The One Thing a Teacher Must Do

Truth in martial arts, as in anything, must be arrived at by testing and debate. Although testing and debate can serve to obscure truth, dogmatism is worse. It used to be that the environment of testing and debate was the battlefield, and teachers demanded obedience from their students. But now, I think it’s a disaster for teachers to demand absolute obedience. Each generation must re-create effective techniques for themselves. The goal of the teacher should be to make his students stronger himself.

That is the role of the dojo, right? The place where the “way” becomes a “place,” where things are laid out and can be examined in an environment of safety and experimentation, as would not be possible in a streetfight. There is no place for dogmatism here. Dogmatism prevents experimentation. Without experimentation, there is no progress.

And when we experiment, we need feedback. The opponent must reach out and touch where a blow could land, or point with his foot where a kick could land. Such things are embarrassing to see sometimes because they show us where we are weak, but I always appreciate when people do such things. Most people appreciate when I do such things, but there are a few people, and I have felt the burning eyes of a teacher, who do not like it when I do such things.

But this is natural – in martial arts, as in anything, those who are most reluctant to admit that they might be wrong, make the slowest progress.

The teacher has experience to guide, but his role should be to guide each student’s individual journey of questioning, not to make unquestioning copies of himself. I hope I remember this as a teacher and a parent.

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