Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Started to write a post about the best teachers I have known, and the best teaching methods I have experienced, trying to see similarities, connections, differences. But I thought I'd put a question out there first.
Who were(are) your best teachers?
Do you think it was just them? Or a combination of you and them, that worked so well?
And the kicker - Looking back, do you think you learned what the teacher was trying to teach you? Something related? Or something absolutely unrelated?


shugyosha said...

Ángel García Soldado
Marc MacYoung
Rory Miller

[by order of appearance]

I'm still learning, and I think I'm learning [when I _am_ learning] what they wanted plus some things they were not realizing they were teaching me.

While I can claim part of the merit of being a good student, they are good teachers on their own. Yes, I have _tried_, which is more than many do, but it's their method that works. While there are teaching styles, there is such thing as good/bad teachers.

Take care.

Ferran, BCN

Dragan Milojevic said...

Nice one. My best teachers (not only MA related) have always been those who have just shown me the direction (or maybe even pushed me into the whole thing) and gave me the tools and basic pointers on how to use them, while actually letting me figure out the best ways for myself. Of course, they were along the sidelines to examine my performance and later ask the right questions about how do I think it could be improved...sometimes offering a piece or two of advice about the questions I always have in
the process. Do you need names, too? :-)

Maija said...

Names are not necessary, mostly trying to see if there are commonalities between the best teachers, or their methods. The right balance between 'inspiration and perspiration' that passes knowledge on best, and how much the student's personality influences the efficient transmission of this knowledge.
Luo De Xiu said that out of the 3 parts - Teacher. Student. System - you need 2 of the 3 to ensure the propagation of the style.
If both teacher and student are very smart and talented, you really need no system to pass on skills, but if either the teacher or the student is not, you need a system to take care of the shortfall.
Now I'm not sure if I entirely agree with this equation - I think it's more complicated than that, but I reckon it's a good start point for looking at why systems and methods are designed as they are.
And thanks Ferran and Dragan for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Looking back, some of my best teachers stretched my limits.

The first club I ever trained had an instructor there that I totally got on with. He pushed my physical limits, demanded respect (for myself as well) and made things fun.

At acupuncture college, I had an instructor that, again, stretched my personal limits. He set it up so that I questioned everything I had known in order for me to grow in a personal manner. Again, he made if fun.

Anonymous said...

One last bit - usually, for a lot of lessons via my parents/teacher/mentors, I didn't get all the lessons until years later. ...until I had walked a certain path, gained personal insight and then was able to look back at what was taught and say, "Ah ha! They were right!"

shugyosha said...

I think systems are the envelope of principles. A useful way to carry them, but something that can get distractingly fancy.

For a bit more on why I choose those three:


Take care.


Mike Panian said...

I had a couple of pivotal and important teachers in my career education and I have had maybe 3 to 5 really good teachers in the martial arts.

Common qualities that they possessed. They:
-required that I take personal responsibility for learning. My grad professor told me he taught in the tradition of the last great naturalists and then put me in a room with a microscope and the critter I was to look at for 6 months and told me to observe it. In martial arts, the emphasis was on my responsiblities to learn rather than getting spoon fed.
-required that I learn to take criticism. It was profuse and clear. Looking back, they did not make many errors in what or how intensely they did this. That is what made them good in this regard.
-made me learn through experience. On multiple levels from testing techniques out by "banging it out" to pushing me enough to make me realize that I was more capable than I thought.
-really knew how to focus on fundamental unifying concepts that could be applied. Basic techniques, while important and foundational, were all just vehicles for teaching the unifying concepts.
-somehow encouraged me to think for myself. They created experiences that were rich in learning opportunities (experience)

Was it just them? I have thought about this. I think its both the teacher and the student. I am absolutely certain that some folks could have the same experiences but not end up thinking the same way I did (right or wrong) Its said that people vary in how they learn. I am not sure about that after a lot of years of teaching. The most potent teaching seems to be experiential. And some people just walk away clean from that.

Did I learn what these teachers were trying to teach me? or more? Yeah I learned what they were trying to teach me but I also learned about how to teach and about their outlooks on life.

Anonymous said...

My best teacher, and the only one to do this, was a karate instructor who made an emotional connection with me. The others, even though they knew volumes more than I, could easily kick my butt, had lots of students, a great resume, etc., were - aloof, I guess you'd say. They would impart their considerable knowledge by showing you technique and then expecting (as any instructor should) you to practice it, stacking basics upon tactics upon strategies. A couple of instructors would tie technique to tactics and concepts. A couple spent most of the time talking concepts. Only Sensei, from the very first moment I met him, purposely established a personal, emotional connection with me. From that connection, a single look or gesture, a word, a short sentence created a quantum leap in my skills and understanding.

Is it true then that the the disciple must be ready before the master appears?

Jake said...

I think Mac nailed it, actually. I've been fortunate to train with a lot of excellent teachers, but the best were the ones who I genuinely established an emotional connection with. As a single example: when I was an Aikidoka, many years ago, I learned more from the nidan who used to show up to help run classes for our college once a week than I did from the highly ranked sensei who covered the other days. The highly ranked sensei was a lot better, but the nidan cared a lot more.

Maija said...

Thanks for the comments guys :-) I have had similar experiences.
Onwards to the next part of the thought process .....