View Full Version : At what point do you not need a teacher?

17th March 2003, 13:25
At what point in your training do you not need a teacher?

Starting training late in life, 36 years old, I have had a different view from young students who have become enamoured with their teacher, I have had to consider teachers from a different position as I am as old, or old enough to be a peer of my teachers within the life experience even though seeking expert advice for training in a martial art.

I guess, we could break down the time in which instruction is required compared to individual training time that is required as time and skills are developed, that should be sufficient for this question.

How about this .... if 90% of your time is required to recieve instruction as a beginner, when will less than 3% be required for instruction, or even no instruction, as you have acquired enough skill to be a teacher, or require not a teacher, but friend who gives you words of wisdom now and then?

Is it age, time, skill level or a combination of all these things, and more?

17th March 2003, 17:35
Once you get there - let me know

I am training for more then a dozen years so far, and still find my teacher has a lot to give me. then again, he is much older then me, has more then 3 times my vetrancy (is it a word in English? if not, what should I have used ?) and he is much more experienced in the M.A.
Oh, he himself still goes to learn some more from other teachers, whom are even better then him, at least in some aspects.

So, I suspect one could always learn more, and as long as you feel your teacher has a positive impact on your advancement, you should stay. As for the factors that affect your decision, I would add your personality and your teacher personality, capabilities, knowledge, skill at teaching ...


17th March 2003, 18:29
oh, Bruce.....
I started training when I was 11...I'm 43 now....
I've had many teachers...some I surpassed, some I will never surpass in ability. Others were lifelong examples of character, and others didn't have anyhting to teach me..about character.
But my white belt students teach me all the time, so MY answer to your question is probably never.......

Ron Rompen
18th March 2003, 01:45
That's easy Bruce.

I will cease needing a teacher when I know everything.

Till then, I will continue to learn from everyone.

18th March 2003, 01:52
I agree with Ron, you may be a world class athlete, olympic medallist and you will still need a coach or teacher, if for nothing else they can see things that you cannot see. Classical musicians and musicians in general will always seek out teachers no matter what level of proficiency they reach simply for this reason.

18th March 2003, 13:44
[QUOTE]Originally posted by bruceb
[B]At what point in your training do you not need a teacher?

As a professional teacher I would say never.

I dare say I have learned more than enough to be self sufficient to both teach and practice but learning is a never ending process. At 56 I still find great satisfaction in learning from others. Percentage wise its up to you how much you still want to study or teach. The way I look at it is the more knowledgeable I become, the more I can hand on to others.

I don't think age has too much to do with it I have met some in their late eighties that dont seem to have got it right, and on the other hand some very young people that seem to have an amazing grasp on reality.

I have reached the stage a few times now where my teacher has told me he has taught me all he knows, others have died or retired. One just has to move on and find somebody else.

Hyakutake Colin

Prince Loeffler
19th March 2003, 00:16

Martial Arts is a lifetime endeavor, every masters/teachers have teachers. Age is not the ultimate measurement, rather then experienced.

The word "sensei" literaly means "before you".

Bottom line is that we never severe that relationship with our mentor/teacher. It is thru them that we continue to grow in the art that we love.

Andy Watson
19th March 2003, 16:11
I have found that the best teachers of the martial arts are those that consider themselves to be perennial students.

The biggest bunch of loud mouthed, overinflated egoists are generally the perennial teachers who claim mastery over what they teach and won't even consider learning off anyone regardless of grade or age.

Everyone has a sensei (someone more experienced than themselves)therefore everyone has an opportunity to learn from someone else. The exception being of course, master's of a system (lets not get into arguments about self-proclaimed masters; I'm talking about legitimate heads of martial arts lineages who represent the art in itself).

Why the question, Bruce? Are you finding out when it's time to demand being called sensei?

Bruce Mitchell
19th March 2003, 16:28
I think that this can be an interesting question for many folks. However I believe that the answer has as much to do with the abilities of one's teacher as one's individual progress. Here in the US there are lot's of folks who start teaching way, way to soon. By way to soon I mean at shodan, nidan or sandan level. They may have reached a higher rank since then, but they still left their teachers having gained, at best, proficiency in only the technical aspects of their art.

If say, for instance that your teacher is Yondan in the art he teaches, and you have gotten to maybe say Nidan. You will have closed the gap a bit. But if your teacher is a shihan (or renshi, kyoshi, hanshi)then you will never be able to fill that gap while your teacher is alive.

So if you are in Bruceb's position you need to ask not, when am I ready to teach, but, when do I need to seek out a new (more senior)teacher. Since bruce is big on introspection I think it is important to ask, why would you not want a teacher?

