View Full Version : So you "Walk the Walk", but can you "Talk the Talk"?

Tripitaka of AA
15th October 2002, 06:29
You are an accomplished practicioner of the art of Shorinji Kempo. You have become a carbon copy of your Sensei's form. You have learned, absorbed and lived the values promoted in Kaiso's teaching. You are living a balanced, healthy, self-aware life, free from fear of physical attack.

Are your ready to teach?

Is there a teacher in all of us. Are some Kenshi destined to be followers forever, but never to lead. Always the Bridesmaid and never the Bride?

How do you know that you have it in you to be a teacher? Surely it would be the kind of decision from which there is no turning back. Once you start a club, how can you ever stop?

This kind of question probably has a far easier answer if you are studying in Japan. But how do we feel in the far-flung reaches of the Shorinji Kempo world. Is there an unreasonable pressure on good students to become Masters?

Opinions and viewpoints welcome from all:)

15th October 2002, 12:36
I have a question in return. How can one become such a good student without having such a fascination for SK that in the end there is no way to keep pursuing the curiosity but to become a teacher? What way is there to love something but to deepen one's acquaintance with it?

tony leith
15th October 2002, 13:37
I think there might be a risk of being a bit too precious about teaching. There has been a prior discussion about what it means to be a Sensei on this forum, in terms of the signficance Westerners tend to impute to it as a title/honorific versus they way the term is used in Japan. Products of the Glasgow University University dojo tend to have several years of teaching experience by the time they reach Sho Dan. Everybody from yellow belt up tends to be involved in coping with the influx of new members we get every year, and will be likely to have teaching responsibilities foisted on them from blue belt up (maybe not in terms of taking kihon, but certainly in terms of helping less experienced members with their techniques).

I realise there is vast difference between this kind of thing and taking on the responsibility of running/starting a branch. All I'm saying that its just a pretty well established part of the culture of our club that as soon as you're experienced enough to have knowledge worth passing on (and this is defined relative to the people you're teaching), that's what you do. This arose from necessity rather than any kind of active chooice, but I think it has its advantages.

I would perceive further teaching responsibilities as still just passing on the gift that other people have given to you. People will have different aptitudes as teachers - some will be better one on one than taking classes - but evrybody will have something to contribute.

Tony leith

15th October 2002, 16:35
fair enough, my reply does seem a bit precious, and your statement about

passing on the gift that other people have given to you. seems an excellent summary of why to teach.

There are so many different accounts from teachers of how they became teachers - some eagerly taking it up to spread Kongo Zen, and others "kicked out of the nest" by Kaiso or whoever taught them. My impression is that there's no way to grapple decisively with self doubts about opening a branch but to actually do it and survive the process. Sort of like the wartime military experience of whether or not one has "courage," only more constructive.

The late Mori Doki Sensei said that he never released someone to become a branch master till that person was strong in randori. He explained that by citing the early era problems with "dojo breakers," but I also view that as a process wherein both the teacher and the student can become sure that the student is already training at least half for himself. And if that core of resourcefulness is assured, then one will probably have learned how to get whatever resources one realizes one needs in teaching.

And to the extent that learning on the fly as an instructor is hard, I assume gaining that ability is also the only way to really embark on the latter part of the shu-ha-ri learning curve. Maybe the pressure on students to become teachers can be a bit much in certain circumstances, but I imagine it is usually aimed at pushing students into full maturity.

tony leith
16th October 2002, 10:49
Hi Michael

I was admittedly talking about teaching within an established dojo, and in an established university club at that (dojo breaking not likely to be too much of a problem); a relatively sheltered environment. The kind of motivation and skills base you would need to start a club would be somewhat different. However, teaching skills can be learned like anything else. In terms of taking classes, you find out what style works for you, and probably more important, what works for the students. Obviously some people will be more adept at teaching than others, as I said previously some will be better at different kinds of teaching, but whatever your metier chances are you'll get better with practice.

One thing that I have found helpful is an article on learning types in general and martial arts in particular dug out by Niall Anderson (our Branch Master). If you realise that some of your students are basically wired to take instruction visually, some verbally, some kinesthetically, it can avoid a lot of fruustration on both sides. Another member of the club was pointing out that if you look round our current group of beginners as they listen to technical explanations, you'll actually see some of them looking very intently, others repeating whats been sasid to themselves, and others physically rehearsing the action to be performed. Taking on board some of the science of coaching physical skills in general is probably worthwhile.

In terms of what to actually teach, I'm afraid I'm a shameless plagarist, and basically follows Mizuno Sensei's model of how to teach a class as far as I can replicate it (not being a 7th dan sei hanshi is a bit of a hindrance, but never mind..) If you're going to steal, steal from the very best, that's my motto...

Tony Leith

Tripitaka of AA
19th October 2002, 06:25
What a careful balance between your last two paragraphs Tony L, and another excellent post.

One thing that caught my eye. In a recent thread, someone said that although he was a Branch Master, he still didn't consider himself worthy of the title Sensei (going on to say that this term was only proper to the original students of Mizuno Sensei, who formed the first generation of British-trained Branch Masters). This seems to be the humble modesty of a Kenshi who recognises that he is still learning, but shouldn't the granting of office be enough to give the confidence to demand the title?

And yes, I think a Branch Master should demand the title Sensei. Formalisation of roles within the Dojo is as essential for the Branch Master's needs as for the students. You have to know who you are, and who you are to others. This insight has come to me as a result of becoming a parent. In this role, it becomes important to present a solid, unambiguous example for the children to emulate. You can't go back to being "one of the lads" when you have been chosen to be the leader. Hence the thrust of my thread. There is a very different mindset required to be the "Teacher", than there was to be the "best student". You might still be teaching your mates, chums and contemporaries, but every new face that arrives at the Dojo door will be looking for the all-seeing, all-wise, all-knowing Sensei upon whom they can rely for their growth, learning and personal safety. To a degree, you have to "act the part".