Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gripe, Gripe, Gripe!

     I used to think that several of my instructors really had it in for me. It seemed that no matter what I did or how hard I tried, they always had to make a correction. Some seemed to constantly gripe about whatever I was doing. I remember doing a form in front of one of them and I felt that I'd given the best performance of my life. The teacher said simply, "That was awful." Then he proceeded to complain about almost every movement I'd made. Sometimes his correction amounted to nothing more than moving my hand or foot a couple of inches, but he acted like it was something really important.

     Little did I know that it was.

      Several of my teachers seemed to ignore certain students. I wondered why the teacher wasn't correcting them instead of me. Their movements were much worse than mine; in some cases they were downright pitiful but he rarely said anything about it. I asked one of my teachers about this odd phenomenon and he replied, "(So-and-so) doesn't try. Doesn't listen. Doesn't practice. So I just don't care. If I didn't care about you, I wouldn't correct you." And that said it all.

     It's not easy for an instructor to gripe and whine at a student who he likes; who he feels has a lot of potential, and with whom he feels a close bond. He knows the student will often not understand why he complains about such minor details and the student may feel that the instructor is picking on him, singling him out in front of everyone else. It's because the instructor cares. If he didn't care, he wouldn't say anything at all.

    The teacher's time and experience is very valuable. He's been where you're going. Usually more than once. It's very disheartening to correct a student only to have him make the same error over and over again because he isn't listening or trying. In the end, the teacher simply stops wasting his time and energy. However, for students who do try and who do train hard, the instructor is full of energy and extra time.

     I remember one student I taught years ago who paid little attention to what I was trying to teach him. He never trained at home, either. This made class a very difficult time for me because I was constantly being asked (by him) about material that he should have already learned and practiced thoroughly. I couldn't give much attention to the other students because of this. One day, I ordered the group to begin practicing a technique that they'd learned several weeks earlier. As usual, the student in question approached me and asked how to perform that particular technique. "Weren't you here when I taught it the first time" I asked. He told me that he had been, but he'd forgotten how to do it. That translates as "I haven't been practicing." So I told him, "Well, just watch the other students. You'll figure it out." And that was that. He finally dropped out of class altogether which was something of a relief. I had stopped caring whether he learned anything or not because he had obviously stopped caring, too.

     Teaching is a tough job. An instructor takes time away from his/her family and his own training time to teach others. It is rare to find an individual who is willing to act so unselfishly. He/She spends time poring over class schedules, watching the progress of each student (who tries) and providing encouragement when times get tough - and not just in martial arts training (I have often felt like a psychologist or marriage counselor, vocational counselor, and even a car mechanic), scheduling exams and praying that nobody fails because that's a supreme bummer for any teacher, and on and on. All of this is done in his/her spare time away from class.

     During class, the instructor pours out energy as he/she instructs the students. It may not look like it, but it's true. It can be exhausting work physically, mentally, and emotionally. But he/she does it because he/she is devoted to helping others just as he/she was helped by his/her teacher; to transmitting the knowledge and skill which he/she possesses to others who are willing to work hard to get it. So when a student doesn't try, it's discouraging as well as irritating. Ultimately, the teacher stops trying to teach people who aren't willing to try, to sweat, to push themselves.

     I can well imagine what would have happened if I'd told my teacher that I'd forgotten a particular form because I hadn't worked on it for a long time. God forbid! I think the earth might have opened and swallowed me up! That would have been preferable to facing the unbridled wrath of my teacher! I am certain that he would not have agreed to show me the form again. I would have been told to "watch the other students" and try to pick it up from there. We were expected to train regularly on our own; not just to maintain a given level of expertise, but to actually strive to improve what we had learned. If we did not do this, the teacher would know.

     Any instructor who's been at it for very long can instantly spot a student who hasn't been training at home. It takes only a few seconds. Kind of like the child who thinks he's pulled something over on his parents, only to discover that they already know about it...and he wonders how parents know these things? Do they have eyes in the backs of their heads? Are they telepathic or something?


     So are martial arts teachers.

     I've had some students who felt that the fact that they paid tuition entitled them to unconditional instructional, regardless of how hard they tried. Wrong assumption. Their tuition paid for my time in class. If they couldn't keep up with the class because they weren't training on their own, that was their problem...rather like paying for a college class and then not studying on your own time. The teacher doesn't care. He is paid to teach. That's what the tuition is for. It's YOUR responsibility to learn and do whatever you must to learn it thoroughly. If you refuse to do your homework and put in the extra time required to learn the material, that's your problem...not the teacher's.

    Learning has always been a two-way street. The teacher must teach to the best of his/her ability. The student must do his/her best to learn. If either side fails to meet their obligation, the process breaks down.

    The Yiliquan training program was designed over a period of many years of research and experimentation. It works supremely well...but only if the students adhere to the training regimen as outlined by the instructor. It is a progressive program. Training is never haphazard. Many martial arts schools have classes which go something like....a little stretching followed by a few basics (which vary from one class to the next). Then we do a quick form or two (just for the exercise), and then sparring. Wasn't that fun? Good. That's what we're doing next time, too. Kind of like an aerobics class. And although I think aerobics is a great form of exercise, it isn't martial arts (sorry for any Taebo people out there...).

     Yiliquan classes and training are very structured and progressive. It requires that students train on their own time. Otherwise, progress is extremely slow and when progress gets very slow, people lose interest and give up. They feel like they're not getting anywhere and they're right. But it's usually their own faults. They won't be taught more advanced material because their bodies and minds aren't ready for it - they haven't been training as they should. So they get stuck in a rut and before long, they fall by the wayside. Your instructor undoubtedly remembers scores and scores of classmates who fell by the wayside, many of them because they failed to train correctly and make progress.

     As I've said before, the world is full of failures. Do not seek to add to their numbers.

     Whether or not you succeed in your chosen martial discipline is not up to your instructor. It's up to you.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Phil. Very inspirational as ever. Reminds me of CW Nichols book where the teacher tells his classmate to sink lower in his stance and only stops saying it when CW Nichols sinks! ols book where the teacher tells his classmate to sink lower in his stance and only stops saying it when CW Nichols sinks!