The labels "Instructor", "Teacher"
and "Master" are given to Black Belts
by students, by associations and sometimes by
themselves. There is a difference between these
labels. They are not the same.
Who are we talking about when we speak of an
instructor, teacher or master. Surely we mean
the leader of our class, club or association;
the person whom we respect for their superior
knowledge and experience. Most of all they are
the person responsible for our education within
the art. Of course there are Black Belts that
don't see it as their duty to perform this vital
function, but we still consider them as instructors
since convention tells us that all Black Belts
are instructors. In fact some Black Belts are
instructors, some are teachers and some are just
plain Black Belts.
Let us look at the meanings of the words themselves.
An instructor instructs, that is he tells you
what to do. He imparts absolute knowledge by repetition
and rarely offers an explanation, there is no
need to. You can just learn by copying and doing
what you are told. This is an effective technique
and has indeed turned out numerous "carbon-copy"
Black Belts, perfect in technique and ready to
go forth and instruct.
A teacher on the other hand teaches. He explains
techniques, invites questions and fosters explanation.
Students learn by experience of wrong as well
as right and they develop into rounded and individual
martial art practitioners. They copy but they
examine what they have copied in terms of its
effectiveness and individual appropriateness.
A teacher is the real educator - and a student,
or another teacher, can always learn from them.
The current theory for mainstream school education
favours just this kind of teaching. This may also
be known as "discovery learning". The
fact is that students in any discipline learn
better if they feel in control of their own learning.
They learn and develop understanding by experimenting
and making mistakes. They may well learn sometimes
by repeating it until they have it memorised but
they will not develop an understanding of it.
The role of the teacher then is as a knowledgeable
guide providing an environment where students
can develop their understanding.
You may ask how we can become Teachers in the
martial art situation. This is no different from
any other classroom, just like a school teacher
we have a basic syllabus to teach and we have
overall goals (in our case perhaps competition,
fitness and self-defence). So we can demonstrate
and explain elements of the basic syllabus, explain
their wider applications and then allow the students
to explore the techniques in different situations
to see if they can really make them work. After
all that is the aim of martial art teaching, isn't
it. If it doesn't work for them, help them to
understand why not and to help them to modify
their approach to compensate. Above all accept
that someone may do the technique differently
(and perhaps even more effectively) than yourself.
Learn from their interpretation and don't be afraid
to say so. You see, an instructor believes that
he is always right and his way is the only way.
A teacher on the other hand understands that he
does not know everything and is proud of his students'
individuality, and rightly so.
To give an example of self-defence lets take
a student that has been instructed in a single
technique for the defence against a roundhouse
kick. He will know where to stand, how to move,
and how to execute and finish the technique. He
has practised this technique for two hours in
the training session and can do it perfectly.
What's more it looks good too! Another student
has been taught how to defend from a roundhouse
kick. He has explored the attack during an hour
session and has been shown various defences that
he has investigated in different positions and
with different size and shape partners. He has
frequently asked questions and made several mistakes,
but he understands the situation. If both of these
students are subsequently attacked by a roundhouse
kick, which student would be able to deal more
effectively with the assailant? Well the first
student would definitely finish the technique
as long as everything works out as planned in
the training session. The second student would
also finish the technique, but perhaps not so
prettily. But what if something goes wrong. The
first student would not know what to do if things
don't go to plan, whereas the second student would
be use to improvising and building from their
mistakes. Ask yourself the questions:- who has
more chance?, and who is the better martial artist?
When it comes down to it, it is your choice whether
you prefer to be an all-powerful, all-knowledgeable
instructor commanding respect, or a guiding knowledgeable
teacher winning respect. If you currently instruct
and you want to teach it won't happen overnight.
You have to be committed to the way of imparting
knowledge and your students have to be slowly
introduced to the concept of thinking for themselves.
If an instructor becomes a teacher then there
is no reason why the style and philosophy of the
club cannot remain the same. It is the teaching
process that has changed.