Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Loyalty to your teacher

This subject has been on my mind for some time now. This relates more to students with higher Dan levels; those that have achieved assistant instructor and above, certainly not colour belts. And is in relation to scenarios where people have said the opposite to what they have eventually done. It seems simple to me: say what you mean, and do what you say you are going to do.

I don’t always think Western culture mixes well with the Eastern culture of Martial Arts. Historically, the arts were passed on from teacher to student – the student became a teacher and passed on the art ... that is the Eastern culture.

In our Western culture, the art comes at a cost to the student. Our students are paying for the right to learn the art. Some students do not the desire or ambition to become a teacher and are simply paying for services rendered and they have a right to not teach in my (sometimes unpopular) view. However, if they do make the commitment to become a teacher I believe there are strict guidelines that should be followed.

From a personal perspective, I wish I was able to teach without having to charge my students fees, but unfortunately running a club comes with added costs.

As instructors, if we are asking people to pay for our services, why do we feel we can then ask that person to work for us as an instructor? Firstly, they can always decline this request or offer. If they do commit, then as instructors they are still learning; they are learning how to teach. Once qualified and experienced, they have the ability to open their own branch under their teacher and association, with the confidence of being able to do the job, protect and grow the art, and have a support network when needed. When their dojang begins to grow they will recoup their training fees. In my opinion that is how it should be.

I understand people and circumstances will change over time, however it is the way that you change that shows your true colours. I would prefer a face to face conversation, with a student giving their teacher an honest reason as to why they have decided to leave and only after every possible attempt to fix the underlying issue/s has been exhausted.

Sometimes instructors think they have the right to leave their teacher and join another association, with some even believing that taking students with them is okay. If you take your teacher’s syllabus and open your own dojang under a new association, what happens when you need assistance with a technique or a question from a student you are unsure of? You no longer have the support of you teacher to ask for help. This will often lead to the answer being made up and techniques being performed incorrectly. Or what happens when you hold gradings? Having the opportunity to have your teacher sit in on gradings and give you feedback where needed is the best way for your club to grow from a technical standard perspective.

One of the values of our club is integrity. Where is your integrity if you can leave your teacher and open your own dojang using your former teacher’s syllabus? I liken this to a gym membership: If you join a gym, you pay your monthly fees. If you stop paying your fees, you stop using the equipment. You can’t take the equipment to start your own gym. To me. The syllabus is the gym equipment? However, if you became a qualified trainer in that gym, you might be able to buy the rights to open your own branch.

Students join Hapkido for a number of different reasons and some journeys last longer than others. I guide them the best that I can while they are with me and I have no problem if they get what they came for and then move on. What is important to me is that students are honest with me about what their intentions are, however Hapkido is not suited to short term membership. There are some students that I form a more traditional and formal student / teacher bond with, but not every student is looking for that and that’s not a problem for me. Some would prefer to just train and not grade, but I am unable to agree to that training style. Students must grade so they can move on to the next level, and to train with other students at a higher-grade level.

Sometimes, after students become a black belt, they might be expected to help more or to run class while I am dealing with a potential new member (as you know, I have an open-door policy for free trials), or whatever else keeps me from the front of class. This should not be a problem if you have allowed the right people to become black belts in your club, they will be happy to help ensure the smooth running of the class. They will also understand that helping others with their techniques is an important learning method for themselves. Loyalty to your instructor and association are crucial to the development of the student as the teacher to student transmission of knowledge is a lifelong journey.