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In recent months I have thought a lot about the Student Teacher relationship, how it is now, how it was in fudal times the responsibilities of being a Teacher and a Student, this all came about from a conversation I I had with a fellow martial arts who runs a Dojo not far from mine and who I have known for many years, he was despairing at how few students he had this year as compared to last year he was going through what had happened in that year, was the fees he charged to expensive, was the Dojo inaccessible, was he just a bad Teacher.
These things and similar must go through the minds of all Teachers at some stage in their Career. The truth of it is none of these thoughts may be true,these are the times in which we live, the modern fast food, consumer choice, easy living put your feet up after work and get whatever you want at the touch of a Keypad World. It has been pretty much the same thing for as long as I can remember, the nice summer evenings, the cold winter nights, exams, work family commitments, have all played a part in the running of a Dojo and the number of Students, a long way off from the signing of a "Student'" charter in blood which said you would attend every class, you would not teach or display anything you were shown, you would never use skills unless to protect the weak, you would respect your fellow man, fellow students and above all your Teacher.
When I started my study with my Teacher Otani Tomio Hanshi, I entered in to an unwritten contract with him, a contract which was explained to me by the more senior Deshi, it was simple, unless I intended to give 100 percent to my study I was wasting my time, they were very protective of the Sensei, at the time I did not understand why, I have seen this man throw another man twice his size across the room, I had seen him strike a Kendo opponent 6 times before they had a chance to move, I have seen him cut 4 imaginary apponents with his katana with extraordinary speed, what could possibly hurt him.
Anyway I did give 100 percent to my studies but until I became a Teacher and began to run my own Dojo I did not understand the pain and frustration of giving everything to a student who appears to crave the knowledge and desires more but turns up to class once and is not seen for the next 3 weeks, of turning up to teach every night whatever the weather, whatever other things are going on in your world and even if your health is not good, only to find that the die hard stalwarts of the club ar the only ones in attendance.
This is the same the world over; some of the most famous Dojo in the world would have a tremendous turn over of students.
So how was it in the past, well if you wished to study a particular Martial Art in Fudal Japan you would seek out a Teacher, usually by reputation, once found you would go and virtually beg them to teach you, sometimes they would, more often would turn you away, if you were stubborn and desdesperate to learn you would keep asking, or you would stay outside the Dojo day and night until you were noticed and eventually brought inside. This showed the Teacher how much you wanted to learn and that you would be prepared for the hardship that lay ahead. Once inside you would have to sign a blood oath and then you started at the bottom, you were the person doing all the menial tasks the cleaning,the washing, the food preparation, looking after the Teachers and Students senior to you, again this was a test of character and a sign of commitment to the long journey ahead. Eventually a new student started and you moved up sa level, so it went until you either became a Teacher or you chose to travel around Japan seeking other Masters and learning from them if indeed they would teach, you may have to go back to stage one, the waiting and continual asking.
Otani Tomio Said, Many people consider that to be Teacher is to be in charge, or to give orders. The Japanese Word Sensei means simply one who has gone before and the word disciple is Deshi which means "younger brother or sister", there should be no orders in a well run Dojo, but rather mutual respect and cooperation between Teacher and Pupils, if the more experienced lead by example and assist with affection, then those below will follow naturally, this is the ancient way. The high esteem accorded to teachers of Budo was due solely to their devotion to "The Way" and their kindly aid to those who followed. Respect is Not a right determined by rank or grade, but a privilege, which is earned by the wisdom of the Teacher and the diligence of the pupil.
The thing of it is we are always learning, whether you are a Teacher or a Student, the Teacher learns from all things, I myself understand life a lot better since I became a Teacher, I teach Students from all walks of life who train for many differing reasons, some see what we do as nothing more than a hobby that is different from the norm, others devote their life to the "Way" and are Budoka twenty four seven, I see them when they are carrying personal problems around which affects their performance greatly, I see them when they are at the peak of their ability, and indeed when they are on their way back down, from all this as much as anything else I learn to be a more affective Teacher.
The Dojo turn over will never change so accept it, all students have their place in a Dojo regardless of their commitment to the "Way", the Dojo, the other students and the Teacher gains something from all levels of commitment, Students on the brink of becoming a Teacher will learn greatly by looking at the class and how it is made up and the day to day running, this may alleviate or at least lessen the frustration when they do open their own Dojo. What we must hope for is a very small core of students who will take on your system and carry it on, some will only have one student who becomes the Teacher of your system, this has always been the way from father to sond or daughter and from Sensei to Deshi, indeed I thought was the only person teaching Ten Shin Ryu Iaido but every now and then I hear of another Dojo with a Teacher who was taught by Otani Tomio Hanshi, more often than not this is not the case but not always, sometimes I am plesently surprised to find a fellow Otani Student who has found their way and passing on the knowledge.
Yours in Gasso,
Mike Selvey 6th Dan Kyoshi.
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