Avoid My Instructional Mishaps

With Jesse Glover's Secret to Teaching

“The transition from student to teacher forced me to realize that what I had once viewed as a secret and protective withholding of information by a teacher was really an attempt on his part to increase and maintain constant improvement in students by forcing them to develop an adequate basis for further development. Students want to know everything and they want to know it now. The question is, just how much can they really know without the proper background development?” Jesse Glover

What Mr. Glover spoke about was one of my biggest mistakes as a student of the martial arts, and it turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes I made as a teacher of the martial arts. I guess I had always been suspicious from my childhood and throughout my life. There are a lot of factors to consider as to the cause of this behavior but I would say it was primarily due to growing up with someone that had post-traumatic stress disorder. Then, of course, I spent years working for an oligarchy where no one seemed to know for certain who to trust or even who we were actually working for, and if it was even possible to leave or escape the job. I carried this paranoid mentality with me for years, and I still have some remnants of it cropping up from time to time.

However, I do go out of my way to extend trust as a mental exercise and I enjoy profiling people. I have always appreciated individuals with the ability to profile accurately with in a manner of moments after a brief meeting. So, when I have come across people that are able to do this, I am impressed. As the ability to recognize mindsets is a true trait of the mastery of awareness.

“Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye.” Miyamoto Musashi

As a child and throughout my teenage years I had been fortunate enough to study, and train with martial artists from many disciplines. Even though I was always questioning the authenticity of the knowledge. One of the disadvantages of this type of mindset practice was that you never got to develop that trusting relationship that most martial artist rely on to pass on their secret knowledge to their inner circle of students. On the other hand, it was equally hard for me to build this trust with students. This is just another one of the paradoxes some of us are faced with in the martial arts.

Yet, there are no hidden secrets, no inner knowledge, or special techniques. Everything is taught within your basic introductory movements; the trick to discovering mastery is a multiple step process. These two steps are nothing more than practice, and refinement.

However, the two basic methodologies utilized in transferring this knowledge are disseminated in generally the following ways. The first being the more traditional approach is to show the student everything, and demonstrate without explanation. This forces the student to practice to achieve their enlightenment. Of the two methods, I find this particular approach to be the most frustrating, and exhilarating. The second approach is to give detailed analysis, and examples to guide the student incrementally along the path. Both approaches have their merits but I have found that leaving the student in the dark until the light comes on produces a more committed practitioner. While on the other hand, giving the student answers, and waiting for them to connect the dots through their practice produces a more intellectually inquisitive student; but not necessarily one that is as dedicated or devoted to the art. But, if the teacher reads the student correctly, then he started with a devoted and dedicated student in the first place.

Both of these assessments are based on generalities, and are not always true with every individual. I have tried to find a happy medium between these two approaches, and as of yet, I had not found a decisive answer. I can only hope that my private students and/or seminar students realize that I can only tell them where the light switch is, but they have to turn the light on themselves.

I always hated going to a seminar where the instructor spent half of his time reading us the riot act about us not being licensed to teach the material that he had just disclosed to us.

In the old days, it took a long time before the teacher gained enough confidence in the student before they revealed their innermost knowledge on a subject. If the student was a braggart, they could go out, and then in a moment of carelessness, let their guard down and they would disclose the subtleties of your system and expose a weakness to a potential enemy. To do so was putting your life in the hands of the student, something you wouldn’t want to do with a stranger.

Still this begs an answer, at what point does the technique or knowledge that you paid good money to receive from the instructor become your own? If the instructor doesn’t claim you as part of his lineage are you obligated to include the instructor in your acknowledgments when you disseminate this knowledge or skill? What if you have altered the techniques to fit your style or system, since it is not the same technique that the instructor gave you does this give birth to a new adaptation or application of the teaching, is the material now your own?

I perfectly understand why modern martial artist might be reluctant to have their students going out to a bar showing off their skills, and winding up bringing a lawsuit back to the instructor. The teacher could also be upset about the loss of income from students giving their knowledge away just to show off. This is why so many schools only accepted students that were personally vouched for by an intermediary.

As a teacher if you want to have inner circle students, let your example of faithfulness to your training, and your commitment to your relationships do your talking for you. At least be upfront about what you expect from your students. If you want to be an inner circle student, live in such a way that proves you to be trustworthy, and reliable.

“The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” Albert Einstein

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