The Roles and Rights of a Martial Arts Instructor

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Matt Stone

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So if students emulate their instructors' behavior, is there a need for the students to be "taught" courtesy, respect, etiquette, etc., or should the instructors simply strive to better represent their art's traditions and exemplary behaviors?

Further, if the instructor is a Westerner, and teaching an Eastern martial art, should the instructor emulate the Eastern behaviors, or stick to representing the traditions inherent in his own culture?
 

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Matt Stone said:
Further, if the instructor is a Westerner, and teaching an Eastern martial art, should the instructor emulate the Eastern behaviors, or stick to representing the traditions inherent in his own culture?
I can see how this is related to the discussion, Matt, but the essence of this question runs much deeper than the specific topic here.

I think that many people, after learning about or being exposed to other cultures, often find bits of that culture that they feel really comfortable with; something with which they can identify. Further to this, in our relatively "newer" composite cultures in the Americas, who can really define what is or is not an appropriate tradition?

For example, many people feel that meditiation can be a useful or rewarding activity. This isn't a Western thing; its much more closely associated with eastern ways. However, should Easterners have exclusive "right" to that activity? I figure that if you dig it, do it.

Personally, I identify much more closely with Eastern philosophy than Western. I choose to look at the world within a Taoist framework, when I'm able. I don't think that in any way this can be identified as a particularly Western or Canadian tradition or cultural norm. But it works for me, it helps me reconcile my system of belief.

Sorry, bit of a tangent there...
 

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Adept said:
I would not strictly agree with that. A person of influence cannot help but manipulate the people over whom they have influence. That is what makes them a person of influence. An abuse of their authority would, in my opinion, be to use said influence in a negative manner.
I guess that depends upon how you think the word manipulate is defined. In any definition I have read, something devious and self serving is always implied; for example, from dictionary.com:

1: influence or control shrewdly or deviously; "He manipulated public opinion in his favor"

Given that, it seems to me that because someone is in a position of influence, that doesn't necessarily mean they must manipulate, rather, it means that they have the ability to do so. In your assertion that "A person of influence cannot help but manipulate the people over whom they have influence", I must absolutely disagree.
 

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Matt Stone said:
So if students emulate their instructors' behavior, is there a need for the students to be "taught" courtesy, respect, etiquette, etc., or should the instructors simply strive to better represent their art's traditions and exemplary behaviors?

I expect these things from someone before they are allowed to become a student at my school. They must continue to show courtesy, respect, proper etiquette as a student once they are a student as well. What they do outside of the school I cannot and shouldn't be able to control. I hope that the positive reinforcement while training at the school rubs off on the student and they learn to apply these things in their daily lives. These simple behaviors mentioned above are part of being a positive and productive member of just about any society.

When students can look back on their training and see how it positively influenced their lives beyond kicking and punching, it can be powerful public relations for martial arts in general and more people will be encouraged to participate. But, when martial art degrades to just jumping up and down, scoring points, arging about which art is better than another, then the martial arts are doomed to being viewed as no better than any other sports-temporary passtime with no benefits except breaking a sweat.

R. McLain
 

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Matt Stone said:
So at what point do martial arts cease being combative sports and step closer to churches and religious organizations? By saying MA are a "way of life" begins shuffling them dangerously close to such a condition...
This is a curious question you raise. Do you think that if a person were to treat a Martial Art as their religion that practicing it as such is objectionable?
 

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MA is not religous base, when the statement say's it a way of life, to me anyway means to hold the same value's that I was tought by my Father and instructor. Sense they where the same man it is a way of life for me. My religous preference has nothing to do with my MA life.
 
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mj-hi-yah said:
This is a curious question you raise. Do you think that if a person were to treat a Martial Art as their religion that practicing it as such is objectionable?

The issue at hand isn't whether the individual practice is bad, but rather the behavior of the instructor in attempting to control the student's freedom and choices by imposing external and alien cultural standards on him/her.
 

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As an instructor I do attempt to influence (not control) some of the things that happen to or may affect my students. I ask the parents of the children to make sure that homework (both in school and at home) is completed or in the process of completion before they come to class. If they are having trouble in school with a subject I ask that they tell me what subject and I try to find one of my other students (adult or child) that knows the subject, in an effort to help out.

