Master / Student Relationship, and Honest Discussions

Gwai Lo Dan

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In your opinion, does the Master / Student relationship preclude honest discussions? For instance, if you were thinking that a certain aspect of the curriculum wasn't your cup of tea, would you feel able to discuss it with the Master, or would you look elsewhere without discussing it?
 

drop bear

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Yes mostly.

But it is pretty well accepted in our gym that everyone has flaws.
 

Blindside

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Me handing in a 5 page thesis on all the things we as a school could do better and various suggested remedies caused my black belt test to lengthen considerably but resulted in good discussion. Some of those practices were even changed eventually.

I have never had an instructor that I didn't think I could talk to adult to adult.
 

Ademadis

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If I've got a problem I'm sure I can always talk to my sensei about it in the open and everything's fine.
He's a good teacher and friend foremost, master second.
 

Justin Chang

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My teacher actively asks us to question everything he is teaching, to offer possible other ways of doing things, to learn from each other. If he believes his way is better he tells us why and allows us to make our own decisions on what works best for us.
 

Buka

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I think it depends. If the student's been training for a year, well, you know how that's going to go. All I want to hear from a wet behind the ears rookie is, "Yes, sir or No, sir."

If it's a senior student, there's probably a certain respect that's been earned, and will be listened to. But it could also depend on what the "not your cup of tea" concerns. An extreme example would be - it's a Kyokushin dojo and the student suggests "We should be be doing some Drunken Monkey Kung Fu". Or vice versa. (hey, I said it was an extreme example) Yeaaaah, that's not going to be listened to. Psychiatric treatment might actually be in order.

I've had students make suggestions or requests that were implemented, sometimes after class for extra work, at first. They were good ideas. I've also had instructors, who were world class, and wouldn't, nor should they for any reason, ever entertain such things. So, it kind of depends.
 

Dirty Dog

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I think it depends. If the student's been training for a year, well, you know how that's going to go. All I want to hear from a wet behind the ears rookie is, "Yes, sir or No, sir."

If it's a senior student, there's probably a certain respect that's been earned, and will be listened to. But it could also depend on what the "not your cup of tea" concerns. An extreme example would be - it's a Kyokushin dojo and the student suggests "We should be be doing some Drunken Monkey Kung Fu". Or vice versa. (hey, I said it was an extreme example) Yeaaaah, that's not going to be listened to. Psychiatric treatment might actually be in order.

I've had students make suggestions or requests that were implemented, sometimes after class for extra work, at first. They were good ideas. I've also had instructors, who were world class, and wouldn't, nor should they for any reason, ever entertain such things. So, it kind of depends.

This.
How could I know someone for years and not be able to talk to them about our common interests?
 

marques

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About my first and most important school so far: We could discuss everything, at least senior students (furthermore some things were voted by instructors), but the effect was little to none. :) At the moment the issue was the standardisation of many academies, not more changes.

On the other hand, senior students were free to specialise in some area (according to the background, body type, abilities or limitations...) and add whatever they find useful in their own 'toolbox'.
 

Earl Weiss

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My teacher actively asks us to question everything he is teaching, to offer possible other ways of doing things, to learn from each other. If he believes his way is better he tells us why and allows us to make our own decisions on what works best for us.

I would approach this on a case by case basis. In some instances students may have sufficient insight into knowing what will work best. In others, not so much. When I have students helping other students I tell them to teach the way I taught them. If they think they have a better way they should talk to me about it and we can evaluate the idea.
 

Earl Weiss

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In your opinion, does the Master / Student relationship preclude honest discussions? For instance, if you were thinking that a certain aspect of the curriculum wasn't your cup of tea, would you feel able to discuss it with the Master, or would you look elsewhere without discussing it?

If there is something you need to speak to the Master / instructor about and the relationship precludes such discussion I think you need to find another place to train. HOWEVER, there is a time and place for certain discussions and in some cases a request should be made for a private conversation. Further, don't waste time on trivialities. "Do you like my haircut."

Some time ago a poster had an issue with a pattern. I indicated that according to the text of the person who developed the pattern there was an error in what he was doing which contributed to the issues he was having. I suggested that he ask his instructor concerning the discrepancy. (It was clear he had trained for a while and I did not feel the need to suggest that he might need to do this in private. ) His was highly irritated that I would "question his instructor." So, "opinions vary" - Dalton
 

Justin Chang

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I would approach this on a case by case basis. In some instances students may have sufficient insight into knowing what will work best. In others, not so much. When I have students helping other students I tell them to teach the way I taught them. If they think they have a better way they should talk to me about it and we can evaluate the idea.
Ours is a group of people who come together to learn, most of the participants are advanced martial artists and most are instructors in various arts as well. Our teacher will be going over a technique or a principle and as we are practicing it someone might add something to make it more effective from their art, or someone may decide that a certain aspect of it doesn't work as well for their body type so they modify it, usually we discuss the variations and it is a wonderful learning experience for all involved. There is no one right or wrong way of doing a technique as long as it works for the individual. Ours is more of a collective of Martial Artist who wish to learn and share their knowledge, it is ever evolving, ever changing.
 

