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Fighting Ego

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"fighting-ego"My overriding memory from over a decade of keeping fit via martial arts and other Far Eastern disciplines has been dealing with the egos of my European instructors, especially the men.

Rather than finding a style and adapting it to suit my physical needs and abilities, I found myself having to fit my body and my training to the instructor’s syllabus and criteria. His own personal agenda.

Of course, as a beginner, you don’t know all this stuff. You join the class and you trust that the guy at the front in the black belt is a Master, both physically and mentally. You are David Carradine’s grasshopper looking for a Mr. Miyagi.

However, with styles that have been in existence for thousands of years, the essence of the original teaching has been lost because of the ridiculous system of one teacher passing everything he knows to one student and jealously guarding his information under the guise of ‘divulging it when the student is ready’.

Add this to the more modern problems that have resulted from ‘making money’ from these ancient teachings, where differences over creed and ethos cause students to break away from their teachers and form their own dilutions of the art. Awarding themselves high honours to justify their lack of experience and promote their own greatness in the eyes of their new students.

So many instructors want to ‘own’ the student and remake them in their own image, whether the skills they are imparting work for their size and build or not. Because they are instructors rather than teachers, they cannot adapt their strength-based techniques to accommodate any physical shortcomings in the student. And, woe betide the student if s/he dares to seek out information from other styles or teachers. That is disrespect at the highest of levels. They do not want external information being brought in as it might cause the other students to ask questions that the teacher is unable to answer and highlight any weaknesses in the system.

A person who seems so pleasant and courteous in the real world can become a cruel tyrant once the student steps into the practice hall.

Over time, I have learned to search for a mentor. A teacher, rather than an instructor. Someone who allows you to take the information and run with it. Extrapolate and find the moves or poses that really do work for you as an individual. An ego that is not so fragile that it cannot receive new information and either explain why it will not work or embrace and adopt something that is clearly an improvement on the previous practice.

Bitter experience has taught me that, if you are in a class with someone who insists that it be done their way or not at all, then you have to learn to walk away with your head held high. Sooner, rather than later. It is not something that the instructor will ‘get over’, it will only get worse as you bang your head against the brick wall of their ego.

To stay will result in months of frustrated recriminations culminating in you leaving anyway, but amidst a whole load of bad feeling.

I couldn’t let this opportunity pass without showing every karateka’s favourite clip…

5 comments to Fighting Ego

  • holy cats…
    Jim Carrey!

    Well, it felt terrible getting into a contract to learn Kendo from a Parker Shelton…
    Years later getting into a Tai Kwan Do class, made a couple of grades up, but, couldn’t keep going when I moved about 40 miles one way…
    Bought the Jeet Kune Do book, and it was good, but, no sparring partner…
    Then I heard about something different.
    Aikido.
    Little guys holding their own against huge bruisers.
    This is an interesting study, to be sure, but, it’s still a case of finding, as you say, a good teacher and not just some jerk in a white robe and color belt.
    Talking to the teacher beforehand is the best key, sit in and watch a class, too.
    Good teachers have no qualms about that.

    What do you look for?
    Humility, as the best teachers know they have more to learn.
    A simple grace of movement that betrays their impeccable balance.
    A lot of questions for you to answer which shows their interest in why you want to learn, what you expect, what your physical demeanor is.
    A smile, and I don’t mean a Bush junior grin or smirk.
    A nice smile that makes you feel good about talking to them.
    Aikido is not a “bully’s” class. It is a low impact, use the other guy’s strength against him, DEFENSE class that will more than likely also verse you in judo so that you know how to fall. That is, without hurting yourself…

    But if the instructor looks like, acts like, or gives the impression of being Jim Carrey?
    Leave.
    But what a funny clip!

  • I think you make some very valid points! I taught Shotokan Karate from 1985 to 1989 and if I had the opportunity again would change my teaching style…. The totalitarian ego is a learned behavior from years of training in that type of Dojo, it’s easy to fall into that type of style instruction

  • Joanna Cake, HavingMyCake

    Hi Greg! The trouble is that so many of these teachers are still in situ, propogating this attitude and spouting on about respect when their own training has stagnated through ignorance and refusal to accept that anyone else might be able to show them something. It’s really sad but they become dinosaurs spouting the same outdated ‘physical’ nonsense rather than moving with the times and adapting their techniques to take account of the latest physiological discoveries.

  • Joanna Cake, HavingMyCake

    Boneman, Sorry, you got caught in my spam filter! I have seen some aikido and it looks good. Avoidance and use of the attacker’s energy rather than hitting full on.

    The clip has been around for a few years but, even tho I know it almost off by heart, it still makes me laugh :)

  • Actually most instructors or teachers behave this way in my part of the world. From young, people are conditioned to obey authority!

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