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My Student, My Teacher

Just as in life, you never know where your next lesson will come from. So in both life and Martial Arts, remember your student can also be teaching you important lessons.

I'd like to say that all Martial Artists are wonderful people, who have embraced concepts that bring harmony to their lives. I'd be lying.

One of the most important lessons, I believe, any Martial Artist can learn is that of humility and respect. It's a concept that, unfortunately, is not easy for everyone to embrace. Let's face it, we've worked hard to gain the levels in Martial Arts we have and any acclaims we might have earned along the way. It is okay to be proud of our accomplishments, but do not let that pride blind you to the lessons that you might still learn.

One of the first things my instructor taught me when I became high enough to become an assistant instructor was training doesn't always just come from me (my teacher), it can come from even a white sash on the floor for the first time.

1) Being able to teach something means you understand that thing.
Knowing how to do a form or execute a technique is one aspect of Martial Arts. Being able to convey that information is a whole other arena. When I first started to teach, I was amazed at the types of questions I'd get.

Where is that hand? Why did you stand that way? How did you get from here to there? If I angle my fist this way or that is it wrong?

These questions not only spurred me to thinking but also gave me an opportunity to go back to my teacher and learn what I overlooked or taken for granted the first time. I strongly believe that a person doesn't truly know something until they are able to teach it.

2) Everyone sees things differently.
Perspectives are amazing things. Each of us comes with a different set of experiences and different ways to see and understand things. During my early days of teaching, I had a difficult time of getting a student to remember which direction they should be moving in at different parts of the form. This student, a joy to have in any classroom, took the form home and kept trying to practice it. After a week, she came back and asked me to watch her do the form. When she did it exactly right, I asked her how she remembered finally. She said, "Well I went to a wedding this weekend and realized that the wedding band is always worn on the left hand. So I thought, well I want to be married so I always start with my left hand clenched in a fist of victory... or jealousy." A very ingenious and unique way to remember things (and something I still use today with other female students who have trouble in this form).

3) Building a strong foundation and making it stronger
As we get further along in Martial Arts, sometimes the basics are put aside for awhile. Its these basics though that are our foundations. The more we practice them, the better we get. As we train with the new Martial Artist, having a chance to revisit this foundation work is a wonderful chance for us to strengthen what we already know. I can't count how many times I've gone through teaching the temple exercises. But my Grandmaster has a very wise tale he tells about his teacher. He says that only after doing a routine 1,000 times, did his teacher actually start to count for real. Thus, in our hectic life styles, it is important to take the time to keep practicing the foundations.

4) Enthusiasm is the key to staying in Martial Arts
It's hard to compare to the enthusiasm that a new student brings. Everything is fresh. Everything is new and exciting. We naturally lose that enthusiasm over time and a great way to recapture it is to be around new students.

5) A reminder of where we came from
There was a time, as that student kicks with a flat foot rather than a point, that we were that student standing out there. Clueless and in need of guidance. It's a humbling realization as much as it is an inspiration for how far we've come. I didn't appreciate this fact until after I became a black sash. There's a lot I've learned and a lot more I still have to learn. Seeing a white sash on the floor reminds of that. That somehow, in a higher level Martial Artist's eyes, I'm actually the one that's kicking with a flat foot instead of a point, the one that is clueless and in need of guidance.

Interestingly enough, these concepts, while applied here to Martial Arts, can be seen in almost all aspects of life. It's an important thing to remember that my student can also be my teacher.

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