Teaching my students…ego…

Sensei Post in Training notes
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I’ve been teaching the martial arts now for a little more then 20 years and some things don’t change, but I do. 20 odd years ago when I was first starting to teach I was inexperienced and for the most part tried to mimic my masters ways. My students looked up to me and I thought that was important for me to be an effective teacher. Some of the times though I was winging it, I am sure some students noticed! Ego. Back then I was young and yet my ego was typically in check (for my age). What I did learn to notice early on was the ego in my students (and others). I didn’t realize the importance of this at the time but over the years it has made me realize that we are all the same. Students, teachers, young, old, male, female, we all possess egos to varying degrees and exposure. It is who we are or more importantly a sign of who we are becoming. It always amazed me when my Sensei could so easily tell who would succeed and who wouldn’t, who would persevere and who would quit.
Some things don’t change, but I do. This is true for all of us. So if things don’t change how can we? Well I change because I choose to, that is the only way to initiate a change. We can choose not to change but this leads to death. What I have discovered over the last twenty years is this, there are only so many different *types* of people. And these different types of people are all at different stages of development of self. Self, that is a big word. There is singularity in self that we find no where else. Choice. So the students and people that I see are simply intersections in my life of similar type people that I have seen before. They have not changed but they are entering my life at a different point in the development of my Self. Epiphany! I am not sure when I got it, perhaps I always had it, but it struck me that I too can with good accuracy predict who will stay the course and who won’t. It is a sad realization, ignorance is bliss.
This insight into others through introspection, as I see it, is an important part of Martial Arts training. But how does one teach this? This may be one of the great mysteries! 🙂 I think some of it happens naturally for the interested student. In learning a Martial Art the student must at some point turn their attention inward and in part master themselves. This is required to gain even cursory control/awareness of your mind and body. To quote Yoda, Hard this is. This is the point when you see if a student can change or simply become more so (of who they are). Change is hard, very hard and we are creatures of equilibrium, we like its stability. We must learn to fight this desire for stability, for equilibrium to expand our Self and grow. But this is a hard path fraught with distractions, inner turmoil and to be most feared, ego. Back to ego! So do we change? Most find it easier to fight change and cling to the familiar but many do eventually succeed in making a change. “Making a change” however is not the fluid process of continual change and growth we are looking for. Making a change is usually a sudden reaction to extreme events, often made to late. How many of us have dated people who are a negative influence on our lives only to break up and date the same type of person again. We all know someone this applies to. Not change, more so.
We the instructor, the Sensei, can help push our students to positive change. We should strive to instill in our students control (of self), introspection (why did you do that?), apathy (why is your aggressor angry?), humility (we are all equal), and justice (no one has the right to wrong!). Of course there are more but these are the high points. Try to observe your students and challenge them based on their development. Remember ego is not a bad thing, but a big or arrogant ego is a dangerous thing. The later leads to feelings of superiority to others which is detrimental leading to entitlement and usually ending in underestimating your opponent! Remind your students that Belts are not instruments of class, they should not be worn with pride, they are simply articles of clothing.

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