I expect to be told about any out of dojo fights, bad encounters, etc. I dont judge what occurred but try to see if things could have been avoided some way.



I hope that as an instructor some of the things we discuss in class ( life values, history, anatomy, etc,) from time to time will stick in the students mind.
 

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Matt Stone said:
The issue at hand isn't whether the individual practice is bad, but rather the behavior of the instructor in attempting to control the student's freedom and choices by imposing external and alien cultural standards on him/her.
Thanks for clarifying. :asian:
A person controlling another person's freedom of choice in itself seems like a contradiction to me. I suppose it is possible for an instructor to attempt this, but is it necessarily bad for an instructor to attempt this? Not necessarily, partially because ultimately we all are responsible for making our own choices. Children only get to make the choices that affect their lives that their parents allow for them to. If a parent makes the choice for their child to be in a school where an instructor attempts to influence his/her students in the way you describe, and that parent deems these influences to be positive, and maybe even culturally enlightening and enriching, than I find it acceptable. So long as the attempted imposed beliefs are in conjunction with the parent's set of core values and beliefs, I see no problem. If an instructor attempts to impose alien culture on a person and the person/parent feels that the influence is positive and beneficial than to me it's acceptable as well. If an art is presented to the student as a way of life than it is the student's choice as to whether or not he/she will embrace all of the tenents set forth, or in the case of a child it is the parent's choice to allow or disallow the exposure. In some Aikido schools there are Zen classes that are offered as a part of training. If students are given a choice to partake in these classes and sit zazen and incorporate into their lives the philosophies learned as a result of these classes than I think that is acceptable - to take it further if the students were told that they must attend Zen classes as a part of their training than the student or parent is still exercising a choice here, to either accept or deny the training and all that goes with it.

If people don't agree or desire the influence they will vote with their feet and either leave a personally undesirable instructor or choose not to sign up from the start.

In some cases they may just seek out a place where such influences align with their own beliefs or enrich them through exposure to diversity. It all depends on where you stand.

MJ :asian:
 

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mj-hi-yah said:
Thanks for clarifying. :asian:
A person controlling another person's freedom of choice in itself seems like a contradiction to me. I suppose it is possible for an instructor to attempt this, but is it necessarily bad for an instructor to attempt this? Not necessarily, partially because ultimately we all are responsible for making our own choices. Children only get to make the choices that affect their lives that their parents allow for them to. If a parent makes the choice for their child to be in a school where an instructor attempts to influence his/her students in the way you describe, and that parent deems these influences to be positive, and maybe even culturally enlightening and enriching, than I find it acceptable. So long as the attempted imposed beliefs are in conjunction with the parent's set of core values and beliefs, I see no problem. If an instructor attempts to impose alien culture on a person and the person/parent feels that the influence is positive and beneficial than to me it's acceptable as well. If an art is presented to the student as a way of life than it is the student's choice as to whether or not he/she will embrace all of the tenents set forth, or in the case of a child it is the parent's choice to allow or disallow the exposure. In some Aikido schools there are Zen classes that are offered as a part of training. If students are given a choice to partake in these classes and sit zazen and incorporate into their lives the philosophies learned as a result of these classes than I think that is acceptable - to take it further if the students were told that they must attend Zen classes as a part of their training than the student or parent is still exercising a choice here, to either accept or deny the training and all that goes with it.

If people don't agree or desire the influence they will vote with their feet and either leave a personally undesirable instructor or choose not to sign up from the start.

In some cases they may just seek out a place where such influences align with their own beliefs or enrich them through exposure to diversity. It all depends on where you stand.

MJ :asian:
I would agree with MJ. You always have the right to do the art or not. This doesnt free an instructor from the responsibilities of conducting training in a legal, moral and ethical manner. There are a number of types of martial arts around, and their individual goals can be quite different. Some will have a higher goal than just fighting ability.

