Don’t give advice to other peoples students!
Kids (kendo) doesn’t always improve according to plan.
If you go too far to the right the only way to fix it is aim left, not by simply going straight ahead.
In fact, if you don’t bend extra far to the left then things won’t straighten themselves out.
The person who understands how to do this is the kids direct teacher alone.
If you go for degeiko (training outside your dojo) etc and keiko with other teachers students you should strike them whenever you see an opening. If all they do is attack your men you shouldn’t stop them and say “you can also strike kote and dou as well you know.”
After all, they might have been told (by their teacher) to “practise only men” as far as you know…
Arriving in Japan back in 2003 I immediately started searching for a dojo and a good teacher. Although I finally found a good dojo, and practised there constantly for 2 years, I didn’t really find a the kind of teacher I was after. Strong sensei, yes, but nobody that inspired or mentored me like Mr Miyagi did Daniel.
When I moved to Osaka I quickly found myself practising in various locations and was mostly at a loss about which dojo was “good” or “who was who” etc. For what seemed a long time I found myself being invited to various places and receiving instruction and advice from a whole host of people. After a while I realised this drifting was not a good situation to be in as I often got conflicting advice, and I found that I was not only confused but a bit directionless as well. It was at this time that I decided to concentrate on a couple of dojo and an extremely small handful of (mainly professional police) teachers. The advice from all quarters didn’t stop however.
After a while I started to get a little bit miffed with the constant barrage of advice… “why was this guy who failed rokudan 5 times giving me advice when he knows I receive instruction from a police hanshi?” etc, I sometimes even got advice from people I had never laid eyes on before. Of course, part of my negative reaction to this was (I freely admit!) lack of humility and some pride on my part. Still, I felt bad: surely its my job to work on the things my day-to-day teacher has told me to do, and not bother about the random advice?
Although the random advice still hasn’t stopped, I’ve (mainly!) gotten over the issue and learned to deal with it in a more positive light. That was until quite recently.
I train a group of high school students on a daily basis. Some come to me with 9 years of experience and are already nidan (with a rokudan father and godan mother in one students case), some with neither kendo experience nor any sort of physical or sporty background, and some from the spectrum in-between this. Its my job to instruct and raise everyones level. I see them on a day to day basis and work on both long and short goals with them, be it simply suburi, suri-ashi, or their overall fitness, balance between keiko and study, whatever. Although I do this mainly alone (with help from the senior students), my sempai/sensei sometimes come to help, and so to do students who graduated from the dojo a few years before. Everyone offers invaluable help.
However, occasionally someone rolls up who can’t help but volunteer advice… despite neither being asked for it, nor being a bona-fide teacher. Of-course, I have no problem with different ideas and methods in relation to kendo… but if you are giving contradictory and unasked advice to people who already have teachers that are more experienced than you then, well, what message are you actually transmitting?
I’m obviously not going to go into details of any specific cases here, but I pondered on what should be done in circumstances where someone who should obviously not be giving advice decides to do so. Do you say something? Do you step in? Should you tell your students (later on) to ignore them? In the end, I personally have decided to opt for silence, and place trust in the students to know whats going on. I’ve also decided that my already reticent matter towards other teachers students will remain as is… the extent of my advice being “louder kiai” or “strike harder,” this type of thing. Nothing specific.
Maybe this is just my personality: I believe that learning is something you acquire on your own and its not something that is somehow given to you. In a kendo context that translates into preferring teachers who transmit teachings physically, and learning by watching and copying (i.e. doing). I like to think that I came at this obvious conclusion by myself via some mysterious un-spoken guidance by my teachers over the years, but I’m not sure. At any rate, I currently exist on both sides of the coin: as a student and as a teacher, with quite a fair distance to travel in both directions. I am glad that I don’t think I know everything already as that makes me the more eager to learn.
I hope this article makes sense……. !
Recently I volunteered to teach a small kendo workshop in Edinburgh (spread over two days, I think we had around 40 different individuals come). Even though I was explicitly asked to teach it was not something that was on my agenda: they already have a very good teacher so they don’t need my instruction. What I decided to do was a simple introduction to a couple of kendo areas I think are important and keep the chat minimal. My rationale: I don’t see these kenshi on a day-to-day basis, so no “real” instruction can actually occur anyway.
Just something extra to throw into the discussion…!