Andrew Green

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In your opinion, does the Master / Student relationship preclude honest discussions? For instance, if you were thinking that a certain aspect of the curriculum wasn't your cup of tea, would you feel able to discuss it with the Master, or would you look elsewhere without discussing it?


I don't like that distinction, never have. "Master" is such a poor choice of term when looking at what we do.

As the owner / instructor I am here to serve my clients, not the other way around. I offer a service to them, and it is my job to make sure that service matches up with the needs of my client. If I am not serving my students properly they won't be my students for very long.

If a instructor tries to take the roll of "master" and starts thinking his clients are there to serve him instead of the other way around things get weird.

If you have comments or questions about what you are being taught and the service your instructor is providing you, bring them up. Do so in a respectful way obviously, and keep in mind that you are one person. The service is not there to address just you, but to best address the needs of the students as a whole.
 
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Gwai Lo Dan

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,,,, But it could also depend on what the "not your cup of tea" concerns. ,.

I'm thinking of things like "too much sparring", "too much time on fitness" , "too much one steps"...or not enough for any of these, all depending on the student.

I'm not thinking of right vs wrong, just different preferences.

I see students move schools, but don't feel that they can explain it. They may say, "I'm taking a break" then go to a different school. It's counter-productive from a business perspective, but it seems that students can be discouraged by the master/student relationship to talk honestly abut what they dislike or would otherwise prefer.

I tried to leave my opening post general, to get your thoughts. Thanks!
 

Buka

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I'm thinking of things like "too much sparring", "too much time on fitness" , "too much one steps"...or not enough for any of these, all depending on the student.

I'm not thinking of right vs wrong, just different preferences.

I see students move schools, but don't feel that they can explain it. They may say, "I'm taking a break" then go to a different school. It's counter-productive from a business perspective, but it seems that students can be discouraged by the master/student relationship to talk honestly abut what they dislike or would otherwise prefer.

I tried to leave my opening post general, to get your thoughts. Thanks!

I've had a couple of students in the past (different times) who thought we sparred too much, and was thinking of different places to train. So I gave them a list of the places I thought they'd enjoy the most, told them I'd call if they wanted me too. (One did, one didn't) They both spoke to me a couple months later, said they loved where they were training, (different places for each guy) but there wasn't enough sparring. So I made them a deal - just keep training there and come on down on sparring nights here, no charge, everyone knows you and misses you. Worked all out around, easy, peasy, Japanesey.

I've had dozens of students over the years who loved to train, but were having trouble keeping up with ours. Bought a lot of them to different placed myself, Senseis I knew. Sent the others when I didn't have time to go myself, due to scheduling. All worked out great, still friends to this day, some are still training.

I used to have other Martial Artists come down to do a semi-seminar, teach a typical class from their style of Martial Art. Wanted my students to experience as much as they could, wanted them to know there were other places, quality places, that they could go to.

Any time an instructor I knew, and a couple times with instructors I didn't know, lost their school, I let them use my dojo in any off class time to retain their students until they found another place. No charge, with the caveat that if one of my students wanted to take their class, he could. Always worked out terrific. Never had one single problem. A couple of my students ended up going with them and a couple of their students ended up coming with us. Everybody won.

Any time a former student of mine wanted to come down on sparring nights he was welcomed with open arms. Always worked out great. A lot of times people who were now training something else, wanted to see how well they could utilize it against people they used to spar with. It always worked out well, made for some great times. Not much really changed, because the people they used to spar with had progressed as well. Style never really seemed to have an effect one way of the other.

I've also had a couple of senior students who became so proficient in our style, especially the fighting aspect of it, I had to convince them to move on to something that would help them more, either one of my teachers, or someone who taught something that could challenge them. Both were exceptional men/students/fighters/athletes. They remain some of my closest friends to this day.

I'll listen to a student's suggestions......to a point. Again, if he's green, shut up and train, kid, before I make you do push-ups until you pee.
 

TrueJim

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At our school, the head of the school use to have weekly meetings with the instructors. Each meeting would have a topic, and you'd have to prepare a presentation ahead of time on the topic: "how to deal with problem students", or "how to better run an open house". I think the goal was twofold: to get some new ideas for this school, and to get us thinking about how we'd run our own school if we had one. (At least one of our instructors aspires to that.) The meetings petered-out because people just kept getting too busy, but it was a great practice while we were doing it.

We suggested a lot of good ideas at those meetings, but generally speaking most ideas didn't wind up getting implemented because there's just so much inertia to the organization (it's a big school). The head of our school is very open to new ideas in general, but if they require much additional work...well, people are already busy.

