Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Perfect Student

Teachers, at least the ones who know about such things, are always hoping to find their perfect student.

The prefect student is not necessarily your "best fighter" (of course I am talking about martial arts here, because that is what I teach) or your most accomplished student, he or she is the one who can truly learn everything you have to teach and take it further.

Your perfect student is the one who inherits your art.

This is a concept that I think has fallen into disuse in most fields, especially martial arts. It is not modern or progressive.

Of course finding such a student is not a simple thing.

There Is that old saying "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

But there is a lesser known, and even more important saying, "when the teacher is ready, the student will appear."

To be ready for your perfect student (or students, there is no rule that says you can only have one) several things have to happen. Most of them seem to revolve around getting your ego out of the way.

One of the things that happens with your perfect student is that he will surpass you.
This is a good thing, but the ego never thinks so. As a teacher it is the one thing that you must do, to give your student what he (or she) needs to be better than you.

I have see so many martial arts teachers fail at this one step, and when they do, it can be quite ugly. What most often happens is that the teacher will work to keep his students at a level where they can never challenge him. If a student gets to close, the teacher finds some way to get rid of them if he cannot "break" them. What also happens at this point is that the teacher stops learning.

To be the best teacher one can be requires, in my opinion, a constant struggle to keep one's ego and pride out of the class. It also requires that the teacher never stop being a student.

I can't stress how important this is.

Without the realization that there is always more to learn, that there are always incremental refinements to make, a teacher will fall into a trap called "The Burden of Omniscience".

When a teacher takes on the burden of omniscience a couple of things happen. First is that he can never admit that he might be wrong about anything, for fear that his "authority might be questioned. The second is that his students will stop telling him the truth about anything. If a student is honest he runs the risk of being thrown out. Eventually the teacher is surrounded by yes men.

If the teacher's perfect student walked through the door, the teacher would never recognize him.

So to be ready for the student, a teacher must always remember that there is no end to learning and that he will never know everything. He has to do more than give lip service to this idea, he has to live it.

For a teacher to be ready for his perfect student, he must not be afraid to "fail" in front of his students. There is nothing worse than a teacher that thinks he must "win" all the time, at any cost. His students will never reach their full potential.

Finally, a teacher must respect his students, even the ones that don't excel at the material. One of the really sad things that I see in the martial arts is a teacher that passes over the students that don't fit his image of what a martial artist should be. If you can't respect and care for your worst student, the one that always tries the teacher wits and patients, then perhaps the teacher should consider another line of work.

If a student is not learning, the burden is on the teacher, who is after all the one who knows, not on the student, who is in class because he doesn't know, and wants to.

When a teacher has embodied these qualities, then he will be ready for the student.

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