Thursday, February 28, 2013

The teacher’s paradox

Teachers have a love of knowledge and uplifting people and explaining things.  Masters -of art, of science – have a love of novelty, discovery, understanding, connections and application.  Seldom do these two personalities unite well within a person.  This is the paradox.  People who teach things are rarely masters of the things they teach.  People who are masters of things rarely see teaching what they know as important as pushing the boundaries of what they know.  There are exceptions.  Such people are…exceptional.

The martial arts are no different.  The people who are the most capable in the most situations have often gotten their experience the hardest way of all – through actual combat – and these people usually have a difficult time explaining what they do and an even harder time explaining how they do it.  Hence most of the eastern martial tradition is recorded in terms of metaphor, allegory and imagery rather than straightforward instruction.  On the contrary, those most eager to impart their wisdom usually 1) speak in absolutes and certainties (of which there are few) that 2) hint at their superficial understanding of the vagaries of combat.

The true martial artist must remain forever a dispassionate skeptic.  You have failed this first lesson if mere words impress you, if its source impresses you or if training causes you to be impressed with yourself.  If you are ever to be regarded by others as having some skill - if you are ever to be justified in thinking that you have something worth teaching - you must hold the spirit of skeptical exploration in you always, building your physical capacity and mental understanding while always on the lookout for illusion and deception.  The martial arts, as well as life, is meant to be examine with a questioning eye, examine your teachers with a questioning eye and have no expectation of a human being’s infallibility or invincibility.  We are fallible.  We all bleed.  Learn that lesson the easiest way possible – in training, not in combat.

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