In Shorinji Kempo we have three ranking system, Bukai, Hokai, and Sokai. They refer to different areas, Bukai are the martial arts rankings, Hokai are the philosophy rankings and Sokai are the religious rankings. In the west there are very few people with Sokai rankings. We also have different branch designations. Doin and Dojo. Doin are branches that are run by instructors that have the right level of Sokai ranking, and the right facilities for training. Dojo are the normal type of branches and dont teach the religious side, but do teach philosophy. It is not necessary to convert or believe in the religious side, but you will be tested on the philosophy. The philosophy is based on Kongo Zen Buddhism, but would be compatible with most peoples core values, as it does not concern itself with deities, but rather lifestyle.

This model may fit your needs or may not. If it doesnt then you will do something else. You may ask what gives these teachers the right, or skills to teach these things to people. The answer is the same things that allow our Ministers to do the same thing. Shorinji Kempo have their own Schools and Universities that are Government accredited to train people in these skills as well as the normal academic curriculum. Will their individual skills differ at doing this? Of course, but they have been trained. This is also the case in the west with councillors, priests, or even phycologists.

On a more personal level. I hold the philosophy component of our syllabus very high; I think it has great worth. This is because I believe it has been of more practical value than the fighting side. I believe very strongly that my life would be very different know if I had not started training in Shorinji Kempo, and had not been prodded into examining the world around me, human nature, and some of their truths.
 

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Well, my own students often look at me as a martial art instructor in class and as a older brother or unnlce outside.
 
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All great thoughts Matt. On one hand when I go out to buy a gun. The salesman doesn't tell me when to use it. The same could be said of an instructor of MA. However, the MA instructor takes the student on a journey. It's more than just a moment. In most cases the instructor becomes a friend and mentor. He sees his students victories and defeats. Sometimes it not so much the instructor giving advice and quidance but the student willingly absorbing all from his MA instructor. The student questions and wants to know how would my instructor deal with this. "I want to be like him" he says to himself.
 
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safeeagle said:
All great thoughts Matt. On one hand when I go out to buy a gun. The salesman doesn't tell me when to use it.

Nice comparison.

The same could be said of an instructor of MA. However, the MA instructor takes the student on a journey.

I think the roles are being romanticized a bit, don't you?

It's more than just a moment. In most cases the instructor becomes a friend and mentor. He sees his students victories and defeats. Sometimes it not so much the instructor giving advice and quidance but the student willingly absorbing all from his MA instructor. The student questions and wants to know how would my instructor deal with this. "I want to be like him" he says to himself.

I think the romantic and fantastic myth of the martial arts master and his/her devoted student is overdone and inappropriate. There isn't a direct equal in American culture to fully relate that relationship; most mentor/student archetypes have the student being disrespectful and rebellious as opposed to dutiful and obedient. I think the martial arts mentor/master owes more to Hollywood than anyone cares to admit.

Certainly, in some small few cases, the teacher provides the student with something of genuine value to their development, martial and otherwise. But this certainly isn't the common experience. Simple examination of the business of commercial martial arts schools reveals that in successful schools there are far too many students for a teacher to have developed a suitably personal relationship to have become a mentor to a student in a personal, intimate fashion. If it transpires more often in smaller schools, the diminished number of students in those smaller schools further emphasizes the limited number of students with that have that experience.

Further, is it really the teacher that provides the student with knowledge and wisdom, or is it simply nothing more than the teacher pointing the student in a given direction and allowing the student to learn or not learn whatever lesson may be waiting? I'd say that the teacher laying claim to having "taught" is the teacher who is in need of further instruction! It isn't the teacher who actively teaches, but the student who actively learns; the teacher simply provides information for the student to work with and learn from...

I used to think that it was the teacher who actively taught. I no longer believe that, primarily because of my experience teaching. You can tell a student X, show a student X, explain X over and over again. If the student doesn't do the work him/herself, then no matter how much you "teach," the student still won't learn.

And it isn't that I disbelieve the possibility and potential of a traditional MA teacher/student relationship existing and having benefits for both, but rather that there are far more teachers who don't have what it would take to enter into such a relationship (for whatever reason) than there are teachers who lay claim to providing such a relationship to their students. Too many teachers want to buy their own hype to satiate their desire to be something special (like being a MA teacher for the mystique attached to it by others), and they then attempt to inflict their own ideas, beliefs, opinions, etc., onto their students under the guise of "teaching" them to be better MAists.

