What to look for in a martial arts school (Part 2)


Scene from the 2012 TV series "Loyalty of Yue Fei" (精忠岳飞)

What to look for in a martial arts school (Part 2)

Now that we know what our objectives, commitment level and expectations for our study are (see Part 1); the next section will be about the teacher.

“The evil of men is that they like to be teachers of others.”

Mencius (孟子) Book 4, Part 1, Chapter 23

This quote may sound strange coming from a teacher, but unfortunately it is true. What Mencius warns against are people that want to enjoy the privilege of being called a teacher/master (in their own eschewed view of what it means) but don’t want to deal with the responsibilities of being a teacher/master.

In traditional Chinese martial arts the term Shitu (師徒) refers to the relationship between the teacher/master (師 – “Shi” as in “Shifu” - 師父) and the student/disciple (徒 – “Tu” as in “Tudi” - 徒弟). This is a relationship based on mutual respect and each has responsibilities to the other. This relationship develops over time as both the teacher and student get to know and understand each other on several different levels, including their sense of courtesy (), justice (), honesty () and ethics (). As you can imagine in traditional martial studies it is very important for you to find a teacher that you can have a positive Shitu with.

So what do we need to look at when searching for the teacher that best suits our needs?

One of the first things we want to find out is the teacher’s Qualifications – Are they true/valid qualifications or are they just ego boosters? Valid qualifications are certificates and/or diplomas of completion of a time and/or rank of study within a certain style/system. These are awarded by their direct teachers to whom they developed a strong relationship with over the years. Other indicators can be pictures of them training with said teacher and fellow students as well as awards in their field of teaching and/or study (e.g. if they teach Chinese martial arts they should have awards in Chinese martial arts). Be careful though, some awards and certificates seem impressive but they’re nothing more than paid for advertisements (for a fee teachers can receive a title or some type of recognition from a person or group that has, sometimes, never even met them), this unfortunately is an issue that plagues the world of martial arts. A qualified teacher will have spent considerable amounts of time studying a specific style/system and not just having contact with some art or someone over a weekend seminar or course.

The next point would be to find out the Teacher’s Commitment. How committed to the style/system, school and students is this teacher? When looking for a place to study, if our commitment is deep (long term study) and our objectives are high (become a teacher/master), we will inevitably want to look for a teacher that is fully committed to what they are teaching. This type of teacher usually runs a full time school, with a clear and descriptive curriculum as well as strong ties to national and/or international groups and/or organizations (related to what they teach). This is also the type of teacher that has long term continuous students with several years of study, and an established positive reputation within its community. These teachers tend to stick to a specific area of study (and have a deep knowledge of it) showing that they are strongly committed to what they learned and therefore want to pass it on accordingly. If our commitment is low and we are looking into studying more for fun and fitness we can certainly enjoy teachers that offer limited time courses or the occasional class at a gym, however you should not expect to have a strong or deep knowledge of what you learn in those classes, only a passing understanding of the basics.

Last, but not least, on this list would be the Teaching Style – This will depend entirely on our preferences as students. Some like a very firm and strict style of teaching where students are disciplined into discipline, others a more laid back and relaxed environment where the discipline is developed out of interest in the study. Both of these styles are fine so long as we are aware of certain things, “strict and firm” does not mean “abusive” and “laid back and relaxed” does not mean “lazy”. In this area there’s really no “right” or “wrong” there’s only what’s right for you. If your learning style does not match the teacher’s teaching style there is no reason to force it, you will both be wasting each other’s time on the long run.

Whatever teacher we choose to study from, we must be able to develop and maintain a healthy relationship with. The teacher should have the qualifications, commitment level and teaching style we are looking for in our study. And always remember that what is right for us might not be right for others and vice-versa.

The next part in this series (Part 3) will deal with something that the teacher(s) creates for their students, the Learning Environment.

Last modified on Monday, 20 January 2014 10:38

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