Monday, July 18, 2011

Types of Students, Types of Senseis

Last night, I decided to share this blog with Sensei, so he could read and follow it if he chose. Also, sometimes the things I need to say or the questions I need to ask are easier for me to articulate in writing than when I am speaking to someone because they are more carefully thought out, so this might be a good thing for Sensei to have access to so he can "get inside my head" so to speak.

Well, I wasn't exactly expecting the reaction I got. Sensei was speechless, and when I did finally get a response it was something along the lines of how lucky he felt to have a student like me. I turned bright red (not like he could see me anyway) and asked for clarification. His response was that there are four types of student.

The first type is the person who seeks training in the martial arts to build confidence. While this is not a bad thing, beginning training in something like this with such a specific goal limits the experience. This is particularly true when the goal is confidence because a lack of confidence is an issue that can and should be rectified within a student's first few lessons. How will your strikes hit the most effective spots if you are not confident that you can subdue any attacker? How will you be able to block unfriendly strikes if you do not believe in your ability to repel them? These students, as a result, take only a few lessons before quitting, something a teacher never wants to see a student do. *Edit: This is not always the case. Sometimes these students will continue training, and expand their goals if they find they really enjoy it.*

The second type of student is the person who has had their head turned by Hollywood glitz and glamour. They take the classes with the end goal of becoming a badass. Unfortunately, while a lot of the moves employed by, for example, Jackie Chan, look cool...they aren't effective as a means of defense. They are meant to be just what they are...for show. These students get easily frustrated by how much work studying a martial art really is. They train and practice only when their sensei is there to make sure they are doing what they should, quickly lose interest when they don't become big and bad overnight...and quit quickly.

The third type of student is the one who has been forced into taking the classes. There are several reasons that this might be the case. One is that the parent is looking to gain recognition through their kid, the same way a horse trainer is lauded when their horse consistently performs well on a racetrack. 'Look at Timmy. He's a (insert belt color here) in combat Hapkido...he's been in (insert number here) tournaments...oh and it was my brilliant idea to sign him up for lessons.' Sensei shared with me that he occasionally also sees this happen when a parent percieves their child to be weak, or in the case of a male, too feminine. This to me is the absolute worst thing that can be done. These students don't have a true interest in learning the art, but feel trapped by their parents' expectations. These students will never truly excel, because their heart isn't in it.

The fourth type of student is, according to Sensei, the rarest sort. These are the students that jump in with both feet, learning as much as they can and training in between lessons to keep their skills. These students recognize that hapkido is a path, a lifestyle. It requires conviction, and dedication. It is to this group that I supposedly belong. It is true that I have committed to this, and made it a priority. Hapkido is now a part of me, and if I were to give it up, I would be despondent.

Just like there are multiple types of student, there are two types of sensei.

The first knows their craft but is more interested in how their skill can benefit them. They will take any student they can and as long as the money is good, and keeps coming in, they will progress their students through the belt levels, regardless of whether or not the student has the appropriate grasp of the required skills to progress. These senseis do not mind the first three types of students but may not adequately challenge the fourth and find them needy and demanding.

The second type knows their craft, and is dedicated to it. Their greatest joy is teaching others what they know, and they do everything in their power to ensure that the student is applying techniques correctly before they allow them to progress. They frequently bond closely with students and would go out of the way for them whenever necessary. They are frustrated by the first two types of students and delight in the third. Without question this type exemplifies my Sensei.

No wonder we get along so well.


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