Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sensei, Kyosanim: Know Thy Stuff

I once heard my Dad describe a co-worker as “he knows more stuff than the other guys have forgotten.” It took me years to figure out that that my Dad was actually paying a compliment.

Most of us forget most of what we learn. For a person to “Know more than others have forgotten” is to say that the person has an incredible amount of knowledge. If you and I learn 100 things, and I forget 60, and you only forget 20, then you know more (80 things) than I have forgotten (60). In this example you would know twice as much as me, as you would know 80 things to my 40. I never knew learning required so much math!

Is it any wonder that students find it odd when their martial arts instructor has to check the manual to answer a question? I understand that some questions are so rare that one has to “Consult the Oracle” every once in awhile. That’s human, but it shouldn’t occur every class.

I’m a little disappointed when instructor wannabees don’t take the time to really understand their art, such that they can readily answer the common questions in class. I am by no means exaggerating when I say instructors have been unable to answer:


Seriously? If you cannot answer at least four of these without thinking, you aren’t ready to teach.

Me? I have a lousy memory. I compensate by writing everything down (as evidenced by this web site) and then going over the material again and again. I review it before class, I go to the studio on Sundays. I go to instructor seminars, I review the material on the way into work on the train. I don’t remember stuff because I have a good memory, I have a good memory because I constantly review.

I overheard an instructor say, “I am trying to improve my memory by not writing anything down.” Again... Seriously? Do you know anything about the human condition? Have you ever been at a restaurant where the waiter didn’t write down your order. It’s ALWAYS wrong. If you want to remember something, do it (not just watch), say it out loud, write it down. Rinse and repeat. Rinsing is optional.

Not everyone is cut out to be an instructor. If you love doing martial arts, but don’t want, or have the time to reinforce the wide range of topics for your students; that’s OK. You can be an excellent practitioner without also being an instructor. But if you accept the responsibility of instructing... step up to the job.

Kysanim, Sensei; Your students deserve your effort.

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