learning and training full-time into something you can pass to a student who can only make 3 classes a week–two hours each time he comes? How many students actually come to your school and sit at your feet to learn the lessons not covered during scheduled classtime?

That’s why you may need a favorite student. At least one. One who will not be too independant and will train your system as if it were the only truth that existed and prove that your way works. One who will not make you compete against everything else that is out there. I regret that I doubted my grandfather as an arrogant youth, who came to realize I had the best way at the ripe old age of 20… only to have my favorite teacher die when I was 22. Often I think of the years I wasted going to Bando classes, Tae Kwon Do schools and chasing girls–when I could have picked the brain of the man who knew me better than any of my teachers, the only one who was around so long he changed my diapers so my Mom could work. I look at my 3 year old running around my school wielding machetes like GI Joes, and I wonder how I looked doing that same thing 40 years ago. I was my Grandfather’s favorite student, and my entire adult life is a reflection of it. I would like to have someone–or a few someones–who would be saying the same thing in 20+ years.

How about you? Will you live on in some way? In schools you have yet to set foot in? Will students long after you are gone tell the stories about your matches that you fight today? Will people swear that you were the best fighters they have ever seen? Is your art developed and tested enough that people will spend their annual vacations traveling thousands of miles year after year to study with you? When you die, will you do so knowing that some student that you poured your heart and soul into is going to keep your style alive, or will you take all those lessons to the grave?

Think about it now, because the Creator of the world and the universe has put an expiration date on all of our lives and we have no idea when that day will come. Write your will now. Pay your debts now. Make sure that your epitath will be obvious to all who know you now, should you leave this Earth in the morning. No doubt you may leave behind many students who may wish to know more of what was to come, and they will need a go-to.

Just a few thoughts. Thank you for visiting my blog.