There comes a point in a martial arts student’s learning career, that his education is no longer business… it becomes personal.
There has to be that point, if you are studying the real martial arts. I mean this with all my heart: I know some of you may be offended, but that’s only because the truth can hurt if you’re faced with the knowledge that you are in a commercial dojo.
Technique, forms, technical skills and history are merely the surface of one’s martial education. These are things that one can teach himself, and this knowledge is easily duplicated by almost anyone. In fact, a person can be naturally “gifted” (whatever that means) and walk through the door better than 90% of his or her classmates with no former, formal training! Don’t believe me? Think of the heavy-handed bricklayer who joins a martial arts school and can hit harder than the teacher. Or the plumber whose wrists and grip is so tight, that even the highest-ranking Aikidoka can’t subdue him easily. Or the 13-year old ballet dancer/White belter who can throw 180 degree side kicks. Or the pom-pom cheerleader who can learn and perform sinawali faster and cleaner that the advanced students–and hold on to her sticks longer. Brothers and sisters, let me tell you–I’ve had all of these folks walk through my door. A teacher must be able to offer each of these people something more–something they can’t do.
And this is what separates the men from the boys in the world of martial arts instruction.
For many of us, our own martial educations are lacking. We don’t have much more than the technical aspects of the art, so we diversify our offerings. But this isn’t what makes a good martial arts program. I don’t want to spend too much time off-subject, but think about whether your program is wide and shallow, or specialized and deep.
Moving along, when your students begin to close in on the new material you are able to present, this is the point where you should begin teaching the intangible art. Hopefully, you have it. In my school, I offer several arts in several different formats. As the students zero in on the advanced levels of my arts, I stop charging tuition. I do this for everyone. And that is because the student-teacher relationship we share is no longer a business relationship. It becomes a true student-teacher bond, and money cannot glue us together. We are bound by trust, loyalty and mentorship. It is this point that your students become family. You take them under your wing–even if they are older than you are–and really bare the soul of your knowledge to them. It is said that the true learning of the art occurs here, and this is where the heart of a teacher’s knowledge and experience exists. At the lower levels, the techniques, strategy and skills of an art are worthless when compared to the lessons that are most difficult to teach. Yet they are also the most profound. It is the knowledge of how to win a gunfight with a knife, or how a smaller, weaker man can truly defeat the physically superior opponent. These are the skills that cannot be put into words for some book, or a four-hour workshop to be sold while on tour. Students must sit at the feet of their teachers for years to gain this level of knowledge.
This is the part of the art that are too valuable to assign a price tag to, and why the teachers who have it to give will bestow the art, rather than to teach it. It is the stuff that’s “passed down”, rather than “shown”… And it’s almost always (monetarily) offered for free, but it comes at the highest price.
And if that confuses you, hang around long enough… you’ll learn more about it for sure.
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