Here's an example of a "free advertising" idea that I had:

A lot of public school PTAs raise money for the school by selling spirit-wear tee-shirts. So the PTA has an incentive to want to make spirit-wear more desirable, so that more parents buy spirit-wear for their children. Some PTAs will even work out small deals with local businesses to make the spirit-wear more desirable, like "free sprinkles at the ice cream shop if you wear your spirit-wear." The PTA advertises these deals as a way to get more parents to buy spirit-wear.

So here's my idea: a monthly spirit-wear day at the dojang. On spirit-wear day, if you wear a spirit-wear tee as your top, you can to line-up in the front of the class. So instead of lining up black-to-white belts, the students wearing spirit-wear get to line up at the front of the class. What does this get for the dojang? Well for one thing, kids at their schools talking about your dojang ("yah, I'm wearing my tee today so that I can line-up at the front of my taekwondo class"); but also, the PTA repeatedly mentioning your dojang to parents as a local business that supports the school. Free advertising!
 

Earl Weiss

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I don't like that distinction, never have. "Master" is such a poor choice of term when looking at what we do.

As the owner / instructor I am here to serve my clients, not the other way around. I offer a service to them, and it is my job to make sure that service matches up with the needs of my client. If I am not serving my students properly they won't be my students for very long.

If a instructor tries to take the roll of "master" and starts thinking his clients are there to serve him instead of the other way around things get weird.

.

The term "Master' can be used in the manner of "Master - Servant" relationship. That is not the intent or meaning when it comes to MA although deference is shown to those who are senior in age or rank.
The term as used in MA is that used in a craft or art. It is Master craftsman or Artisan. Those whom the Master teaches are students or apprentices, not servants or slaves.
 

jks9199

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In your opinion, does the Master / Student relationship preclude honest discussions? For instance, if you were thinking that a certain aspect of the curriculum wasn't your cup of tea, would you feel able to discuss it with the Master, or would you look elsewhere without discussing it?
Depends on the particular relationship. For those who put their martial arts teacher on some sort of pedestal, the "Wise Sensei who knows all" type of relationship? Yeah, you won't have a frank discussion. But if you're relationship is, well, let's say healthier, nah... unless the "master" is so stiff and unrelenting that there's no room for discussion. Which is a different problem...

Something I've noticed (and I'm far from alone!)... we have a bit of tendency in the West to imbue the role of martial arts "Master" with a lot of heavy crap about the Master knowing all, being some sort of superior, wiser person. I think it goes back to shows like Kung Fu, and the whole idea of Shaolin Warrior Priests, and somehow shifted from the sensei being simply a teacher and coach. Doesn't mean you can't learn other things, that he (or she) isn't wise or doesn't have good advice... but it's not merely because of his martial arts training. I've learned a lot of non MA things from my teacher -- but not because he is a truly great martial artist. He's also a great person -- who has had a lot of life experience and shares that. He's got a gift for dealing with people -- and I've learned from him. (I hope...) But, in the end, y'know... he's still just a man. He never presented himself as being anything more, either... And I hope I don't give my students a false image...
 

chrispillertkd

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In your opinion, does the Master / Student relationship preclude honest discussions?

Not at all. But we should remember that having an honest discussion in no way means not being courteous to who you're talking to and treating them with the respect they deserve as your teacher (if you're a student), nor does it mean belittling them if you disagree with what they say (if you're an instructor). Some people tend to equate having an "honest" discussion with being argumentative or "telling it like it is!" But in my experience that kind of behavior isn't conducive to having an honest discussion in the first place since it tends to make people shut down dialogue as quickly as possible.

Part of training in the martial arts is to cultivate a certain amount of decorum. I've found that goes a long way with being able to talk to people in general, and not just your MA instructor.

Pax,

Chris
 

Andrew Green

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The term "Master' can be used in the manner of "Master - Servant" relationship. That is not the intent or meaning when it comes to MA although deference is shown to those who are senior in age or rank.
The term as used in MA is that used in a craft or art. It is Master craftsman or Artisan. Those whom the Master teaches are students or apprentices, not servants or slaves.

In contexts like that it is used as a certification, not a title. I don't think Chess players would do a "Yes Grandmaster" when talking to a high level chess player, or that a carpentry apprentice would refer to someone as "master". Same as in education, if you get a masters degree at a University people aren't going to start calling you "Master Earl".
 

Earl Weiss

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In contexts like that it is used as a certification, not a title. I don't think Chess players would do a "Yes Grandmaster" when talking to a high level chess player, or that a carpentry apprentice would refer to someone as "master". Same as in education, if you get a masters degree at a University people aren't going to start calling you "Master Earl".

No, in education the "Master" Degree means little. However, the term "Doctor" is widely used in educational circles. Actulay tends to grate on me since I have a Doctorate but would never use the tiltle unless some self absorbed educator corrects me and has me cal them "Doctor Smith" and I will then invite them to address me in a similar fashion. The term "Maestro" is also widely used in some cultures.
 
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