THE ART OF TEACHING
 
Not all teachers are created equal
Let me say at the out set that I have always had the greatest admiration for good teachers, let alone great ones.
 
You know the ones I mean. Those teachers who still stand out in your memory and that you can easily recall, even though decades may have passed since you saw them last. Those teachers who gave you freely, not only their knowledge, but also that extra level of patience and commitment when you really needed it most.
 
Let's face it, good teachers are not easy to forget.
 
Unfortunately neither are poor ones.
 
In karate, as in all walks of life, it is true that not all teachers are created equal. Today in North America there are few rules if any governing who can lease a space, put up a sign, and for the price of a gi, a black belt, and a few good books on the subject of karate, call themselves a karate teacher. As a result, upon visiting a prospective dojo, a student should always take the time to inquire fully into the background and the history of the school in question, but more importantly, the credentials of the principle instructor who will be teaching the classes.
 
The dojo's "teacher" or "Sensei" will ultimately be responsible for the quality of your instruction and will therefore obviously play a very pivotal role in your training as you journey down the karate road. Because of this it is always recommended that prior to entering into a long term relationship with a particular dojo a student should make a point of watching a typical class, or perhaps even try out a few classes in order to see if they are comfortable with the Sensei's teaching style and his or her training methods. Many reputable schools will have a "trial period" or "beginners class" which for a reasonable fee, will usually allow you participate in regularly scheduled classes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, by the end of which you should have a pretty good idea of just what kind of teacher you really have, and whether or not you want to call this particular dojo home for the foreseeable future.
 
But how can a new student decide if they have a good teacher or a poor one if up to this point in their karate journey they have nothing else to base a comparison on? That is not an easy question to answer since a great many factors need to be taken into consideration and the sheer variety of the ways in which classes can be taught from one day to the next often make it difficult in the short term to fairly evaluate a any teacher.
 
For the most part I think it is fair to say: "a poor karate teacher is anyone who teaches through fear or intimidation, not just some of the time, not just part of the time, but all of the time".
 
Similarly for the most part I think it is equally fair to say: "a good karate teacher is anyone that you look forward to learning from, not just some of the time, not just part of the time, but all of the time".
 
Make no mistake, there is a huge difference between a karate teacher who pushes their students hard, makes them sweat, and drives them to previously unimagined physical, mental, and spiritual heights by any means at their disposal, all for the sake of the student. And a karate teacher who pushes their students hard, makes them sweat, and drives them to previously unimagined physical, mental, and spiritual heights by any means at their disposal, all for the teacher's sake.
 
The former you see usually has the best interest of his or her students at heart, and they will use any and all methods at their disposal, kind, or sometimes seemingly harsh and unkind, to help the student reach their personal goal. While the latter usually has his or her own best interest at heart, and they will use any and all methods at his or her disposal, kind, or sometimes seemingly harsh and unkind, to help the themselves reach their own personal goal.
But let's face it most people recognize a good thing when they see it, and spotting a good teacher is usually no exception. Little things tend to give them away.
 
For example,
- a good teacher will be more interested in teaching their students "what they know" than trying to impress them with "how much they know".
 
- a good teacher will be someone who genuinely cares about the progress and welfare of all the students that they are working with, regardless of the students skill level.
 
- a good teacher will value your time and appreciate your effort during class, just as you in turn should value and appreciate theirs.
 
- a good teacher will never leave you with the feeling that you have been used. Instead a good teacher will have you leaving the dojo feeling positive and up beat, even though you are tired, sore, and dripping in sweat, having just finished working harder than you had ever previously thought possible.
 
Now over the years I have had the good fortune to train with a number of very good teachers, and there is one thing that I have found that they all seem to have in common. They all seem to have the unfailing ability to deliver their knowledge to me at precisely the moment I needed it, and they did it in a manner that always allowed me to fully understand the goal at hand, while at the same time learning in an environment that was both enjoyable, as well as physically, mentally, and spiritually stimulating.
 
Without exception at the end of their class a good teacher has always left me wanting more.
Now if you are ever fortunate enough to have a karate teacher like that in your life, then do not ever take them for granted, or assume that they will be there for you forever. Because they won't be.
 
There is an old saying : "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" - and that is especially true when it comes to good teachers.
 
Are there any great teachers.
 
Absolutely.
 
But they are a rare breed indeed.
 
They will have to have been teaching for close to fifty years.
 
They will usually be the head of their own organization.
 
They will all be recognized world wide for their personal skill and the depth of their dedication to advancing the art of karate.
 
If you ever have the opportunity to train under a teacher of this calibre don't miss your chance, for they are the elder statesman of our art, and like all of us they are aging rapidly.
 
Each day there are fewer and fewer of them.
 
So never assume that they will be there tomorrow.
 
Never assume that if you miss an opportunity to learn from them that another opportunity will come along.
 
Life is not like that.
 
In life there are no guarantees and very few second chances.
 
So keep training, and always remember that when it come to teachers, avoid the poor ones, learn from the good ones, and by all means follow the great ones for they are our leaders.
 
They already walk the path you should be seeking, and in doing so they have raised teaching to an art all it's own.
 
 
Remember
Good teachers are the people who can make you better,
than you ever thought you could be.
 
Part the clouds - see the way.
 
"The objective of karate-do is to contribute to the evolution
of the human spirit through physical and mental training."
Sensei Peter Lindsay