My argument is that a MA teacher should confine his/her actions to what they are qualified to do - present MA instruction to MA students. Leave the life counseling to others who are better trained, keep personal opinions and advice to themselves (unless asked for it, in which instance the person doing the asking should remember "buyer beware" as with any advice), and worry less about fitting into Mr. Miyagi's shoes and more about being themselves...
 
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47MartialMan said:
But a martial art instructor has more of a personal responsilbility than a gun salesman.

Not true.

Both provide a potentially dangerous tool to their respective customers, but neither of them are personally responsible for what the customer does with the tool once they own it.

Are a person's parents responsible for the decisions that the child makes? The parents have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to teach the child what society expects of them, to teach the child what is and is not acceptible according to society. If the child becomes a depraved criminal, is it the fault of the parent?

For those who argue that a MA teacher is similar to a parental role, then oughtn't the MA teacher be prosecuted (and the parents of the child as well) for the child's misconduct? Somehow I think people will disagree with that, but that is of course the logical application of this illogical and incorrect premise (MA teacher = parental role model).
 

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Hmmn good point...However, would you think that the instructor feels more moral obligation than a gun salesman looking for a sale?
 
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47MartialMan said:
Hmmn good point...However, would you think that the instructor feels more moral obligation than a gun salesman looking for a sale?

You tell me... From the many commercial schools I've seen where instructors had good intentions toward their students but were still focused on the bottom line (high enrollments = high income), I can't tell where the instructor's sense of moral involvement ends and his dedication to fiscal success begins. One does, almost necessarily, influence the other.

Further, feeling moral responsibility and actually imposing on another's life and decision making process without having a genuine and justified relationship which allows for such influence are two completely different things. I've never said that an instructor should be chastized for feeling a sense of responsibility to one degree or another, but that he/she has absolutely no justification whatsoever to believe his/her influence exists anywhere outside of the school and martial arts instruction. School teachers feel responsibility for their students, I'm sure, but their responsibilities end at the doors of the school. Doctors may feel responsible for certain patients, lawyers may feel responsible for certain clients (I am a paralegal, so I know that one by experience), but their actual responsibility, professional or otherwise, ends exactly where the object of their concern (student/patient/client) begins their decision making process. It isn't the concern of the outsider to be responsible for the decisions of the individual.

Our society spends a lot of time divesting our citizens of responsibility... This is a similar phenomena, where someone is attempting to divest someone of individual responsibility, only in this case it isn't by laying the blame on another but by taking up the responsibility themselves.

People make decisions all on their own. The decision, and the consequences of it, belong solely to that person and no one else.
 

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Are we talking about a range of martial arts here, or just commercial American schools, in the context of American culture? Any form of budo has at its core the purpose of development of people; it is not budo if it lacks this.

In any coaching role you are not just teaching the nuts and bolts of the sport. You are a mentor, and you will actively try to develop qualities within your athletes. In all my coaching courses (including non martial arts) we have studied motivation, counselling, communication and ethics. This so we can help our athletes develop into not only winners, but also good competitors. An under 17 cyclist will need to ride 700 klm a week; this takes a huge chunk out of their time. They have pressure from friends and family to spend more time with them, they have pressure from schools to complete homework and assignments, and they have pressure from themselves to perform at a level they expect of themselves. If I'm coaching the athlete they don't need more pressure from me, they need encouragement and motivation. Not just to win, but to win in the right manner (sportsmanship, drugs). When they have had a particularly tuff time with some outside element they depend on the coach to be able to help them. This advice may be direct help, or it could be encouraging them to seek more specialised help. Coaches in Australia are trained in this, and there are different levels of training. Where problems arise is when coaches dont understand their limits of assistance, but then this is also true of many professionals.

I can understand Matts comments regarding commercial styles in America, or anywhere else for that matter. After all their whole point of existence is to make money and this is where their focus is directed. We should however not discount those arts that are still around where the focus is on the development of the person. It doesnt matter if the lessons are structured theory, or just rely on the experiential learning aspects of their training methods. The image of Mr Miyagi is a romanticised one, but this does not mean that there are not arts around that are directed towards character development, and have skills to achieve this.
 
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Colin! Greetings!

Colin_Linz said:
Are we talking about a range of martial arts here, or just commercial American schools, in the context of American culture? Any form of budo has at its core the purpose of development of people; it is not budo if it lacks this.

