The true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple. ~Amos Bronson Alcott
To teach is to learn twice. ~Joseph Joubert, Pensées, 1842
The relationship between student and teacher is one that has been well described in martial arts training and literature. The best results are obtained when both parties are actively involved in the learning process. Consider what it takes to be a good student or teacher and I suggest the following to be some important, and largely intangible, qualities for both.
Communication Can you break things down into manageable chunks of information for learning and them re-introduce the information back into the whole picture whilst keeping it relevant, useful and effective. Can you listen? Ask the right questions? Be present in the moment. Pay Attention to detail. Can you give appropriate feedback?
Empathy is the ability to stand in someone else’s shoes, can you teach where the student is at and can the student see where you are going with a technique or idea. Even if they don’t get all the details can they see the big picture? What are the teachers and students goals at any given point?
Trust in letting go of your previous ideas and accepting new ideas. Let go and take the journey even if you don’t know exactly where it is going to end. Trust in the process. Once you have chosen a teacher carefully then go where the training takes you. You can’t take new things onboard if you can’t accept what you already have has been ineffective in some way. Evolve. Leave your ego out of it.
Knowledge is knowing what to teach and how to teach it to gain maximum retention and relevance. Are you curious enough to seek out information and ideas yourself? Take the initiative to study the history of your sport, to mimic the greats, absorb what is useful (that’s no my quote BTW that’s Bruce Lee) Knowledge is power. Read broadly, research, analyse and put things to the test. Find out what works for people in a given situation most of the time.
Wisdom is knowing when to teach someone or intervene and when to let students stumble along and find out themselves. I read somewhere that knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit and wisdom is knowing that you don’t put tomatoes in a fruit salad. Know when to push and when to back off. Knowing the one thing to say that makes all the difference in that persons game right when they are ready to hear it.
Inspiration Can you help someone to realise their potential in a given area and motivate them to succeed, persist and progress through the journey when things invariably get tough. Good students inspire good teachers and vice versa.
Commitment Are you both willing to commit to the cause? There will be days when you don’t want to teach and there will be days that you don’t want to train but the important thing is to keep turning up. I think the hardest part is getting your arse off the couch because everyone always feels better after a decent training session where progress has been made.
The classic example of this relationship being successful is the one between a young raw street kid called Mike Tyson and Cus D’Amato the old and frail boxing trainer considering retirement. Cus took Tyson to the top but Tyson also ignited something in Cus as a trainer and inspired him to teach. Its always a two way street. The results were amazing in the early days because Tyson was a student of the game and Cus was a master trainer. On their own, no different, put them together and you got dynamite. The chemistry is largely intangible because its about qualities and personalities. Money can’t buy what those two did, and Tyson couldn’t buy back what he lost when Cus died, shortly before Tyson became the youngest ever heavyweight champion in history. Think about it, if you took a great boxing trainer and an elite young athlete with all the time and money and facilities in the world there is still no guarantee of success like Tyson. The irony is those two had very little material things early on and lived a very humble existence indeed. Only a good student and good teacher together produce results.