I'm Asked, More or Less, "How do I Become a Better Martial Arts Master Teacher." A Subject Related to the Business of The Martial Arts
I received this note from a friend on Facebook:
As I think about and review the Travon Martin case, in light of the Presidents comments several days ago, my question is: what can I do to make the benefits of martial arts relevant?
What can I do in terms of making them a part of a school curriculum?
We talk about it all the time…respect, courtesy, perseverance and the like, but how do I know as an instructor or school owner, if my students and or staff are learning and practicing them? How can I tell if they/we/I have actually gone beyond kicking and punching to become a catalyst and a conduit for good?
How could I develop, make or structure a program to include things that concern subjects like character education, anger management and the like, so that they are just as important as passing the next belt test, mastering a weapons form, learning poomse, breaking a board or placing in a competition?
Are there some concrete programs out there that I could review?
My response, so far:
First off, let me point out that these are empowering questions —the kind a master teacher would/should, I think, ask. I heard Tony Robbins say that “The quality of our life may be found in the quality of the questions we ask ourself,” (or something close to that). That sounds reasonable to me.
As far as “concrete programs,” I don’t believe the “martial arts industry” is the right place to look for well designed examples of substantive educational or progressive educational resources. The industry is stuck, for the most part, in what I consider to be “the freshman year,” of what we need to be relevant and empowered. The best minds, it seems, in the industry are focused on how to get floods of students from their Facebook posts, birthday parties, buddy nights, and other time-wasting trivial pursuits. The bulk of energy in the industry is spent on getting the most return on things that require the least amount of effort, education, and action.
That is, of course, a generalization —and there are some exceptions, I just can’t think of any at the moment.
It is my opinion that the people who will help us design better tools for teaching are outside of the industry and in most cases already doing landmark work; people like Emily Pilloton, John Beilenberg, Dr. Jane Goodall, The fellow who head’s The Kahn Academy, and any of the 1000’s of other educational pioneers out there making things of relevance happen.
As for what can you and I do to become the change we want to see in our own work and, perhaps, in the “industry” ? Jhoon Rhee once told me, “Tom, if a picture is worth 1000 words, then an action is worth 1000 pictures.” That, I now realize, had a significant affect on how I saw my “role” as a teacher —and it is how I, personally, often approach subjects of substance today.
I look for action —and when possible, I look to take action as a tool for learning. Based on this idea, if we/you want to teach leadership, then inspire action that causes your students (and yourself, of course) to engage in things that require leadership.
Every subject you mentioned —or that might make us, I think, better teachers has a unique vocabulary. There is a vocabulary of sustainability, of freedom, of ethics, of dignity, of compassion, so my suggestion is to go on a search for the language of the things you want to teach ——-and then, after some sort of immersion in the material — design action-oriented programs, based on what you learn in this process, to turn those ideas into action(s).
How much action?
In the 100 (where I teach; my school) I consistently discuss the concept of “1000 steps” (Thank you Master Rhee). The idea is that if you/we truly want to get something going, we’re going to adopt the idea and practice of taking 1000 steps, at least, as in doing 1000 things about it, whatever “it” is, before we pretend to ourselves that we’ve “done” anything at all.
When I begin the process of becoming that which I want to teach and/or become an “expert” at (whatever that means, today) —-or to even grasp a concept of how I might go about understanding the subject matter —-whatever it is, I set myself to 1000 steps of study, introspection, review, and action.
For example, to understand the power of video, I set out to shoot —and shot —1000 videos. It was a good place to start —and as a result I learned, thru experience, a lot about the medium.
If I were going to teach others more about character education (or any subject worth its weight in gold), I might set out to do 1000 acts of character education study. I’d find out who is who, what is what, what’s been done —-and read, study, and absorb the best material on the planet, from the best minds, before I think I’ve done enough homework to speak/act as any kind of expert.
It is a telling statement that (my opinion) most teachers of the martial arts that I know haven’t put a single term paper’s worth of work into subjects they (or the general public) think they stand for.
The work I do —as in “try to do” (not a sales pitch, just a statement of fact and intent) is all about exploring our potential, collecting resources, and making transformation (personal, business, intent) a daily practice —-as THE tool of change for the master teacher of the martial arts. I see the community of the 100. as a tool to strengthen the practice, this sort of “practice” of the individual practitioner (you, me); but overall, I have stopped looking at “the industry” as a resource for educational transformation.