It has happened again to me and it is always amazing. Someone had come to me to ask about learning kung fu and while inquiring about the training asked, “ so….how long until I can teach it?” What? Where else do you go to learn something and before you even start it ask when you can teach it? Can you imagine going to a football, basketball or baseball coach and asking when you could teach it before you even studied it? Do people go to a music lesson for the first time and ask the instructor when can I teach this? It is a truly bizarre phenomenon in martial arts that this happens. When someone comes to a guitar teacher it is because they want to learn to play a guitar not teach it. It is the same with other disciplines; you’re there because you want to learn it. Somehow in martial arts people want to learn the art solely to be the teacher, the revered one, the respected one, okay, but how about being the skilled one?
I’ve been asked this question for years and it always stuns me. It shows a lack of desire to learn the art and a huge desire to have the trappings of the art. It’s about decorations and not about substance. I had a Zen student do the same thing recently. I asked what their intention was in studying Zen and the answer was so they could open a small monastery somewhere that they would be the head of. It wasn’t to seek enlightenment, bestow compassion or to fully understand their nature; it was to be a head of a temple. In over forty years it’s the first time I’ve ever heard this and I find it to be very strange. On the other hand years ago I met a fellow that was talking about doing a particular martial art and I asked him how long he had studied it. He puffed out his chest and said, “I don’t study it, I teach it!” It was like this was supposed to communicate to me what a great person he was or whatever. To him it was an accomplishment but to me it was an astounding admission of ignorance. Teriyuki Okasaki Sensei, the Shotokan master, once said to me that Americans goal is to study to get a black belt and end it there but the Japanese know that the black belt is just the beginning and start their real training there.
The best teachers I’ve had in my life were those that continually grew and learned. They never stopped developing or maturing and they were a deep fountain to draw from. Then there were all of those other teachers I’ve had and we’ve all had …. ‘nuff said.
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