Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Instructor as Guide

In 1996, I attended a training seminar taught by Hanshi Chuck Merriman. I did not realize it at the time but this one-hour session greatly influenced my karate journey. The topic of the seminar was on Sanchin kata with a focus on breath and application. However, he stopped for a moment and spoke to the group about his views on the role of a karate instructor. Hanshi Merriman told us that the instructor is a “Guide”. The instructor teaches us by guiding us down the martial arts path. Students need to take responsibility for their training.

At the time I heard this lecture, I focused on my responsibility as a student. It was my job to learn, practice and study. I was not an instructor nor did I know if I wanted to teach classes. In fact, the black belt around my waist was new and shiny for I tested for Shodan during the same seminar. My husband had recently opened his own dojo and was busy teaching. I happily continued training at the Honbu and taught at my husband’s dojo when he needed help.

Circumstances soon changed. I started spending more and more time at our home/dojo teaching than at the Honbu. As a traditional martial arts practitioner, I felt a responsibility to pass on the information as my instructor had taught me. I considered this an obligation. When I started teaching, I recalled the lecture given by Hanshi Merriman. I remembered how he explained that a karate instructor should be a Guide.

I knew this was how I wanted to approach being a karate instructor.

The brown belt students in the dojo hear this story all the time. If you are reading this, I am sure you are nodding your heads. : )


Rick said...

Marcel Proust (Remembrance of Things Past):
We do not receive wisdom,
we must discover it for ourselves,
after a journey through the wilderness
which no one else can make for us,
which no one can spare us,
for our wisdom is the point of view
from which we come at last to regard the world.
The lives that you admire, the attitudes that seem noble to you,
have not been shaped by a paterfamilas or a schoolmaster,
they have sprung from very different beginnings,
having been influenced
by everything evil or commonplace
that prevailed round about them.
They represent a struggle and a victory.

Michele said...

Rick: Perfect! Thank you for posting the poem.

SueC said...

Michele - this post absolutely hits the nail on the head for me. The instructor being a guide and the student taking the responsibility for training is EXACTLY how I approach karate training.

The poem posted by Rick just takes the words out of my mouth (not that I could have said it so eloquently.

Thanks for this post - it's made me feel I'm on the right track.

Michele said...

SueC: Thanks! I am glad you liked the post.

Felicia said...

I realize I'm a few months late, but ironically, when you were writing this, I was preparing for shodan grading by writing a paper. One of the last things I included in it was a saying I read on the blog of a MA instructor who equated the student-instructor relationship to that of a hand pointing to a beautiful sunset. He said that the instructor was actually the hand, not the sunset. To not spend time looking towards what the instructor is trying to show is like watching the hand. The view - the most important part - would be totally missed.

Thanks for another great post, Michele...