Also, you may have been doing a hodge-podge of martail arts for twenty years, but it is time in one art that counts. Havign five black belts in different arts does not make you a fifth dan (kind of like how you can't make a baby in one month by impregnating nine women;) ;) ). In my experience I have seen far more students reach the limits of THEIR ability, or hit a training plateau and switch arts. Some folks like to be a big fish and seek out smaller ponds to achive this.

Of course you can always wear mismatched gi pants and top, throw a bunch of patches on your uniform and claim to have discovered the secret to martial arts....

Mitch Saret
7th April 2003, 17:12
Three days after you die.

7th April 2003, 17:35
Some people might take that literally ....

It may be funny, but in a literal sense, it is somewhat ... poor.

<add cynicism> " ... you won't need a teacher three days after you are dead .... oh sure ... give the crown to enlightenment to the dead ... whatsa matta for you?"

On the other hand, Bruce Mitchell did bring up a good point. Some people hit a plateau and are unabler to rise above that plateau so they switch martial arts, or styles.


There is some sense in that, but I don't think it is so much a switch as finding the grey areas that integrate other styles of martial arts or techniques into a fluid practicing art that is your own. I have seen too many people inflated into believing one martial art has everything you could possibly need for a life time of training, which I vehemently dispute. This is wrong thinking.

Maybe it is because my first teacher had a teacher that tried to buffalo his students into thinking he could give them everything they needed by picking pieces of other martial arts and transfering that knowledge as his own, when in fact, it became all too obvious that he was stealing pieces of other styles.

The obvious crosstraining seems to be the answer within any given practice. Not that you should abandon practice, but taking a bit of time off, trying other things, or even examining through practice with people in other styles does help to quantify your study and practice of Aikido.

Maybe, in some peoples eyes this crosstraining and study overtakes your teacher, or you have become a peer to your former teacher while in your mind .... your teacher will always be your teacher, but one should not dwell on such things.

I must draw the line of the student being the teacher, or overtaking the teacher, at least for this discussion, at the point when your teacher looks at you as a peer, and you continue to seek knowledge beyond what your teacher has studied, or will study.

As narrow minded as it may be, with due respect to all teachers, I would hope all students learn to become the peer or superior to your Aikido teachers. For my thinking, I can think of no better tribute to those teachers who have dedicated so much time to Aikido, and to their students than to, at least, become their peers so they live on in our continued practice of Aikido.

Now ...

Do you see where I was going with this?

So ...

Without getting all mushy, and teary eyed ...

How about a sensible examination of where a student equals a teacher so that the absolute need is reduced to a bare minimum? The clarity of mind is equal to your teacher.

Does it have to be comparitive by rank, time, the age of the student, or is it just plain old experience and knowing how to use it?

Charles Mahan
7th April 2003, 17:52
Originally posted by bruceb
There is some sense in that, but I don't think it is so much a switch as finding the grey areas that integrate other styles of martial arts or techniques into a fluid practicing art that is your own. I have seen too many people inflated into believing one martial art has everything you could possibly need for a life time of training, which I vehemently dispute. This is wrong thinking.

I know you your dying to so I'll bite. Could you please elaborate. I am apparently one of the people inflated into believing that one martial art, in my case Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu Iai, has everything that I could possibly need for a lifetime of training. An easy mistake for me to make considering the age of some of the people I have been fortunate enough to train under, and the lengths of time some of these individuals have been training.

I think there is quite enough in the system to keep me busy for the rest of my life. And unless some truly bizarre twist of fate leads me one day to being soke of the system, I suspect I will always be in need of an instructor.

Bruce Mitchell
8th April 2003, 02:26
Bruce baker,
Thank you for your thoughtful reply to my post. Thank you also for elaborating on your intial query. For me, the question would still relate to what I see in the top teachers of the art that I study, and where I see myself in relation to them, not to my teacher. I would agree with you that it is possible (in the grossest technical sense) to achieve an equal level of skill as your teacher, and have your teacher treat you as a peer. But that is still only reflective on your individual progress in relation to your teacher's individual progress, and does not necessarily corrospond to progress in the art that you study.

I also see value in training in different arts, under certian circumstances. First off I would say that a student should seek out and receive their instructor's approval before "cross training". I would also say that a person should have attained a base level of proficiency in their root art (at least Nidan if not Sandan) before the start cross training (just my opinion). And that you seek out only the best instructors to cross train under.

That said, i think that it is then important to gain a base level of proficiency in your auxillary art (again nidan to sandan level) before you attempt to intergrate elements from the two. I have seen a number of people over the years try to do this at an earlier stage and they merely prevent themselves from seeing what either teacher is presenting them because they are too busy trying to fit the "pieces" of the two arts together.