Three Instructor Stages

There are three levels of instructor in our style. There are many different styles of martial arts. Within them are many different approaches. Our approach is what we use.

The first stage instructor demonstrates technical competence and the interest and ability to share what they know with others.

The second stage instructor combines that with the ability to draw the practice of other people. That means to inspire them by example, encourage them individually and as a group, and lead the group to deeper practice.

The third stage instructor builds on that, knowing how to use the relationship between innovation and tradition, understanding this relationship as fruitful and as dangerous the relationship between fire and water.

In cooking the balance between fire and water has to be right, or the food will be spoiled. If fire is too much the food burns. It will not be any good. If water dominates the pot overflows putting the fire out. When the fire and water are in perfect balance the food will taste good and be nourishing.

That balance is critical for growing things too – water, light and heat have to be in balance. A flood, a drought, scorching or freezing will ruin everything.

All instructors apply this balance – using the right amount of heat and pressure in each class to get good results from every student. Too much: people get hurt and discouraged. Too little: people stay complacent and underdeveloped.

The third level instructor will apply this to the style as a whole, as well as to the training of individuals, to the classes, and to the training methods.

In a traditional approach transmission of knowledge and skill is by personal example – not by recording, not by theory, not by parable, but by a live teacher in action, who embodies the skills.

The apprenticeship model is not limited to martial arts. It has been used throughout human history in every traditional art.  It remains the only way martial arts can be transmitted.

So our tradition needs to live and breathe. If training is reduced to mere repetition of received lore, patterns and ideas then its life will drain away. It won’t function as practical self-defense or as a cultivation of the body, mind and spirit. To breathe life back into it requires consistent examination of everything we do: testing techniques and training methods, trying new things that may work better, setting aside what falls short, accepting the risk and the reward that comes from that.

Without that living process a style will dry out and harden into a dead copy of the original. It will not function like the original because it and its practitioners are not immersed in the conditions that brought the original to life. Without the intensity of those demands the heat and pressure will be too low for the style to thrive.

This is like too much water element putting out the fire of the style.

If the genuine treasure of the tradition is ignored or poorly understood, and innovation is substituted for knowledge and mastery, then the style will also be ruined.

This is like the fire element burning up the style.

Innovation in excess means inventing new katas for no particular reason, changing the old ones before exploring them or understanding what the old teachers were teaching through them, before fully adapting our bodies and minds to their demands, before taking the years it takes to penetrate their secrets, and make their wisdom our own.

For traditional martial arts practice to fulfill its potential in our lives the balance between innovative vitality and adherence to tradition – the balance between fire and water – has to be precise. An imbalance will ruin the result. That is true in individual training, group leadership, and in style leadership. The old katas have to be penetrated, understood and transmitted, and brought to life.

Instructors and students at all levels participate in this.

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Post Copyright © 2022 Jeffrey Brooks and Mountain Karate Dojo, LLC

Photo Evgeny Tchebotarev via Pexels

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