The comments could be applied equally to any country, though I suspect that, with our "new and improved" mentality along with all the other baggage our culture clutters our citizens with, it may also be very uniquely American...

In any coaching role you are not just teaching the nuts and bolts of the sport. You are a mentor, and you will actively try to develop qualities within your athletes. In all my coaching courses (including non martial arts) we have studied motivation, counselling, communication and ethics. This so we can help our athletes develop into not only winners, but also good competitors. An under 17 cyclist will need to ride 700 klm a week; this takes a huge chunk out of their time. They have pressure from friends and family to spend more time with them, they have pressure from schools to complete homework and assignments, and they have pressure from themselves to perform at a level they expect of themselves. If I'm coaching the athlete they don't need more pressure from me, they need encouragement and motivation. Not just to win, but to win in the right manner (sportsmanship, drugs). When they have had a particularly tuff time with some outside element they depend on the coach to be able to help them. This advice may be direct help, or it could be encouraging them to seek more specialised help. Coaches in Australia are trained in this, and there are different levels of training. Where problems arise is when coaches dont understand their limits of assistance, but then this is also true of many professionals.

I agree with this paragraph entirely. The last sentence (my emphasis added) is most appropriate, and speaks to the point of this thread.

As a noncommissioned officer in the US Army, I have had limited training in counseling, motivation, etc., to better develop my subordinate soldiers. I am required by Army doctrine to counsel my soldiers regularly on their development (both personal and professional), their education, their work performance, their attitude, etc. That doesn't imply, though, that I am the person that accomplishes changes in my subordinates' behaviors or performances... They make changes, or not, on their own. If they change for the better, that change was their decision. If they change for the worse, or don't change at all, that too was their decision. While it is my responsibility to do whatever I can to provide them with the information, guidance and feedback on how to effect changes, it isn't me that does the changing... Just them. And while I'm responsible for providing them the guidance and counseling, I'm not responsible for their decisions.

I can understand Matts comments regarding commercial styles in America, or anywhere else for that matter. After all their whole point of existence is to make money and this is where their focus is directed. We should however not discount those arts that are still around where the focus is on the development of the person. It doesnt matter if the lessons are structured theory, or just rely on the experiential learning aspects of their training methods. The image of Mr Miyagi is a romanticised one, but this does not mean that there are not arts around that are directed towards character development, and have skills to achieve this.

I don't discount the arts which contain within their doctrine a desire to develop the character of the student; far from it. In fact, I wish that more arts contained something more than a cursory nod toward such development. That having been said, I maintain that it isn't the teacher that "does" the teaching, but rather the student that gains the teaching through doing their own work... Therefore, the teacher isn't responsible for the student's actions, development or training. The teacher provides information, and the student does with it what he/she will.
 

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Thanks Matt, I have a better understanding of your point. Yes we cant change anyone who doesnt have the desire to do so. All we can is do is try to get them to examine aspects of their lives and offer strategies that may help them change if they desire. We dont teach them in the same way as kids are taught their times tables, but rather encourage them to examine things for themselves and offer primer thoughts to help guide them.

It is amazing how much we can change cultural thought. When I joined the Air Force in 1988 it had a typical military culture. You were told what to do and when to do it, there was no argument, and if you did you would be charged. The leadership was very Autocratic. My first promotional course involved learning all the various manual reference numbers and two days of yelling at people on the parade ground. We then went through a period of massive staff reductions. While this Autocratic leadership model worked well earlier, it was not efficient with reduced staff. We needed people that could think for themselves and work within a team environment. This is when we moved to the TQM style of management. This coupled with the emergence of EEO required a completely different culture of work practices. Our Air Force now is very much a consultive management model, with quality teams improving processes, and staff required to be proactive and do what is needed. The same promotional course I did in 1991 now features a greatly extended time period and covers subjects like Team Building, Motivation, Coaching, Workplace Training, Counselling, Leadership, TQM, and EEO. There is still a drill phase, it lasts about 30 minutes.

The changes in attitudes and character have been vast. These changes happened because staff recognised why they needed to change, and that it would be an improvement. They effected the change, but the change would not have happened had their been no program of education in place to develop and guide peoples desire to effect this change.
 
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