“Be a student always and a teacher sometimes.”
In my experience there is a common denominator in the most respected martial arts instructors. These teachers continue to train in the martial arts. They practice their technique and they are always looking to learn more.
The teachers that just teach but do not train themselves do not get the same level of respect from their students. The students bow and go through the motions but you can tell that these teachers don’t get the same respect as those that train.
There are three examples of teachers I’ve seen that demonstrate this point.
- The first is a martial artist that just got back into teaching. He had a fairly long sabbatical from the martial arts so he could pursue other career goals. When he came back, he taught but did not take classes. He was not treated with the same respect that other teachers were given. The students would talk about him when he wasn’t there and discount the things he taught. It was not until he started training again that the respect started to build. Then the students started asking him more questions and they paid more attention to him in class. The training earned him respect.
- The other example is a very experienced martial artist. He has been training for over 50 years. He is at a level where no one would expect him to take classes. After 50 years, one might ask if there is anything left to learn. He thinks there is and does go to classes. His teacher lives overseas so he has limited access to his teacher but he keeps in touch regularly and travels to other countries to take his teacher’s classes. He lives the journey and his students respect his every word.
- The last example is a teacher that does not train. This teacher touts his achievements but does not give details about his lineage. This teacher’s dojo has a fair number of students but many of the advanced students end up having questions about the style and some leave. It is unfortunate because the teacher does have something to offer but this teacher’s not continuing down the path, leaves many people thinking that they would get more out of training with another instructor.
The martial arts are a journey for everyone, teacher and student. The teacher can’t lead a student on a journey if they are not also on the journey. Sitting on a title or belt level will not earn the respect of your students. Be a student first and a teacher second. It is good for your students and just as importantly it is good for you.