Thursday, July 15, 2010

The power of the spoken word and the art of being a good teacher

My last post discussed dedication and talked about what it takes to be a Sensei.  I have been lucky enough to have trained under some great teachers during my journey.  I have not only become a better martial artist, but a better person for having met them.

Being a Sensei, or a teacher, is an enormous responsibility.  I was recently directed to a post by Sensei Strange at Kyu Ryu Aiki Budo about conflict resolution in teaching.

The part that caught my eye was his telling of a Sensei that lost his temper at him over a miscommunication of some sort.  The Sensei yelled at him in front of the class. This soured him for some time on his chosen art.

This post made me think the power of the spoken word.  From my own experience, I once left a martial arts club and never returned after the teacher made some negative remarks.  Not constructive criticism of a technique, but a negative personalized comment.  I was made to feel like crap and I never went back.  Normally I'm a pretty confident person and comments roll off my back, but in this case, just a sentence or two turned me off training there.

This is the type of power and influence a Sensei has.  It takes months or years to build up a relationship of trust and mutual respect between teacher and student.  All this work, and the special bond it creates, can also me destroyed in a matter of seconds.

Sensei Strange talks about how 15 years after the fact he still remembers his situation vividly.  So do I.  I remember the exact words and how I felt at the time.  Mostly I felt a sense of disappointment and having been betrayed.  It was an uncharacteristically powerful emotional response on my part, but it showed me just how much influence a Sensei can have on you and your sense of self within the arts.

The relationship between Sensei and student is a unique and powerful one.  It should never be taken lightly.

Thanks to all the great teachers out there.

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