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#356537 - 08/16/07 11:01 AM Sensei as friend
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
There is a lot of talk about how important trust is in the student/teacher relationship. Why trust? Why not just blind devotion, love, adoration, obedience...why trust? My take on it.

One Sunday, about 2 years into kobudo training, we were practicing bo bunkai. At one point, my teacher stopped and said 'Narda...the reason you can't block is because your stances are incorrect; your feet are all over the place...and that's because your scared.'

He laughing said 'Have I ever hurt you?' Blushing, feeling foolish I responded 'No.'

'I don't hurt people.' Musing a bit and laughing he amended, 'Well, there are some folks I wouldn't mind hurting'. Refocusing on me, 'But you're not one of them. I'm your friend and not going to hurt you.'

We returned to bo bunkai, my attention on stances and footwork. 'Better' he said. But in the back of my mind, for a moment, that word 'Friend' was planted, like a seed. For a moment, I pondered with a little awe. 'You are?' And let it slip away, to focus on practice, and let it ripen quietly until the next lesson where it would open.

The next lesson was Goju. Only a few months of training, new to empty hand, no knowledge of how to block, and we were doing bunkai from kata. Teacher came in with a head punch, and I didn't block. The punch made contact with my mouth, and I closed my eyes, gasped and fell back. Before my rear foot even had the chance to step back, teacher had stopped the punch, drawn back, and moved forward again, his hand on my cheek to steady me. The punch that could have broken skin only made the lightest contact.

I opened my eyes to see his eyes searching my face to see if there was any damage, 'Are you okay?' I nodded yes, and his hand was gone...on to another student. In that moment, I understood what 'Friend' meant. I realized with that light touch, that that was the first time I'd ever felt a man put his hand on me...without 'taking'...and it was shattering. Here was a person that I could trust to never 'take' from me. Doesn't take money for teaching. Doesn't want any thing from students other than they show up, learn and practice. The fullness of the term 'friend' came over me. The incredible conundrum...that I was learning about physical violence through gentleness, filled me with deep gratitude. I knew that in this space I could 'empty my cup', put aside my habits of distrust, and simply 'be'. That I was with friends.

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#356538 - 08/16/07 11:35 AM Re: Sensei as friend [Re: harlan]
jpoor Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 04/11/07
Posts: 726
Loc: Fairfax, VA
That's awesome.

I told the story before but my first long term Sensei was a friend to both me and my wife, who didn't train at all. During the military years I spent a lot of time away from home. One day I was preparing for a long deployment and my wife and I went to class (she used to go watch, just so we could be together and do something after class). As deployments are, this was a stressful time and we were pretty much at each other's throats. At one point Sensei Bruce left the floor (I didn't notice) and then I saw as he and my wife came back in from outside. Fresh tears were evident. He then took us both aside after class and said some wise things (I really don't remember the exact words, but the effect has lasted for years) along the lines of this too shall pass, HERE is what is really important. He offered to take care of her while I was gone (and he did) which was very nice. Then he told me if I didn't straighten up and get off her case that he would kick my A$$ (I believe he would have).

I still call him occasionally when I need advice about a school I am visiting or to see if he has heard of "Sensei So and So."

This was a man who literally lived in the dojo. He had what amounted to a large closet, or a really small room, that he lived in because the school didn't make enough money for him to live elsewhere.
Even so, being that I was in the Army and couldn't afford much, he discounted my tuition heavily so I could train.

Now that I can afford it, I'd love to go back and repay some of his kindness.
_________________________
Don't let the white belt fool you. . .
I know even less than you might think.

Best,
Jim

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#356539 - 08/16/07 12:15 PM Re: Sensei as friend [Re: harlan]
butterfly Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 3012
Loc: Torrance, CA
These are nice stories and respond to the necessitiy of proximity and character within a training hall. And thank you for sharing! But not all those with whom you practice, depending upon the size of student body, will be granted friendship with the instructor, let alone liked by those around them. Count yourselves lucky in that regard.

The other thing that I think is missing from this consideration is that if there is too much closeness, this may lessen the instructor's ability to reach outward with his ideas and instruction since it is possible now for the student to be able to view his flaws and blemishes that distance may have veiled. This may push some away instead of offering a closer embrace.

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#356540 - 08/16/07 12:32 PM Re: Sensei as friend [Re: butterfly]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
Nobody's perfect. Something that can challenge one to grow is seeing folks as they truly are...accepting of imperfections as part of the whole package. 'Neither good nor bad...just is.'

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#356541 - 08/16/07 12:50 PM Re: Sensei as friend [Re: harlan]
butterfly Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 3012
Loc: Torrance, CA
Yep. That's right! But one of the allures of the instructor is that sense of "unknown commodity" that can enhance instruction for some.

On the other hand, if you are mature enough to look past the curtain, then things are as good as they get per the teaching experience. You just don't want students to walk away crest fallen with dissillusionment when they finally realize that they are being instructed by no one else but another human being, despite absolutely no change to the teaching.

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#356542 - 08/16/07 01:01 PM Re: Sensei as friend [Re: butterfly]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
It's said in Buddhism that one should take as long as 12 years to inspect one's teacher...to see if they are deserving of such trust. The prerequisite for mutual trust is mutual honesty.

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#356543 - 08/16/07 01:14 PM Re: Sensei as friend [Re: harlan]
butterfly Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 3012
Loc: Torrance, CA
Ahhhhh...that's the kicker: Some folk fool themselves.

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#356544 - 08/16/07 01:33 PM Re: Sensei as friend [Re: butterfly]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
Well...that is the point. Finding one's self in the dojo, coming to face one's fears and delusions...with a little help from one's friends.

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#356545 - 08/16/07 01:44 PM Re: Sensei as friend [Re: harlan]
jpoor Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 04/11/07
Posts: 726
Loc: Fairfax, VA
Quote:

Nobody's perfect. Something that can challenge one to grow is seeing folks as they truly are...accepting of imperfections as part of the whole package. 'Neither good nor bad...just is.'






<<<---- ponders this.
_________________________
Don't let the white belt fool you. . .
I know even less than you might think.

Best,
Jim

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#356546 - 08/16/07 03:33 PM Re: Sensei as friend [Re: harlan]
oldman Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 5884
Harlan,
I had an experience a while back with one of my students. She is a forty something mom with 3 kids. She caught me one day after class and said

" I just wanted to say thank you" I asked what for? she replied "Your teaching is different. You are the only one here that is not afraid of hurting me. Everyone else treats me like I'm going to break, thank you".

I'm smiling just recounting the story.

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